Socially acceptable methods to increasing profits
The power of social media is having a major impact on the business world in South Africa where companies both large and small are realising the ever-increasing need to harness it more effectively.
Rather than just jumping on the social media bandwagon, savvy brands are already using it as a customer service tool and trying to channel it more to achieving their business goals.
In the thick of the digital world is Lynette Hundermark, Head of Product Strategy for one of Africa’s most prominent, full-service digital agencies Prezence Digital.
She said: “Businesses realised they needed a presence on social media, but it was only when consumers found they had a platform to complain about goods and services that they really started jumping on the bandwagon.
“Now larger brands are using it as part of their overall business strategies and looking at the holistic picture rather than just adding social media as a bolt on.”
Hundermark, a self-confessed techno-geek , has an impressive 10-year-long career in IT which included working for the MIH Group before moving to Prezence Digital where she works to produce the best possible strategic long-term mobile solutions to meet client’s needs.
Established in the UK in 1998, Prezence Digital expanded into South Africa in 2002 and now has studios in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Initially, it focused on the movie and music industries.
The company launched its flourishing mobile division in 2005 and today it clients include leading and global brands including Ster-Kinekor, Computicket, Diners Club, Standard Bank, Soccer Laduma, Ndalo Media, Capitec and Investec.
According to Hundermark all the top social media platforms including Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Yammer are well utilised in South Africa, as well as the homespun site Mxit.
“In South Africa, Twitter is widely seen as the more business-orientated platform and I know people in the digital world, which I am involved in, who are very busy so find it is much quicker and easier to read 140 characters than to say log on to Facebook,” she said.
Tweeting wins service
The power of Twitter recently helped her personally resolve an issue with her home internet connection after she complained to her provider Telkom.
“For weeks I had been having problems and it was becoming impossible for me to work at home so early before work one morning I tweeted a complaint.
“In the half an hour that it took me to get to work I had a reply from Telkom and by the end of the week they had redone my line. They also followed up to make sure everything was working OK.
“This is an example of how companies can improve their customer service just by monitoring social media platforms and responding to them. Using social media to keep the customers you have happy is really what companies should be leveraging right now.”
Linkedin, more commonly known as a site for connecting professionals in the business world, does not receive such a favourable press from Hundermark.
“At the moment in South Africa Linkedin is acquiring a poor reputation because it is increasingly being seen as poaching ground for recruiters.
“Again I have some personal experience where people on LinkedIn I have never worked with or met before have sent me salary surveys asking me to rate their performance. How can you do that, if you have never even worked with them?
“I feel there needs to be some rules adhered to and people need to be more cognisant about LinkedIn before it is taken more seriously as a business platform.”
Prezence Digital is currently growing and developing its own social media department. “We do find it is a lot more effective to use social media for customer feedback on our products,” she explained.
Alert to problems
Hundermark was recently involved in developing new mobile booking apps for one of Prezence Digital’s largest clients Ster-Kinekor, South Africa’s largest movie theatre chain which boasts some 54 complexes across the country.
“I have alerts set up for all my product launches and just last week there was an issue with the payment service which had gone down and I was able to react immediately and notify the right people before the problem escalated,” she said.
As for the future of social media, Hundermark believes that it will become a part and parcel of the business world which will find ways to develop and add value to products and services.
But with the ever-changing pace of new technologies, there will undoubtedly be something new and different on the horizon.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”