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Jack Wynn

‘Smart Machines’ will enter mainstream by 2021, says Gartner

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Intelligent automated machines are set to become the industry norm, according to boffins.

IT research specialist, Gartner, believes the application of artificial intelligence and cognitive computing, or ‘smart machines’ will become an increasingly regular sight in the next decade.

Smart machines are defined by Gartner as technology capable of learning on their own and adapting from their experiences to come up with unanticipated results.

The growth of less dependent AI will have huge aspects on the industry, and Gartner believes the process will be transformative but disruptive.

“Smart machines will profoundly change the way work is done,” said Susan Tan, research vice president at Gartner. “From dynamic pricing models and fraud detection, to predictive policing and robotics, smart machines have broad applicability in all industries.”

Such uses as customer service and advising enterprises could affect contact centres significantly.

 

7 ways Generation Z will change the working world

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A new study has revealed a number of key ways that the next generation of workers will affect the landscape in 2017.

Traditionally described as being born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s, ‘Generation Z’ represents the new wave entering the workforce this year.

Communications specialist 8×8 has released a study in which full-time and part-time employed Generation Z, Millennials and Generation X workers were surveyed on their preferences, and here’s a rundown of how Gen Z are presenting a new hope in the workplace.

 

1. Email & Landline Decline

A huge number surveyed saw email as a dying art, and just 5% of Generation Z said they prefer landlines, as the smartphone continues to become the new communication hub. When taking the survey, twice the amount of Gen Z used a smartphone compared to other generations.

2. Embracing the Bot

Almost 70% of all participants in the survey agreed that many current jobs could be replaced with automated services, with even more agreeing that bots will continue to take over jobs in the future.

3. Blur the Lines of Personal and Work

56% of respondents admitted they’d rather use the same tools for their work as well as personal lives, such as phones and laptops.

4. Value Communication

As more and more conversation becomes digital, the value of genuine conversation is growing, with one in four Gen Z preferring talking in person. This is contrary to Millennials (aged around mid-20s to mid-30s), who believe face-to-face communication is becoming less important to business.

5. Smart Workplaces

Across generations, over half believed that connected devices and applications, such as wifi-enabled cars and smart fridges, could have untapped workplace applications, as many believe work environments need to catch up with the constantly evolving leisure landscape.

6. Less Tech Dependent

Generation Z hasmore in common with the older Gen X (aged around 35-50) when it comes to technology in their life, with only around 26-27% owning wearable tech such as smart watches, or wireless appliances. With the generation still being young and many of these applications being fairly expensive, however, it’s yet to be seen if these statistics will change in the years to come.

7. Effectiveness over Efficiency

The majority of Millennials admit to wanting to use the communication tools that save them the most amount of time, such as messaging and chat apps. Gen Z is  the least likely of all generations to embrace informal methods of communication for work, instead admitting they would prefer to use tools that are the most effective for the job, even if doing so takes more time.

If you’d like to learn more, you can read the full study, “Rogue One: How Generation Z is Going to Bring Balance to the (work)Force,”

EE brings 1,000 jobs to UK & Ireland

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100% of EE customer service calls will now be answered within the UK and Ireland as the company has created over 1,000 jobs in the last year.

The announcement follows parent company BT’s announcement of introducing 500 more positions to tackle increased customer demand.

Unlike its parent company, EE is among the least complained about mobile companies in the UK according to OFCOM, having received just five complaints in every 100,000 last quarter compared to BT’s 36.

The mobile giant has made a lot of progress since 2014, when the operator was receiving 12 complaints per 100,000, although its second quarter 2016 was the lowest record according to OFCOM, with just four.

EE was beaten to the top spot by O2, Three and Tesco Mobile, with Tesco receiving on average just a single complaint in every 100,000.

“2016 was a landmark year in the service that we provided to our customers,” said EE CEO Marc Allera, “We’re passionate about making our service the best in the industry, so you can expect more to come soon.”

On the horizon for EE is expanding its 4G coverage. By 2020 the company is hoping to have covered 95% of the UK’s landmass.

 

Top tips for workplace recovery

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Business continuity is critical for building resilience within your company by allowing you to work through a disruption and giving you time to recover.

Most understand the need for business continuity, but it’s often seen as too expensive or time consuming to address, but this doesn’t need to be the case.

IT and recovery specialist DSM has compiled its top tips to avoid disaster:

 

1. Carry out regular risk assessments

Taking steps to eliminate or minimise potential threats is a vital step in the operation of your business.

2. Consider possible scenarios

Planning and analysing threats to determine the impact on your business is a simple and straightforward way to protect yourself.

3. Compile an action plan

Maintaining business as usual makes a huge difference during a crisis, and putting formal contracts in place will enable fast recovery of essential operations

4. Document key business processes

In case of emergencies involving staff either being absence or busy, having basic processes on paper helps maintain the situation. Making sure no critical activities are operated by a single individual will also help.

5. Review supplier resillience

Are your suppliers capable of meeting your Service Level Agreements? A quick review and multiple sources help reduce reliance on any one single supplier.

6. Protect company information

Ensuring it can be accessed and rapidly restored will help during a disaster, but not at the risk of security, which should be a top priority.

7. Regular tests

Proving you can function should you lose a vital service, or even your entire business environment, will help prepare you for a future need for adapting.

8. Get employees involved

Encouraging all employee involvement with preparation and testing helps for staff to buy in to the importance of keeping your business ticking over, as well as providing lifelines if a senior employee is absent.

Industry Spotlight: Premier CX – top 30 energy supplier customer call experiences

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Premier CX have conducted a thorough audit of 30 of the UK and Ireland’s top energy supplier customer calling experiences.

Following on from a hugely successful Water Utility research project back in the Summer of 2016, the award-winning contact centre consultants were keen to apply their pragmatic methodology across the energy supplier market.

On Wednesday 18th January, Premier CX will share the full results of this audit in a unique and highly focussed live webinar.

Hosted by Kevin Freeman, Contact Centre Development Director at Premier CX, all registrants will receive a copy of the full report, exploring each element of their customer calling experience in depth, as well as a clear competitor comparison.

Kevin Freeman comments on the auditing project: “In conducting this customer call audit, we’ve collected more than 4 hours of raw audio across 1,700 individual data points. Needless to say, it’s given us a pretty comprehensive insight into the commitment that the top energy suppliers have to their customer experience.”

As the focus of energy suppliers shifts towards customer experience as a differentiator, this study highlights the opportunity for increasing efficiency, saving costs, and meeting KPIs throughout the energy industry. Kevin Freeman concludes, “We have over 20 years of specialist knowledge in customer experience, so we’re very excited to be presenting the results of our findings live via this webinar.”

The Energy Supplier Customer Call Experience Webinar will air live at 10.00am on Wednesday 18th January. To register for this webinar, please go to – premiercx.co.uk/energy-webinar

BLUECREST HEALTH SCREENING TO BOOST CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE USING 8X8

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Bluecrest Health Screening is introducing cloud-based communications technology to improve the service for its customers. Adopting 8×8’s Virtual Contact Centre and Quality Management solutions will give the company’s customer service agents the tools to provide an excellent experience at every stage of an interaction.

A leader in private health screening sessions for signs of illness, Bluecrest Health Screening needs its staff to be fully equipped to deal with customer enquiries effectively and sensitively.

Bluecrest needed one unified platform that lets its staff communicate with customers using their preferred method. 8×8’s Virtual Contact Centre offers staff the ability to respond via phone or email and with space for 30 staff on the system, Bluecrest can easily increase or decrease the numbers of agents based on service demand. As all cases are fully updated in the cloud after every interaction, agents can pick up from one another without needing to ask customers repeated questions.

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Analytics is key to measuring and improving agent performance; however, the incumbent reporting system needed manual input, which drained managerial time. Now all communications and cases can be tracked from just one place, saving time and ensuring that staff performance is always outstanding.

8×8’s analytics tools are also integral to Bluecrest to be able to track the success of marketing campaigns. Bluecrest uses more than 100 non-geographic numbers as part of direct mail campaigns and the ability to record call volumes and responses has been crucial in evaluating their effectiveness.

Angela Rodbourne, Contact Centre Director at Bluecrest, said: “We’re always looking at how we can improve our customer service using the latest technology. It’s important as a leading provider of healthcare that the level of service we provide in screenings is not only first class but also consistent, which is just as important when our customers reach out to speak to us. Next year, we’re hoping to achieve ISO 9001 to demonstrate our ability to provide excellent services to customers; we’re confident 8×8’s Virtual Contact Centre will help us with this.”

Kevin Scott-Cowell, UK MD of 8×8, said: “It’s important that companies like Bluecrest can rely on their chosen technology to work effectively and improve customer service in a sensitive space. We’re looking forward to working with them to improve service standards and support their bid to achieve  ISO 9001 accreditation.”

 

For more information visit Bluecrest via http://www.bluecrestscreening.com/ and 8×8 at https://www.8×8.co.uk/

Forum Insight: Top tips for social media success while attending B2B events

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Whether you’re going to a big industry expo, specialist conference or attending one of our Forums or Summits, social media can help you get the most out of the event.

 

So we’ve pulled together five top tips to get you going…

 

  1. Get yourself up to date

Whether you’re an attending as a delegate or a supplier, make sure your personal and company social media profiles are up to date.

That’s everything from the logo and description to posting a few things to the account (whether that’s Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn) to make sure it looks active.

Don’t forget, a lot of the people you meet at the event will do some research on you and your company by way of a follow up ­­– you want to ensure they have a great first impression when they stumble across your social media on Google.

If you don’t have a social presence, you really, really, should. It takes no time at all to get the basics set up on Twitter or Facebook and there are plenty of ‘how to’ guides out there if you need some help with brand pages and the like.

 

  1. Do some research

So your social media accounts are up to date and ready to go, now you need to find out where the conversation’s going to be happening.

Twitter is will be where you’ll see most activity during a live event, so spend a little time before you get there doing some research – find out what the event Twitter handle is (follow it if you haven’t already) and what the official hashtag will be.

Also, make sure follow a few industry media outlets ­– this will help you keep track of what’s happening at the event while you’re ensconced in meetings all day.

 

  1. Start the pre-event hype

During the lead up to the event let everyone know you’re going – @mention the official account and use the hashtag. Let the world know you’re super-excited, particularly if you’re exhibiting or speaking – tell them what you’re going to being talking about or the products you’re going to be showing off. You can do this across Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Also, think about using a company or campaign hashtag if you’re going to be doing special promotions during the event.

If you are promoting specific products or services, create a landing page on your website with data capture, just for the event in question – you can then push people there via social media so they can request more info.

 

  1. On the day…

The first thing to do is to check yourself in virtually across your social accounts – you’re in the building and you’re ready for business.

Now, if you have a busy event itinerary you’re not necessary going to have time to live tweet the entire thing. If that’s the case, say it with pictures – busy stand? Take a picture. See a great product on display? Take a picture. Sitting in an interesting conference session? Take a picture. It’s a quick and engaging way of getting your message across.

And if you spot something compelling, post a video.

You can also schedule posts in advance using tools such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. This is particularly useful if you’re trying to drive stand traffic or promoting products – and don’t forget to push people back to that website landing page.

Keep an eye on those industry news feeds – retweet or pass comment on any big announcements and get involved in the conversation.

 

  1. After the event

This is when you can have some fun. If you have a company blog, write up your experiences of the event. You don’t have to write an essay – 350-500 words would be sufficient – and then push that article out across your Twitter, Facebook and Linked in accounts.

Perhaps the most important post-event task is to follow up on all those delicious new leads and contacts you made – make sure you follow and like their social media accounts, both personal and company.

Finally, it’s worth searching the event hashtag and scrolling back through its timeline to catch up on the show news and, perhaps more importantly, see what your industry peers were up to…

Contact Centres Need to ‘Communicate With Customers’

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A survey has revealed that an overwhelming majority of Brits have a negative perception of call centres.

90% surveyed by Aquarium Software admitted they expect to be sold something when answering a call from a centre even though that makes up just one quarter of calls made in the industry.

“These results are worrying,” according to managing director of Aquarium Software, Ed Shropshire, who believes a large factor in positively changing public opinion is adapting to modern technology.

“Only the right software can allow contact centres to interact with customers in a way they find acceptable,” added Mr Shropshire, explaining that “if a customer is asking you a question via Twitter, a reply via phone call is unlikely to be appreciated.”

Making use of these ‘omnichannel systems’ lets consumers contact on their terms, giving companies a stronger reputation.

“There are always going to be a small minority who do engage in unsolicited selling,” but says that the future of the industry will be led by those who are willing to offer more ways to communicate, which will help “show the public that contact centres are a valuable and worthwhile resource.”

5 trends transforming Call Centres in 2017

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The Call Centre industry is “evolving at a very rapid rate”, according to leading industry analyst Peter Ryan. “Whether it is new technologies, alternative points of delivery or taking on the growing multitude of channels needed to communicate with today’s mobile consumer, enterprises need reliability and quality,” he claims, whilst offering his predictions for 2017

 

1 Location and languages spoken will become less important

The rise of automation will see a change in how people interact with call centres. As computers and voice recognition continues to impress, new business models focussing this way will change current opinions and concepts on off-shore and nearshoring.

 

2 Central and Eastern Europe will provide huge UK opportunities

In the post-Brexit world, studies are already showing countries such as Romania and Poland are increasing as top outsourcing destinations, as the countries are building reputations for customer service and financial attractiveness.

 

3 Data Security is more important than ever

As technology becomes the backbone of the industry and payment options become quicker and easier, security has to keep up with the evolving world in order to prevent dangers such as data and identity theft.

 

4 The boom of Apps, Chatbots and Mobile

It is predicted that around 85% of customer interaction will be entirely automated by 2020, and the companies that can more quickly make that switch will be leading the pack.

 

5 The departure from traditional voice

In the world of instant messenger, digital interaction is becoming the communication of choice for younger generations. Call centres will need to open up more channels in order to appeal to as many customers as they can, including emails, live chat and a broader range of social media if they want to stay relevant with an increasingly tech-savvy customer base.

Positivity Pays in 2017

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Almost three quarters of Brits anticipate a more positive 2017 than 2016, which could see an increase in public spending.

A study by the Institute of Customer Service showed customers are 69% more likely to spend if they are surrounded by positivity, which could lead to good news for businesses as 73% expect this year to deliver more good news than 2016.

The last year’s controversial headlines polarising public opinion has left many feeling negative, and the Institute of Customer Service poll revealed companies could increase profits by 30% if customers were engaged in ‘friendly conversation’.

Other factors likely to encourage more consumer interaction and spending were by employees remembering a customer’s name, personalised offers and employees taking longer to understand their needs.

“Consumers are willing to pay a premium for a genuine and authentic experience,” explained Jo Causon, chief executive of Institute of Customer Service, emphasising that while the business world is currently filled with uncertainty, helping understand employees “could pay dividends.”