NCC admits 2017 tough for telecoms sector’s growth

NCC admits 2017 tough for telecoms sector’s growth

NCC Building

With four days left for 2017 to go, it has been a tough year for Nigeria’s telecommunications sector.

Admitting this, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is hoping for a more robust and rewarding 2018.

Speaking in Lagos, at a post-event interview, the Director of Public Affairs, NCC, Tony Ojobo, admitted that 2017 has been full of challenges for telecoms expansion.

Ojobo, who recently bagged the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations Presidential Award, said apart from the fact that the NCC had to cope with managing issues that emanated from unsolicited SMS, the regulator also had to contend with problems operators faced in the deployment of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) across the country.

He said that the commission was not oblivious of extant bottlenecks in the industry, adding that NCC’s efforts to curtail them will be more visible next year when the challenges would have lessened in effects.

According to him, it was some of these challenges that made NCC to declare 2017 as the “Year of the Consumer.”

“This year has been full of challenges for the sector. It has been tough. You are aware NCC declared 2017 as the Year of the Telecoms Consumer. Reason for that was to ensure we put the issue of consumers on the front burner, addressing them one after the other.

From the 2442 DND, we discovered that Nigerians were not activating the platform and complaints continued to increase. Though some activated, but we equally got complaints from people who claimed that they activated and still occasionally get some of these messages and that is why we provided the second level of support, which is the 622 NCC help line.

“If for instance you have activated your 2442 and still getting unsolicited SMS, you can still report to us directly at NCC and ofcourse, we shall sort you out.

“There were challenges around the deployment of BTS by operators. This is because of the issue of IGR some states are vigorously pursuing.

Lots of approvals are delayed in terms of siting BTS. We have also had the challenge around Right of Way and reluctance of various agencies of governments to give approval as fast as possible for deployment of infrastructure. These hindrances’, of course impacted on telecoms growth in the course of the year.”

Ojobo however, said the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, made a presentation at the Governors forum on how these challenges are contributing to poor QoS.

He said it has become necessary for the country to have extensive BTS, “so that we can narrow those gaps, especially in areas without access and even ensure the broadband penetration target can be realized.

“Unless we do that we shall keep having challenges in being able to meet up with government’s policy of meeting 30 per cent broadband penetration by 2018. Next year is 2018, we expect that we should meet that plan, but ofcourse, the challenges itemized can be a major hindrance,” he stated.

Ojobo said the commission is positive that in 2018, some of these challenges will be resolved early, “especially as the governors have started to appreciate the importance of these infrastructures in their states. We believe that some of these challenges will begin to fizzle out.”

From his perspectives, the Chief Executive Officer, Airtel Nigeria, Segun Ogunsanya, while admitting some challenges in the year, noted that NCC’s intervention in some critical areas saved the sector.

Ogunsanya said Airtel is looking at making its 4G services more robust and ubiquitous across the country in the coming year.

“At Airtel we shall be looking at improving our 4G coverage, especially in underserved areas. We expect that by next year, there would be wider coverage of broadband, because we would need to extend services to education, health, transport, security, among other sectors. The regulator is also working on release of spectrum to aid service providers. We shall come up with more 4G sites. We started in Ibadan recently; we hope to extend it to other areas.”

Speaking also to The Guardian, a telecoms expert, Kehinde Aluko, said subscribers were ripped off by service providers.

“You make call, it will not be completed and you are charged. You send text messages, it doesn’t get to its destination and your money is removed. The operators will charge you for caller tunes you never solicited for. I mean, the rip-off was something else this year. The regulator should look into that in 2018,” he stated.

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‘Nigeria losing 72% Internet revenues to United States’

‘Nigeria losing 72% Internet revenues to United States’

nternet

About 72 percent of Nigeria’s Internet revenues have been confirmed going to the United States of America (USA), instead of accruing to the country.

According to HUB8, a web-hosting firm, which carried out a survey earlier in the month, an outcome, which was made available to journalists, majority of .ng and .com.ng websites in Nigeria are still hosted in the United States, making the country to be experiencing major capital flight in that realm.

Hub8 noted that out of the 34,000 sites, less than 1,000 are located in Nigeria, which is only 2.3 per cent of the total.

It noted that the country of origin for the remaining three per cent of sites could not be identified so Nigeria’s share is slightly larger, though still not comparable with the amount of hosting abroad.

“The dominant countries where site hosting often occurs were determined for the .ng and .com.ng domains. The overwhelming number of sites are located in the United States (72 per cent),” translating into loss of 72 per cent hosting revenue for Nigeria, according to the report.

The .ng is Nigeria’s country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD), which is the country’s digital imprint on the World Wide Web (WWW).

This is coming just as the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA), managers of the country’s domain names system (DNS) ecosystem, declared it has, so far, registered 100,973 domains in .ng domain zone as at November 30, 2017.

Meanwhile, HUB8 report was based on 89,165 domain names in the .ng domain zone, with particular focus on the details of the usage of .ng domains as it relates to website hosting.

The report, however, does not include data on premium domains (about 2,000) and some special domains that are technically registered though not used by end users.

On the distribution of the domain zones, the report reveals that most popular domain zone is .com.ng, having almost 70 per cent of all national domains registered.

The .ng domain zone, the report says, comes next although within the zone a domain name is shorter “but domain registration here costs several times more than in .com.ng while .org.ng, which is usually used by non-profit organisations, ranks third with an age backlog.

“The number of zones identified by the study include .com.ng; .ng; .org.ng; .gov.ng and .edu.ng with number of domains being 61,609 (69.1 per cent); 15,353 (17.2 per cent); 6,077 (6.8 per cent); 1,738 (1.9 per cent and 996 (1.1 per cent) respectively,” the report said.

Others such domain zones include .net.ng; .name.ng; .sch.ng; .i.ng; .mobi.ng and .mil.ng, all which have less than one per cent market share.

In terms of active websites, the HUB8 report noted that there are currently 38,864 websites in the .ng domain, not including the sites that fail to open to the connection timeout, redirects and the ones throwing an error (page is not found). “The existing sites are hosted only in half of the .com.ng and one-third of the .ng domains,” the report stated.

According to the report, operating sites are reported on 45 per cent of .com.ng and .ng domains.

Also, 15 percent of registered domains are said to be with errors indicating “connection time-out” presumably for some temporary problems regarding hosting or channels.

About 3 percent of domains are redirected to other sites and the same number displaying error pages such as “404 Page Not Found” or “500 Server Error.”

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WhatsApp might not work on your phone from December 31

WhatsApp might not work on your phone from December 31

Facebook-owned mobile messaging app, WhatsApp will stop working on a number of platforms from December 31, the company has confirmed.

The messaging app will drop support for ‘BlackBerry OS’, ‘BlackBerry 10’, ‘Windows Phone 8.0’ and older platforms, from December 31, 2017, according to an express.co.uk report published on Monday.

“We will no longer actively develop for these platforms, some features may stop functioning at any time,” WhatsApp said.

“These platforms don’t offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app’s features in the future. If you use one of these affected mobile devices, we recommend upgrading to a newer OS version, or to a newer Android running OS 4.0+, iPhone running iOS 7+, or Windows Phone 8.1+ so that you can continue using WhatsApp,” the company added.

WhatsApp said that it will not work on ‘Nokia S40’ after December 2018. Also, the app will stop functioning correctly on Android OS version 2.3.7 and older, after February 1, 2020.

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Smartphone markets in Nigeria, South Africa enter early stages of recovery

Smartphone markets in Nigeria, South Africa enter early stages of recovery

Smartphone markets in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and other part of Africa, bounced back from two consecutive declines to post quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) growth of 4.4 per cent in Q3 2017.

According to insight from the International Data Corporation (IDC), in its Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, it showed that smartphone shipments for the quarter reached 21.7 million units, spurred by ongoing economic recoveries in some of the continent’s major markets.

It noted that Year on year (YoY), shipments were down -5.5 per cent, but this still represented an improvement on the YoY performance seen in the previous two quarters.

IDC explained that in the feature phone space, shipments totaled 33.7 million units, down -3.6 per cent QoQ after increasing for the three previous quarters.

However, YoY, the feature phone market was up 11.5 per cent. Feature phones still constitute a significant 60.8 per cent share of the total mobile phone market as they adequately address the needs of African consumers that have limited purchasing power and require a reliable long-lasting mode of communication, particularly those in rural areas.

Combining smartphones and feature phones together, the overall Africa mobile phone market saw shipments of 55.4 million units in Q3 2017, which represents a slight QoQ decrease of -0.7 per cent but an increase of 4.2 per cent YoY.

There were contrasting fortunes for the continent’s two biggest markets, with Nigeria seeing shipments increase 1.7 per cent QoQ while South Africa suffered a decline of -8.0 per cent over the same period.

A Research Manager at IDC, Ramazan Yavuz, observed that the Nigerian economy is slowly coming out of recession and “we’re seeing signs of steady improvement in consumer demand for mobile phones.

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20 disabled persons to benefit from digital hub

20 disabled persons to benefit from digital hub

disabled-persons

No fewer than 20 persons would benefit from the digital hub recently launched for persons living with disabilities.

According to Project Enable Africa, which has selected 20 young persons with disabilities as Fellows, they will be the first beneficiaries of the training opportunities at the Hub.

Beside these young fellows, the executive members and leaders of the various disability cluster groups will also be trained by Project Enable in an organisational development workshop to provide institutional strengthen for the Lagos disability community.

In addition, the initiative is poised at promoting access to ICT skills, empowering persons with disability and reducing poverty and gender violence while improving access to education and decent work.

The hub was recently unveiled at the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) Agege, Lagos.

The initiative, project enable, seeks to promote the empowerment and social inclusion of persons with disabilities. “It will provide volunteer opportunities to young people with disabilities, while serving as a center for their continuous development in entrepreneurship”, said team lead, Project Enable, Olusola Owonikoko.

According to 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow and 2014 Fellow of the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative (CYFI), project enable is through the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF), “68 grants of up to $25,000 each were awarded in 2017 to U.S government exchange alumni teams worldwide including Project Enable, to support their public service projects.”

“The Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) was created by the U.S. Department of State created in 2011 to support alumni initiatives that promote shared values.

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Laclic unveils language app, others for business growth

Laclic unveils language app, others for business growth

A business man with a smart phone and co-workers in the background

Laclic Services Limited, has unveiled various products, including an apps, targeted at solving peculiar human challenges as related to languages.

Unveiling the products, which include Olango, Olango Vista, Bantaban and Spirout, to the media, in Lagos, the Product Research Analyst, Laclic Services Ltd, David Lanre Messan, explained that Olango is an application solution that eases language learning.

He said the language learning application consists of both mobile and web version, which allows users to learn any language of their choice at their own learning pace via chat with Tutors and other users.

He said there are embedded video modules for each lessons and quiz sections at the end of each lesson to access user performance.

According to him, the features include a chat forum (involves user interaction with other users and interaction with tutors); pause and resume learning facility; offers quiz, including voice and subjective quiz, spelling corrections.

It also features online tutor (user can chat with tutor online); payment portal to process enrolment fee of courses; a section to view completed courses and another section to edit language catalogue.

Lanre Messan said Olango Vista is a language learning device to ease and enable users to book a translator both for personal engagement and or group activities. This device, he said enables seamless translation service provided to anyone who needs it anywhere and at any time.

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D-Box theaters launch in South Africa

D-Box theaters launch in South Africa

D-Box theates launch in South Africa.

The partnership between Ster-Kinekor and D-Box, which is set to bring the “hyper-realistic immersive entertainment” experience to South Africa’s Ster-Kinekor theatres, was announced back in November 2017 and after the installation had been completed, the first cinema launched at Mall of Africa in Johannesburg in December 2017 – which coincided with the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

The partnership will see D-Box systems in place at four theatres across the country, starting with The Zone @Rosebank and Mall of Africa in Johannesburg, Cavendish Square in Cape Town, as well as Durban’s Gateway Shopping Mall.

The D-Box fitted theatres will include 50 seats, which are featured among regular seating, in an attempt to cater for the growing number of moviegoers who are looking for cutting-edge, premium entertainment experiences.

IT News Africa attended the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the Mall of Africa to experience the D-Box systems. The seats are of a good size and are comfortable which is much needed for the ride which the movie provides. It truly is immersive as the system works in harmony with the movie as it rocks back and forth and vibrates during certain scenes. At first, it seemed as though the constant moving on the chair would become too much but those fears were calmed as the seats stood still during placid scenes. It certainly offers a new and exciting way to enjoy a movie.

The issues, however, may come from the rest of the cinema who are not enjoying the same experience. The added noise of the seats, which is minimal, may become an issue for those not enjoying the befits.

By Dean Workman
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IT News Africa: Most Read Stories of 2017

IT News Africa: Most Read Stories of 2017

IT News Africa: Most Read Stories Of 2017.

2017 proved to be another year where the rate of technological disruption increased, yet again, as major headlines all around Africa and the rest of the world were dominated by tech-related stories.

Data prices and deals gained a lot of attention in South Africa as the #datamustfall campaign raged on.

While stories of Bitcoin dominated headlines around the world, in Nigeria the government was quick to come out and warn Nigerians of the potential dangers. Also making headlines in the West African country was the poor health of the President, Muhammadu Buhari, who spent an extended period of time in England receiving treatment. This grabbed the attention and imagination of many Nigerians who often took to social media to express their opinions.

This year the team at IT News Africa again produced compelling features such as; 15 Best Countries for Business in Africa. In gadgets and gaming in 2017, the launch of the Huawei P10 and Moto Z2 peaked the interest of many Africans, so naturally, we reviewed them for you.

From all of us at IT News Africa, have a great festive period. The most read stories of 2017 can be found below.

News

MTN slashes out-of-bundle and data prices
On Thursday 30 November 2017, South African telecommunications company, MTN, announced two major developments which according to the company addresses the data price problem in South Africa. Read More.

MTN and 16 SA firms warned to vacate Nigeria
Nigerian militant groups on Wednesday, threatened to bomb South African companies in retaliation for the Xenophobic attacks that have occurred in Johannesburg and Pretoria over the past couple of weeks. Nigeria Communications Week reports that Niger Delta militants have given South African firms a month to vacate the country. Read More.

The Death of 3D TV’s
The year is 2009, and all anyone can talk about is… 3D entertainment. The movie Avatar is the biggest movie of the year, 3D entertainment is all the rage and everyone is spending their hard earned cash to bring that experience into their homes. Read More.

MTN extends Black Friday deals
On Thursday 23 November 2017, South African telecommunications company, MTN announced a new array of Black Friday deals which will be running from this Friday 24 November 2017 through to Cyber Monday 27 November 2017. MTN revealed that customers can walk away with free devices, televisions and data deals of up to 100Gigs. Read More.

Nigerians warned against digital currencies like Bitcoin
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of Nigeria has issued a warning to all Nigerians about the danger of investing their money into cryptocurrencies (digital currencies) such as Bitcoin. Read More.

Opinion and features

15 Best Countries For Business in Africa
The African continent is buzzing with potential. Rich in natural resources, a hardworking population, and huge gaps and opportunities for anyone who wants to succeed in business. Read More.

Nigerian President death rumours- how twitter reacted
Over the past week, sparked by a report in Metro.co.uk, social media has been agog with rumours and chatter about the wellbeing of President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria. Read More.

Were you with Buhari in London?
Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, is yet to return to his country from a reported holiday in the UK. Over the past week the Senate president, Bukola Saraki and the speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, visited the president in the UK. To reassure the Nigerian public of their president’s wellbeing, photos of this meeting were posted online. Read More.

How online stores can take steps to stop the Grinch from stealing Christmas
The Christmas rush has started. The postal service warned South African residents that if they want their Christmas parcels sent abroad to arrive on time, they must have been sent by October – so they may already be too late. Read More.

Nigerian fashion company tapping into social retailing
The Style Group, a contemporary lifestyle retail group in Nigeria, is looking to take advantage of the booming social media and e-commerce market in Nigeria and overtake traditional retail stores by focusing on offering their products via modern social-commerce. Read More.

Gadgets and Gaming

What’s the deal with the newest expansion pack ARK: Aberration?
ARK: Survival Evolved’s newest and unreleased expansion puts players in a damaged, malfunctioning ARK. With its internal atmosphere gone, most of its life forms fled to the underground, away from the now intensely radioactive sun. In the dark depths of the ARK, the creatures either adapted or mutated through the intense radiation. It features new creatures to defeat or tame, a whole new environment to explore and discover, and a handful of new items that you can craft. Here’s what we know from the developer’s announcements. Read More.

FIFA 18 Tips: Three easy ways to make coins in the game
So you’re playing FIFA 18, and need some easy ways to make coins. Without coins, you cannot add quality players to your team, and you can’t buy a variety of other goodies that could help your cause in FIFA Ultimate Team. So how can you earn a lot of coins in the game without breaking your back in the process, and without having to spend any real money on coin-selling sites that might be dodgy all along? We’ve got three basic ways for you below, and we’re going to explain them in full detail; read on if you need to earn more coins with as little difficulty as possible! Read More.

New Dell XPS 15 – The Powerhouse Machine without the bulk
Dell’s highly anticipated XPS 15 (9560) laptop is now available from official distributor Drive Control Corporation (DCC). The XPS 15 is packed with the newest Intel Kaby Lake 7th generation processors up to i7 Quad Core and up to 32GB memory which easily powers through intensive tasks. Read More.

LG unveils 4K OLED range in South Africa
LG Electronics on Tuesday unveiled the new LG 4K television range which include LG OLED and Super HUD, both feature active HDR and support for Dolby vision. This rage won 58 awards at this years CES. Read More.

Motorola Moto Z2 Play Review
The slim and sleek Motorola Moto Z2 Play has a thin and light design and makes handling effortless. It is an impressive 5.2mm thick, and arguably the thinnest smartphone in the market. Under Lenovo, Motorola has been producing quality phones and the Motorola Moto Z2 Play is no exception. With a 2600mAh battery, at one charge the phone is enough to get you through the day. Read More.

Huawei P10 Plus Review
The Huawei P series has been the company’s flagship phone for years now, and the P10 Plus really reiterates this fact. Unveiled at the annual Mobile World Congress, which was held in Barcelona in February 2017, this beautiful phone has now officially hit South Africa’s shores. And boy what an impression it has made. Read More.

By Dean Workman
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Always-on a must for South African digital travellers

Always-on a must for South African digital travellers

Claude Schuck, regional manager for Africa at Veeam.

We are currently amid an industrial revolution which is transforming every sector of business. While the travel industry is arguably ahead of the curve right now, for how long will it remain in front? In South Africa, almost 3.5 million travellers passed through the country in August this year alone. The economic impact of not staying up to date with the latest technologies can, therefore, be considerable.

Thanks to the growth of mobile technology across Africa, consumers are more connected than ever and expecting information to be available to them irrespective of the device used or physical location. According to statistics from the GSMA, mobile technologies and services are expected to amount to more than $210 billion of economic value to the continent by 2020.

Technology has permeated all facets of travel with young people interacting and engaging using different platforms to book flights and hotels, perform online check-ins, upgrade their seats, and write reviews. In fact, the travel industry in South Africa is quickly catching up to international developments and moving from the traditional office space and travel agent to a more evolved DIY-style experience.

This digital traveller experience lets consumers take full control over all aspects of their holidays. Much of this digital transformation is driven by the consumer’s desire to make bookings around the clock from anywhere in the world, rather than be limited by the opening hours of an office-based travel agency, and the subsequent cost savings of cutting out a ‘middleman’ that took a commission for selling you the trip.

So, just imagine the impact if one of these new digital travel services is inaccessible or unavailable. For example, not only will travellers risk not finding the accommodation they need, but they won’t be able to book a seat before arriving at the airport, ensuring the whole check-in process is a lengthier affair once more. With so many competitors in the travel sector, chances are good that the customer will simply move on to the next travel service that offers the same kind of value for money and is available to take an online booking. Therefore, it stands to reason that to truly embrace digital transformation, those involved in travel need to implement availability of data and digital services as the foundation for their digital offerings to customers.

While terms like ‘business continuity’ and ‘disaster recovery’ might not be familiar to those outside of the ICT sector, they are challenges that business leaders across industry sectors are acknowledging and addressing to ensure they deliver an improved level of customer experience. Without these, downtime can be the difference between business growth and a business existing in 6 months’ time. Consider how much potential business a travel agency could lose during peak periods if its site crashes and becomes unavailable for any significant length of time.

The importance of being more digital-savvy is evident just by looking at developments in the travel industry on the continent. Recently, AirBnB announced that it will invest $1 million through 2020 to promote and support community-led tourism projects in Africa. In just the past year, it welcomed 1.2 million guests to the continent while earning a combined $139 million in host income. Look more widely and AirBnB is on course to have accommodated more than 100 million leisure and business guests this year globally, up from 80 million in 2016. While that’s still small compared to the $550 billion global hotel industry, it’s staggering for a business that began in 2014.

Instant gratification
The customer profile is changing. Today, the expectation is all about instant gratification. Business hours are not just 9-to-5, but rather when the consumer wants it to be. This means the travel agency is now a 24-hour operation that needs to be available to serve customers at 1am as effectively as they do at 10am.

Consumers are expecting the travel industry to meet these availability requirements as they are becoming increasingly reliant on an ‘instant’ digital experience. For some, if a website doesn’t load in the blink of an eye, is it even worth doing business with? Whether or not you subscribe to this thought, it is clear that if you offer digital services or plan to, Availability is an essential business requirement.

According to Travelport research, 86 percent of South African travellers use travel booking sites while 82 percent consult review sites to help with ideas on which destinations to visit next. It also indicates that mobile is a growing (and important) aspect of the booking experience with 35 percent of respondents using a smartphone and 38 percent a tablet to do their bookings.

This points to exciting new times for consumers, but worrisome ones for businesses not able to meet these demands. Globally, only 12 percent of the Fortune 500 companies from 1955 still exist. Most of these disappearances are due to market disruption. Right now, there is no greater disruption than that of digitisation – where technology advances are providing competitive difference for businesses.

But these can only be effectively realised if operators embrace an always-on approach that is cognisant of having adequate measures in place should disaster strike. Instead of gifting your revenue to a competitor by not having a disaster recovery or business continuity strategy in place, travel agencies in the digital area need to take responsibility for being always on, always available, and always ready for processing purchases.

Going on a digital journey
So, what can a travel agency or tour operator do? It is more than just a case of migrating to an online platform or developing an app. Being available and being digital mean these companies must adopt a completely different approach to their business.

Focus needs to be placed on how customers are engaging and using their platforms, what kind of data is stored, and how that is used to create a more integrated user experience. As mentioned, customers want to be in charge of their own travel experience. Empowering them with the tools to do so must be a prime directive.

Online booking platforms and mobile-friendly travel services around the world and across Africa are starting to become standard business practice. These kinds of digital disruptions can and will happen again at an increasing, almost exponential pace. But by taking the right next steps, leaders can use availability to their advantage and reap its extraordinary potential.

By Claude Schuck, regional manager for Africa at Veeam

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Customer service on a shoestring

Customer service on a shoestring

Customer service on a shoestring.

The economic climate in South Africa can be comfortably described as volatile and, finding ways to entice new customers has never been more important. The cost of capturing customer attention in an already crowded market space is challenging as businesses are struggle to find a balance between sustainable growth and cautious control.

The line is fine, especially when it comes to building and retaining customer relationships. Customer service can’t come to a halt when the economy does, so how do organisations stay ahead?

“As much as organisations like to build these perfect customer service environments, ultimately the costs involved remain a grudge expense,” says Jed Hewson, Co-founder and joint-CEO, 1Stream.

“Most companies would rather spend as little as possible on customer service, which means that in tough economic times, they come under pressure. The organisation has to ensure they are investing enough so that customers receive an acceptable level of service. They also need to do so while not wasting money on the services they don’t need.”

The business must measure the volume of work required to retain and engage the customer and match this to supply. In the call centre environment this is vital. If supply versus demand is incorrectly assessed, customers either get poor service or agents are left tapping their fingers. Either way, both lose the business money.

“The contact centre needs to be structured in a way that allows you to identify who the profitable customers are, and which should receive superior support,” adds Hewson.

“Uber’s system is an excellent example – rate your agents and your customers and then match the two. Contact centres can then be structured around those customers that deliver longer-term value.”

The call centre is already rating people at some level, so introducing this measure will not only improve insight into the customer and costs, but the levels of service. It’s a strategic step that will support the organisation in matching investment to budget without compromising on quality.

There is also complexity around determining investment into customer service channels and which are the most relevant for the organisation.

“We have noticed that there is a trend towards organisations hiding their telephone numbers and email addresses, forcing customers down a particular channel,” adds Hewson.

“Ideally, the business needs a variety of channels so that the client can pick the one they most prefer. However, some organisations are reluctant to include additional channels to cut costs and hassle.”

The channel dilemma is further compounded by the competition. If the other market leaders are offering their customers a plethora of channels to choose from, you don’t want to be the one with a limited bouquet and a frustrated customer base.

“While times may be tough, the business shouldn’t be taking away contact channels,” says Hewson.

“People expect options. There isn’t much in the way of customer loyalty anymore, so customer service needs to be the one thing the business gets right. There is no shortcut to achieving that either. You need the right people who are appropriately trained, using the right technology that is managed correctly.”

The time is right to properly integrate customer service to maximise customer retention in a market that is redefining loyalty and volatility. With the right tools, support and investment, the organisation can distinguish itself through the level of support it delivers.

And, in a world where there are thousands of companies selling the same services to the same market, customer service is the differentiator. It may not cut costs, but it can see sustainable business growth despite economic hardship.

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
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