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Stuart O'Brien

Majority of UK workforce lacks basic cyber security training

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Seventy-seven per cent of UK workers admit that they have never received any form of training cyber skills training from their employer.

That’s according to a study from Centrify and comes during the European Union’s CyberSecMonth, which is designed to raise awareness of cybersecurity threats, promote cybersecurity among citizens and organisations; and provide resources to protect themselves online, through education and sharing of good practices.

The survey of 2,000 fulltime UK workers in professional services, conducted by independent survey company Censuswide, also found that over one quarter (27 per cent) of workers use the same password for multiple accounts, including work email and social media, putting both their personal security and that of their company at risk from hackers.

Most worryingly, the survey also found that 69 per cent admit that they do not have the confidence in their own cyber security processes when it comes to protecting their own data.

Additionally, 14 per cent have admitted to keeping their passwords recorded in an unsecured handwritten notebook or on their desk in the office. The news comes despite the UK government’s drive to improve cyber security for companies, with its Cyber Essentials programme.

A further 14 per cent do not utilise multi-factor authentication cyber security measures for apps or services unless required to do so – despite the fact that many consumer banking apps and social media now offer this service. 

Experts have warned that such a lacklustre approach to critical cyber awareness could land employers in hot water.

Donal Blaney, a cyber law expert at Griffin Law, said: “Ignorance of the law is no defence. Company directors and business owners owe it to themselves, their staff, their shareholders, and their customers to know how to protect their businesses and their customers’ data. They will only have themselves to blame if this blows up in their face one day.”

Andy Heather, VP at Centrify, added: “In an age where cyber attacks have emerged as one of the most ruthless and successful forms of crime that can be committed against a business on a large scale, it is astounding to hear that so many UK companies neglect to instil even the most basic cyber security measures in their employees.

“Just one misplaced password could result in the theft of millions of sensitive company documents, personal information and financial fraud, allowing hackers access to critical data. Tackling this issue requires urgent investment in cyber skills training and adopting a zero-trust approach, to further reduce the risk of weak passwords leaving easy entry points and to ensure malicious parties cannot run riot in company systems with stolen log-in credentials.”

Blended human and digital customer service tops investment focus for retailers

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Capabilities that bridge the online/offline customer experience gap prove a key investment focus for UK retailers over the next two years.

That’s according to the latest report from iAdvize, which polled 50 senior UK retailers in its ‘Blueprint For The New Digital Store Associate In The Age Of Conversational Commerce’ report.

It says that with 40% of UK shoppers now wanting human interaction in the online buying process, customer service functionality that blends human and digital touchpoints made up four out of the top five investment priorities for retailers over the next 24 months.  

Almost two thirds (64%) of UK retailers plan to invest in live messaging capabilities with customer service agents – either through online messaging or chat functions.

In app customer service agents (37%), social media influencers (21%) and online brand ambassadors (19%) also featured in the top five investment focuses when it came to customer service. 

In the same way retailers are looking to deliver human interaction in online encounters, retail businesses also plan to use in-store staff to answer digital queries. Over half (58%) of the retail leaders polled as part of the research wanted to digitise store staff by giving them online capabilities, while two-fifths (40%) said they plan to use store associates to engage in digital conversational commerce when store footfall is light. 

Stuart Gordon, UK Country Manager at iAdvize, said: “Retailers realise that store staff need access to quality customer, stock and order insights in general, but even more so if they are going to make a valuable contribution to the online customer journey, successfully closing the customer experience gap.

“There is a growing realisation within bricks-and-mortar retail that physical stores need to focus on what pureplays cannot do, rather than trying to compete on their home territory of price, friction-free convenience and ease of delivery.  And that means unlocking human capital to offer quality insight, delivered with ‘emotional’ human interaction.”

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

Brits ‘divided’ on AI Virtual Assistant security

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British consumers are deeply divided in their opinion of using virtual assistants via a smart device, with a lack of trust and security fears being the main issues.

That’s according to research from Maintel, in which data protection was cited as a key concern of consumers, with almost half (47%) of them saying that they are unwilling to use a virtual assistant to contact a company out of fear their device could be hacked.

Maintel says this is unsurprising given the high-profile data breaches by consumer brands using this kind of technology in recent months. Almost half of British consumers (46%) were discouraged by the amount of data they believed these communication channels collect, with 44% saying that they were worried that their smart devices were always on and listening to their conversations. 

Out of the whole of the UK population, consumers are roughly split into two distinct camps – those who recognise the value of virtual channels such as voice assistants and AI-powered chatbots and use services such as SIRI, Google Assistant and Alexa in their homes and daily lives, and those who fear the security implications of the technology and currently have little or no intention of adoption. 

There is a wider feeling of reluctance amongst consumers in Britain when it comes to engaging with virtual or voice platforms. Almost two thirds (59%) of consumers don’t own a smart device (such as a smart TV, smart speaker or mobile apps) with access to a virtual assistant and almost half of consumers (46%) have no intention of using these channels to contact a service provider.

Crucially, this group doesn’t see the benefits of adopting this kind of smart technology – almost two thirds of those who don’t own a smart device (59%) have no intention of purchasing one in the future.  

Attitudes towards the uptake of virtual assistants by UK companies 

Despite consumer concerns surrounding data protection and privacy, it’s clear that voice is still a fast-growing and key focus area for companies in the UK. Furthermore, almost a third (30%) of consumers currently use a smart or virtual assistant to contact a service provider.  

The majority of companies (61%) plan to offer customer services via virtual assistants in the next three years, 36% planning to offer them in the next 12 months, followed by 18% in the next two years.

At the same time, just over a third of companies don’t currently see a need for a service of this kind. When asked what challenges were preventing organisations from being able to offer customer services over smart virtual assistant channels, proving consumer demand was the most common obstacle – experienced by 44% of senior decision makers. 

Maintel say reluctance when it comes to adopting voice technology is not only felt by consumers, but is also echoed within companies throughout the UK: 

·        More than a quarter (27%) of senior decision makers stated that they had difficulty proving the ROI and benefits of voice-assisted channels when convincing senior leadership within their companies to adopt this kind of technology. 

·        More than one in five senior decision makers (21%) highlighted selling the need to the board as a key obstacle to adopting this kind of technology.  

·        Over a third of those companies surveyed stressed a lack of available budget (36%). 

·        A third of companies cited a lack of understanding of the technology requirements (33%) for voice assistants. 

·        Just under a third of senior decision makers mentioned the absence of the skills needed to successfully deploy the technology (28%).  

·        The skills gap appeared especially prevalent in customer services teams, with a third (33%) of businesses doubting their capability to deliver a quality service over virtual channels. 

Rufus Grig, Chief Technology Officer at Maintel, said: “The development of virtual assistants via smart devices is inevitable, as technology becomes increasingly intuitive and tailored to fit the needs of its users. However, what this research reveals, is that consumers still tread with caution when adopting this kind of technology or purchasing these smart devices for their homes.”  

“With so many mixed feelings towards this issue, there is a clear call to action for companies to be transparent with consumers on the implications of using this technology and to implement virtual assistants in a responsible way so that consumers’ data is protected. Whilst companies are reluctant to talk openly about security issues, there is clearly work that needs to be done before this technology is welcomed into all UK households. For now, virtual assistants aren’t the ultimate solution and should be used alongside other customer service technology solutions such as call centres, websites and chat bots.” 

Image by HeikoAL from Pixabay

Goodbye. And hello! Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit

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We’ve just closed the doors on another super successful Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit and already we’re making plans for our first 2020 event.

It takes place on April 27th & 28th 2020 at the Radisson Blu Hotel, London Stansted and registration is open now for you to reserve a complimentary guest place.

  • Talk face-to-face with innovative and budget-saving suppliers for a series of pre-arranged meetings.
  • Attend insightful and inspirational seminar sessions.
  • Network with like-minded peers.
  • Enjoy full hospitality, including overnight accommodation, all meals and refreshments, plus an invitation to our networking dinner.

We have just 60 places available so register today and find out for yourself why this event sells out every year.

eTailing Summit: Get ahead in eCommerce

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Would you like to join us at the eTailing Summit as our guest? It could be the best day you spend out of the office next year.

11 February 2020 – Hilton London Canary Wharf

This guest pass will give you the opportunity to meet with suppliers based on your own unique requirements, attend a series of seminars and network with like-minded senior ecommerce professionals. Plus, lunch and refreshments are complimentary.

Unlock your complimentary guest pass here and join representatives from:

  • ACCO Brands
  • Addison Lee
  • BiGDUG
  • Brastop and Curvy Kate
  • Bulk Powders
  • Deckers (Ugg)
  • Dyson
  • Great Rail Journeys
  • Intrepid Group
  • Jacob Douwe Egberts
  • Maidenhead Aquatics
  • Minor Figures
  • Newell Brands (Breville & Crock-Pot)
  • PhD Nutrition
  • Sass & Belle
  • Science in Sport
  • Tata Global Beverages
  • Tifco Hotel Group
  • Tottenham Hotspur FC
  • Trinny London
  • Walgreens Boots Alliance

Confirm your VIP ticket here or contact me today to find out more.

Artificial Intelligence: friend or foe? Seven ways to turn your agents into superheroes

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Far from replacing people, artificial intelligence (AI) has the power to enhance employee engagement and productivity and customer interactions in one go. Henry Jinman, Commercial Director of EBI.AI, explores 7 ways to turn your contact centre agents into superheroes using conversational AI.

New technology inevitably changes lives. However, rather than fear robots replacing front line customer service representatives it’s time to think differently and embrace automation to elevate the status of the contact centre agents and make their jobs more engaging.  

The aim of AI isn’t to replace people with robots.  As former Oracle director Paul Reader said, “Automation is not the future, human augmentation is.”[i]  From contact centres to factories, AI tools such as bots can reduce costs and increase team efficiency in a matter of months. Automation can be a game changer for customercommunication and overall job satisfaction. 

Change the mindset, starting with your people and AI will soon become a friend, not a foe. View this technology as the strategic enabler of employee productivity and satisfaction and see service levels, customer loyalty and profits soar.    

7 ways to turn your agents into superheroes

Use the latest AI technology to hasten your path to agent superstardom: 

1.    Eliminate the mundane – AI liberates agents by taking away the repetitive or mundane tasks, leaving them free to enjoy the challenge of tackling complex or emotionally sensitive calls that only humans can handle. 

It’s a smart move – by elevating the role of agents, you give them the career they deserve and in motivating them to train and hone their skills, they soon become the superheroes that every contact centre leader wants on their side.

2.    Build caller context – this can take many forms, for example a bot sitting on the front of an IVR menu asking preliminary questions while the customer is waiting or  analysing previous customer conversations to build caller profiles. This gives live agents the valuable intelligence they need to answer customerqueries with greater speed and efficiency when a call is transferred to them from their virtual colleagues.  The latest AI tools can even identify sentiment and notify the agent of a customer’s emotional state of mind.  Depending on the outcome of an interaction bots can direct the call to the best-skilled available agent at the appropriate moment.  

3.    Provide a warm handover – using Natural Language Processing (NLP), AI can understand the initial query and so provide a warm handover to a live agent who already knows what the person is calling about and doesn’t have to ask any unnecessary questions, one of the biggest irritations for customers.

4.    Good memory, good rapport – today’s AI tools are so sophisticated that they can measure customersatisfaction levels based on tone of voice and vocabulary. They speedily recognise repeat callers from voice and then use this intelligence to flag up pertinent information to customer service agents and alert managers to recurring issues that require multiple repeat calls.  Memorising the customer experience based on historical evidence drives proactive call resolution and builds customer trust.

5.   Deliver your best ever service – all forms of AI technology such as bots perform like the model employee – they never get tired, are never sick and because they don’t suffer from emotions, never have a bad day and they don’t need holidays!   Always predictable, they offer customers a great, consistent service any time of day or night and there’s no limit to the number of users one bot  can talk to at once. No matter how many people are already talking to it, yours can answer them right away in natural language – leading to lifelong, positive customer relationships.  Meanwhile, agents benefit from additional time to deal with more difficult and complex cases that only humans can handle or can even ask bots for advice on how to respond.  

6.   Humans and bots in harmony – when AI works hand in hand with the live agent team, contact centres benefit from all the perks of a human workforce plus the consistency of artificial intelligence to boost first call resolution for enhanced customer experience (CX).   

7.   Agent assistance – help new agents hit the ground running and become super     heroes in a matter of days.  The beauty of AI is that it acts as an agent’s personal assistant.  Let new joiners ask questions and allow experienced agents to share their customer success stories with an agent assistant to increase the company knowledge pool.  Agents can even ask the bot questions while in conversation with a customer to deliver fast, efficient responses.  

It’s time to embrace AI as a friend. AI is here to stay and it’s set to revolutionise the way businesses interact with their customers.  Start by turning your agents into superheroes.


Mistakes employers make with Gen Z and how to avoid them

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Generation Z are the cohort employers have least experience of, and so are at most risk of becoming disengaged in the workplace.

According to research from Towergate Health & Protection, in 2018, on average 48% of employees left a role because it wasn’t what they thought it would be, this figure is even higher for Gen Z workers with three-quarters (73%) quitting as a role did not meet their expectation*: a clear warning for businesses that Gen Zers are more likely to switch jobs if they’re not happy.

However, managers can accommodate the newest generation who boast different wants and needs to their predecessors to avoid these workers becoming totally disenfranchised.  

A new type of worker

Gen Z now outnumber millennials and account for 32 per cent of the global population** so employers need to learn how to engage and retain them, or risk alienating this new generation of talent.

The most common assumption made is that Gen Z are just like their older siblings, Millennials – they are actually very different and have their own set of values which was shaped by growing up during an economic downturn. 

Key characteristics that differentiate Gen Z:

  • Generation Z have been connected to the digital world since birth, growing up, their lives have been entwined with technology, social media and smartphones. They are the true digital natives. 
  • All the information Gen Z have desired throughout their lives has quite literally been at their fingertips. Entering a workplace where there is a lack of digital communication or information will feel completely alien to this group. 
  • They are more likely to save than spend their wages and are risk-averse and cautious when it comes to decision making, having lived through tough economic situations. 
  • Gen Z tend to place much greater importance on diversity and the environment than Millennials. 
  • Members of Gen Z do not identify themselves in clearly defined categories, but rather have a much more fluid sense of themselves, which makes them the most diverse generation to date. 

How to get the best out of Gen Z 

Understanding characteristics is one step, but to truly engage Gen Z, employers need to go even further. Businesses need to analyse the profile of their unique workforce, then look at how to support them holistically to truly engage them: 

  • Adapt communications and wellbeing initiatives within the range of Gen Z’s needs. Offering tailored support for health and wellbeing can be a great way to show Gen Z they’re recognised as individuals.
  • Employee benefits shouldn’t be standardised or necessarily employee wide. To appeal to Gen Z, businesses need to be creative and develop something which this group can tailor, such as offering DNA testing which is personalised – looking at an individual’s genetics in relation to improving areas such as nutrition, fitness, wellness, stress and sleep
  • Gen Zers grew up in the shadow of recession, they’re entrepreneurial but pragmatic, they want security and they’re willing to work for it. They are a financially savvy group who understand the value of saving money and will respond well to financial initiatives. 
  • Gen Z are at a time in their lives where they are beginning to have financial obligations (such as leaving home and taking responsibility for rental costs and household bills) so financial protection benefits such as income protection and life assurance can be of great value. 
  • Gen Zers are ambitious, they want to work for a company they believe in, with a culture that offers career growth. Leaders in the workplace need to be flexible, adapting their approach to deliver support and motivation in a way that resonates with them.

Brett Hill, Distribution Director, Towergate Health & Protection said: “We live in a unique era with five different generations all in the workforce at the same time, which has led to lots of myths about how to handle and communicate with each generation in turn. As each new demographic enters the workforce, they not only bring different skills and ideas but new expectations and ways of working, putting employers in the uniquely challenging position of adapting to an unknown generation of workers. 

“Failure to properly manage Gen Z can have a detrimental effect on a business’s ability to recruit and keep hold of talented people. As Generation Z enters the workforce, they are looking for an environment that is dynamic, social and helps support their physical, financial and mental health and wellbeing.”



How hyper-personalised content is changing customer communication

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By Michael Wright, CEO, Striata 

A raft of new technologies, many of which are easily integrated into existing channels, are changing the way organisations communicate with their customers. 

Chatbots, voice integration, and dynamic (, amongst others are at the forefront of this evolution. But organisations cannot simply implement these technologies and expect dramatic improvements in their customer communication efforts. 

Instead, they have to ensure that any new technologies are utilised in line with the broader goals of customer communication; that is, making communication as valuable to the customer as possible.   

To read the full article, click here.

This not a drill! Last chance to attend the Digital Customer Engagement Summit

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We have just one free guest pass available for Digital Customer Engagement Summit next month.

It takes place on October 15th at the Hilton London Canary Wharf and will allow you to:

  • Meet with a series of innovative suppliers for pre-arranged, 1-2-1 meetings
  • Attend seminar sessions hosted by industry thought-leaders
  • Discuss challenges and opportunities with other senior PAs and EAs
  • Enjoy complimentary lunch and refreshments

Register now to avoid missing out.

Cloud tech delivers ‘18% more customer satisfaction’

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The findings of the 2019 NICE inContact Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark has shown that companies with all of their contact center technology in the cloud report 18 percent higher customer satisfaction (CSAT) based on service experience compared to companies with on-premises contact center technology.

Furthermore, at 40 per cent, a significant portion of companies are very likely to invest in four or more channels to improve the customer service experience.

The 2019 NICE inContact Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark gauges the attitudes of businesses and consumers in key areas of customer experience.

The latest report on the business wave of the study provides insights on contact center technology investment plans amidst changing customer needs, and points to the need for businesses to move beyond multichannel offerings and create true seamless omnichannel customer experiences powered by a complete cloud customer experience platform.

The study polled contact center leaders in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia.  

Key findings:

  • Organizations with all of their contact center technology in the cloud report superior customer experience outcomes. Companies using cloud contact center technology report 18 percent higher CSAT as well as 36 percent higher likelihood to recommend their company from customers based on service experience, compared to companies with on-premises contact center technology.
  • Channels investment plans are significant. Forty percent of companies are very likely to invest in four or more channelsto improve the customer service experience in the coming year. Further, those who are very likely to invest in four or more channels who also have all their contact center technology in the cloud or are planning to move to the cloud are more likely than those with on-premises contact center technology to now offer eight of the 11 channels covered in the study, including communicating with customers on social media, online chat, SMS / text, video chat, IVR, mobile apps, chatbots, and service via a home electronic virtual assistant device.
  • Despite customer demand, investment plans for omnichannel functionality are lacking. Overwhelmingly, customers expect seamless omnichannel functionality when interacting with businesses, by a rate of 91 percent. Meanwhile, only 25 percent of businesses are likely to invest in new services that allow channels of communication to work together seamlessly. Consumer use of and preference for digital channels is on the rise. In the US from 2017 to 2018, chat use tripled, and text grew tenfold; preference for these channels grew 36 percent and 71 percent respectively.
  • Almost half of global organizations see a need for more agent-assisted resources. While customer reliance on self-service channels has spiked, increasing from 17 percent to 31 percent in the United States (based on the 2018 CX benchmark) 49 percent of businesses globally expect they will need more agent-assisted resources in the coming year. Among these businesses, 61 percent say the need is due to an increase in the number of customers interacting with agents.

Paul Jarman, NICE in Contact CEO, said: “From social media messaging, to text, to chatbots, the customer relationship takes place across a wide and diverse range of channels in addition to voice. As more customers embrace multiple digital channels to communicate and engage, it becomes increasingly important for businesses to be able to quickly adopt and integrate digital channels into a seamless omnichannel customer experience.

“The NICE inContact CX Transformation Benchmark not only shows that contact centers are moving to the cloud, but that those who are in the cloud, and those that plan to invest in customer experience, provide superior customer experiences. Leading organizations of all sizes can stay agile and ahead of customer expectations by leveraging a complete, unified and intelligent cloud contact center platform, to deliver quick, effortless interactions – anywhere.”

NICE inContact surveyed more than 900 contact center decision makers in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. The report presents global findings from the business wave of the research and provides insights on contact center leaders’ technology investment plans and contact center goals and metrics.

For more information and to download the full research report, please click here.

Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

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