Technology Offers More Effective Communication
By: Douglas van Wyk, regional manager Infobip Africa
The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is characterised by an array of technologies that are blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres, while also disrupting the way businesses communicate. The opportunities for billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity and access to knowledge are unlimited. These possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Here, industries such as banking, retail and even manufacturing and the supply chain can all benefit once they embrace this shift.
The 4IR has ushered in a disruptive and turbulent business environment, which has seen soaring customer demands where instant gratification and immersive experience has become the norm.
There is a never-ending thirst and hunger for having the world literally at your fingertips. It is no longer unusual to see banks offering digital channels that enable end-users to do their banking on a 24/7 basis. And, there is a constant demand for up-to-date news and information.
At the same time, the banking industry has not only seen a constant need for information from customers. but also an increased demand for communications in direct relation to these scenarios. It is not just about people having their say, but also about communicating information and clarity about new technologies and concepts. With a change in lifestyle, there is always a significant amount of two-way communication that needs to take place, and we have observed business communication increase five- to tenfold.
Mobile technology fuels modern living and having access to these devices has become as natural as breathing. On average, most people today can have anything between two and five conversations at the same time, be it with individuals or businesses. If this is today’s average, imagine tomorrow’s standard and what demand will be placed on your business to not only operate almost 24/7, but also to handle an increasing number of conversations simultaneously.
Service the only differentiator
However, businesses often cannot scale fast enough or, in some cases, justify the scaling cost, while their competitors are quickly matching what they have to offer. As such, organisations’ only real differentiator is a combination of customer experience and choice.
In a connected world, people want to choose which channel they use and businesses must provide communication on the platform of their customers’ choice. To this end, businesses are looking at automating some or most of their processes. Recent research found that some 1.4 billion people are using chatbots, and most people actually prefer to deal with a non-human service agent.
At least 46 per cent of South African companies are actively piloting AI within their organisations, according to the AI Maturity Report in South Africa commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Ernst & Young (EY). AI is a developing technology, which is predicted to become a runaway train if you do not get on board quickly.
Having said that, it’s safe to say that AI in South Africa is still developing. For those companies still weighing up their options, it’s neither too late nor too costly. An AI solution is only as complex as the company allows or wants it to be – that is the beauty of a developing technology.
Ultimately, the 4IR with technologies such as chatbots, AI and the IoT can significantly improve customer experience when it comes to communication. Most companies that have deployed AI-driven chatbots have seen a significant reduction in labour and/or operating costs. At the same time, chatbots can respond faster than any human agent, no matter how many calls they have to handle, and companies do not have to recruit and train constantly, meaning they can scale within minutes in some cases.