The Jatropha Project in Zambia
Jatropha, by comparison, provides excellent yield (twice that of rice, as measured in barrels of oil per square mile per year, and ten times that of corn), is a crop which can grow in arid conditions, on any kind of ground, does not require irrigation or suffer in droughts, and increases the fertility of the land in which it is grown. It is fast growing, begins yielding oil in the second year with optimum yields being obtained from year six, and continuing for forty or fifty years.
Not surprisingly, Jatropha is now regarded as one solution to the world's search for new sources of energy, with Goldman Sachs having cited Jatropha as one of the best candidates for biodiesel production. Whilst India currently leads the way in the cultivation of Jatropha in industrial terms, it is cultivated in almost all tropical and sub-tropical countries.
From a commercial perspective, the approach of governments to biodiesel production is of huge importance. The EU has a target of 20 percent of all diesel fuel to be sold at the pumps to be biodiesel by 2020 and the target for 2010 is 5.75 percent. Sadly, the achievement at the beginning of the year was close to zero. The Copenhagen Accord, agreed by most major economies including the US and China, made a commitment to limit the rise in global temperature to 2 degrees and raise $100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries to curb climate change, and although environmentalists are dismayed with the impact of the Accord so far, further meetings are scheduled to bolster the delivery of the Accord. Meetings are due to take place this month on further commitments for parties under the Kyoto Protocol and long-term cooperative action. These sessions will also be preceded by preparatory meetings of the group of 77, China, the African Group, and small island developing states. Although the general goal is for countries throughout the world to reach energy independence, it is crucial for countries such as Zambia to invest in bio-fuel in order to meet their Kyoto Protocol commitments and to establish competitiveness of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member countries. Perhaps now therefore, when climate change goals are gathering momentum, is the time to enter the bio-fuels market.
In Zambia, large quantities of Jatropha hedges exist, which the population has neglected over the years. Planting Jatropha for biodiesel production has become a viable business in Zimbabwe, with government and industry studies suggesting that biodiesel can potentially contribute 30 percent of Zimbabwe's fuel needs and create thousands of new jobs. It is no wonder that a similar initiative has been launched in Zambia. The Zambian Development Agency and MAN Ferrostaal AG of Germany signed an integrated biodiesel industry Memorandum (MoU) of Understanding in 2009. The MoU will facilitate the securing of finance and acquiring of 150,000 hectares of land for the project.
D1 Oils Africa, the regional subsidiary of D1 Oils Plc, was appointed as a member of the Zambian Government's Task Force Committee on Renewable Energy to develop a policy on biodiesel for the country in 2005 and by March 2006 D1 Africa had planted over 4,900 hectares of Jatropha in Zambia. D1 Oils faced criticism over the so called 'miracle' Jatropha in 2008, with critics saying D1 Oils had been too optimistic over yields which could not be realized. However, D1 Oils released a trading update in February of this year, claiming that it was continuing to deliver value from existing Jatropha plantations. The directors further announced that contracts for $0.8 million have been secured for government funded Jatropha planting in North East India, signifying only success from the Zambian model.
Decreasing oil production from almost all the oil reserves and ever-growing demand for oil means that the search for renewable energy sources is becoming critical, and the rising environmental concern has focused the world’s gaze on biodiesel use. Institutional investors, industrial giants, nations themselves and the smaller investor through Jatropha Green Oil Investment Programmes are investing capital in the Jatropha green oil industry because not only is it an ethical investment, but plantations are also proving to provide a high return on investment (ROI). The high ROI from Jatropha has the potential to continue increasing as stocks of indigenous crude oil dwindle and prices soar. For the shrewd investor looking to enter the bio-fuels market, the Jatropha green oil industry in Zambia may well be the way to facilitate this.
Re-defining the economics of CX in the new customer journey
There’s no shortage of customer service channels for the enterprise to select from today. Regardless of the many new metrics that have emerged – such as customer success, or empathy – cost reduction is still a primary driver in selection criteria.
There are many articles dedicated to how companies can turn customer service and customer experience (CX) from a cost to a revenue centre. The problem is, if you stop there and don’t look beyond cost reduction, you’re limiting the scope for CX to become an even bigger economic contributor in the enterprise.
There is every opportunity for customer service and CX to significantly influence the front end of business, particularly amongst direct-to-consumer subscription-based products and services, such as popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, as well as sports subscription services like DAZN.
In these products and services and others, there are new customer journeys that may drive business growth and revenue. They start earlier and may last a lifetime, so getting things right at the start of the journey is key so that customers have the best experience from day one.
Not only will this help in making customers less likely to reach out for issues-based support further down the line, but these customers will be much less likely to churn, and much more likely to take up new services as they are offered throughout the lifetime journey.
So, what does the new customer journey look like for these services?
Opportunity waiting for the likes of Netflix & Disney
While consumers may have previously regarded customer service as a way to mitigate the inconveniences in their lives, the customer journey is expanding in scope every day. Today there are many more touchpoints available that put CX in a position to drive revenue.
For one-off purchases, traditional CX deployments have not changed significantly in the past few years. However, if you look at the change in the CX relationships we’re seeing with subscription-based products and services, particularly media-based streaming services, it’s clear that these companies lead what quickly become very multifaceted relationships with their customers. These have serious potential to evolve over time for increased economic benefit.
For any sort of subscription-based business, customer lifetime value is paramount, and the requirement to actively manage a continued positive customer experience is critical.
Every interaction is an opportunity, and every data point is a chance to offer more value. Introductory offers can convert to longtime customers. Longtime customers may take up opportunities to upgrade to more premium products or services. They may also appreciate incentives to invite family and friends to become customers. Consumers who like a particular service, for example, may appreciate a recommendation for another similar or complimentary service.
It all starts with customer interaction, and the customer experience journey becomes an opportunity to strategically affect the user base and resulting revenue - which is a far cry from the limitations of call center cost reduction or churn metrics.
How do companies support the new customer journey?
More and more, customers look at the new customer journey as engaging with brands as part of their lifestyles. Many companies are making brand ambassadors available before the traditional customer journey even starts, which is a marked change from a purely transactional relationship associated with a one-off purchase.
These ambassadors, who are often independent users of products or services, are providing trusted pre-sales advice, and that same trusted advice can also function to nurture the customer journey in a subscription-based relationship. Call it ‘GigCX’ or ‘crowdsourced customer service’ or even ‘peer-to-peer customer service’ - it doesn’t matter.
The key is in providing impartial, trusted advice from real users. Think about it: who would you rather get advice from? Someone who has used a product or service extensively, or someone who has been trained to provide customer service surrounding that product or service?
For services such as streaming media, advice from trusted experts with real product know-how could be invaluable. This may not be limited to technical issues, such as what to do when you can’t access your favourite show, or how to access services across various devices. It could be parents helping other parents who are concerned about how to restrict adult content from child viewers, or simply customers who have similar taste in programming who can comment on the benefits of upgraded or premium products. The point is, these experts are easily available at any touchpoint in the customer lifetime journey, creating more chances to add value.
It’s also about tipping customers from ‘passive’ to ‘promoter’ in the NPS scale. It’s an opportunity to turn neutral customers who may be vulnerable to competitive offerings into loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and referring others, fuelling growth. It may ultimately help drive even further revenue by creating customers that are helping to sell the brand itself.
And, while chatbots and automation may play a key role, they are often not able to handle the more complex support needed in the new customer journey. Conversational AI is rarely as conversational as it claims to be, and in the new customer journey, most companies are finding that a mix of automation and people-centric service is an ideal way to nurture the many new touchpoints created.
It’s no longer about trying to replace human capital with automation: it’s about orchestrating a uniquely personalised CX, and proactively engaging during the customer lifecycle to enhance the experience, and to create more long-term value.
At the moment, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the power to affect the economics introduced by the new customer journey. We’ll no doubt see this evolve rapidly particularly amongst streaming companies as they use human-centric connections in CX to support the full potential of customer lifetime value.
About Roger Beadle
Roger Beadle is an entrepreneur and business leader who is reinventing how customer service is delivered via the gig economy. After establishing several businesses in the contact centre industry, Roger co-founded Limitless with Megan Neale in 2016. Limitless is a gig-economy platform that addresses some of the biggest challenges faced by the contact center industry: low pay, high attrition and access to new talent. Previously, Roger and Megan helped to build one of the largest privately-owned outsourced contact center business in Europe, before selling the business to the global conglomerate Hinduja Group. Roger is an outspoken proponent of digital ethics, worker’s rights and the ‘good-gig:’ which encapsulates gig work for incremental pay versus full time work, skilled gig work, no unpaid time/downtime and zero expenses.
Named a Rising Star at Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 program, Limitless is a gig customer service platform, combining crowdsourcing and AI to help global businesses address their biggest customer service challenges – rising costs, increasing attrition, variability in demand and the need for diversity. Brands like Microsoft, Unilever, Daily Mail Group and Postmates are using Limitless’ SmartCrowdTM technology to connect with their most engaged customers, and reward them for providing on-demand customer service that can flex in line with demand. Limitless is one of the world’s first global tech platforms to introduce localised platform terms to protect the rights of its gigging workers. Backed by AlbionVC, Downing Ventures and Unilever Ventures, Limitless is empowering people worldwide to earn money for providing brilliant customer service for the brands they love.