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The Digital Age and Information Disorders: What Makes You Vulnerable?

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Image source: Buffik | Pixabay

The internet has become the primary source of information for people around the world. According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, 53% of US adults rely on social media for news, with 36% depending on Facebook as a regular source. Meanwhile, YouTube comes in second place with 23%, followed by Twitter with 15%.

New social technologies have accelerated information sharing, providing easy access to huge amounts of information. Despite that, internet-based media is also characterized by unregulated information flow and the spread of deceiving, inaccurate, and uncheckable information. 

Inaccurate and deceptive information is often manipulative and used to evoke suspicion, fear, worry, and anger. Misleading information, created with or without intent, is designed to be sensational and provoking with an aim to attract attention and profit off panic and fears. Research shows that false information tends to spread farther and faster; while fake news brings about emotions like fear and disgust, people are inclined to find false news more novel than factual news. 

Misinformation is a widespread problem. However, psychological explanations of information processing can help avoid falling into the trap of misinformation and build mental resilience by embracing a more critical and skeptical approach. It is important because individual and societal wellbeing is related to having an accurate picture of social reality.

Let’s first acknowledge what contributes to the pervasiveness of misinformation on the internet-based media.

The problem with the internet-based media

Digital media has allowed individuals to be active in content production, leading to a wide range of personalities and opinions appearing on online platforms. One of its drawbacks is the absence of assurance regarding content quality and credibility. 

Digital transformation of media platforms has enabled algorithms and automation to govern content recommendation and filtering of information. In other words, not every user on social media receives the same news feed. As such, the algorithmic selection of social media sourced news plays a role in the creation of an echo effect in which users encounter information that resonates with their opinions and beliefs.

The term echo chambers is coined to describe the exposure people have only to opinions that they agree with on social media. This is regardless of being true or false. In turn, their opinions and preferences are being amplified.

Cognitive biases of information processing

The accuracy of information found on social media platforms is often unclear. Additionally, echo chambers limit users’ ability to encounter content that might challenge their opinions. Due to these two factors, the responsibility to evaluate the information’s credibility and make decisions now falls on the user and their conscious efforts to do this task. However, perceived credibility is not free from one’s interpretations and preformed notions. How users select reliable sources of information and evaluate their credibility presents new challenges in internet-based media. 

Cognitive processes are involved in making a judgment while cognitive biases determine what information is accepted or rejected. Cognitive biases and faulty reasoning in processing certain information can influence one’s decision-making. This may make information seekers vulnerable to misinformation. 

Information processing is influenced by one’s preexisting beliefs which connect to confirmation bias as it plays a role in shaping information consumption patterns. Confirmation bias consists of three components: information search, evidence interpretation, and memory recall. These three components are often biased in support of one’s previously held beliefs, expectations, and preferences for information that complies with their attitudes and justifies their opinions.

People unconsciously may engage in biased search processes to seek out information that supports their preconceptions about a certain topic. Biased searching for supportive information may result in poor decision-making. Information that confirms and reinforces users’ preexisting beliefs may be interpreted as being more persuasive. Simply put, confirmation bias means actively seeking confirmatory evidence.

As a result, users may end up outweighing positive confirmatory evidence without questioning the credibility and even refute or ignore evidence if it challenges their beliefs. Confirmation bias may also become salient when people rely on their background knowledge and experiences in information processing. 

Bias blind spot is another form of cognitive bias. It refers to recognizing biases that other people have in their judgments while believing that one is free from their own biases. If you are likely to detect the existence of biases in others more than in yourself, it might be a good idea to do some self-reflection first.

Conclusion

Neither echo chambers nor confirmation bias can be eliminated completely; however, through digital wellbeing skills, their impact can be managed. The use of social media as a source of information presents both benefits and challenges; whether it maximizes or diminishes an individual’s wellbeing benefits depends on the user’s media consumption and online behaviors. Checking one’s own cognitive biases is one way towards enhancing wellbeing. Being aware of confirmation bias and taking steps to perform a critical stance towards one’s preexisting beliefs and preconceptions can be achieved by performing critical thinking and learning how to learn. 

Being conscious consumers of digital media is a way to manage challenges and optimize one’s wellbeing as a result of online behaviors. To better equip an individual from the negative impacts, developing digital wellbeing skills can help in controlling stress resulting from the overwhelming flow of (mis)information and communication overabundance. This is done by efficiently filtering one’s attention to focus on one’s personal goals and wellbeing.

Top 25 Customer Service KPIs: Understanding Consumer Behavior

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One way to understand consumer behavior is to reflect on how nature works. Studies show that birds have been evolving for a long time now: They grow bigger beaks and longer legs. This phenomenon, described as shapeshifting, occurs because animals are adapting to climate change.  

How consumers behave is not that different. 

Consumers’ needs, concerns, habits, and preferences evolve. They respond to new technologies, new cultures, or crises like the pandemic. Developing a customer service strategy that addresses those changes is not always black and white. 

Change may come with different layers. For instance, in this pandemic, people have to distance themselves from crowds, but at the same time, they are more “connected” than ever before. 

PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey in June 2021 shows that in six months, from October 2020 to March 2021, over 50% of the global consumers they surveyed have become more digital. While that suggests less interaction, a meaningful connection somewhere in the transition emerged. Forty-three percent of the respondents have started exploring what their respective regions offer, appreciating local products, and valuing their community more. 

Beyond consumer behavior

Consumer behavior refers to how consumers evaluate, choose, buy, and use products and services. As consumers adapt to the changes in their environment, companies are compelled to rethink how they approach customers. However, as consumer behavior trends witness new changes, a one-size-fits-all strategy remains elusive. 

The reopening of retail stores in some places and other signs of a return to normalcy could rev up consumer confidence. Or not. Businesses must consider areas where unemployment is high, the ability of the government to minimize the risk of case surges, and how consumers now view and manage their finances. 

For the consumers and the businesses, the trends are not just about behavior and how it leads to new systems and strategies. What lies behind these changes is the consumer’s attitude.

Consumer attitudes refer to consumers’ beliefs about, feelings about, and behavioral intentions toward some object. This object could be a product, service, brand, or any area of consumption. Attitude is what drives a consumer’s purchasing decision.

The PwC survey revealed that 50% of the global consumers they asked prefer eco-friendly products, while at-home consumers have become “more environmentally sensitive” than those working away from home. Understanding consumers’ emerging principles, such as sustainability and localism, can affect how customer service agents represent their companies. 

The effects of empathy

From financial difficulties to social awareness, the reasons for how consumers behave, think, and feel today call for more flexible, empathetic customer service.

PV Kannan, CEO and co-founder of customer experience software and services company  [24]7.ai, wrote that how the pandemic changed customer service reflects the challenges and difficulties consumers are facing. Some customers ask for extensions on payments, while some request faster delivery of their packages. 

Kannan calls on companies to show more empathy, not just because it is a good thing. “If there’s one big lesson we’ve learned, it’s that caring for your customers is good for business,” he wrote. 

He made a good point. An empathetic customer service strategy can increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue. A study published in The Association for Consumer Research affirmed the link between customer satisfaction and a customer’s willingness to pay. Customer experience data suggest that organizations who invest heavily in customer service systems with a human approach experience business growth.  

Monitoring customer service capabilities

How will a company know that empathy is working for the business and its customers at the same time? 

Empathy can’t be directly quantified. But using key performance indicators (KPI) can help organizations assess and monitor their customer service capabilities.

The KPI Institute has launched The Top 25 Customer Service KPIs – 2020 Extended Edition, which presents the most viewed customer service KPIs based on smartKPIs.com, a database of over 21,000 documented KPIs.

The report can guide organizations as they go through the process of determining the KPIs for their customer service departments. They would be able to further understand how KPIs can improve their performance measurement practices.

The Top 25 Customer Service KPIs reflect three categories.

Complaints handling: It offers an overview of the complaint management system and the ability to reduce customer dissatisfaction.

  • % Customer complaints due to poor service or product quality
  • # Complaints received
  • % Complaints resolved
  • # Frequency of customer complaints
  • % Customer satisfaction with complaints handling
  • # Time to resolve complaints
  • % Complaints responded to within a standard time

Customer interaction: It measures the ability to respond and solve clients’ requests.

    • % Call completion rate
    • % First contact resolution rate
    • % Not in good order account applications (NIGO)
    • % Interactive voice response (IVR) completion rate
    • # Longest delay in queue
    • # After call work time
    • % Blockage
    • # Time from inquiry to response
    • % Resolution of queries the same day

    Service responsiveness: It indicates how fast and efficiently a company responds to its customers.

      • # Speed of answer (SA)
      • # Call handling time
      • % Customer satisfaction with service levels
      • % Calls answered within service level time
      • # Longest call hold
      • % Customer calls answered in the first minute
      • # Pick-to-ship cycle time for customer orders
      • % Visit customers served within 3 minutes
      • % Call abandon rate

      Time, context, and communication skills matter in the customer service process. While companies do not have complete control over the disruptions on consumer preferences and mindset, they can set up strategies, improve their performance, and streamline their processes to influence consumer journeys. 

      And it starts with knowing what works and what doesn’t. 

      To view the complete profiles of the 25 most popular customer service KPIs and exclusive in practice recommendations, download the Top 25 Customer Service KPIs – 2020 Extended Edition here

      The Age of Online Shopping and Its Impact as Clutter

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      The popularity of online shopping platforms has contributed greatly to the global market. A 2021 survey saw Amazon as the biggest online shopping platform in the world, with a market capitalization of nearly USD 1.735 billion, due to the platform’s reliable and easy access on a domestic and international level. On the national level, for example in Indonesia, local e-commerce platforms such as Tokopedia and Shopee are also thriving. 

      In light of COVID-19, social distancing protocols have been implemented by limiting access to public facilities, including malls and other offline marketplaces, driving people to online shopping. In Indonesia alone, it was found that online shopping habits among Indonesians during the second quarter of 2020 had increased around 18% compared to the previous year.  While such a habit is continuously becoming a part of the economy to provide consumers with comfort and convenience, the question is how much of it will affect their living environment and end up as clutter?

      Problems with online shopping

      Prior study has shown that impulsive buying is among the negative aspects of online shopping. Shoppers may feel addicted to the process of shopping and experience constant cravings but tend to neglect the consequences of it. Several factors that may stimulate underlying this behavior are as follows:

      • Tailored advertisements

        Have you ever noticed that every time you browse the internet, there is always a pop-up advertisement showing an item that speaks to your interests even though you are not specifically searching for it at the moment? Does it make you wonder if the internet is reading your mind? Actually, the interconnectedness within the internet enables algorithms to read your preferences across platforms and predict content that you may be interested in.

        For instance, if you just finished looking for a new backpack on Amazon then move to check your Instagram account, you may see backpack advertisements showing on the homepage. This is an intuitive way to help consumers in finding exactly what they need. However, the downside is that it could also induce more cravings as you are exposed to diverse options that may leave you wanting to purchase only one model of the same item.

      • Seasonal sales and promotions

        Discounted prices have become the main attraction of online marketplaces. In the case of Indonesia, it is very common for online shopping platforms to offer big discounts and special promotions on certain dates of the month like holiday sales. You can get a branded product for as much as 75% discount for selected items — a temptation for most consumers. The sale usually starts at midnight, but this does not stop people who still make time to toss their luck and race to get the items they desire with the cheapest deal.

        This phenomenon continues to shape a mindset of pseudo-scarcity. Even though the products are always in stock, consumers may have a mindset that big sales will not come twice. This motivates consumers to buy more regardless of whether they actually need it or not, which eventually ends up as clutter.

      • Fear of missing out

        A 2020 survey among Indonesian online shoppers found that 70% of respondents saw reviews made by other customers as very beneficial in helping them choose the best products to buy. This complements the perception that online shoppers rely much on product reviews, especially for products on beauty and cosmetics wherein the market is heavily determined by the customer’s experience and opinion on the internet. The role of social media influencers and celebrities in advertising these products also adds to the public’s curiosity.

        This leads some to experience a fear of missing out if they do not participate in the trend despite the possibility of some products not being suitable for them. Hence, some purchases made for the sake of keeping up with a certain trend may end up as clutter. These products may overfill your drawers and expire before you even get a chance to use them.

      • Online ‘retail therapy’

        Online shopping provides the comfort of purchasing items with the convenience of being a click away from having items delivered right to your doorstep. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this habit is used as a way to cope with the limitation and emotional charges resulting from the obligation to always stay indoors. People filled up their homes with items they bought online until they realized that it was not an effective way to bring pleasure; as a result, these items turned into clutter that overran their living space, regardless of the size of their home.

        Aside from accumulating unnecessary items, boxes used to ship items may also end up as clutter. Think about the time when you receive a big package for one small item. Oftentimes, a product can come in a box that is three times bigger than the item you purchased. Due to this, you might find yourself with a house overflowing with boxes that you do not need and add more stress than you originally had.

      Managing clutter from online shopping

      Excessive purchases resulting from uncontrolled online shopping habits potentially threaten your home with clutter, especially if you do not take immediate action to make a change of habit. While clutter is often considered trivial, it has some serious side effects that some may not realize, such as reducing one’s wellbeing. Here are several ways to combat the clutter problem as a consequence of online shopping:

      • Stick to a shopping list and a budget

        It sounds cliche, but developing a straightforward shopping list and budget is highly effective to keep you on your toes. Having a list you can regularly monitor will help you to avoid overspending while identifying the items that you can actually afford. There are a lot of mobile apps that can offer such functionality; some are even designed specifically for groceries, clothes, electronics, and so on.

        Apart from that, decide how much you are going to allocate for your daily, weekly, and monthly spending and commit to it. Prioritize your expense for daily needs over temporary cravings. You can also set a separate bank account for non-essential purchases to help you stay on budget.

      • Create an interval between purchases

        An alternative to holding yourself accountable for your purchase is making a fixed interval from the current purchase to the next one. By applying shopping intervals, you can also get a sense of what is essential to you and what you simply want. You can adapt a 3, 7, 14, or 30-day interval, depending on your needs. You can also utilize a reminder app on your phone to make sure you will not forget the last time you ordered something online.

      • Consider the availability of space in your house

        It is important to analyze the current state of your living space before deciding to make a new purchase. In order to avoid impulsive buying, ask yourself these questions:

        1. Where are you going to place it?

        2. Do you have adequate space to store it?

        3. Do you already have similar items that you can continue to use instead?

        4. What would you do with items you already have if you buy a new one?

        You might be interested in certain products, but not necessarily need them. If you cannot pinpoint a clear purpose for buying them, it is better to not go for it.

      • Implement the ‘One In One Out’ rule

        The emphasis on this rule is exchanging an old item for a new one. If there is a desire to acquire a new item, a similar item from the house must be discarded. According to Francine Jay, author of The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify, this is when the rule has the most impact. Letting go is extremely beneficial when decluttering to prevent you from bringing in more items that might become clutter in your home.

        An example would be that for every new purchase of a t-shirt, an old t-shirt must go. You may also want to pay attention to the ratio between related categories of items such as having more shirts than pants. One good option is discarding an old shirt when buying a new pair of pants. In this way, releasing your belongings will also allow you to discover the items that you genuinely cherish.

      • Recycle or upcycle shipping boxes

        Diverse options could be taken to process unused shipping boxes at home. One simple way is to break down or flatten cardboard boxes and put them in the recycle bin to be processed further. Do not forget to remove your personal details, such as your full name, home address, and phone number on the box to avoid others from using your information for unauthorized purposes.

        Another alternative would be to reuse these boxes to store your clutter. For example, you can put clothes and books you want to donate or sell in those boxes. In this way, you also get to save money from buying a new container.

      Mindful shopping habits are necessary to be developed as a preventive measure from unnecessarily shopping online and adding clutter. Buying items may give you temporary pleasure, but consider its impact on your living space. By raising awareness for yourself and those around you, you can build precautions to avoid clutter from online shopping in your home.

      Does a Founders’ Age Play a Role in Ensuring Start-up Success?

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      Is the age of a founder an important determinant to start-up success? This is a question that a lot of people have sought to answer in recent years. The proliferation of start-ups has brought about a new age of successful billion-dollar companies that 5-10 years prior were not in existence. However, with every new entry into the unicorn league, there are other start-ups that are unable to achieve lift-off, and as a result, fail. Success in the start-up universe is not a given. 

      Numerous attempts have been made to unravel the science behind start-up success. These led to various studies that sought to link founders/entrepreneurs’ personalities or traits to start-up success. In recent years, there has been growing interest to examine whether a relationship exists between the age of founders when they first got started and the success of their start-up. 

      Studies between age and start-up success

      There is a commonly held view that most start-ups are created by founders that are as young as age 35 and below when they first established their start-ups. According to existing research, reasons for this can range from the high risk-taking behavior of many young people to the numerous famous stories about young successful founders such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Peter Thiel are just amongst the examples of those who were quite young when they founded their start-ups. 

      These reasons notwithstanding, a review of empirical studies has shown that there is no consensus on the connection between a founder’s age and the success of a start-up. Rather, existing research on the relationship between the age of founders and start-up success revealed findings that pose more questions than provide answers. An early study by Frick (2014), which sampled 35 Venture Capital-backed firms from Wall Street Journal’s Billion Dollar start-up cluster list, found out that the mean age of founders of successful start-ups was 31 years. 

      This finding is in contrast with the widely cited study by Azoulay, Jones, Kim, and Miranda (2020) which studied 1,700 fastest-growing start-ups in the USA that were in the top 0.1% in terms of employment growth and found that the average age of founders was higher at 45 years. The authors cited the prior working experience of the founders as being a key reason for why they were successful. A more recent study by Tamaseb (2021) revealed findings that further highlighted the ambiguity in this argument by concluding that, although the average age of founders of successful start-ups was around 34 years, most of them had a minimum of about 10 years of work experience which may have played a role. 

      Ultimately, the arguments made in these studies do not point to any consistency towards the existence of a direct relationship between the age of founders and the success of their start-ups. There are other factors to be considered too, such as the work experience of founders, the location of the start-ups, the type of industries targeted by most start-ups in an environment. These factors come into play when these arguments are being made but are not the key determinants of start-up success.

      The process towards success

      So, the question remains. What determines the success of start-ups? The answers to this question may lie in the concept of entrepreneurial actions. Looking at start-up success through this lens allows us to ask the question “What are successful start-up founders doing so well that others have not been able to emulate?”

      A point to be made is the realization that the start-up activity is steeped in uncertainty; like any scientist will tell you, the process of scientific discovery happens after numerous rounds of experimentation, testing, and learning. Start-ups that have been able to achieve success have maintained this ethos of continuous experimentation, testing, and learning. This process ensures that they can properly identify problems that customers deem to be important, provide a solution that addresses such problems, study a market size that makes the solution economically viable, and create a culture that allows them to pivot in the event of poor problem-solution or solution-market fit.

      We just may have been looking at the whole thing all wrong from the beginning, and not asking the right question. When looked at broadly, the age or other personality traits of founders when they establish their start-ups is irrelevant and does not determine start-up success. Rather, the focus should shift to finding how to create a blueprint of actions that founders can implement towards improving their chances of success.

      Basic Process Management Tools and Templates for Breaking Down Processes Into KPIs

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      Organizational processes should be designed in such a way that they effectively enable the strategic implementation of corporate objectives. Successful execution of strategy demands well execution of processes from all perspectives. 

      Processes that are properly understood and deeply rooted in the organizational realities will produce results that are reliable, easily controlled, and effectively managed. The documentation of processes allows for meticulous work to be conducted in relation to a company’s effort of architecting process frameworks and solutions. 

      Moreover, process documentation is intended to accurately describe the landscape of a process, the activities included within that landscape, the standardized workflow associated with a particular process, and its current state by comparison with a desired one. Process templates generally reflect on the degree of process documentation within an organization. 

      “Process templates are created to describe some aspect of a process, a process landscape, process flow, process solution or state. […] Process templates enable the capture and relation of process-centric objects within the same template or across multiple templates, each of which promotes its own view of a process.” (Von Rosing, Von Scheel, & Scheer, 2014, pp. 175-180)

      With decomposing processes into KPIs, proper documentation that involves process description and the internal procedures should be in place. Meanwhile, process management tools such as process maps are consulted for a better perspective on the process itself. 

      The basic process management tools and templates that can be used for an effective process design are the following:

      1. Process description: The process description is a template that supports the organization in understanding the functionality of each process in turn. It is vital that the process description concentrates on the purpose of the process as a constituent part of operational activity rather than the steps in the process. 

      The purpose of the process becomes a focal point around which processes are defined. This is especially important due to the fact that processes around which the company is currently organized may not be the most suitable for strategy. It is not excluded that the process description includes more than one purpose for a process in place. 

      Purposes can be main or secondary. The main purpose refers to the strategic purpose that the process serves for the organization. Secondary purposes are the ones that are directly tied to the main purpose of the process; however, they have a more functional or operational focus that generally derives from the process steps or activities. 

      Such a way of working with the process description not only helps to validate the linkage to organizational objectives but also leads to a more accurate distribution of KPIs. This will be measured by levels of organizational performance.

      2. Process map: The process map is a process management tool “that shows input-output relationships among process dependent operations and departments and that documents in a step-by-step process sequence the activities that are required to convert inputs to outputs for the specific process.” (Hunt, 1996, pp. 8-10) 

      A process map provides an illustration of organizational processes as well as the interactions between the main process steps. A process map is especially important as it helps identify the main inputs stepping into the process and the main outputs stepping out of the process, while reflecting on the “as is” or” current state” of the process itself. 

      One of the most important roles of the process map is it helps identify bottlenecks in the process or waste that needs to be eliminated in order for the company to achieve process optimization.

      3. Internal procedures: Internal procedures are a necessary tool in breaking down processes into KPIs and process optimization thereon forward. They also deliver a standardized template for capturing specific process information. 

      Internal procedures provide a more detailed view of how processes are conducted for the organization as well as the Service Level Agreements instituted as part of the interactions with other processes in the organization. 

      Internal procedures also provide a set of detailed steps on how to perform process tasks, which significantly aid process performance measurement through KPIs.

      Those basic process management tools and templates provide a simple and cost-effective solution to breaking down processes into KPIs. If used effectively, they can deliver tremendous benefits, such as preservation of process knowledge, documentary evidence of process understanding, a framework for process performance measurement, and overall improvement of business processes over time.

      Discover more about KPIs and how to develop a structured approach to measuring performance by signing up for The KPI Institute’s Certified KPI Professional and Practitioner course.

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