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That’s entertainment?

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-Whit

You may have noticed that several of the city’s post offices have had wall-mounted, flat-screen televisions installed recently.  We’ve seen the same thing in most of the bank branches, even the odd doctor’s waiting room and it’s always a worrying sign.

You see, they are clearly put there to keep waiting customers amused and if you need to be kept occupied it’s pretty obvious they expect you to be hanging around for quite some time.  The provision of seating in Post Offices sends out much the same message – once upon a time there was no need to rest your weary bones while waiting to purchase a stamp or indulge in other sundry postal business; you didn’t expect to say there too long so it was fine to stand and there was no need for in-house entertainment to keep your mind off the interminable wait and waste of your valuable time.

That in-house entertainment varies from business to business.  Some of the banks subscribe to the premium DSTV bouquet so you can catch up with breaking news stories or major sporting fixtures, all from the discomfort of standing in a long queue.  Other less profitable places limit themselves to a filched Philibao offering or an entry-level DSTV subscription; thus you might find yourself watching any one f the innumerable reality TV shows which pass for mass entertainment these days; fat people trying to get thin, ugly people trying to be beautiful or  people with more money than sense airing their dirty laundry in public;  television evangelists from Nigeria,  with the gift of the gab and a mean slight of hand, pulling live snakes out of the mouths of their accursed or afflicted followers; or just a bunch of wannabee nobodies sitting in a house and caught on camera 24-7.

But none of this is for Botswana Post.  So far they have limited their output to public service advertising, most notably a short safety film courtesy of Botswana Power Corporation, depicting a few hapless members of the public chancing upon damaged cables and downed power lines or just setting up illegal electricity connections, all of whom end up fried.  I guess they mean well and I daresay there are plenty of people out there who need reminding but here’s where we come to my thought for the week: it’s depressing and is it really enough for the queue waiting customer? Where is the thought about the customer experience?

There has been a good deal of research done on the psychology of waiting. There was a paper by David Maister, titled “The Psychology of Waiting Lines.”   You know the expression “a watched pot never boils”?  Well one of the things he mentions is that when you are sitting or standing  and doing nothing while waiting, it seems like the time takes forever to pass.  Maister quotes William James, a noted philosopher, in his paper, highlighting his observance that “boredom results from being attentive to the passage of time itself.” So if you need to keep customers waiting for a while, make it more fun and entertaining for them so that they are occupied while waiting and so that time seems to pass more quickly.  


Many businesses understand this concept and some try to do things to change the perception of the passage of time.  For example, theme parks such as Disney keep guests entertained while waiting in lines by providing entertainment through music, TV or live performances.  Most medical practices understand this concept to a point and provide patients with loads of paperwork to work on while waiting so that patients are occupied for at least a portion of the wait time.

 

If you are in a doctors waiting room, notorious for waiting and hence the name,  you might keep magazines fresh and make sure topics are in line with those your patients might find interesting -Dr Bhagat always has interesting info on blood pressure, heart disease etc. in print and on screen – but if you really want to be leading edge how about providing iPad minis (note to interested company to tether them to furniture so they don’t “disappear”) to give customers something to do while they wait?

The customer experience whether it is waiting in a queue or simply engaging in whatever way is important to get right and this need to be at the forefront of imaginative thinking from the marketing department and not, surely, an infomercial from a co-parastatal ? We can look at a company like BP for inspiration.

BP has started testing a so-called “personality pump” at select gas stations in New York City and Chicago that will talk with customers. Created in partnership with Pandora and The Onion, these interactive gas pumps can chat with customers, play music for them, and tell jokes to keep customers entertained as it fills up their tanks.

 

Customers can also play music trivia games and record shareable video “e-cards” while they wait. Once they are done, they can opt to text themselves a message with a “special return offer.” This innovative take on conversational interfaces broadens the scope in which brands typically think of engaging customers via conversations. By incorporating the chat function into gas pumps, BP is able to transform a physical utility product into a digitally enhanced touch point to capture audience attention and leverage that into possible future engagements.

 

The rise of conversational commerce points to changing consumer behavior on mobile and a shift in brand-customer interaction. Now while talking pay points, mini I pads and a cabaret show may be a step too far as Botswana Post’s gift to their loyal customers standing in line, all I ask is that you switch to another channel.

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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