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Social media is more important in South Africa – Interactive Intelligence

September 17, 2013 • Online

Gartner’s annual symposium is currently underway in Cape Town, South Africa, and while the focus has been on trends shaping the future for online businesses and the changing role of the CEO, Interactive Intelligence’s Africa head of Sales and Business Development Deon Scheepers spoke to IT News Africa about the changing world on contact centres and taking operations online.

Interactive Intelligence’s Africa head of Sales and Business Development Deon Scheepers (image: Interactive Intelligence)

Interactive Intelligence’s Africa head of Sales and Business Development Deon Scheepers (Image source: Interactive Intelligence)

“There is a gap between consumers and the corporate environment,” said Scheepers, referring to the fact that having the right systems in place will better the customer experience when contacting a company.

“What are their biggest pains? It’s being transferred to other systems and many people before they get the right answer. It’s companies that have no knowledge of backend systems to get the information across, and it’s not understanding the agency. Those are the big three problems facing businesses today – and technology isn’t the issue here,” Scheepers said.

Many businesses and organisations transfer calls and queries to different departments in order for customers to get the information they need, but Scheepers adds that the processes are not in place. “Processes to transfer customers are challenging. If you don’t link it to the right system, the tech you use doesn’t matter – you won’t get it right. Then you will have a massive problem.”

According to a recent survey by Interactive Intelligence, industries such as hospitality and online retail stores, scored the highest with customer satisfaction, while government agencies (85% ranking them among the worst, vs. 52% globally) and utility providers (68% ranking them among the worst vs. 34% globally) scored the lowest.

Asked why some industries seem to use the right channels when interacting with customers, Scheepers said that the customer service industry is very competitive, and good customer service is key to their survival – no matter what channel they use, be it social media, telephonic or otherwise.

“They have to distinguish themselves from the rest. Government uses the same tech as most of the leading hospitality companies, but the way they train their staff and provide customer service doesn’t exist. They seem to have no strategy in place.”

The Cloud

Cloud computing has dominated discussion over last couple of years but Scheepers is of the opinion that South Africa is still a bit nervous when it comes to implementing a real strategy in businesses or organisations.

“South Africa is still nervous about the cloud, as we have a bunch of limitations, and our biggest challenge is broadband. If you don’t have proper broadband, latency will also be an issue. So there is that challenge, but security is always a big concern. Besides that, we have the telecom problem, but it is starting to pick up.”

Scheepers highlights that 50% of revenue is in the cloud, but it is a challenge in Africa because companies are not sure if they should implement it or not. He is also of the opinion that cloud services will be forced onto companies, but cost is a big factor for many organisations.

Social media also plays a huge role when stating in contact with customers or providing a point of contact, and this works well in Africa.

“It’s more important in South Africa than in the rest of the world. With Africa being mobile crazy, their world is now online. Many companies are now using mobile and social media as their main channel to stay in contact. Companies need to have a social media strategy, and there needs to be seamless integration,” Scheepers said.

Asked what he would like to change about the industry, Scheepers comments that he would like to make use of the job creation opportunities and South Africa’s hospitality to drive the industry forward.

“South Africa’s biggest drivers are job creation. How can we use the contact centres to bring that home? South Africa has been rated as one of the best offshore venues for contact centres, but there is a lack of government support. If I could change one thing in the industry, it would be to sell the country as one voice. It could be massive, but we are being held back,” Scheepers concluded.

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor

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