Zen And The Art Of Using PowerApps For Exceptional Customer Experience

There are several touch points that a customer or prospect goes through when they are inquiring or buying a product or service. These touch points can be with a sales person, technical engineer, financial adviser, retail store employees, field technician, and many others. Through all these touch points with the company’s employees, the customer is expecting to have a smooth, easy and great buying experience. For this to happen, all internal employees need to make sure that they provide the right information at the right time to their customers.

But do our employees have access to the right information, tools, and people to provide good and accurate information to the customer? Many times, it’s not even just about providing information to customers or prospects – our own employees may not be familiar with the process in place, and they themselves may need help in getting their questions answered to get comfortable with the process.

“What PowerPoint template should I use for my presentation with the prospect? There are so many!”

“Do we give discounts to not for profits?”

“My prospect is asking for a demo this week. How do i get technical sales involved?”

“Is there a document I can read to get familiar with our sales process?”

These are some questions that typically come up in a selling process. Note that these questions need answers from a subject matter expert internal to our company. Also, know that answers to these questions are ultimately relayed to the customer. What does that mean? A timely response to your own employee’s questions result in 1) your customer getting the right information in a timely manner, and 2) at least providing a satisfactory, if not exceptional customer experience.

Our employees, who accompany our customers in their customer journey, always have such questions. How do we make sure that they are empowered in every step of the customer journey? How do we make sure that they have access to the right information at their fingertips?

PowerApps + Chat bots

Let’s first talk about chat bots real quick and debunk some preconceived notions about them. Whenever i talk to people about chat bots, I realize that they automatically and immediately associate it with customer service – picture a customer wanting an update on their delivery status. They go to a website, start a chat, ask a question about  their delivery status, and boom! They immediately get a response back that was powered by a bot. It’s great that customer service for end consumers is the first thing that comes to people’s minds, however, chat bots can be used in several many scenarios besides just tier 1 customer service.

Let’s revisit one of the questions we posted above: “What PowerPoint template should I use for my presentation?”

An innocuous question asked by a sales person. Can we not have a bot answer that question for them?

Yes. Of course we can. Not just this, but many other process, product or service related questions.

What this means is that your employees are not emailing, texting or calling each other or their bosses to find the right information. In times of needs, a beloved bot can be at their service and help them out immediately!

A Financial Planner goes to an investor, institution or partner meeting and pulls up production-sales data on their mobile device. Can the Financial Planner ask the bot for recommendations  on next best action, product or investment approach?

Yes. Of course they can, and a bot will provide them with responses and guide them through the process.

A consumer walks into a retail store. If they want to know where the slim fit jeans are or where the new fall collection is, can they just walk up to a kiosk and ask these questions?

Yes. Of course they can.

The scenarios, people involved, and circumstances may be different, but a bot can instantly provide the right information with the right context.

So, how do i create a chat bot?

There are various ways you can create a chat bot. What we are talking about here is a very specific bot from QnA Maker.ai. Why are we talking about Qna Maker? Two reasons:

  1. It is a no code solution. Yes, you read that right – it does not require any coding.
  2. It can be surfaced easily in PowerApps through an out of the box connector

QnA Maker is perhaps one of the easiest chatbots out there. All you do is go to QnA Maker.ai, sign in with your microsoft account, and head to “Create a knowledge base”. The page walks you through some very quick and easy steps, and before you know it, your bot is ready!

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Once your QnA Maker chat bot is ready, you can use the QnA Maker connector in PowerApps to surface your bot in your app. Now, anyone, either on their phone, tablet or computer can access this bot to get answers to their questions!

In PowerApps, using the QnA Maker connector, we can surface this bot in our app so that anyone can access this knowledge base at any time, and get prompt responses.

Note: I will write another post with instructions on creating a Qna Maker bot and surfacing it in PowerApps. It is super easy though, and if you don’t want to wait for my post, head to QnAMaker.ai and try it out for yourself!

What is the experience like? See it for yourself.

Sales people, financial planners, field technicians, customers at a store kiosk – everyone has the ability to get their questions answered in a matter of seconds.

Who is it for?

Currently, PowerApps’ licensing does not allow for apps to be exposed to customers, and you must have an Office 365 login to access an app. This means that definitely internal employees can use this bot app to enhance customer experience. In addition, you can also have these apps in a kiosk or computer in a store, office branch or location where anyone (customers) can walk up to it and get answers to their questions. So, even though customers cannot access the app directly on their own devices, you can provide them the ability to “self-serve” at your business’s stores or locations using PoweApps on your devices.

Bringing it all together

Businesses of all sizes have various employees interacting with customers at several stages of their selling process. The goal of any business is not just to close a sale but while doing so, wow their customers and gain their trust for a long lasting relationship. None of this is possible if we don’t provide our own employees with the right knowledge and ability to help our customers. To enhance that experience, solutions like chat bots and PowerApps play a small, yet crucial role. What’s really interesting is that “no code/low code” (which are also no cost/low cost) platforms are becoming more and more viable solutions for many business scenarios, and PowerApps and QnA Maker (and many other) are fine examples of that.

If you are wanting to empower your employees with the right knowledge and abilities, definitely explore these platforms for your needs.

Embedding A Power BI Tile in A PowerApps App For Rich Analytics On The Go

The one thing that Microsoft’s business application platform does is create an amazing amalgamation of things brought from various sources. PowerApps, makes rapid development and deployment of mobile business apps easily achievable. What it also does , very beautifully and easily, is bring in very rich analytics and insights from Power BI, Microsoft’s business intelligence solutions that makes reporting and decision making a breeze.

If you have a lot of visualizations in Power BI, you can easily add them to your PowerApps app with literally a few clicks. Let’s see how.

In Your PowerApps canvas, go to the Insert menu option and select Controls. Scroll to the bottom of the Controls list to find Power BI Tile. Click that option to add it to the app canvas.

Once the tile is on the canvas, another pane opens up that asks you to choose a workspace, dashboard and a tile from that dashboard to be displayed in the PowerApps Power BI tile.

Set those values, and hey, your Power BI tile is now embedded in your PowerApps app! You can add as many Power BI tiles as you’d like.

 

Bringing It All Together

PowerApps has its own visualizations capabilities but they are extremely limited in what they can do and display. The ability to bring in Power BI tiles so easily gives access to very rich analytics. This also lets PowerApps developers use visualizations created by someone else – possibly someone on the data side who understands analytics needs of users better than the developers.

Exporting Microsoft Flow From One Environment And Importing To Another

If you’ve jumped onto the Microsoft Flow bandwagon, you know already how easy it is to create them. Did you know that you can also export them from one environment, and import them into another? The process is straightforward (As it should be!) but there are a few things you need to keep in mind to make the export and import successful.

First, let’s look at the two environments. In the environment below (let’s call it Environment A), I want to export the first Flow into a different environment, where it doesn’t exist yet.

The second environment (let’s call it Environment B), where it needs to be imported, looks like this (sans the RSS/LinkedIn Flow).

Now, in order to export from A, we will click on the three ellipses on the desired Flow, click Export, and choose Package (.zip).

You would think that selecting that option just downloads a .zip file for you. Instead, it brings you to a different screen where you give the package a name, and an optional description. At the bottom, notice the “Import Setup” column.

The Import Setup for the Flow defaults to Update. What it means is that it assumes this Flow exists in Environment B already, and that it will just update it with any changes it may have. Click Update, and choose “Create as new” so that a new Flow is created in B. Click Save to exit the screen. Finally click Export to download the .zip package file.

 

Export DONE.

Now, go to Environment B. Go to My Flows, and click “Import”, and upload the .zip package.

Here, notice the red ! next to the Flow and connectors required. Even though in our Export process, we had setup the “Import Setup” to Create New, it still defaults to Update. Click Update, change this to “Create New”, and Save. Now notice the red ! disappear.

For the connectors, click on them one by one. If a Connector exists already, it will show it to you in a list from where you select it. If it doesn’t exist, it will ask you to create it (by clicking “Create new”).

After you click Save, and take care of the Red ! for the connectors, click Import. A successful import shows the following screen with green check marks.

After the import is done, you will see the new Flow in your new environment, already turned on!

Tide: An App That Helps Me With Concentration & Focus

I’d be lying if I said that I am not going through a lot of stress these days. In the last two weeks, I have seen myself not very motivated to do things that I love to do – write, read, explore. In order to distract myself from all the stress, and to sort of get my concentration & mojo back, I decided to explore technology a little more than I usually do, and dive into the world of apps – apps that will possibly help me regain focus, and be more consistent with all the things I do. Maybe they will help me get even more creative, relaxed, and productive.

Is that too much to ask for from apps?

Tide

I am not the guy who listens to music when I am writing. I typically require peace and quiet around me for that, and that’s why I don’t like going to coffeeshops to write. My personal heaven is a library or my own apartment, at 5 in the morning. The pin drop silence early in the morning works wonders for me – no  traffic outside, no loud beeping of garbage trucks reversing and maneuvering to get to the dumpster, no chatter from people around me.

A week or so ago, I discovered Tide in the app store. The concept of Tide is simple – it has a few sounds that you listen to while working on things. Nothing more, nothing less. Apparently, it helps you stay focused. It had good reviews and ratings.

My apprehension immediately kicked in because of reasons mentioned above. However, I decided to give it a shot. It’s a free app after all – what have I got to lose?

The app has five sounds you can choose from – Forenoon, Rain, Forest, Muse, and Cafe. Forenoon is basically the sound little waves make when a boat glides through water. Muse is soft, relaxing piano music. The rest are self explanatory.

I cannot explain what really happened, but when I tried this app, by starting with Muse, I immediately got hooked. I was astonished by how instantly effective Muse was. I immediately had razor sharp focus, and forgot about everything else around me. I was calm. Not distracted at all. I gave it a few more listens (while writing and researching for my blog), and felt the exact same focus. In fact, I have written a couple of  posts for Assistive Technology Blog now while listening to it, and I am listening to it now as I write this post. The app uses Pomodero technique that set the timer to 25 minutes (by default) and provides 5 minute breaks after each 25 minute cycles.

Based on my experience with Tide the last few days, I will go as far as to say that I am slowly getting addicted to it!

The interface is minimal – it has a calming photo in the background, a round, sleek countdown timer, and an inspiring quote. If you care about statistics, it also keeps track of how focused you were each day, and gives you weekly, monthly numbers etc.

I will try the other sounds soon (probably) but I think I’ll definitely avoid Coffee Shop. That’s definitely not my cup of tea.

If you struggle with staying focused on things, or generally need some white noise/ background noise to stay calm, I highly recommend this app.

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Download Tide here.