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GUEST BLOG: Whose data is it anyway? GDPR and the problem of data ownership

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By Tony Pepper, CEO, Egress Software

“GDPR is the new Y2K” was a phrase I heard multiple times during the first 12 months since its implementation. As the ICO continued to work through historical breaches under the Data Protection Act, there was certainly a sense that GDPR was all bark and no bite.

Then its first anniversary was quickly followed by the ICO issuing intentions to fine British Airways an incredible £183.39m and Marriot nearly £100m. With this move, the ICO reminded CISOs and their boards that they are indeed operating in a new era of data protection and compliance, and GDPR moved back up the agenda once more. 

Yet despite this, we don’t go a day without a new breach hitting the headlines – and the impacts are only getting more significant. The latest ‘Cost of a Data Breach’ report from Ponemon and IBM shows the average cost has increased 1.5 per cent to $3.92m. 

Stemming this tide is the problem all CISOs are working to solve – but if measures to date have had limited impact, where should they look next to achieve this? A clear understanding of why data breaches are happening is the logical place to start, however when employees are involved, this is never a straightforward issue. 

Understanding the ‘why’ around data breaches 

Much analysis has been carried out into the types and frequency of data breaches, but there has been little focus on why they are happening. When considering cyberattacks and malicious data breaches, we can quickly attribute motivations to factors such as financial gain (including ransom), political affiliations, competition and sabotage, or emotions (for example, anger). To most people, the link between these motivations and subsequent actions make sense, much in the same way that physical theft might do. 

When we consider non-malicious insider data breaches caused by staff, the problem becomes layered with complexity that’s difficult to untangle and resolve. Yet only when we understand more clearly the why behind these breaches, can we reduce their likelihood and impact. 

At Egress, we looked into this topic with independent research company Opinion Matters. Our survey of over 500 CIOs and IT leaders in the US and UK found that nearly all of them (95 per cent) are concerned by insider threat and most believe employees have put data at risk in the last 12 months either accidentally (79 per cent) or maliciously (61 per cent).

We also surveyed over 4,000 employees and found that they paint a very different picture: 92 per cent said they have not accidentally leaked data in the last year, while 91 per cent said they had not intentionally leaked data. 

Such a contrast clearly demonstrates that to some degree, employees are either unwilling to admit to causing data breaches or unaware that they have caused one.  

The issue of unknowingly causing data breaches is a nuanced discussion. It’s not simply a case of, say, never becoming aware that they’ve emailed sensitive data to the wrong person; it also includes whether employees feel like they have a right to the data in the first place, and therefore by removing it from a secure environment, they don’t realise that they’ve caused a breach – for example, exfiltrating customer lists when moving onto a new company. 

Our research found that almost one-in-three employees (29 per cent) believe they have ownership over the data they have worked on for a company and that 60 per cent don’t believe the organisation has exclusive ownership over the data.  Interestingly, those aged 16 – 24 were actually less likely to think the organisation has exclusive ownership (33 per cent), while those aged over 65 were more likely to think so (51 per cent).

The problem of ethics and ownership

Awareness and education are a favourite starting point for tackling non-malicious insider breaches. A solid foundation of cybersecurity awareness does help to reduce negligent or inadvertent instances by championing good practices. Employees can also be challenged and re-educated on the subject of data ownership, for example explaining what needs to remain with the organisation when they leave. These educational measures should also be highly targeted to the current workforce age ranges within individual organisations. In a time where digital natives, such as millennials and Generation Z, have grown up with prevalent sharing on social media and a sense of ownership around what they produce, this problem is likely to be exacerbated in these employees. 

Yet education alone won’t turn the tide of data breaches, as it can’t prevent reckless behaviour or be able to stop all inadvertent breaches – after all, people are always going to make mistakes!

How technology can reduce breaches

When respondents who acknowledged to causing a data breach were asked how this happened, our research found that accidental leaks were caused by: rushing and making mistakes (48 per cent), working in a high-pressure environment (30 per cent), and tiredness (29 per cent). Two of the top causes of intentional breaches were not having the tools required to share data securely (55 per cent) and taking data to a new job (23 per cent).

This insight helps us to understand the role technology needs to play in preventing data breaches. Advances in machine learning and graph data base technologies have made it possible to identify when people are about to accidentally or intentionally leak data – warning users and administrators in real-time that a breach is occurring, and even preventing the release of certain data altogether.

The use of this technology can not only reduce the likelihood of a data breach but also significantly reduce the impacts should a breach occur. The ‘Cost of a Data Breach’ study shows that use of security technologies such as encryption and DLP were associated with lower-than-average data breach costs. In particular, encryption had the greatest impact, lowering the cost by $360,000 on average. What’s more, security automation that leveraged technologies like machine learning and analytics on average reduced the cost of a data breach by an impressive $2.5m.

Not another Y2K

For those of us operating in cybersecurity on a daily basis, it’s impossible to be ignorant of GDPR and its impacts. This awareness inevitably dilutes the further we get from CISOs and their Security Teams, but GDPR doesn’t make this distinction: good data protection practices are non-negotiable.

As research has shown, there’s no one silver bullet to turning the tide of data breaches, particularly those caused by employees and the complexities they bring to this problem. But GDPR has emphatically proven it is not another Y2K – and CISOs need to keep educating and equipping employees to prevent non-compliance. To do this, CISOs need to address the motivations and problems staff have when sharing data – and when they don’t have confidence that people will make the right decisions, they need to look to the latest technologies to do this on their behalf.

GUEST BLOG: Four questions organisations need to ask after a cyber attack

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Cyber attacks are inevitable, but it’s how an organisation deals with them that can make or break their business. Have they got all the answers, and do they fully understand the implications? Can they be sure the attack won’t happen again?

Swift and comprehensive incident response is a critical step to ensuring the future security of a business and protecting its reputation. It’s not enough to be aware that an attack is taking (or has taken) place. There are four key questions organisations need to be able to answer following a cyber security breach – if a single answer is missing, the security team won’t have the full picture, leaving the business vulnerable to impending attacks. Not having this level of insight can also damage an organisation’s relationships with suppliers and affect customer confidence, as it means the business itself is not in control of the situation.

Andy Pearch, Head of IA Services at CORVID, outlines four questions all organisations must be able to answer after a cyber attack.

1. How and where did the security breach take place?

The first step of an effective incident response strategy is to identify how the attackers got in. Quite simply, if an organisation misses this first crucial step, attackers will exploit the same vulnerability for future cyber attacks. Guesswork won’t cut it – any security professional can hypothesise that “it was probably an email”, but security teams need clear evidence so they can fully analyse all aspects of the problem and devise an appropriate solution. 

2. What information was accessed?

Understanding specifically what information was accessed by the attacker is paramount to knowing what impact the attack will have on the organisation. Identifying which departments were targeted or what types of information might have been stolen isn’t good enough; organisations need to be able to articulate exactly which files were accessed and when. Headlines about attackers stealing information are common, but just as importantly, you need to know the scope of the information they’ve seen, as well as the information they’ve taken. Not only will this inform the next steps that need to be taken, and shed light on which parts of the business will be affected, but it will also enable the organisation to remain compliant with legal obligations, for example, identifying if a data breach needs to be reported under GDPR.

3. How can systems be recovered quickly?

Organisations will understandably want to get their IT estate back to normal as soon as possible to minimise damage to their business, service and reputation. If the compromise method is identified and analysed correctly, IT systems can be remediated in seconds, meaning users and business operations can continue without downtime for recovery.

4. How do you prevent it from happening again?

Knowing the IT estate has been compromised is useless without taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Managed Detection and Response (MDR) is all about spotting the unusual activity that indicates a potential breach. If a user is accessing files they would never usually touch, sending unexpected emails or reaching out to a new domain, for example, such activity should prompt a review. The problem for most companies, however, is they lack not only the tools to enable such detection, but also the time and skills to undertake thorough analysis to determine whether it is a breach or a false positive.

A managed approach not only takes the burden away from businesses, but also enables every company to benefit from the pool of knowledge built up as a result of detecting and remediating attacks on businesses across the board. With MDR, every incident detected is investigated and, if it’s a breach, managed. That means shutting down the attack’s communication channel to prevent the adversary communicating with the compromised host, and identifying any compromised asset which can then be remediated.

Shifting security thinking

Clearly, GDPR has raised awareness that the risks associated with a cyber attack are not only financial, as hackers are actively seeking to access information. Security plans, therefore, must also consider data confidentiality, integrity and availability. But it is also essential to accept the fundamental shift in security thinking – protection is not a viable option given today’s threat landscape. When hackers are using the same tactics and tools as bona fide users, rapid detection and remediation must be the priority.

Image by kalhh from Pixabay

AI: It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new way of customer support and engagement

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With headlines stating that AI will be ‘the death of the contact centre’, it’s understandable that Contact Centre Managers might feel like the world is against them. 

AI-driven technology is not new, in fact people been talking about it since the summer conference at Dartmouth College in 1956, where the attendees became leaders of AI research.With predictions of an AI-first world since 1956, why is that AI-powered technology is causing more and more confusion, hype and fear this decade with trending headlines stating that robots will take over our jobs, causing concern about the long-term impact of AI on the employees?

Well firstly, it’s this shorthand referral to AI that is causing a lot of confusion, hype and fear around this subject.Like computing, it’s hard to distinguish between classifications for AI, the broad term, used to describe the ‘smart’ human-like capability within software such as machine learning, natural language processing, robotics and computational intelligence, which all refer to a wide variety of algorithms and methodologies under AI.

So where does AI fit into the contact centre?

Businesses can no longer afford to rely on archaic siloed channels for customer support and experience. As consumers grow more and more comfortable with messaging, AI applications offer the contact centre some dramatic benefits that stretches way beyond customer support.AI can play a vital role in making better business decisions, many of them positively impacting the customer.

Many brands understand that their customers will expect support across multiple digital channels, regardless of business hours and that site search, static FAQs and info@ email options have become archaic.Businesses must be ‘present’ on their customers’ preferred support channels and respond swiftly, no matter the means customers use to get in touch.

Investing in AI might sound like a daunting task, but it is imperative in our evermore competitive world where businesses need to win the CX war to remain relevant and profitable. For AI to introduce new value and break fresh ground, strategists must take an innovative approach to CX and consider its impact beyond its novelty.

Smallsteps are key to preparing for the ever changing CX landscape.The light in this confusing artificially intelligent world of darkness are that there are ‘modest’ AI-powered solutions that can translate into cost savings, increased productivity and improved customer experience with minimal demands on IT resources.

Commonly known as Natural Language Understanding (NLU) – a machine algorithm to process and analyse large amounts of natural language data to ‘understand’ natural language – it’s easy to underrate the powerful impact this science can have on business processes and the contact centre.

Although human language is extremely complex, full of contextual rules and nuances that we take for granted, the advances in Natural Language Processing today means the complex processing of the NLP system’s back-end is effortlessly encased within a user-friendly interface without requiring users to have technical expertise.

NLU is a supreme AI engine particularly when it’s integrated into services such as conversational Virtual Agents (chatbots), dynamic FAQ self-service, Intelligent Web Form and agent assistance in the contact centre through channels such as Live Chat. can be key to deflecting calls, reducing costs and improving customer satisfaction. Consequently, market movements are already showing strong signs of businesses within a variety of sectors moving towards this type of AI technology to remain applicable and competitive.

How NLU makes sense in the contact centre

NLU can offer a lot more to the modern-day contact centre. As a toe in water into the world of artificial intelligence, when integrated with unstructured data – such as handwritten documents or notes by contact centre agents, text messages, photos and videos – AI-driven NLU can add considerable gains in workplace efficiency.

A contact centre knowledge-base integrated with AI-driven NLU can automate the processes of searching, modifying, and rating knowledge-articles, which could be any of the above-mentioned examples not only saving time in having to manually find information, but a dramatic increase in contact centre productivity. 

It enables new or temporary agents to serve customers almost instantly with reduced training times and access to instant, correct and consistent information over the phone, during a live chat or through email. NLU algorithms often can contextualise information to find mentions of subjects even when the relevant keywords are absent. 

Gartner predicted that in 2019, 20 percent of user interactions with smartphones will take place via virtual personal assistants.

The truth is they were not far off. Advances in text analysis and natural language processing has grown the list of queries that can be answered, and tasks resolved without human interaction. And since 2016, the popularity of using NLU in the form of chatbots to drive sales, qualify leads or to provide customer support, have had analysts forecast that conversational commerce will automate up to 85% of customer interactions by 2020.

Smartphones have changed the way in which people communicate and engage with each other. Messaging apps and social media are driving the exponential growth in the intelligent assistant landscape because it feels intimate and personal, encouraging customer transactions such as buying a product, present targeted promotions and product recommendations based on the customer’s enquiry, profile and history incorporating real-time analytics and business reporting. Bots are unmediated in a way that most digital interface still entirely fails at. 

With an intelligent bot handling high volume, frequently asked questions, your contact centre agents can focus on resolving complex customer issues. Additionally, due to working in the most efficient way possible, bots can handle spikes in customer contact to digital platforms, while dramatically decreasing the volume of physical calls which makes it easier to stay on top of demand and to record interactions on a CRM system or for analytics and training. Given its scalability, a bot implementation is a cost-effective opportunity for business improvement. An affordable, intelligent point of contact that can efficiently respond to an unlimited number of queries with relevant information, any day, any time.

Self-serving answers when customers need assistance across desktop, mobile and social channels is not a new concept anymore. This is not news to enterprises either and most will have incorporated – or are looking to integrate – a powerful intelligent FAQ system into their customer service/experience strategy. And although there appears to be an AI-uncertainty among business leaders, small steps need to be taken towards implementing AI to not get left behind.

NLU’s adaptability and usability make it an ideal first AI step for businesses of all kinds, generating quick win efficiencies in the short run, and more importantly preparing them for more complex AI solutions in the future. Are you ready to take the next step towards AI that can deliver quick-win business results?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Is on-screen clutter getting in the way of good customer service?

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Contact centres are still wasting precious time on administration instead of servicing customers. Colin Hay, VP Sales at Puzzel UK, believes the answer is, quite literally, staring you in the face.  Here are 5 tips for improving the customer experience using the latest agent desktop applications… 

Automating business processes and providing a clearer view of what really matters certainly makes life easier in terms of delivering customer service. 

However, just as the advent of electronic communications failed to deliver on the promise of the paperless office, contact centres are still required to deal with online administration which is often a major barrier to delivering an exceptional customer experience (CX).  

In fact, recent research by Call Centre Helper in the UK has highlighted that contact centres waste over 40% of their time handling administrative tasks instead of servicing customers. Much of this time is spent by agents switching between screens and on post contact wrap-up, updating different enterprise systems. The same research showed that less than 10% of contact centres integrate their customer communication channels.  

It’s time to tidy-up the desktop. The first step towards revitalising the contact centre is to get rid of the clutter. The next step is to take a fresh look at the humble agent interface.  Amazingly, it is often over-looked and yet it offers the perfect de-cluttering solution when supported by the right technology. Recent advancements in agent applications mean they are becoming more easily accessible, crystal clear and simple to use. They also help agents to clean up their own messy screens to produce a single contextual view of customer interactions by bringing together all channels and systems into one place.  

Five-star service, five ways
The answer to five-star service is literally staring you in the face. Make the most of today’s agent applications to:

1.Welcome in a brand-new widget concept – new agent desktop applications remove on-screen clutter by supporting direct integration between enterprise systems and agent screens through widgets. Customisable and flexible, widgets allow every agent to be presented with the information and functionality most relevant to them in any given situation without switching screens or resorting to pop-ups.  
This provides a single view of customer conversations that increases agent confidence, empowering them to provide a highly personalised and satisfying customer experience at all times. Look for a vendor that offers a collection of ready-made widgets for faster set-up and effective in-house training.   

2.Easy switching between customer enquiries – the superior functionality of today’s agent applications means that each customer interaction is handled via a separate tab which is opened automatically. This provides easy switching between channels  and customer enquiries, whatever the channel while allowing agents to deal with multiple simultaneous interactions at any one time.

Agents can even customise their screens and highlight the functionality tabs they use most frequently such as queue overview, queue details and personal queues as well as identity and verification tabs for specific partners or customers.

3. Extend social media capabilities – modern agent interfaces enable contact  centres to become more flexible and responsive by providing a far greater choice of social media communications options for customers. For example, they link directly to the latest WhatsApp Messenger and consumer review website Trustpilot.com. They can also scale readily to add new channels rapidly as they appear on the social media networking scene.    

4.Integration with partner systems for vital information – new agent desktop applications connect effortlessly to selected third parties and knowledge -bases, vastly accelerating an agent’s ability to solve user or product queries from one single user interface.  Information on orders, stock availability and delivery times are instantly available. What is more, today’s agent screens support co-browsing to enable simultaneous viewing of products while dealing with a customer’s enquiry.

5.Future proofing for an omni-channel experience – look for a vendor with a forward thinking approach to product development. The best agent applications have been developed with the future in mind as customerexpectations demand a sophisticated, seamless service from contact centres. They should support a variety of customer communication channels, systems and advances in Softphone that enable companies to provide a complete customer experience that meets the requirements of today and tomorrow. 

Spring clean your agent application to re-energise the contact centre and revitalise your customer careprogramme.

For more information on the latest agent applications, visit www.puzzel.com

GUEST BLOG: What is Customer Experience?

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Peter Tetlow, Client Solutions Director, Ventrica

The contact centre industry is continually evolving. A few years ago we were in the Customer Management industry. Now we have evolved to be in the Customer Experience industry.

On the face of it, this rebranding of the industry shows that we look at things from the customer’s point of view rather than simply trying to manage them as if they are a nuisance. However, do we really understand what the customer experience is and how to improve it?

A starting point is to look at what experts say. Forrester defines Customer Experience as “how customers perceive their interactions with your company.” This is correct in as far as it goes, but only tells half the story. As with most things, we tend to look internally as an industry and assume that the customer experience is all about us and the type of interaction a customer has when contacting the company.

However, ask any customer. Customer experience starts long before they pick up the phone or start a chat session. For a manufacturing company, the experience starts when the customer researches and then purchases the product. Their experience continues when they set the product up and try to understand the instructions; it continues when they register it and use it.

Customers need help from the start to set up their new product and get it working or indeed they may get many months or years use from the product before they have an issue and they need support. Only then, when they need help, will they contact the company. Their experience at this stage can make or break the relationship because the customer won’t necessarily remember the fact that something has gone wrong, but they will remember how the problem is dealt with.

The critical part that is missing from the definition above is an understanding that the customer experience starts long before they try and make contact with a contact centre. As customer experience professionals, we need to be able to influence the full end to end experience, not just when a customer contacts us. In many ways, that is locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Advisors understand customer issues because they are in the privileged position of speaking (or chatting) with customers. The majority of the issues identified will be outside the contact centre’s direct span of control, but this knowledge is a source of invaluable information and insight. For example, if customers call in because product instructions are not clear, only the contact centre will know this within the organisation. If customers talk about multiple and confusing correspondence received, again, the contact centre is probably the only team aware of this and the impact it has on the customer.

Contact centres and retail stores if appropriate, need to be at the centre of the organisation and become the insight and analytics hub, collating and analysing insight gained, to drive improvements. Because this insight comes direct from customers, capitalising on it is the optimal way to improve the customer experience, leading to higher satisfaction, more loyal customers, reduced contacts, reduced costs and product insight.

This will require a change of mindset for many organisations who may see the contact centre as a necessary evil, within which to minimise spending as much as possible, rather than a business critical function that helps to inform and drive product development, product management and marketing amongst many other teams. Ultimately, the contact centre is a strategic asset rather than a simple cost centre but to use it as such requires a deep understanding of the end to end customer experience.

Centralized or de-centralized WFM: 5 ways to strike the perfect balance

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New business models and organizational change have put the debate over centralized versus decentralized workforce planning back on the table. Kanogo Njuru at Teleopti advocates a balanced approach using Workforce Management (WFM) technology to blend all types of service organizations…

In the past, workforce planning was often managed by local teams out in the field.  However, as technology has progressed to automate many of the traditionally time-consuming forecasting and scheduling processes, more and more organizations have seen the advantages of centralized planning.  Contact centers in particular have enjoyed the benefits technology brings when addressing critical long-term strategic challenges, while optimizing workforce management and end-to-end processes for improved productivity, staff satisfaction, customer service and financial control.  

It is also a trend that is not necessarily limited to the contact center world and the same debate over centralized versus decentralized planning can apply to all sorts of service models for example in retail, cleaning services and hospitality. In all instances the aim is to improve customer and employee satisfaction and boost profitability through optimized, automated forecasting and scheduling.  

Over the years, seismic shifts in business have had a transformational impact on people.  Mergers and acquisitions have brought uncertainty along with fluid internal staff structures while the rise of e-commerce has turned old ways of working on their head.  How do organizations change the corporate culture to adapt to the new world order? How do they find, manage and keep good talent?  How do they bring together thousands of full or part-time employees at head office locations or at remote virtual contact centers around the world and of course take into account home workers?  What is the best way to forecast and schedule effectively?  All these questions have renewed the debate around centralized versus decentralized workforce planning.

Some organizations take a conscious decision not to centralize all their Workforce Management (WFM) processes at once, if at all, regarding it to be counter-productive.  There is the commonly held belief that centralized planning takes power away from local people, leading to a sense of loss of control and a demoralized workforce.  Then, there is the pragmatic approach.  Planners often share a special relationship with their local teams and they truly understand what their staff want and how they work best hence the old saying – if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Other companies may choose to centralize certain functions like payroll but decentralize others such as HR and recruitment.  Whichever WFM model organizations choose to adopt, good communication is essential to overcome mistrust and feelings of fear. By combining a sound communications strategy with technology, a balance between reducing unnecessary costs, while also promoting consistency and higher standards of operations, customer service and workforce satisfaction can be achieved.  

5 ways to strike the perfect balance with WFM

Fortunately, the latest WFM solutions are highly flexible and offer speed and agility to support the needs of today’s multi-channel customer experience (CX) operations and other service organizations.  Being cloud-based, they eliminate the need for expensive hardware and large in-house IT departments, are fast to implement, easy to scale and simple to use.  Let’s take a closer look at five key benefits: 

1.       One single solution – can support a whole network of planners and brings consistency to a variety of centralized and decentralized WFM processes – from forecasting and scheduling enough staff to manage changing customer requirements to keeping track of employee sickness, personal schedules and team preferences.  Even if different planning teams operate in different locations, the deployment of one solution makes it easy to connect the dots, bringing together the various elements involved in successful workforce planning such as staff information, employee requests and forecasting while accelerating the transfer of important workforce data to accommodate specific special projects or marketing campaigns.  What it more, using one WFM platform opens the door to centralized planning in the future and makes the transition a smooth and seamless one. 

2.       High levels of scalability – support both centralized and decentralized workforce planning through agile forecasting and scheduling that adapts to changing customer and business requirements and by helping to create effective skills matrices that identify and deploy the best talent.  The latest WFM solutions can flex up to accommodate a growing network of different planning teams in different locations or they can provide end-to-end visibility and superior management of organization-wide workforce planning activities from a central point. 

3.       Self-service for choice – whether an organization adopts a centralized or decentralized workforce planning model, the addition of self-service empowers employees to  control their working lives, to view their schedules and those of their colleagues, request shift swaps or book time off at the click of the mouse or by using their mobile devices. 

4.       Fairness and transparency through automation – consistency and greater visibility of WFM processes both in smaller, decentralized planning teams and in centralized departments that plan for thousands of staff across the organization is made possible through automation.  Transparency and openness create a sense of fairness that appeals to staff while satisfying organizations with a strong Union or Works Council presence.  Managers have the information they need to ensure all employees take it in turns to do the more unpopular shifts and plan vacation time equitably while employees have total visibility of each other’s schedules and time off through self-service functionality. 

5.       Effective Change Management – certain customers like Germany’s biggest online retailer OTTO, cite the strategic impact that WFM technology has on actively advancing corporate change management programs.  The flexibility, transparency and collaborative nature of today’s WFM technology has helped OTTO to strike a good balance between achieving high productivity levels (1,600 agents working 2 million shifts and 4,500 shift rotations – handling over 24 million enquiries per year!) and transferring the program’s core values of empowerment and fairness into 15 virtual contact centers. What is more, they have achieved this through a mixture of centralized and decentralized workforce planning methods across the company.

Centralized? Decentralized?  Does it really matter? What really matters is striking the balance between operational or business efficiency and promoting a collaborative framework that leads to engaged employees and satisfied customers.

It’s time to welcome WFM technology as the catalyst for change.

GUEST BLOG: Taking call centre analytics to the next level

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It’s not just your customers that are making more demands of you; so are your competitors. You need to be able to get business-wide insight in real-time just to keep up. Is your analytics suite up to the task? Geoff Land, Managing Director of Infinity CCS, investigates…

In a complex environment such as a modern contact centre, decisions are made every minute that affect customer service, customer satisfaction, the customer experience and, ultimately, revenue and profitability. Having accurate and up-to-date data on which to base those decisions is no longer negotiable.

There are three key elements you need to get right in order to unlock the insights required. The first is to connect all the different areas of the business and their disparate data sources to create a single view of the whole business and of each customer.

The second is to be able to collate, analyse, interrogate and visualise all that data in order to uncover connections that have previously been hidden. Finally, you need to be able to take that new knowledge and turn it into operational insight that tells you and your teams what needs to be done to transform your ‘business as usual’.

Single view of your data

Within all the departments, business functions, IT systems and databases, you will have lots of structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data. Structured data would be things like your customer and transaction databases, through to unstructured data which could include things like website visitor meta-data.

There is a lot of extremely valuable business information locked up in all that data if only you could interrogate it and make sense of it. Using deep-dive data mining, the location, type and volume of all this data can be discovered. This search should encompass anywhere that customer and other relevant information might reside; from your operational systems to customer testimonials to marketing mailing lists to email inboxes to customer complaints and everything in between.

It could be contained in structured databases, semi-structured XML files, unstructured file systems on individual workstations, or cloud-based file systems. Around 80% of all organisational data is thought to be unstructured, and modern data discovery tools should be able to uncover most of it.

In order to be able to ask questions of all this data, it needs to be tagged and collated. What we are really talking about is creating an indexed copy of all your data, which means the original databases and files do not need to be altered. The goal is to organise the data in such a way that every piece of data which belongs to customer John Smith, for example, is tagged as such.

What you now have is a portal for accessing all your data, enterprise-wide. This central repository should be kept up to date by running the tagging and indexing routines on data as it is acquired and updated. While this also enables you to meet all your GDPR obligations, its true value is in giving you a single view of your business, and of each customer.

Unlock your data to gain insights

In a business world where established companies, business models, and even whole industries are transformed and made obsolete almost overnight, the ability to spot a trend before others and act on it quickly is a tremendous source of competitive advantage.

As the contact centre is now the touchstone for so many customer interactions it is one your company’s most important sources of information – including customer feedback and complaints; CSAT, NPS, and other KPI data; analyses of contact frequency and type; sales, up-sales, and cross-sales results; and even meta data on website and self-service usage.

Assuming you have gone through the data discovery stage outlined above and have all this data tagged in some sort of central repository, you now need to be able ask questions of it.

There are three considerations when it comes to business analytics: speed, accuracy, and depth of information. Your operational and management teams need the freedom to ask all sorts of different questions, which means they cannot be limited to a set number of pre-defined reports. Your analytics suite should allow them to quickly create reports without coding, writing SQL, or getting the IT Team involved. Using a simple drag and drop interface they should be able to create complex, cross-tabulated reports on multiple data sources.

When reports are run, the data used to compile them should be as up-to-date and as accurate as possible. This means your central repository, if you are using one, should be updated regularly if not in real-time as transactions happen and data is acquired. Running reports manually is incredibly time-consuming, particularly if the data has to be prepared beforehand. Your analytics system should be able to automate most of these tasks and give reports daily, or in real-time, to the people who need them. Managers can then spend their time analysing reports rather than producing them.

For humans to learn anything from all this data – even if it has already been analysed by some deep learning or data mining AI system – reports need to be presented in a way that allows users to drill down and interact with them. Sometimes a trend is not visible at the very top level and it takes looking deep into the data, and cross-checking with other sources, to tease out valuable insight. Spreadsheets of numbers just don’t work for most people, so different types of visualisations of data should be available.

Business improvements

The objective of business analytics is to constantly transform your organisation based on accurate business intelligence in order to maintain or improve market position.

With a single view of the business and customer, and the tools needed to analyse data and turn it into insight that can be visualised, your business will be able to:

  • View and follow the complete trail of phone interactions, website visits, emails, purchases, social media comments of every customer and prospect.
  • See the business outcomes of those behaviours in terms of purchases, cancellations, returns, complaints, and customer service requests.
  • Use that insight to improve products, services, processes, and customer journeys with a view to increasing revenues and profits while reducing costs to serve.
  • Uncover new business opportunities in your own market, or related markets, that you otherwise would never have known about – at least until a competitor did it.

In the contact centre specifically, this greater level of insight at the level of the individual customer enables you to:

  • Seamlessly manage interactions that cross multiple channels without asking the customer to update you or repeat information;
  • Route customer enquiries to exactly the right team or person without delay;
  • Proactively engage the customer to head off service issues before they become a problem;
  • Personalise upsell, cross-sell, and renewals offers to meet a customer’s exact needs and circumstances;
  • Understand the commonalities of your best customers so you can find more like them.

It has long been said that a company’s data is one of its most valuable assets, but how many companies take this to its logical conclusion? If your data is not tagged and collated in a central repository; if your business analytics suite is not automated, customisable, and visual; and if your management is not able to interact with and deep-dive into reports, then you are potentially missing out on opportunities.

For a white paper on how to create a Single Customer View of your data for GDPR and business analytics download our white paper here: https://www.infinityccs.com/gdpr-and-single-customer-view-guide/

Geoff Land is Managing Director of Infinity CCS (Contact Centre Solutions), provider of dynamic workflow engines that power contact centres across 13 countries. Infinity works with some of the world’s largest contact centre operators such as Teleperformance, Webhelp, HGS and Bosch to deliver customer experience solutions that yield measurable efficiencies.

An experienced CX executive, Geoff has spent his career helping to lead some of today’s leading brands transform their businesses. Geoff previously held senior positions at Bright Star Communications (Saudi Arabia), founded Inspire FZE in the United Arab Emirates and has held a number of local and international positions at Nortel Networks.

GUEST BLOG: Preparing for peak rate calls

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By Fauzia Mulla, Head of Customer Experience at ArrowXL

When logistics companies and home delivery partners are preparing for the busy Christmas period, the headlines tend to focus on major investments made across hubs and depots, increasing the size of their fleets of vehicles and supplementing their workforces with extra manpower.

However, this activity can often overshadow the huge amount of preparation that takes place back within a typical head office environment.

For example, as Head of Customer Experience, I have the responsibility of organising my own department, which includes a 100-strong customer contact centre, for the busy peak period. Whilst our delivery crews are making sure customers successfully receive those important items before Christmas or are busy fulfilling those big-ticket purchases made in the Boxing Day sales, it is my role to ensure the customer experience team is fully prepared, engaged and motivated to efficiently handle an uplift in enquiries.

When we begin our preparations for the festive season, which can be as early as the previous summer, we primarily concentrate on two separate areas – the first reaffirms our “customer first approach”, whilst the second focuses on the “hearts and minds of our people”.

Customer First Approach

This element of the plan revolves around what we need to do within the contact centre in order to deliver a very high standard of service to our retail clients and their customers. Similar to how the operations team would calculate volumes they are expected to deliver, we will also use a specific algorithm to forecast the number of anticipated enquiries across social media, live chat and through inbound calls. As a result, we will be able to identify how many people I will need directly liaising with customers at any given hour, day or week over the peak season. We carry out this important analysis three months in advance, so we have sufficient time to recruit and train the candidates best suited to the available roles.

Secondly, we will proactively examine the data from historic enquiries to understand how we can eliminate any reoccurring issues throughout the customer journey. This will often involve working very closely alongside the operations team and the client services team, identify any weak points across the entire supply chain and collaborate over improvements. This could be down to unclear wording on the website during a purchase, an issue during the delivery itself, or the content we share with the customer when they contact us. As the department that directly communicates with the end customer, we play a vital role in this process.

Moving forward, more companies may choose to invest in automation and deploy self-service technology to improve the overall customer experience. For instance, we utilise an online platform, accessible via an SMS link, which allows consumers to alter or re-book their scheduled deliveries automatically without the need to speak to an agent. This provides an enhanced experience for the end customer, who will be able to complete an action within just 30 seconds rather than having to speak to someone, whilst we benefit from a reduced number of inbound calls. In addition, we are now encouraging consumers to fill our Customer Satisfaction Survey following a delivery or interaction – and we can use this feedback to shape our service offering, as well as rewarding agents who have done a fantastic job. We will also phone customers who have left negative comments to discuss how we can make any improvements.

Hearts and Minds of People

Our contact centre will be handling an increased number of calls during the peak season – typically 40% – and therefore we understand it is imperative that our agents are fully motivated and have the energy levels to deliver exceptional levels of service at the very busiest of times.

We are prioritising employee engagement by launching a range of initiatives that will help us to better deal with the peak season. For instance, from November to January we are rewarding those colleagues who register the highest Customer Satisfaction scores with extra break times, cash prizes and vouchers. Meanwhile, we are making sure they stay refuelled with free breakfasts, fruits, drinks and of course (as it is Christmas!) some festive sweet treats.

I believe a positive work/life balance is very important, but we also promote a number of activities in the workplace that help our agents to relax and unwind throughout the peak season. Answering customers’ enquiries is tough work and our themed games and quizzes promote a sense of togetherness and team spirit.

Most importantly, we recently welcomed our senior management team into the contact centre. Our CEO Charlie Shiels, Operations Director Peter Scraton, Commercial Director Paul Tyson and others, spent time sitting with our agents, listening in on calls and understanding the nature of their daily tasks. It became clear that the senior executives are here to support their colleagues, which provided a welcome morale boost.

Conclusion

As we reach December, many industries begin to slow down activity as the countdown to the Christmas break begins, but retailers and their home delivery partners must ensure they are operating as effectively as possible to navigate their peak season in the most efficient and profitable way. A proficient contact centre will play a crucial role in fulfilling that objective – and companies must not hesitate when it comes to advanced preparation, investment in technology and employee engagement.

GUEST BLOG: Autonomy by Automation

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By Jonathan Sharp, Director, Britannic Technologies

Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic processing automation (RPA) are disrupting the market. Businesses need to take ownership of the change in culture and invest in prioritising their employees’ learning and development, providing them with autonomy to do their jobs more effectively.

For some the change is too overwhelming but digital age is here now and here to stay so it’s time for companies to change their mind-set, move out of their comfort zone and embrace the difference in culture that comes with the digital age.

Growth Mindset

Companies are often not willing to change and want to do things the way they have always done. They are fearful of failing and the ‘fixed mindset’ is common in business because people are scared to get it wrong in case they lose their job. The CEO and the Senior Management team need to advocate and promote a ‘growth mindset’ outlook to succeed and grow.

Innovation and Learning

An open learning and innovative environment should be fostered and employees should be encouraged to share ideas about the different ways technology can be used, discovering new ways of working, new products and services.

They need to have the courage to speak out and not to be afraid of being told it is a bad idea or it won’t work. Employees need the confidence and autonomy to see if their ideas will succeed and not be diminished if they fail.

Providing Autonomy

By providing autonomy to employees you are enabling them to mould their work environment so they can perform at their optimum. This is particularly important when augmenting the work place with technologies such as AI and RPA, as you are enabling your employees to make their own decisions on how to use the technology for their own advantage.

Through autonomy employees become motivated, fully engaged and want to succeed and do well. Enabling employees to use their critical thinking skills to make their own decisions and not be handcuffed by corporate polices and processes. Thus, they will be happier, more productive and will stay longer.

Trusting Employees

Any autonomous business needs to trust its employees and realise that they are capable and trustworthy to do their jobs. More and more employees want the flexibility to work from home, or work from wherever they choose. Unified communications enables them to screen share, perform audio and video calls, and conduct conference calls and instant messages.

Following the Guidelines

Being an autonomous business does not give employees the right to do what they want to do and boundaries, procedures and guidance need to be set for clarity.

Autonomy by Automation

Technology such as unified communication solutions, AI and RPA enables employees to do their jobs easier providing them with the tools to facilitate their autonomy in decision making. Helping employees to reach their objectives more easily, freeing them from the daily mundane tasks that can be handed over to AI solutions such as artificial conversational platforms. This allows employees to focus on strategic and creative areas of their jobs. It enhances and complements employee’s skills rather than takes them away.

Training and Development

A company that cultivates a learning culture to develop its employees will not only benefit the business but will also have a happier workforce who will be fully engaged, more productive and less likely to leave. The Gallup Survey states a 22% higher productivity rate for organisations with highly engaged workforce.

Calling in the Experts

Digital transformation is an evolutionary journey that should be broken down into manageable projects. It is advised that you work with a specialist Solutions and Managed Services Provider who will guide you through the change process, enabling you to transition to a new culture and digital transformation seamlessly. They will work closely with you to understand your business, ascertain your needs and select the right technology for your business.

If this topic resonates, Britannic Technologies is hosting its Convergence Summit , a conference around deconstructing digital transformation on 8th November. Free places are available to qualifying organisations.

Visit www.btlnet.co.uk/events for further information. It’s a day well spent!

www.btlnet.co.uk/events

https://www.btlnet.co.uk

 

GUEST BLOG: Live Chat… All talk?

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By Adexchange

Some love it, some hate it, and it has our agents juggling multiple customers at once.  Live chat divides conversation in more ways than one.

But is a communication platform which also encourages customers to multi-task a good thing? Or is it just another channel we must incorporate, manage and coach our teams to handle?

Research would suggest that live chat is ABSOLUTELY worth the fuss, for both our customers and contact centres.

Seeing as 90% of customers consider live chat helpful according to an ATG Global Consumer Trend Study (nectardesk.fr).

And once you’ve got your customers using the service, they are three times more likely to buy from you than regular web surfers would be (optilead.co.uk)

But in order to get these results, it’s all about keeping the focus.

So what is live chat and why was it introduced in the first place?

Remember good old MSN Messenger and you have live chat; an instant messaging service which enables an agent to speak to a customer online in real time.

The perks…

*It allows our agents to speak to more than one customer at once

*Customers feel they have more time to respond than in a phone call

*It’s appealing to a new demographic of customers, such as digitally-minded millennials

*It gives scope for fast, scripted responses to be given to common questions

How these perks can quickly become pitfalls…

*In reality, a live chat is no quicker than a phone call

*Having more than two conversations at once can negatively impact customer transactions (Customer Relationship Metrics)

*Chats are unpredictable because the customer feels no pressure to respond quickly

*Scripted responses can be alienating and robotic

Admittedly, these are some sticky corners to navigate…

But if live chat has the potential to help a business fly, it’s our job as contact centre managers to become pilots of this technology.

With the highest potential for customer satisfaction levels, at a whopping 73%, live chat is a lesson worth investing in. Phone support only keeps 44% of people happy, with email still lagging behind at 61%. (Econsultancy.com).

In short, customers are keen for and confident in live chat, and are more likely to become our regulars if we respond to that preference.

Tips to keep us kings of the live chat castle…

  • BE HUMAN:We should engage with our customers just as personally as we would over the phone. We want them to feel listened to, not typed at. Otherwise…we might as well be robots, and that doesn’t feel good for anyone!
  • MIRROR OUR CUSTOMERS:It’s tougher to gauge tone over text than when we ACTUALLY chat, so let’s take our customers’ lead. If they are friendly and chatty, we can reciprocate that warmth. If they’re formal and curt, we know not to overstep the line.
  • ANTICIPATE:Live chat can help us anticipate any problems our customer may have online. Online marketing company Logical Position improved their sales by 30%, by triggering automatic greetings which sensed when people were struggling with payment (livechatinc.com).
  • DON’T BITE OFF MORE THAN WE CAN CHEW: Live chat hasn’t proven to be time-saving. Instead, we’re using it for quality conversation, and to give some TLC to customers who prefer not to call up. Ideally, we should keep conversations to a maximum of two at once.
  • KEEP IT SIMPLE:Always start by asking the customer for their name, even if it Is a complicated reference number we need!
  • BRAND CONSISTENCY: We want to be personal and empathetic, but also consistent. A live chat conversation could evolve to a phone call with a different agent, so it’s important to maintain a transferable brand persona. It’s also possible that the live chat interchanges with a chatbot. Gartner estimates that 85% of customer interactions will involve chatbots by 2020. Consistent language helps keep the jump from robot to agent smooth.
  • KNOW OUR STUFF: Armed with the right information, we can keep our phrasing short and sweet, and our service helpfully concise.
  • USE THE TYPING INDICATOR FEATURE: This way our agents can see when our customer is about to reply, and be chomping at the bit to respond.
  • BE AVAILABLE: Why not extend live chat availability beyond phoneline hours? Even half an hour would allow agents to focus on live chats, resist rushing last minute phone calls, and give customers a sense of special ‘out of hours’ treatment.
  • REMEMBER, WE COULD GO VIRAL: Nothing’s private, with a click of a mouse our customer can share our conversation across the globe. So, we must be careful how we tread…
  • COACH OUR AGENTS: It’s unfair to expect our agents to manage live chat without any guidance. Are we happy for them to use emojis, GIFs and abbreviations? It’s a whole new world and our agents need guidance, coaching and support.

For more ideas, or help coaching your team on live chat, drop Adexchange a line… we’re already helping some of Europe’s most successful brands…