Business101: Optimising customer service through technology, Newsline

By Ben Bierman

JOHANNESBURG – Despite more businesses reopening since the reduction of Covid-19 national lockdown to level 2 last month, South Africa is still far from the pre-pandemic normals.

People are still encouraged to stay at home and to continue working remotely.

For many businesses resuming operations, this means navigating a completely new era of customer service, one with limited face-to-face access and an increasing reliance on digital tools.

Herewith are tips for using technology to optimise customer service in the age of social distancing:


Social media has evolved from a means to maintain personal interaction to a valid channel through which consumers solicit and receive customer service. According to the Sprout Social research, 90 percent of consumers have used social media in some way to communicate with a brand. It is therefore vital to ensure these channels are kept up to date and checked regularly so that customers receive timely responses.

Chatbot AI

Chatbot and chatbot technology is emerging as a key component of customer service management in the digital age. While the development cost is relatively low, a chatbot offers massive benefits for customers with their required information irrespective of the time of day. Furthermore, by making use of machine learning, chatbots are actually less prone to errors than humans when it comes to handling common customer enquiries and complaints.


Use data collected from customers to analyse their preferences and employ target marketing. And when it comes to data analytics, there’s no need to overcomplicate things – you can begin with something as simple as sharing an online survey with your existing client database or running a series of polls on your social pages.


Most businesses that rely on call centres have been forced to go back to the drawing board as employees work from home. The solution has been the introduction of WhatsApp hotline, where customers are able to reach out via WhatsApp instead of calling a helpdesk or raising a ticket.

Not only is this a great tool for customer support because of its wider reach, it is also cost-effective and allows businesses to build a closer personal relationship with their customers.


Online purchases and on-demand delivery have surged under the new normal, with businesses increasingly offering customers the option to track their orders.

Allow customers to track their orders online to cut down on unwanted steps while enabling the business to work faster and with greater efficiency, making it a win win.

Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited