Take the examples of Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Frichti: what we believed was a good experience five years ago – to have a warm margherita delivered to our door in 45 minutes – is today viewed as a little disappointing. Through simplifying the ordering process, providing a wider menu, and having exceptional customer follow-up, these services have completed the satisfaction circle to such an extent that our overall expectation has permanently risen to a higher level.
Companies like these impose new standards of experience that create great satisfaction because their focus is squarely on customer needs. By studying and analyzing these standards, we can learn to optimize customer satisfaction and apply the principles to our own activities.
However, these projects can be complex because, often, the entire service paradigm needs to be redesigned. Satisfaction is resolutely business-critical because it helps to strengthen the brand image and assists in the acquisition of new customers and the retention of existing ones. Customer experience and satisfaction measurement should be a champion of corporate culture and no longer limited to a simple KPI.
Cryptocurrency mining is a well-known use case: the crypto-currency security mechanism ‘Proof of Labor’ requires a large amount of electrical energy, so as to ensure that the cost of an attack on the network is greater than the potential gain of the network. In order to have enough computing power allocated to securing the network, the ‘miners’ are rewarded by the cryptocurrency network. Many companies were created around this activity which became known as ‘cryptocurrency mining’. Now, in order to reduce energy costs, a number of these companies are favouring renewable energies, capitalising on surplus energy produced in renewable power plants to obtain lower rates.
This can be taken into account in ROI calculations for renewable power plant projects: instead of losing energy produced but not used, it can be used to mine cryptocurrencies and therefore make it a more profitable investment. The market is real for the energy sector, and has been developing over several years.
One challenge of energy consumption is determining and monitoring the source of electricity that is being consumed. In the context of green contracts, for example, this can be problematic: how is it possible to guarantee to the consumer that the energy she consumes comes directly from renewable sources? Two companies, Engie and Ledger are working together on a device that guarantees the source of green energy that is produced by storing it on a blockchain which makes it possible to provide transparency to users.
These traceability capabilities can also be useful for local loops – peer-to-peer power generation networks – allowing users to exchange energy with each other. In addition, they can simplify exchanges between different operators, for example, in the case of sales of resources between countries.
It is already possible to industrialize these projects on a certain scale as shown by the collaborative work of Engie and Ledger, and the need is real for consumers. In addition, the prospects related to traceability are numerous, so this is a topic of particular interest today.
Combined with the Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain technologies can help set up an intelligent monitoring system, which will reduce intervention time during a failure or even anticipate them. IoT accurately measures the data specific to each device, and Blockchain technologies, through their peer-to-peer protocol, can guarantee the integrity of the transmitted data. Imagine, for example, a hacker connection on a power line with a monitoring system consisting of only one IoT box: if the hacker knows about the case, he will be able to bypass it, or send false information. If we integrate this single box with others so that all the boxes of the network validate the integrity of the data – the same validation model that the Bitcoin nodes validate the blocks built by the minors – the boxes of the other equipment will then be able to reassemble the information that the equipment sends. Erroneous information will be quickly detected.
The scalability problems inherent in Blockchain technologies still make the implementation of this type of system complex, but solutions are beginning to emerge. Projects such as IOTA seek to address issues specific to interactions between Blockchain and IoT.
These are just a few cases of Blockchain technologies being used in the energy sector, there will be many more that are yet to be identified. If you would like to find out more, do not hesitate to contact us.
Let’s renew the joy! 5 tips on how to optimize customer satisfaction
Take the examples of Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Frichti: what we believed was a good experience five years ago – to have a warm margherita delivered to our door in 45 minutes – is today viewed as a little disappointing. Through simplifying the ordering process, providing a wider menu, and having exceptional customer follow-up, these […]
It’s not necessarily Salesforce’s fault. Far from it, in fact. No, the CRM landscape has become more complex (driven, in part, by a digital scape that is touching every aspect of customers’ lives), and with it so too has the complexity of SFMC.
Let’s cut to the chase. SFMC is a powerful cloud-based suite of tools that enables companies to create and manage customer journeys across multiple touchpoints and channels for optimum results. However, this means that SFMC incorporates every aspect of the customer journey, from multi-channel , audience profiling, personalisation, interaction management, to name a few. As you may be finding, it’s this complexity that can often hinder efforts in implementing and delivering such journeys.
SFMC has a single purpose – to deliver an optimal customer experience across a diverse range of media and channels. The platform comprises multiple components – Journey Builder, Audience Builder, Personalisation Builder, Content Builder, Analytics Builder, across Email Studio, Mobile Studio, Social Studio, Advertising Studio and Web Studio – all requiring precision set up, fine tuning, and integration to get customer experience moving.
What you need is a capable and knowledgeable team who possess interoperable mindsets, skills and visibility across technology, marketing and processes.
And this is where things get tricky
On the marketing side, skills and expertise are needed in CRM, Customer, CX, Data, KPIs, Control Groups, Comms, Journey Design, Measurement Frameworks and Test and Learn plans. And on technology: SQL, APIs, Data, Data Signals, Scheduled Automation, Data Layers, Attribute Groups and Data Extensions. Put these all together and we’re in a world of acronyms, cross-purposes and potential confusion.
Ergo, the challenge is two-fold. The first is human capital. A pressing demand to access the skills and knowledge of the right people – whether in-house or outsourced – who can optimize those tools. And the second is making these skills available at the right time during the process – which could involve pre-training or recruiting, with the extended lead times that necessitates.
Getting back on track with ekino
At ekino our Salesforce expertise spans bespoke integration to customer journey definition to data dissimilation and analysis, helping to unlock return on investment for our clients.
We combine data, technology, creativity and design to deliver meaningful experiences across all channels.
And we do all this with a holistic approach, inspired by insights and all beautifully crafted to really connect with your customers.
We’ll make sure that the quality of your data assets is sustained throughout their lifecycle. You don’t want garbage in, garbage out, right?
SFMC can handle the most contextual data you can throw at it. However, it’s only going to perform well if your data governance is up to scratch – quality, usability, availability, security and consistency. We’ll take a look at that as well.
Finally, we’ll help define your company’s ongoing customer experience strategy. CRM – by its very nature – has always been a long haul. But with an automation tools like SFMC taking care of all the grunt work, you can concentrate efforts on the long-term strategies you need to gain real and prolonged advantage over your competitors.
Passwords are boring
Ahh passwords! Fruit of our imagination, we like to write them down on post-its and always use the same one. We are doing that because passwords are boring. Boring to find, boring to memorize, boring because they should be unique, and because eventually, we never know why those stupid forms are yelling at us. But […]
Today’s e-commerce websites need a very good user experience to catch the clients. The user experience will determine how the client feels while navigating on the website and remembers this experience for future purchases. Or it can determine how the client is impacted by our website in comparison to the others and help him remember our brand.Nowadays, customers prefer to have a personalized relationship with the retailer, because their needs are every day more specific. Another aspect is that customers wish to spend less time looking for the right article.
Too many choices
This leads to some problems. The retailers need to have multiple articles to be able to fit the needs of their customers. But they don’t scroll all over the website or application to find what they need. To simplify this, we can create categories where each article can fit in. But when you have a lot of articles, this means also sub-categories, which means different layers where you can lose the client, as in a labyrinth.
In one of our cases, we designed a website that would allow a customer to get a quote for a vehicle repairs. This meant that the client had to know the details of the vehicle problem if he wanted a precise quote. However, not everyone knows how each single spare part of the vehicle works, which makes it difficult to target a big audience.
One choice to rule them all
Instead of leaving the customer the freedom to navigate over all the products, we chose to have a single entry point: a chat-bot. What’s a chat-bot? It’s a simulated conversation with a chatting interface. Simulating a conversation will allow the customer to be more comfortable as if it were facing a real person. Let’s now see the different parts of the chat-bot.
The chat-bot will be the single entry point. It’s the way to start a conversation with the application. It’s the way the application will try to know what the client wants. The chat-bot was presented from the homepage. Leading the client into a set of questions.
The chat-bot asks multiple questions (the less the better) to know what the client really wants. But the chat-bot should also prepare the answers. It should display a list of possible answers. Don’t allow the user to insert any text he’d like, this will complicate the search system. Letting a free input text allows the user to insert whatever he wants. It could be an expected answer, but it could also be a long text describing what it wants. Or the client could even misunderstand the question and answer with another context.
The questions should focus on the need or the problem, not on the articles themselves. If you let the client tell you the article he wants, you may not know what he really wants. Looking for his needs we may offer him a product that better fits his demand. The system behind the chat-bot was a decision tree, where each question/answer will lead to another subset of questions/answers until the final product is found. Choose wisely the questions and answers, to avoid having too much and bore the client.
Sometimes, some articles are very common to sell (some spare parts, or some common reparations), but the chat-bot asks the user to follow the complete workflow of questions/answers until the final quote. To avoid the complete workflow, we allowed the system to be able to start at any point. This means that it should accept some kind of parameters to indicate the state of the decision tree where it should place the client. This kind of behaviour was very interesting with the landing pages which had a promotion of some article.
The landing pages were used for temporary promotions. Once we had done all the work to attract the customer into the landing page, we didn’t want to lose it by doing all the workflow of the chat-bot. So we let some parameter guide the client from the landing to the chat-bot at some advanced position in the decision tree, or with an already prepared quote.
Finally, after some questions/answers to the customer, the system found the article he was searching for. Now it’s time to present it, with the summary of the questions and his answers. We showed the customer that the article matched the answers he made. If it was not the case, the client could go to a previous step and change his answer. But maybe a change in his responses will request him to perform the workflow again, as new questions have to be made. But the objective at the end of the chat-bot was to find the ideal article for the client, so we had to be sure to ask the correct questions.
Nevertheless, we can’t always have all the answers. Maybe the answers proposed to the customer didn’t match his needs. This is normal, as we can’t handle all the possible answers given by a person. For those cases, we had an emergency exit. That means having an answer as “Others” which redirects to a workflow where the client can contact some real person to guide him.
The usage of this new section must be monitored, to study if we can create another category that can match an incoming demand.
The main purpose of having a chat-bot is to guide the clients into our articles. Because we knew that vehicle reparation is an area that most people fear and are not very comfortable with. This way, we avoid losing them with a complex search system and interact with them as if it were with real people. Because a client lost halfway is a lower conversion rate, it’s short-term lost sale and probably a long-term lost client.
How to ensure a millimetre Price Calculation Engine?
The importance of the price calculation engine (PCE) For a successful website, e-commerce oriented, one of the main points is the price. All way long of the client navigation, the price must remain coherent with the items selected. Changes on the price from one page to another will create some frustration and uncertainty on the […]
I have been doing improvisational theater as a hobby for many years, and though it has undoubtedly helped me professionally from the very beginning – I became more confident in meetings, listened more, reacted more quickly – I have been feeling lately that, besides the general surface skills (listening, talking to a crowd, reacting, etc), something deeper had changed. My whole mental professional map has changed. I often find myself navigating a project as I do an improvised scene. The two situations – managing a project and taking part in an improvised scene – seem to share many common points.
My aim in this post is to try and identify these points to determine the underlying skills that are useful for both situations.
A glimpse into the future
An improvised scene has a start, an end, and a story structure that defines what the scene should probably look like after it’s been written by the actors on stage. This is also similar in a project, you know what the structure of a project should look like, but you don’t know how this particular project will look like after it’s finished.
Sometimes in an improv scene, it is useful to try to imagine the end of the scene from the audience viewpoint – what global impression of the scene will stay with them after it ends? – in order to know what ideas to suggest on stage. This can also be a useful practice in project management. Imagine the end of your project before diving into the very first tasks.
You are not alone
You walk on stage and the audience looks at you waiting for what you’ll say or do next. Luckily, you’re not alone, your stage partner is here and you’re in this together. Also, you have hidden partners a few meters away, waiting for an opportunity to come and help. When you hear an improviser say on stage “I wish my brother was here”, the brother will undoubtedly show up in the next couple seconds.
Same in your project. You are in the same boat as people you interact with on a daily basis, and you have more distant people (experts for example) who are not there all the time, but who will gladly help you if you need them. In improv as in project management, take care of the people working with you, trust them, and don’t hesitate to call for their help if needed, they will come. And above all, enjoy the journey you’re having together.
Bottom line: it is good for you in moderate doses. You’re working with others, and they have a different view, a different personality, a different way of thinking, a different way of working, a different life. It’s only normal you won’t always be aligned. But the aim is to find a common ground. And this is good for creative and innovative solutions.
As Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the author of the book “Antifragile” puts it, there are fragile things that break at the slightest unexpected event. Then there are robust things, and those still break, but they need a bigger force to be broken. And finally, there are antifragile things that benefit from a small dose of randomness. The bigger your project, the more diverse your team is, the more complex your technical architecture is, the more randomness you’ll encounter. Don’t be rigid, don’t be fragile, be antifragile.
A fuzzy path
Since randomness plays a part, you will not have a detailed picture of the road laying ahead. Walk it slowly but surely. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to know where your destination is, just allow yourself a degree of freedom in your actions. However, this is not an invitation to make big unexpected leaps, stay in the fuzzy path. Keith Johnstone – famous British improviser and author of “Impro” – talks about the “circle of expectations”: the new ideas you are suggesting when you’re on stage must fall in the circle of what the audience is expecting to see. It might very well still be original and surprising, but they should be thinking “that’s interesting and totally makes sense” instead of “it’s far-fetched”. Go too far with your ideas and you will lose the audience. You will be surprised at how many times a simple obvious step changes the meaning of an entire scene.
They will happen. This is linked to the degree of randomness your project has. Every improviser knows that some show nights are exceptionally good, and others are not, with no apparent reason. There are just too many random things you cannot control, like your state of mind that night, the audience’s reactiveness, your partners’ improvisational style, or anything that was improvised on stage, to name only a few.
So, the improviser’s advice here is: cherish mistakes. It’s ok, everybody makes them, it’s part of the game. You are putting yourself in danger in this random environment, you are facing the unexpected. And if you don’t fail from time to time then maybe you are in fact working in an environment you know too well and that doesn’t offer as much unexpectedness as you thought.
If you are making mistakes – and if you know you are making them – then you are also making progress. And on the flip side, mistakes can lead to innovation. In improv, acknowledging a word that was unintendedly spoken on stage – if you say you are seeking advice from the rabbit instead of the rabbi – can lead to great scenes. All you have to do is to treat them as part of the scene and play as if the word was actually said on purpose.
Try not to make mistakes, and therefore constant training and learning is important, but know you will make them, and that it’s ok.
Be prepared and take a step back
Before an improv scene or before an important meeting, prepare yourself. Get the blood flowing in your brain and body. Be aware of your surroundings. Focus on your voice, your intonation, your posture. Don’t overdo it, you don’t want to fake it, you just want to synchronize your body and mind into the same state.
You do not have to always be on stage. Feel the scene. Are you needed? Will your intervention help the story? If it does, go in, and if not, well, just wait for another moment. Be prepared to intervene at all times but know that most times you won’t have to.
Forget the hammer, imagine the house
As with every passion, you are always exploring, always discovering new schools of thought, and often having those enlightening “Aha!” moments.
My last one was during a workshop with Australian improviser Nick Byrne. During this workshop, he told us to imagine that we are on stage improvising a scene with someone we genuinely care for (a close friend, a lover, a family member…). When you do this, you see that you don’t have to put much effort into applying your learned listening skills. You care about your partner, and thus you will naturally be attentive to everything they say or do, and you will see every detail that will help you take their needs into account when improvising.
Of course this is not to say you don’t need the basic tools to improvise (how to listen, storytelling, creating a character, speaking to an audience, etc.), they are all very important skills and you should learn them and keep practicing them. No, this is to say that once you have learned and trained to use the tool, you can forget it and focus on the bigger picture. Forget the hammer and focus on the house, your brain will unconsciously know the hammer is there and will use it out of instinct when it is useful. It is what Daniel Kahneman calls “system one” in his book “Thinking fast and slow”, it’s the heuristics master chess players rely on to make quick decisions once they have learned and mastered the chess rules.
This applies to improv. And it applies to project management. You must learn the ways of managing a project, how to draw your Gantt planning, how to use a burndown chart, how to evaluate risks and follow up actions, how to run a workshop… But once you’re confident enough with your acquired skill and have used them enough times they’re now part of your system one, it’s time to redirect your attention away from them, and focus on seeing the global picture, but also on your compassion – genuine compassion – for other people in your project. Feel their worries, see their genius, share their happiness, and trust your mind to give you access to the right tool at the right time.
Project management is a tool for helping people work together. So maybe once we have learned a few tricks from the most experienced (for example by learning scrum methodology), we should focus on what it is really all about: the people who are working together. Make your project a safe place for everybody, make them feel useful, trusted, appreciated, and confident to communicate with others. Take care of yourself and of everybody else. The success of the project will follow.
Covid-19: how to optimize the cost of your cloud services ?
The health crisis that we are currently living in has put to test many of our technical infrastructures (training sites, video, food e-commerce…) by causing an exceptional overload which can be difficult to bear. Even if it is difficult to draw a definitive assessment, it appears that platforms and services relying on the elasticity offered […]
Monday, March 16th, 2020, 9 a.m. My daughter sits down in front of the family computer to open the Digital Workspace (ENT), the digital platform that connects students to their teachers and families to schools. Aim of the game: to continue her distance schooling, as announced by the Minister of Education. But she will get only one feedback: an error message! It accompanies her all day long: the ENT is saturated with requests. It is not planned/equipped/thought out to face an army of panicked schoolchildren!
The coronavirus crisis is forcing new ways of working around the world for those who can. Massive teleworking is having a colossal impact on digital networks and services, making some of them inoperable because they are saturated. These new uses put an enormous weight on the networks, and all the usually social interactions are shifted there. As a digital system operator, your service may no longer be able to keep up. Since confinement and remote working will last for a while yet, we propose in this article to come back to the basic principles of performance and scalability of a digital service. With rapidly exploitable solutions, we propose a list of actions that will allow you not only to cope with the emergency, but also to better anticipate and face this kind of crisis. Step by step, we help you through this period of emergency, and up to 6 months after the end of the crisis, in order to reconcile performance and scalability. The aim here is not to list all the actions in an exhaustive manner, but rather to provide you with an overview. So follow the guide!
Identifying the weak link
This is the first step. A good digital service is like a good hi-fi system: it is always limited by its weakest link. The main problem is to know the weakest link in the service. To do this, it is necessary to have set up indicators on each of the elements: incoming traffic, RAM and disk occupation, CPU usage, end-to-end HTTP response time, database request response time, internal network traffic… All this monitoring data will allow you to identify your weak link(s).
At this stage these indicators will probably come from multiple sources and for some of them collected manually. This is why the implementation of complete and integrated monitoring solutions will be one of the priorities, in order to efficiently direct efforts.
The good news is that there are many solutions available to create an ecosystem around your application that can help it scale up. These include Caches, Proxies, Virtual Machines, Cloud, Virtual Waiting Rooms, Automated Deployment, and DevOps methodologies … The table below lists various levers that can be activated in the more or less short term.
These different solutions are then inserted at different points in the request/response cycle between the browser and the servers.
In a hurry!
So we have a whole arsenal to deal with the problem. It remains to use it in the right order, depending on the situation and the level of urgency. Each of these levers can be easily activated according to certain constraints. For example, it is more difficult to take advantage of a SSC if static resources are not versioned. Horizontal scalability is not possible if the application has not been designed for . And sometimes, it’s just a disk that’s too small that blocks the whole system… In short, often, the first reflex must be to see if we can increase the size of the machine on which the application runs. In the past, you had to intervene in the machine room, add a disk, ram … Today it is often enough to connect to the VMWARE console and add a CPU or “virtual” RAM.
This can help to pass a peak, even if it is probably not satisfying either intellectually or ecologically. But then, you have 2 hours to fix the problem, so you have to be efficient. We’ll close our eyes this time, so go ahead!
Within a week
The next step, if you don’t have one in your architecture at the moment, is to set up proxies / caches (e.g. Varnish). Starting with the simplest ones, the ones you put in front of your application and that memorize the questions and answers.
Let’s take the example of our student: The first time a 4th A student wants to access the “homework” page of March 25th, the proxy queries the application, which will search the database for the content entered by the teacher. Then the proxy stores this result, which is the same for all the students of the 4th A, it does not need to query either the application or the database anymore. By caricaturing a bit, you have potentially divided by 30 the load on your application!
Another important element is to relieve your digital service of the delivery of static resources as much as possible: depending on the typology of your application, these can represent up to 90% of the incoming http requests since for a requested page, you need to load the CSS, js scripts and potentially the images / icons or other resources associated with this page. Setting up a CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a relatively simple operation today and the effect will be very immediate to relieve network and servers from this management.
This first week of operation under heavy traffic can also be an opportunity to work on the optimization of your database(s) if they are part of the highly solicited elements of the architecture: checking slow queries, adding or modifying the indexes on certain tables prove to be profitable choices quickly and allow you to gain the precious milliseconds which, multiplied on all users, will help the service.
If your service is aimed at the general public, you don’t know the potential number of users. It is therefore very important to be able to control your incoming traffic and not to be subjected to it. To do this, virtual waiting room services exist: they allow you to keep the user busy and therefore not lose him/her while your application is able to process his/her requests. In this category we can mention for example https://queue-it.com or https://www.netacea.com/.
Finally, this first week will also have brought you to gather around the table various trades: project managers, product owners, developers, system administrators. This is the opportunity to start breaking down silos and to set up more direct collaboration processes.
The first month
You have all the solutions in place that can be activated quickly. Over a slightly longer period of time, it is also possible, via the application developers or system engineers, to improve the application simply enough to further increase performance.
You have already set up varnish caches upstream of the application, which act at the http level. It can often be very efficient to implement them at the level of the application itself or by intercepting entities/queries to the database. Solutions such as Redis or Memcache can easily store and invalidate on demand user session information, catalog information on an e-commerce site, or other user preferences necessary for the application to process each http request.
This type of improvement is also a frequent preamble to the implementation of horizontal scalability on the service: once the context is no longer stored by the application servers, they can be added or deleted much more easily. This makes it possible to share information across all instances of the application.
Depending on the type of application, it is also possible to implement, even in such a short time, certain types of horizontal scalability, for example with a load balancer managing sticky sessions. Finally, in the context of a very busy Internet network, industrializing your front resources will improve the user experience with lighter page loads and therefore faster retrieval by users. This industrialization requires the optimization of static resources:
Removing dead or unused code,
Versioning of resources to make the best use of the browser’s caching features,
Image optimization for user support (mobile, tablet, desktop, …)
Optimization of videos according to the user’s bandwidth, possibly, as the major streaming players are doing in an effort of solidarity at the moment, stopping broadcasting in UHD formats for example to free up bandwidth for operators.
In the following months
Beyond the production platform itself, it is the deployment and tooling chain that will have to be adapted:
Performance improvement is done incrementally, by treating the contention points one after the other and observing the results to decide on the next step.
During the crisis, mobilizing 6 people for several hours for each production run was possibly conceivable, but this is of course not viable in the long term.
The automation provided by a controlled chain of integration and continuous deployment will allow you to enter a truly agile approach.
This virtuous circle, initiated in response to a crisis, will become a real strength for your business by becoming the support of your innovation. Beyond the tools, it is the culture of the teams that will have been impacted, showing that it is possible to deploy changes quickly, to measure their effectiveness and to manage a project in a cross-disciplinary way. What used to be a crisis response strategy could well become one of your assets to win back your market in the longer term!
To sum up, to counter the urgency of access to your service :
Set up monitoring.
Increase memory, disk and cpu if the operation is simple and fast.
Follow your monitoring indicators.
Set up caches and proxies on the infrastructure side.
Follow your monitoring indicators.
If the service is too saturated, set up a virtual queue system.
Follow your monitoring indicators.
Set up application and/or database caches.
Monitor your monitoring indicators.
Set up an API aggregation system if you use one and modify your frontend accordingly.
Monitor your monitoring indicators.
Start infrastructure, frontend and backend industrialization and possible architecture overhauls.
Stop Using Passwords Now.
Very few things on the internet have survived in their original form since its conception. Passwords are one of them. Nobody likes passwords. We have learned to tolerate them as a ‘necessary inconvenience’ of the digital age and having to remember, type, forget or share our passwords with people is a price to pay for […]