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How does business deal with government’s GV monster?

Just when you think things can’t get any worse they always do. The challenge for business is to soften the blow. That challenge has never been greater.

Government has screwed up big time. It’s been spending beyond its means and has failed to build a more self-reliant economy.


As a result, our currency is weak. Petrol prices are through the roof. In reaction to external pressures our interest rates are hiked, driving up bond repayments.


The mugging of the consumer then continues via e-tolling, rising inflation and higher food bills.


The consumer’s plight is ignored by politicians. Meanwhile, consumers are soured by every revelation about Nkandla, government waste, irregular expenditure and breath-taking lack of service delivery.


Government, like Frankenstein, has found it takes time, but it is possible to create a monster. In government’s case they’ve called into being the GV or gatvol consumer.


Many GV consumers are broke or have minuscule disposable income. It’s monstrous what they have to put up with. They’re losing patience. They’re angry and confused.


These are the people the private sector has to deal with when they walk into stores and businesses. They’re in no mood to be messed around. They are fit to explode.


Business has to defuse the situation and somehow make a profit from an embittered, exploited population.


The only way is through service that says ‘We’re not government; we’re here to help you, not fleece you’.


A good way to start is to return to basics. Improve service so consumers answer ‘Yes, yes, yes’ when they ask fundamental shopper questions like…

  • did I get good value or do I feel ripped off?
  • was everything done right first time with superior levels of quality?
  • am I treated with respect and courtesy and do I receive superior and responsive service?
  • are they available when I need them?
  • have they have hired the most competent people to help me?
  • do they listen to me or are they only interested in their own goals with no interest in mine?
  • do I feel physically and emotionally safe in the places I spend money?
  • is their communication with me accurate, relevant and personal?
  • is the operational environment free of risk, doubt and poor ethical behaviour?


The questions are based on the ServQual Model developed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry to define the characteristics customers look for in a relationship with business.


The GV consumer doesn’t answer ‘Yes’ to many of these questions during interaction with official departments. This creates opportunities for private sector businesses to stand out.


Make a friend and supporter of GV consumers and you’ll find they’re not monsters after all. They could be the making of your business.


In so many ways, government might be failing. That doesn’t mean your business has to.

Published in Customer Service
Innovation as a social process for effective engagement with customers

What are the roots of innovation as a social process and what is the relevance of the social nature of engagement in developing strategies for a social business?

Published in PR & Communications
A new kind of customer engagement: smart connected interactions

The rise of smart devices and a focus on customer loyalty has created the proverbial "perfect storm" for enterprises that want to reinvent the customer experience around smartphones and tablets. These devices can help solve some of the challenges that have plagued the contact centre industry for more than 30 years. For example, caller identity, intent, and call context (what the customer tried immediately before calling) can be easily and passively established before a call begins. Caller expectations can be better managed, and enterprises can smooth the arrival rate of calls with intelligent, resource aware call-back.

Published in Networking
Thursday, 13 June 2013 11:56

SMS remains the best channel for business messaging

SMS remains the best channel for business messaging

Some commentators on the state of the SMS messaging industry point to the death of SMS as a communications medium. This may be true for global consumer use of SMS messaging in the face of newer communication technologies but these prophecies of SMS’s doom are overstated when looking how SMS continues to be integral for business messaging.

Published in PR & Communications
How data can deliver results without big budgets

The current hype around "big data" raises the spectre of big budgets to match - but, says Angelina dos Santos-Barrett of Innervation, most retailers can extract far more value from their current data without embarking on expensive specialist projects.


"You don't need to pay a lot money for data you don't already have, or hire a specialist team," says Dos Santos-Barrett. "You simply have to make better use of the assets already sitting around in your organisation."


All but the smallest corner-store retailers, says Dos Santos-Barrett, "are gathering data every day. People are used to considering it only as sales and inventory data, but once you start to match that with what you have in your marketing databases, your loyalty programme and maybe a CRM system,  it becomes far more valuable. All you have to do is tie it all together."


This doesn't have to be complicated, she adds: "It's literally just about finding a few unique pieces of information like a name, a mobile number, an email address or a masked credit card number. Once you've matched these across a few databases, you can start to build a picture of your customers that can feed into your development of new products and services."


Many retailers are missing opportunities presented by their loyalty programmes in particular, she says. "If your loyalty information is sitting in an isolated database, you are really not getting value out of that investment," she says. "You have their name, their card number and the fact that they've made at least one purchase -- but are you looking at exactly how many times they've been through your tills and what they bought? Do you have an understanding of what might motivate them to come back?"


Too many retailers, she says, limit their engagement with loyalty customers to an occasional "Hi, you've earned R50 credit" -- and many don't even do that. "If you're not regularly sending relevant offers and reminders, you're relying on the customer to remember to present their card at each transaction - and many will quickly lose interest. If you're counting on your cashiers to remind people, you have to consider that they're also under pressure to move the queue through the till as quickly as possible, and there's no time for a long conversation about the loyalty programme."


The only solution, she says, is to use the information gathered at the till to maintain customer engagement beyond the till. "Your customers give you valuable information about themselves -- you have to use it creatively to give them something valuable back. It's pointless having a loyalty programme, for example, if you're sending the same generic set of special offers to all your loyalty customers. If I regularly buy the same premium brand of coffee, sending me 20% off your chicory-blend house brand is helping nobody."


"You can only give your customers what they want when you understand who they are," says Dos Santos-Barrett. "And all you need to do that is a relatively simple strategy, and a simple interface to your data. Retailers can start small and still see big results."

Published in CRM & Direct Marketing
Thursday, 18 April 2013 11:00

Winning at social media is a team effort

Winning at social media is a team effort

As the evolution of social media marches on and more companies adopt it as a mainstream business tool, it is becoming clear that social media can no longer only be relegated to the marketing department, but requires a cohesive approach if it is to be effective and impactful. As companies scale up their use of social media on coming years, key areas where business leaders should take note include:


The leadership in any organization sets the tone for the company and should play a key role in how they communicate with the world. Executives can share insights on the direction the company is taking, but also draw in feedback and insight from employees as well as customers and suppliers. The great advantage with social media is that it allows this to be done more directly and speedily, both internally and externally.


Security is a key concern, the 2012 Norton Cybercrime report claims that 44% of users aren't aware that security solutions for mobile devices exist, and 40% social network users have fallen victim to cybercrime on social networking platforms. Such realities leave a company's Intellectual property vulnerable to attack and IT departments will have to take the lead in protecting companies from social networking related cybercrime.


The 24/7 nature of social media means that your workers are busy on social media during their leisure time, but also when they are on their desks. It is important to understand how your people use social media and how this impacts on issues such as productivity. Only 21% of companies report having a social media policy or guidelines, leaving them vulnerable to a wide range of risks. In addition to drafting guidelines, HR should also take the lead in ensuring that there is across the board training, so that staff understand the opportunities as well as the risks and challenges social media presents.


Customer Service

Are you tapping into social media to answer customer queries, to respond to complaints and chase up on orders? If your company is not using these tools, they are missing out on a huge opportunity. Your customer relations managers should start to understand how social media works, how to integrate it into the organization and create systems to drive such services. Read Is your company ready for the social customer? at the bottom of this page, for tips on how to get started and How to use social media for customer service... from Kwazi Communications


For most companies, social media has been a line item that falls under marketing, however as the scope of social media widens, financial managers need to be aware of the costs of running a successful digital operation. Awareness would range from procurement of specific software, such as dashboards and other analytical programmes, as well as increased overheads in the realm of increased data costs as content generation increases. Additionally, the costs of staff compliment as social media teams are created in-house. Understanding the implications of this is imperative for any company.


While legislation around social media is still in its infancy, legal departments should be aware of the risks around litigation if staff members leak information, or if a suit of defamation or libel could arise. Lawsuits can become very costly, for example Symantec's 2011 Social Media Protection Flash Poll states that on average cost litigation costs for litigation due to social media law suits can rise to approximately 5 million Rand. With more and more employees on social media, the legal representatives of any organization should be ready to advise and act on any transgressions with clarity and certainty.


While the role of PR, marketing and communications in this arena will continue to intensify, the support and input of the other departments is key for reaping the benefits of social media in the long term.

Published in PR & Communications
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 09:37

Customer Experience

Customer Experience

As the marketplace becomes increasingly crowded with products and services, it is becoming tougher for companies to stand out amidst the noise and clutter. In the past, how you packaged your product or service was of paramount importance, along with the messaging around it. These elements are still critical, but in addition, you need to offer the customer or consumer a unique experience. Simply put, the customer experience is the end-to-end experience that a company provides to customers. It is the internal and subjective response customers have to any direct or indirect contact with a company. Direct contact generally occurs in the course of purchase, use, and service and is usually initiated by the customer. Indirect contact most often involves unplanned encounters with representations of a company’s products, services, or brand and takes the form of word-of-mouth recommendations, advertising, news reports, reviews, and so forth. Notably, the customer experience is a blend of a company’s physical performance and the emotions evoked, intuitively measured against customer expectations across all touch-points. This means that every time a company and a customer interact, the customer learns something about the company that will either strengthen or weaken the future relationship - and with that - the customer’s desire to return, spend more and recommend.


Cumulative Effect

The more experiences a customer accumulates, the more his/her perceptions will shift from fact-based judgments to a more general meaning of the whole relationship. In essence, a better customer experience buys you loyalty, and tolerance on the occasions when things do not turn out as planned. Subsequently, improving the customer experience has become a central strategic issue in many industries as companies realise it offers the chief means of distinguishing themselves in an overly commoditised industry.



A Company-Wide Philosophy

Customer experience is based not only on operational concerns, but emotional aspects as well. The challenge is therefore to orchestrate a company-wide focus of contributing to the best possible customer experience. It should be a company-wide philosophy, and to instill a common philosophy can be a daunting task. Too often the responsibility to deliver a better customer experience rests on the shoulders of a few departments in an organisation, customer service, marketing, or sales - but giving the responsibility away creates the risk that functions like operations, back office, HR or IT do not share the same customer ethos, which puts the total customer experience at risk.  Customer experience management and the subsequent measurement should not be viewed as stand alone projects, but rather as a company-wide philosophy in which staff buy-in - including top management - is non-negotiable.


Ample Rewards

Companies that succeed in providing the right experience develop stronger emotional bonds with their customers, which in turn will prompt customers to advocate the brand to others. In addition, improved customer experience correlates positively to customer commitment, and customer commitment is proven to relate significantly to profitability, with 20% of customers being more likely to take up new product offerings and approximately a 9% increase in profitability over a 6 month period (Hofmeyer; 2000).


Here are some interesting international statistics that reflect the importance of customer experience:

1. 40% of organizations cite ‘complexity’ as the greatest barrier to improving multichannel customer experience, overtaking ‘organisational structure’ since 2010.

Source: Econsultancy MultiChannel Customer Experience Report


2. Only 37% of brands received good or excellent customer experience index scores this year. 64% of brands got a rating of “OK,” “poor,” or “very poor” from their customers.



3. RyanAir received less than 1 complaint per 1,000 passengers in January 2012. It answered 99% of complaints within 7 business days.

Source: RyanAir Customer Service Stats


4. Poor customer experiences result in an estimated $83 Billion loss by US enterprises each year because of defections and abandoned purchases.



5. Just 47% of US contact centers reward their agents based on customer satisfaction ratings.

Source: The US Contact Contact Center Decision Maker’s Guide 2012


6. 50% of smartphone users would prefer to use a mobile customer service application to try to resolve their customer service issue before calling into the contact center.

Source: SpeechCycle and Echo Research Study


7. Customers who engage with companies over social media spend 20% to 40% more money with those companies than other customers.

Source: Bain & Company Report – Putting Social Media to Work


8. 89% of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience.

Source: RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report 2011


9. 84% of US adults who have conducted an online transaction through a mobile device in the last year report experiencing a problem.

Source: Tealeaf Mobile Transaction Research Report 2011


10. Customer power has grown, as 73% of firms trust recommendations from friends and family, while only 19% trust direct mail (from Forrester report “Consumer “Ad-itudes” Stay Strong”).


Published in CRM & Direct Marketing
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 13:38

Corporate use of ‘gamification’ drives brand engagement and business goals

Corporate use of ‘gamification’ drives brand engagement and business goals

Companies of all kinds have begun to introduce‘ gamification’ into the way their products, processes, training and marketing are presented and consumed.

Gamification is particularly successful at promoting engagement with brands and portfolios, and driving strategic objectives like increased sales, marketing and even innovation.

This is because of a predisposition in many people to respond to fun, “cool” activities and activity-based task execution, notes Wikipedia.

The growth of gaming beyond gaming

Wikipedia describes gamification as the use of game mechanics (stories and actions) and game design techniques – in a non-game context.

Blog sites and forums have used it for some time –for example awarding higher status to users as a reward for full and frequent use of site functionality.

From there, gaming methods have branched out into social networks and other scenarios where high engagement is paramount.

Even politics and civil service have a use for it. In the run-up to the 2012 American Presidential election, various companies have been promoting voting with the use of gamification tactics. Elsewhere, authorities are rewarding drivers who stay within the speed limit by entering them . In both cases, gamification has had a significant effect on achieving objectives.

But the impact of gaming is not purely social. It also has proven influence in businesses of all kinds. Decidedly serious industries like financial services and professional services firms are showing an interest in using game techniques in their content and workplaces.

Forms of business gamification

Business gaming occurs on various platforms – websites, intranets, mobile apps and other applications – and they range from fully-fledged applications to game-like strands woven into a wider context.

A large body of techniques are available to corporates, and can be applied in different scenarios, including:

  • Progress bars to indicate closeness to completing a task that a company is trying to encourage –www.givengain.com invites site members to start real-life projects (e.g. run a marathon) to raise funds for causes, and to set and track their fundraising goals.
  • Systems for awarding, redeeming and exchanging (trading or gifting) points, such as
  • Other awards such as discounts or achievement badges encouraging staff or customers to learn about a product, service or a key procedure or process
  • Rewards such as discounts are used along with social networks to encourage viral product referrals, such as the Stickers campaign developed by Realmdigital for Exclus1ves.
  • Leader boards, for example Shape Up and
  • Challenges between users, such as NikeFuel and Club Psych
  • Virtual currency including FNB’s eBucks, Standard Bank’s Mimoney or Bidorbuy’s bobBucks


Corporate gamification benefits

Wikipedia notes that DevHub, a website-building resource, used game techniques to increase the number of users who completed their online tasks to 80% (was 10%).

In the Exclus1ves Stickers example, reviews and ratings increased substantially as stickers now rewarded users for engaging with products. Stickers also enabled users to control which products they wanted discounted by introducing smart discounting and group buying.

According to a , more than 50% of organisations that manage innovation processes will use gamification for that purpose by 2015. Innovation is often cited as crucial to competitiveness, making this a resounding endorsement of gaming methods.


It can be challenging. Or not.

Complex endeavours like innovation and development projects involving intricate processes and ambitious goals (for example purpose-built simulation and storylines), require a serious development capability.

But gamification comes in light-touch as well as complex formats, with varying shades in-between. It need not break the bank.

Companies seeking to benefit from the persuasive power of gaming elements should choose a development partner with proven experience and references in that area.

Published in Technology
Tuesday, 23 October 2012 00:00

JWT marries breakfast time to story time

Kellogg's Rice Crispies Storytime Imagery

Kellogg’s Rice Krispies’ story time concept, developed and executed jointly by JWT and Trigger Isobar, has been confirmed as a resounding success following the number of story downloads which has exceeded the 78 000 mark.


The brief to JWT had the conceptualisation juices flowing, “Help Rice Krispies bring story time to breakfast and inspire the children’s imaginations”. The resulting creative campaign is a fully integrated interactive experience for both Mom and child bringing story time back to life.


The back of Rice Krispies packs have been transformed into four collectable unique stories, which double as breakfast placemats. Using a USSD code and mobile phones, Moms can download the story in English, Afrikaans or Zulu and kids can follow the pictures while the story is being read out.


The campaign is supported with 10 and 30 second television commercial stings, strategically placed, reminding mothers of the full range of collectable stories available while further captivating the child’s imagination.


Harsha Prag, Strategic Planner at JWT says, “Results have been incredible so far. Over 78 000 stories have been downloaded since June. Quality time spent between parents and children is invaluable and precious, especially in today’s rushed lifestyles. This concept not only encourages parent and child bonding, but weaves the Kellogg’s brand within the story creating an emotional brand bond.”


The Kelloggs Rice Krispies Story Time can also be listened to and downloaded at

Published in Advertising
Friday, 05 October 2012 11:07

Heading for burnout

Heading for burnout

Across the world workers are getting more and more stressed. Instead of regaining their pre-downturn peace of mind and tranquillity, workers globally report that, two years on, their stress levels are up and rising. How can this possibly be? And what new destabilising forces are at play to cause this increase?stress heading for burn out


The answer is complex and coloured with a host of local factors that range from Eurozone instability, to difficulties in managing the speed of change in economies where obsolete hierarchical structures frustrate youth and entrepreneurship, to the age-old struggle which sees women in emerging economies engaged in reconciling traditional housekeeping roles with the demands of the contemporary workplace.


And stress is an insidious enemy affecting sufferers with a range of problems from sleepless nights to more serious conditions such as high blood pressure, heart conditions, diabetes, asthma and skin ailments, but ultimately, stress can also affect a company’s bottom line. As stress related conditions, reportedly accounting for between 75% and 90% of doctor’s visits,[1] turn into sick days or, worse, into chronic conditions, businesses are likely to see their productivity drop dramatically. In particular, businesses risk losing some of their best staff to burnout as the demands on these high achievers grow unchecked and long periods of constant stress deplete them of motivation and interest.


A number of triggers are driving up stress globally, finds the latest research by Regus surveying over 16,000 professionals across more than 80 countries, with the result that half of workers declare that they are more stressed than last year. Any escalation in stress should be regarded as highly negative and dangerous, particularly as the global economy is indeed emerging from a difficult patch. Over the past four years many workers will have experienced forced changes in career, personal financial difficulties and second-hand stress from the tense surrounding environment. Any more stress could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

My stress has risen in past year


The research highlights that in China (75%) and Germany (58%), where a very large proportion of respondents have experienced rising stress levels, workers are close to snapping point. It may be that signs of a slowdown in the Chinese economy have impacted German outlook more than other countries given that Germany is the only European country with a trade surplus with China, but even at the other extreme of the scale, over a third of workers in Australia and the Netherlands were likely to have experienced growing stress over the past year.


In order to tackle stress at the root, the main triggers need to be identified. Interestingly, respondents revealed that two of the three main sources of stress were professional rather than personal. These were: their job (59%) and customers (37%). Personal causes of stress were highlighted by only under a fifth of respondent with the exception of personal finances (44%).


Jobs are getting workers down in Mexico and China where over 70% of respondents reported that their job was a major stress trigger. In Europe, French and German workers were the most likely to report that their job was a cause of anxiety, and even in Australia, where workers were less likely to blame their job for stressing them, almost half agreed.


Relationships with customers were also an important stress-trigger. It is likely that in an unstable economy currency fluctuation and late payment, reportedly representing 30% of all invoices in 2011 according to Atradius, increased tensions in customer relationships, affecting both the workers directly involved in chasing payments and managing cash-flow and others who simply perceived instability in their work environment. Problems with customers were particularly important to workers in emerging economies where exponential growth requires rapid and continued injection of funds.

customers have been major cause of stress


But there is a light at the end of the tunnel; although the workplace is the main source of stress it is also the place where important stress-busting changes can be made. 63% of respondents report that flexible working practices are a stress-reducer, highlighting that businesses that wish to position themselves at the forefront of improving workers’ lives have a simple solution readily at hand.

I beleive frexi time reduces stress


By allowing workers the freedom to manage their own working hours or location, businesses can relieve worker stress but also take an active part in making the working environment more family friendly. More than half of respondents (58%) confirm that flexible working is more family friendly and the benefits go hand-in-hand with stress reduction; working parents who are able to choose when and where they work can reduce the strain of reconciling work and family life, cutting stress and spending more time with their loved ones.


With two fifths of respondents reporting that flexible working is cheaper than fixed office working and the vast majority confirming that it improves productivity (77%), businesses cannot fail to take note of the win-win solution offered by flexible working; healthier more productive staff, at a lower cost.

Published in Wellness & Ergonomics
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