There is no excuse for poor customer service – whether online, in person or on the phone. Bruce von Maltitz from 1Stream shares his tips on how businesses can iron out the wrinkles in their call centres and ensure a better customer experience for all.

 

The call centre is often the first point of contact for customers, which is why it is crucial that the experience is a positive and satisfying one. Here are a few guidelines that explain how companies can make that happen.

 

1.       Don’t skimp on technology

 

There is no use spending money on advertising to lure people to phone your call centre if all your customers are faced with when they dial in is a set of shoddy welcome message or poor call quality. Opt for a provider that has economy of scale and can take away the headache of tech support and upgrading to maintain quality control, but never settle for second best when it comes to the tech that is responsible for customer service delivery.

 

2.       Outsource the tech headache

 

Investing in the best systems available does not always make financial sense. If you are not handling huge volumes of calls, you cannot offset the initial capital cost. Since technology can become obsolete or in need of upgrades in a fairly short period of time, you are left with the problem of trying to integrate different pieces of equipment and keep up with patches and updates. By using a hosted service, you are buying an integrated suite of services that is always up to date – and it’s cost-effective enough for even the smaller contact centres to use.

 

3.       Don’t shy away from implementing a cloud solution as you grow

 

If a call centre experiences rapid growth – increasing call volumes, diverse queries – they are often hard-pressed to meet the demand. Agents stay on the phone for longer and enquiries take longer to resolve. Resources in terms of both staff and technology are pushed to the edge. The call centre could address that by undergoing a costly expansion in terms of hardware and software…but there are no guarantees that the demand will remain high, leaving the centre stuck with the empty seats.  The cloud offers the ability to provide just enough capacity for your business peaks and troughs, with flexible charges to match this “elastic” delivery.

 

4.       Spend time on your staff

 

70% of call centre costs are your people – the agents and their managers.  The industry has grown, and the quality staff that you want to retain has become more demanding. Call centres aim to hire agents that are capable, professional, reliable, sensible, hard-working and committed – and it is important to hang onto them. They want to work in a facility where their workday is pleasant and they aren’t forced to use terrible technology that makes them (and the customers they’re trying to serve) miserable – such as scratchy voice quality, dropped calls, no integration of customer management and telephony systems. Make sure that your staff are happy – and your customers will be a lot happier too.

 

  1. Choose the right partner

Choosing the right service provider is as important as choosing the right solution and service delivery model, since it influences everything – basic set-up of the technology, operation, trouble-shooting, quality assurance and technology refreshes. By choosing a partner with a service-centric, consultative approach, customers can be sure that core issues such as their call routing and queues are set up with the help of the experts, reports deliver the best possible analysis for their business type and goals, and their system functions with optimal quality and productivity.

 

Your call centre does not have be one that everyone loves to hate. Following these simple steps can turn your call centre around, cut costs and improve service delivery.

mCommerce: Many ways to play

From the get go, the business sector has been anxious to discover a way to exploit cellular services technology to access customers. Early mCommerce offerings failed to live up to the hype but excitement is again emerging, this time with a variety of options to suit the desires and budgets of almost any business. 

 

No one anticipated the success that mobile telephony would achieve. According to Nielsen South Africa, more South Africans use mobile phones than radio or television. And an astounding 35% of South African smartphone users revealed in a Google report into worldwide smartphone usage and mobile marketing that they would rather give up their TV than their smartphone.

 

No other communication channel can deliver retailers an audience as comprehensive as the mobile phone.

 

Bouncing back

 

To my mind it was Apple’s release of the iPhone, and shortly thereafter it’s App Store, that offered mCommerce the opportunity to return to the spotlight.

 

Until this point, mCommerce strategies predominantly relied on wireless application protocol (WAP) technology. Its SMS delivery mechanism, however, proved to be problematic, and security and congestion drawbacks were significant enough to undermine its virtues and subdue large-scale adoption amongst SA retailers.

 

Apple’s iPhone highlighted an alternative to these SMS systems with its glitzy marketing of actual applications. The impact of this promotion was and continues to be astounding, supported by improvements in modern mobile devices and development technologies, particularly HTML5.

 

A recent report released by international research firm IDC predicts that the number of annual mobile app downloads will increase from 30.1 billion in 2011 to 200 billion in 2016, an ascent it calls blazingly fast. A closer look at the state of the US market gives a clearer indication of what South Africa can expect to experience in the near future.

          Huffington Post: mCommerce will be bigger than eCommerce within 5 years.

          ABI Research: In 2015, $119 billion worth of goods and services will be purchased via a mobile phone.

          Juniper Research: The market for mobile payments is expected to quadruple by 2014, reaching $630 billion in value.

          ATG Inc: 20% of all consumers and 32% of 18-34 year olds are researching purchases via mobile at least monthly.

 

Ticket to ride

 

We can already see local organisations capitalising on the rise of mobile applications. FNB for instance has achieved significant success with the launch of its mobile banking application and not just in the realm of marketing either. Recently CEO Michael Jordaan announced on his twitter account that the bank had in excess of 200 000 transacting apps, delivering over 2 million transactions and R4 billion in transaction value. 

 

Although FNB’s return from its mCommerce initiative is certainly compelling, many companies will find that developing a native app is simply not appropriate for their businesses. The cost and complexity involved in developing, maintaining and continuously enhancing an application for numerous platforms, not to mention the approval processes required from the various app stores, presents a daunting hurdle that is only justifiable to a minority of businesses.

 

Fortunately the emergence of HTML5 – the latest iteration of the language used to create web pages – means organisations no longer have to deliver device-based applications but can look to web-based offerings accessible via a mobile device’s browser. Native apps will still have a role to play, if well thought-through, but certainly look set to face major competition in the popularity stakes as HTML5 gains traction.

 

Alternatives to applications are also available. Mobile couponing, for instance, could be an influential tool in the retail fight to combat constantly slipping engagement rates. A recent report found this form of couponing to offer redemption rates often exceeding 50%; comparatively, paper coupons typically return redemption rates of up to 2%. Mobile couponing is able to achieve its high returns through the use of geolocated, relevant messaging which engages the mobile user with an offer that can be instantly gratified at a store which is at that moment in close proximity.

 

Location based marketing certainly should not be ignored. Location-based social networking site Foursquare enables users to check in their locations through their phones and informs them of their friends’ locations as well as places to go and see close by. Large retailers and brick and mortar stores are taking advantage of this by providing coupons and freebies to those who check in often or first. American Express, for example, has expanded its Foursquare promotion internationally, delivering to its cardholders special offers only available through the application, such as buy one get one free promotions to customers looking for a place to eat.

 

There’s significant advantage to be gained from using a number of mobile capabilities to improve the customer instore experience. Retailers can create a ‘bricks & clicks’ environment by combining location based services, barcode scanning, and push notifications as an example. In such an environment merchants enable their customers to access the benefits of online shopping such as product reviews, comparative information, and special offers while still delivering the physical instore shopping experience and promoting greater length of time spent within the store’s walls. 

 

Retailers simply cannot afford to dismiss the role of the internet in the performance of physical stores. The tendency to define the online influence by the number or value of transactions taking place fails to recognise the considerable number of consumers that turn to the web for information on the best product for their needs, stockists, comparative pricing and current availability within their travel comfort zone. This rapidly growing pool of shoppers may be making their purchases instore, but their decisions are often made before they’ve stepped out their front door.

15 August, 2012: The common perception that concrete is cold and aesthetically-unpleasing is being challenged by Pan Mixers South Africa (PMSA) – the largest supplier of concrete, brick, block and paving making machinery and technology in Africa – which is currently in the process of constructing a modern, cutting-edge showroom almost entirely from concrete. 

PMSA marketing and sales manager Quintin Booysen points out that the company began construction of PMSA’s new two-storey 700 m2 showroom, which will also house a sales and marketing office in order to fully highlight the endless creative possibilities that concrete offers in modern day construction, in May 2012. 

“The showroom flooring will be completed with HTC Superfloor – an easy-to-maintain polished concrete flooring system that provides the highest shine to the floor surface, by making use of a range of HTC floor grinding machines and accessories,” he explains.

Booysen notes that PMSA will be going one step further by using HTC Superfloor to polish a number of concrete pull-up wallingpanels that will make up the showroom walls and main receptionstaircase. “A polishing and grinding machine weighs up to 300 kg and would be impossible to run against a wall. Another option would be to use a hand-held grinding tool, however that would not ensure a precision finish. PMSA plans to polish its precast panels using the HTC Superfloor system, before pulling them up by making use of a tilt-up method,” he continues. 

This process will be subject to a number of challenges, due to the fact that each panel weighs up to seven tons. “These panels have to be pulled up into the right position, and they need to be positioned in such a way to ensure that they are not just decorative, but also that they are structural elements of the room. After 14 days of curing, the concrete panels are lifted with the aid of a 20-ton mobile crane and placed into final position.”

According to Booysen, PMSA is working closely with contractors to ensure that the necessary quality and precision is met to ensure a world class facility. “With conventional grey concrete pull-up panels, the perception is still that these panels are generic, grey and ugly, and only fit for purpose in industrial applications,” he continues. 

As a result, PMSA will be using these panels for display purposes to highlight the potential beauty of precast concrete, by simply polishing or adding colour aggregates to it. Booysen adds: “Our main objective is to show architects, engineers and contractors that a polished precast panel can serve as a stylish and modern finish in a home, office or shopping environment.”

In addition to being aesthetically-pleasing, Booysen points out that polished concrete provides further benefits that include ease of cleaning due to a smooth surface, and a reduction in lighting bills, due to the fact that the panels reflect more light into the building. “What’s more, concrete flooring can have a lower lifetime and installation cost, when compared to traditional products such as epoxy and tiling.”

Looking to the future, Booysen is confident that construction of the PMSA showroom will be complete by the end of October 2012. “Construction work is going according to schedule at the moment, and we recently completed the casting of the concrete panels. Once building work is complete, the final touch will be to ensure that we provide a comprehensive customer service offering onsite, where clients and their employees will be trained in various fields, ranging from the application and usage of products, to operator safety and machine maintenance,” he concludes.

What it is, why you should use it, and how to get ready


I recently had the pleasure of hosting a business forum at the AIGS Progress Africa Conference where we asked the question: what is the cloud? Suffices to say, we had a diverse range of answers and questions flying back and forth.

Cloud computing involves the delivery of computing and storage as a service to a community, essentially entrusting services with a user’s data, software and computation over a network. The most common examples that the public would interact with includes services like Dropbox or Gmail, but there are more complex services such as renting servers (known as “Infrastructure as a Service” or IaaS) or application software and databases (“Software as a Service”). Essentially, this allows for economies of scale and access to improved services, particularly for small business owners.

The broken promise of the cloud

As “moving to the cloud” became a widely accepted and promoted marketing phrase,

many CEOs and business owners have been caught up in the hype of adopting cloud services, and been disappointed. Chantel Lindeman, an analyst for Frost and Sullivan, pointed out 5 ways that the cloud is not living up to its promise.

·         Cost

Firstly, the perception exists that using a cloud platform will instantly reduce costs, whereas the reality is that this is not always the case. Some companies find themselves running two systems: one on-site for core applications and one off-site with non-critical data.

·         Ease of use

The implementation of cloud is not as easy as portrayed and requires a good support structure of the company implementing the system. 

·         Reliability and performance

This is a key issue in South Africa as our connectivity is not forthcoming and leaving information on the cloud is potentially hazardous to the redundancy of a company.

·         Control and trust

There is a major trust issue with cloud implementation and this is where private clouds have managed to ease the concerns of companies looking to implement a cloud solution 

·         Security risk perception

There is a perception that information on the cloud is not necessarily protected as well as if it was on-site for companies to manage directly.

However, that’s not to say that using cloud computing is flawed or should be avoided. In fact, if the cloud is used correctly, it can revolutionise a business.

South Africa and the cloud

Frost and Sullivan has revealed that there has been an uptake in the cloud solutions, specifically in infrastructure as a services due to the fact that people are noticing the direct coloration on their CAPEX to invest in virtual machines vs. investing in infrastructure on-site. Findings show that the uptake of other solutions in the cloud sector is still in its nascent stage and will require another three years before we still a significant uptake – the key to the uptake of cloud solutions will ultimately be better established connectivity throughout the country.

It is crucial that businesses start preparing to implement cloud-based services and solutions in their organisation within the next few years if they hope to compete.

My advice to businesses that are considering using cloud-based solutions is to examine their motives for doing so very carefully. In many instances, the cloud has been a solution looking for a problem, and companies have been getting caught up in the hype. The question to put to yourself is: is the cloud solution I want to implement meeting a problem? The technology has to meet the business needs and be driven by that alone.

I have no doubt that the expansion of the cloud will be widespread and all-encompassing very soon. But I always know that whatever we think it will look like in a few years will be quite different in reality. Plan for the cloud, but tread carefully and use the needs of your business as your compass.

The Jacobs Board Game Café, just off Parkhurst’s trendy 4th Avenue, is helping people make connections the old-fashioned way this winter. There’s no WI-Fi, no apps and not so much as an iAnything as far as the eye can see – just a wide selection of your best loved board games, some nostalgic favourites and comfy spots to sit and enjoy the unmistakable allure of the Jacobs Verwohnaroma. 

 

The Jacobs Board Game Café officially opens on 24 May and will run through until the end of August, encouraging consumers to pop in, relax and rediscover the chance to connect the way people did before text alerts and social media check-ins – over a complimentary cup of quality coffee. The Café, the first of its kind in South Africa, seeks to give people a chance to slow down and connect over a cup of Jacobs – the obvious catalyst for connection. 

 

Jacobs Senior Brand Manager Taki Tsanwani believes that this unique take on sampling will resonate with consumers. “The Jacobs Board Game Café concept is so simple. What more do you need than the taste of Jacobs coffee, the unmistakable Verwohnaroma – and a comfortable space to enjoy it?” she says. “A cup of Jacobs coffee is the ideal catalyst for connection, and we believe that the Board Game Café will become a sanctuary for people who appreciate the chance to relax – and a hub for those who value the opportunity to connect over a fine coffee.”

 

The Jacobs Board Game Café is situated at 69 11th Street Parkhurst and is open from Tuesdays – Sundays 10am – 10pm until the end of August, with some exceptions. The venue will also be hosting several small events throughout the next few months such as ladies evenings and speed dating and is available for personal bookings such as birthday parties, hen’s parties, brain storms etc.  A schedule will be available at the café and on the “Jacobs Krönung South Africa” Facebook page.

 

For further information or to make a booking please contact:  

jacobspopup@gmail.com 

072 189 3012 

The Chairman of TBP eKapa, implementing partner of Cape Town Activa, was recently appointed to co-chair the Saudi Arabia South Africa Business Council (Busa).  Surve is chairman of Sekunjalo Investments, a Western Cape based black-owned and controlled consortium which invests in a wide range of industries, from telecommunications and biotechnology to fishing and aquaculture.

Saudi Arabia South African Business Council has set up a R20m holding company in a bid to deepen trade and investment flows between their two countries. The holding company was formally endorsed in Saudi Arabia in April. The Saudi Arabia South Africa Business Council intends to create R20bn worth of business opportunities through its 50:50 joint venture company,  It will initially home in on investments in agriculture, mining, mineral processing and petrochemicals.

According to a recent article on Moneyweb, “the holding company intends to facilitate joint ventures between the two countries and to conduct comprehensive feasibility studies on potential strategic business opportunities. The consortium will be open to all legally register and financially sound business entities in both countries”.

“We are open to being approached by South African companies who want to do business with Saudi Arabia,” said Surve, who added that the consortium would be able to facilitate participation between companies as well as participating directly in investments.

Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, said the move to set up a consortium was part of a mission to seek out “new sources of dynamic trading opportunities around the world,” adding that he saw Saudi Arabia as a “dynamic economy.”  “Already very large Saudi Arabian companies have indicated their willingness to participate. We’re expecting significant investment running into tens of billions of rands over the next few years,” said Surve. 

 

source: http://www.capetownactiva.com/news/read/dr.-iqbal-surve-appointed-to-co-chair-saudi-arabia-south-africa-business-council

Tone up while trimming down on the hours

It seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that you need to do – let alone the things you actually want to do. On top of rushing to work, school, the shops, appointments and back again, you still need to find time to slot in a workout or two to stay fit and toned!

Fortunately, there is now a way to fit your fitness routine into one 20 minute session per week (now that will help your busy schedule!) – through BODYTEC, a revolutionary fitness and all-round training solution. By combining personal training with Electro Muscle Stimulation (EMS), BODYTEC enables clients to quickly, effectively and visibly reduce fat content and weight whilst gently defining muscles and increasing physical strength and endurance. All in only 20 minutes a week.

 

Sport research conducted by international institutes has shown that BODYTEC’s training results are up to 18 times more effective than traditional fitness training. According to BODYTEC owner Boris Leyck, “Conventional wisdom says there are no shortcuts to health and fitness. But who wants to be conventional? BODYTEC technology is so effective that just 20 minutes of training is comparable to three, 90 minute workouts in a gym.”

 

After successfully helping Capetonians in the city centre and suburb of Newlands to shape up, Leyck is now bringing the revolutionary concept to Johannesburg. In mid-June, Sandton will have its own BODYTEC studio. A branch will also be opening in the suburb of Steenberg, Cape Town in July.

 

The BODYTEC concept, pioneered in Germany and used by professional athletes and sports rehabilitation centres for decades, combines personal training with electro muscle stimulation, to reduce fat content and weight whilst developing muscle mass. During each 20 minute, personal trainer-supervised session, muscles are stimulated by electrodes connected to a training jacket. As physical strength and endurance increases with each session the muscles become gently defined resulting in a toned, firm body and lasting sense of well-being.

 

BODYTEC client, business woman, media personality and former Miss Universe, Michelle McLean, shares “By only going to one 20-minute session a week, I save hours of travel time to, from and in a gym with an even better result than most other exercise regimes I have used. I feel firmer and more toned in a shorter space of time.”  

 

To find out more visit www.bodytec.co.za or email info@bodytec.co.za

 

HP’s growing retail portfolio

‘Technological innovation is driving change in 2012’ according to HP following their presence at the National Retail Federation Conference this year. HP envisions a future where digital continues to bleed into the physical retail world, and vice versa, leading to an increasingly immersive retail experience.

At the conference HP  showcased upcoming solutions including its broad portfolio of retail industry solutions from point-of-sale (POS), digital signage, self-service solutions, managed print services, cloud-based printing to mobility solutions. It also unveiled new barcode scanners available in EMEA.

Kobi Elbaz, Director, Client Solutions, Europe, Middle-East and Africa, HP Personal Systems Group, comments: “There is undoubtedly a transformation taking place in the retail industry in terms of the incorporation of technology into physical stores. One of the trends we foresee in 2012 is retailers providing increasingly interactive digital experiences in store, from touch-enabled digital signage to loyalty initiatives via barcodes on your smartphone.”

“Retailers are turning their stores into more pleasing and interactive environments for shoppers with HP’s industry-leading POS and display technologies,” continued Elbaz. “Consumers now expect much more from the shopping experience and retailers are actively encouraging customers to stay in store for longer. That’s why HP is showcasing technologies which will encourage customers to stay in store – the best retailers already understand that ‘dwell time equals sell time’”.

“Our vision is to enable retailers to create a seamless customer experience across multiple store touch-points. On our stand we are demonstrating point of sale, mobility, digital signage and self-service solutions,” added Elbaz. “We’re also demonstrating a mobile point of sale solution using the HP Slate 2 Tablet PC. VantagePoint is another advanced technology we’re able to demonstrate on the HP stand. It’s a large interactive touch wall enabling retailers to see how they might engage shoppers in a dazzling interactive brand experience.”

Advanced Barcode scanners launching in EMEA in January

With the proliferation of mobile and email barcodes for coupons and loyalty offers, retailers require the latest barcode scanning technology to improve the customer shopping experience. To this end, HP has expanded its portfolio further and launched a HP Presentation Barcode Scanner and HP Linear Barcode Scanner to enable easy scanning, even from mobile devices.

The HP Presentation Barcode Scanner and the HP Linear Barcode Scanner will be available this month.

The Self Service Solutions are first to be introduced in North America in January 2012. 

The HP 47” Micro_Bezel Displays are expected to launch in EMEA later this year. 

 

Ricoh SA announced exciting developments for 2012 at an event at Swartkop Airport Base in Pretoria on 13 July, including Ricoh’s increased investment in its operations in South Africa, investing R200 million in the region, a move which is part of Ricoh’s strategy to expand its presence in key emerging markets. South Africa is an important focus for the group in EMEA. The investments will further enhance Ricoh’s direct customer interactions and enable it to stay at the forefront of their document management needs. 

There are three new initiatives; the launch of Ricoh Capital South Africa; an optimised supply chain process and infrastructure enhancements. Combined they also ensure Ricoh has a more streamlined approach to account management and that its clients receive a single, consistent Ricoh experience, no matter where they operate. The initiatives will also drive new employment opportunities in the region.

Ricoh Capital South Africa will provide clients with the option to take on leases or service contracts and enjoy all the benefits of Ricoh solutions without capital outlay. They will also have the convenience of managing their entire document solution including service and software into one regular payment. Ricoh Capital has designed its offerings to support the specific needs of Ricoh customers and focuses on its core business areas of office solutions, production printing and managed document services. Ricoh Capital customers will also benefit from increased agility within their business and the ability to make purchasing decisions quickly. They will have greater flexibility to upgrade their solutions during the lease period. It also enables them to keep credit channels open for other business needs.

The review and optimisation of the supply chain process resulted in Ricoh diverting stock management and distribution to Ricoh Europe’s operations in the Netherlands. As a result Ricoh SA gained savings of R100 million which will be reinvested into the business and provide infrastructure enhancements, social responsibility and skills development.

Infrastructure enhancements are part of an EMEA-wide project, designed to streamline Ricoh’s business processes. They ensure more stable processes and robust systems, to drive business growth and enhance customer service, and enable Ricoh to enhance its sales, services and billing processes. They also support Ricoh’s focus to provide a world-class, end to end customer experience. 

Richard Pinker, MD of Ricoh SA, said, ‘Our region is an important focus for Ricoh in EMEA and our team is energised to further increase our client services and contribute to the overall Ricoh growth strategy. Our business focuses upon optimising document processes and improving the interaction between people and information. Our technology heritage and experience means that we can help organisations to be ready to meet the future challenges presented by the impacts of new technologies and the increase in information. We look forward to continue working with organisations in South Africa to further understand how we can help them to reduce costs, streamline document processes and even enhance security, while making realtime informed decisions.’

Ricoh SA has also appointed Morgan Crosby as its new project manager. Crosby will head the company’s project office responsible for rolling out strategic business projects and large customer projects. Crosby’s appointment is closely linked to Ricoh SA’s significant investment to ramp up services, solutions, and infrastructure, in response to local and global market influences.

‘I spent a decade in customer-facing, operational food services prior to numerous roles throughout the next nearly 14 years at Compass Group SA, a member of Compass Group PLC, including change and project management and heading up the IT department, procurement management, and sales support through financial analysis and project management of new business and bids,’ said Crosby.

He has also been deeply involved in a Y2K project and more recently project managed a three-year development of a bespoke, decentralised system, which included testing and rolling it out to more than 450 national locations.

Crosby’s primary role will be to formalise and extend Ricoh SA’s project management capabilities following the industry standard PRINCE2 and Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) principles.

Source: Africa Print News

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