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WEBINAR: Speech analytics with CallMiner and Ember Services

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Identify and stop customer and agent dissatisfaction and trigger points for better business outcomes.

Hear how through Speech Analytics you can develop a deeper understanding of positive (and negative) behaviours amongst your customers and employees.

Join Ember Services and CallMiner 10 September, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. BST / 9:00 a.m. EDT to learn best practices that can help your agents, customers and business succeed.

Register for Identify Actionable Engagement Insights to reduce employee and customer churn today!

The Evolution of UK Call Centres

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Over the last thirty years, call centres have changed dramatically. Advances in technology and online communication channels have brought about a shift in customer expectations.

Successful call centres have adapted to meet these new challenges. The result is that today’s call centres are more dynamic and adaptive with a streamlined and strategic approach to handling queries.

The role of call centre agents is more complex than it ever used to be, necessitating changes in recruitment practices in favour of more qualified candidates with diverse skillsets.

So how exactly have call centres evolved over the years and how are these changes affecting the trajectory of call centres today?

A Brief History of Call Centres

Call centres (in a form that we might recognise) were initially established in the 50s to deal with operator enquiries at major telephone companies.

The technological advances of the 1970s and 1980s saw call centres established as integral to many large businesses and corporations. In 1985, Direct Line became the first company to sell insurance exclusively via telesales.

The relaxing of regulations on the UK telecoms industry in the late 80s precipitated a boom in call centres, making the UK call centre industry one of the largest in the world – second only to the USA.

In the 1990s however, the advent of the internet had an irrevocable impact on call centres; first attracting huge investments from venture capitalists only later to send many call centres into administration with the “dot com crash” of 2001.

Despite these events, the call centre industry was still in growth. In the 2000s, it became common practice for companies with large call centres to transfer operations abroad with South Africa, the Phillipines and India among the most popular locations. Although cheap labour costs in these countries made them an attractive prospect to business-owners, overseas call centres soon sparked a consumer backlash spurred on by difficulties associated with language barriers and the concern that jobs were being taken away from the UK.

This remains a controversial issue, although a number of prominent businesses have transferred their customer service operations back to the UK. Ultimately, the call centre is a staple of modern business practice and customer service in Britain.

The Role of the Agent

Today, call centres provide a vital source of employment and rewarding career opportunities for able young graduates and customer service specialists. Recent findings from ContactBabel show that over a million people now work in contact centres in the UK.

Social media, instant messaging and other online communication channels now form part of many call centre agents’ roles with customer support being delivered across multiple platforms rather than via telephone alone.

Agent salaries are expected to rise to reflect the increased complexity and growing demands of the role. Other developments include the use of “homeworking” agents with a network of individual agents connected by cloud technology, each working from their homes.

All in all, the UK call centre industry has demonstrated its ability to adapt to huge social and technological changes over the last thirty years and will continue to be a mainstay of modern business practice.

‘Huge risk’ of financial fraud for mobile banking customers using SMS passcodes…

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Aspect Software’s latest blog has issued a stark warning about the risk of financial fraud for mobile banking customers if banks continue to use SMS alone to send one-time passcodes (OTPs) to mobile devices to authenticate transactions.

Keiron Dalton, mobile security expert and Senior Director of Customer Strategy & Innovation at Aspect, suggests in his blog that this type of two-step authentication has been popular due to its ease and lack of disruption for the customer, but the threat of ‘SIM Swap’ fraud has now rendered it vulnerable.

He said [On BBC Radio 4]: “Genuine contact centre recordings from an online banking customer in the UK exposed the concerning simplicity of how someone was able to verbally convince an agent working for a mobile network operator to ‘swap’ the customer’s registered SIM card to one in their possession. Any OTPs generated from online or mobile transfers initiated by the fraudster would then go to their new SIM card, enabling them to authenticate and complete the transaction process.”

According to guidelines from the European Banking Authority (EBA), banks must use at least a two-factor authentication for complex transactions such as payments. But Dalton strongly recommends that if SMS is used, the provider must deploy extra context checks, such as divert detection, location-based checks using GPS, and SIM Swap detect via the contact centre.

Call Centre Summit

Call Centre & Customer Services Summit: Bigger and better than ever!

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Call Centre & Customer Services Summit: Bigger and better than ever!

With over 25 successful events under its belt; the Call Centre and Customer Services Summit is set to return bigger and better than ever this 2016 with an array of new delegates, increasingly innovative product and service providers and even more seminars packed into the two-day event. Taking place on the 18th and 19th April 2016 at the Radisson Blu Hotel, London Stansted; the event brings the industry together to discuss relevant business solutions through its proven concept of face-to-face meetings. With endless networking opportunities and interactive seminars; the Call Centre and Customer Services Summit has established itself as an unparalleled platform for both suppliers and delegates to build upon their database of contacts and expertise within the dynamic industry.

Over its 12 year lifespan, the event has long established its position as a market leader. The Summit is purposely smaller than other events in the industry – focusing on quality over quantity. Differing to trade shows and exhibitions; delegates and suppliers are carefully sourced to match each other’s requirements. Using a unique matchmaking process, the Call Centre and Customer Services Summit team manages to achieve compatibility between attending delegates and suppliers – ensuring both parties leave the event with a handful of useful contacts.

Recruiting delegates with significant purchasing power and upcoming business projects; the event recognises the importance of time in the world of business. By handpicking suppliers with products and services relevant to the needs of attending delegates, the event works as a time-saving device for all parties involved. The event therefore serves as unique opportunity to learn about what’s new in the market while sourcing suppliers in a relaxed, non-hard sell environment over the course of just two days!

Coveted for its unique combination of face-to-face meetings, seminars and networking opportunities; over the years the event has received masses of positive feedback. A senior representative from Capita comments on the 2015 event;

“As far as events go, this one did exactly what it says on the invite; it puts you in front of the key contacts in key companies and all in one place, superb. They checked throughout the day that it was meeting my expectations and it did. Very well organised from the start to finish, will definitely attend again”

This year’s event will be hosting some big names, expect the likes of Addison Lee, EE, Legal & General, Mencap, MOO, Ocado Europe, Premier Inn, Smith’s Medical, Xerox and many more.

With customised pop-up stalls bringing supplier brands to life; the Summit is the ideal place for suppliers to showcase their products and services to the people that matter. Exclusively attended by senior decision-makers; the Summit increases brand awareness, promotes innovative products and services and above all, generates strong sales leads.  The Call Centre and Customer Services Summit team has a strong understanding of exactly what delegates require; putting this knowledge to use with our unique matchmaking formula, the Summit introduces suppliers to delegates exclusively interested in the products and services they provide, allowing business to grow their customer database effortlessly.

Selected based upon the requirements of attending delegates; our current suppliers offer a broad range of innovative products and services including agent coaching and monitoring, analytics, automated customer satisfaction surveys, benchmarking, call centre technology, contact centre solutions, mystery shopping, social media and workforce management, amongst many others. This year, we will be hosting the likes of Ctalk, Premier Customer Experience, Plantronics, Randstad, Real Results and many more. Attending last year’s Summit, Scorebuddy comments on the event;

“This was our second Summit and we were again very impressed with the pre-event arrangements, the on-site organisation and, in particular, the flexibility and helpfulness of the staff…. I have no hesitation in recommending this event to others seeking to generate sales opportunities in a friendly professional forum”

Within the increasingly competitive industry; the importance of a good business relationship between businesses and their product and service suppliers has become critical. With this in mind, the Summit gives delegates and suppliers the opportunity to interact on a personal level through concept of matchmade face-to-face meetings. After all, evidence does show that people prefer to invest in businesses they have met face-to-face.

Alongside face-to-face meetings, the event hosts several seminars given by the industry’s best. Offering practical solutions to problems within dynamic industry; the vast seminar programme will be welcoming industry specialists Netcall, mplSystems, Scorebuddy, Ogilvy Change and Real Results to shed their wisdom on a diverse range of topics concerning the call centre and contact services industry in sharp 45-minute long seminars and workshops; ensuring attendees remain fully informed on industry advances and the most effective customer services techniques.

The Summit goes the extra mile, with a handful of relaxed networking opportunities over its infamous gala dinner, drinks and evening entertainment; the event ensures attendees get to know each other that little bit better – synchronising businesses together for lifelong business partnerships.

With plenty of opportunities to network and make relevant contacts; the Call Centre and Customer Services Summit has established itself as an unparalleled platform to learn, engage and share amongst the industry’s top players.

The Call Centre and Customer Services Summit will be taking place at the Radisson Blu Hotel, London Stansted on 18th and 19th April 2016. With limited places available, don’t miss out on joining us for this exclusive event. Click here to register.

Follow the event on Twitter @CallCentreCSSum for live updates.

Debut Call Centre Meet Up brings industry together

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Here at the Call Centre and Customer Services Summit, we are all too aware how hectic the call centre industry can be. With demanding hours, tough calls and even tougher targets, it can feel a bit overwhelming at times. So, it is always heartening to meet and connect with others in the industry to remind ourselves what a great sector it is to work in.

Therefore, together with our event sponsors, Oracle, Experience Assist and VoltDelta, we debuted our first ever ‘Meet Up’ for the call centre industry in November this year; bringing together the who’s who of the industry, including buyers from big names such as Morrison Utility Services, Sierran Ltd, The Princes Trust and Spotify, for an exclusive night of networking in London.

Everyone was invited; from contact centre to customer service professionals, our ‘Meet Up’ was the perfect opportunity for all of our industry professionals to get together to discuss the latest industry news, technologies and advances over drinks and nibbles.

Kicking off the event, Steve Fearon from Oracle gave a quick opening speech; then it was time for some networking. Our event sponsors hosted a range of engaging discussion groups and shed their wisdom on the ever-changing industry. Everyone got stuck in, keen to discuss their personal experiences; problems, successes, concerns and conversations went well into the night! To top the event off, we had a few surprises instore for our guests!

Teaming up with our event sponsors, we had a handful of fantastic prizes up for grabs; a Tablet, Headset, Fire TV Stick and a complimentary Mystery Shopper Experience! Congratulations to our four lucky winners; Myles Lant from Clarity Leeds, Andy Nijs from HGS, Alessandra Marti from Rupert Sanderson and finally Russell Wilson from Chaucer Direct and a huge thanks for attending the event!

Our first ever ‘Meet Up’ provided a unique platform for industry professionals to get together to learn, share and engage in a relaxed, fun-filled environment, packed with a handful of networking opportunities. Gayle Buckland, Event Manager comments;

“With over 100 call centre & customer service professionals in attendance all sharing best practice and getting involved with our event sponsors Oracle, Experience Assist & Volt Delta – the night was a huge success! We will be hosting another event early next year – keep your eyes peeled!”

As it was our first time hosting such an event within the industry, we would like to extend our thanks to our attendees for taking time out of their busy schedules to meet, greet and discuss our industry’s news and happenings over drinks and nibbles.

Driving down customer churn

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Some of the main reasons for high customer churn are the loss of trust in the company, lack of knowledge by service representatives and a poor customer journey.  It is important for all businesses to know what their areas for improvement are and ensure that they understand their customers full journey when buying from them.

A customer journey begins long before you know who they are and they know that you have what they need. Their journey will differ from industry to industry and service to service but the stages are the same.  Your customer is going to do over 80% of their decision making before they come onto your radar.  Along their buying journey, they will very likely be in contact with your website, discussion forums, FAQ page, chat line, POS, call centre, after sale care, social team and on and on.

Customers expect an excellent customer and seamless customer experience.  Are you able to give one?

At the Call Centre Meet-up, Oracle will be hosting a VIP area dedicated to the Customer Journey.  Along with this area, there will also be the ability to meet with like-minded attendees regarding Commerce, VOIP, Web Chat, Social Marketing, Web Customer Care and Workforce Management.

Oracle offers a complete, cloud-enabled customer experience (CX) solution; click here to learn how to differentiate your company across all channels.


Are Artificial Intelligence customer service agents the vision of the future?

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A new artificial intelligence computing system has been unveiled, which promises to transform the global workforce. Named ‘Amelia’ after American aviator and pioneer Amelia Earhart, the system is able to shoulder the burden of often tedious and laborious tasks, allowing human co-workers to take on more creative roles.

International IT company IPsoft launched the AI platform which has bee designed specifically to work alongside humans and ‘shoulder the burden of tedious often laborious  tasks’. ‘Amelia’’s ability to understand and process text, tasks and create solutions to problems and questions leads it seamlessly into the world of call centres and customer services.

Interestingly, she can learn from previous conversations, and also adapt contextually to understand user needs in a way which has never been seen before.

The Wall Street Journal reports that some Fortune 100 companies are already testing Amelia in their call centres, where her machine brain gives her the kind of consistency that humans can’t compete with. Although  IPsoft are keen to  emphasise the business advantages of using an AI system over a human, there is a underpinning threat and uncertainly associated the robots replacing human employment and interaction.

Analysts at Gartner predict that, by 2017, managed services offerings that make use of autonomics and cognitive platforms like Amelia will drive a 60 per cent reduction in the cost of services, enabling organisations to apply human talent to higher level tasks requiring creativity, curiosity and innovation.

The key to planning and implementing a successful multi-channel strategy

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When devising and planning a successful multi-channel strategy, the importance of ‘value’ to the customer is key.

And while there is no set formula that can be applied uniformly across the board, experienced customer service managers will tell you there are certain constants that should always form the backbone of any strategy:

  • Know your audience — Knowing them well will mean you learn your customers’ triggers. This, coupled with pinpointing the channel of choice will have a positive impact on customer relations.
  • Effective technology — While everyone nowadays has apps and mobile technology, not everyone uses it effectively. It doesn’t have to be innovative, it just needs to be effective.
  • Social is no longer a ‘specialised extra’ — Using social media has become as integral to a company’s staff as using Microsoft Office or checking emails. Social is no longer just the domain of the marketing team, it is now the whole firm’s responsibility.
  • Easy to find — Make your various channels easy to find. By effectively optimising for search engines, all of your various channels and their information will be easy to access for your customers.

Tap into emotions — The combination of multi-channels, numerous customer engagement touch-points and an emotive message is a winning one. This was best illustrated by the 2013 award-winning ‘Meningitis: Keep Watching’ campaign.

How ‘artificial aggression’ could soon be helping your business

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eConnect - Article 1 ImageWatch most science-fiction these days and you won’t fail to notice constant warnings about the inevitable and unstoppable rise of artificial intelligence (A.I.). But it looks like customer service agents should be getting used to ‘artificial aggression’ much sooner.

New Zealand-based tech firm Touchpoint has spent more than £230,000 developing an ‘angry’ software programme called Radiant. It will allow contact centres to run test scenarios using millions of pre-loaded responses based on real-life irate customer interactions and help agents improve their skills in the face of some of the most difficult and abusive customers.

Touchpoint CEO Frank van der Velden told The Australian: “The end goal is to build an engine that can recommend solutions to companies – and we’re talking about the people at the frontline here – how they can improve particular issues that customers are facing.”

It’s an interesting concept and one that, in theory, makes good business sense. In ironing out any problems in testing rather than encountering them in real-life situations, reputation damage can be limited and customer retention improved. At this stage, the variety of scenarios Radiant could provide remains to be seen. But here at eConnect we think any innovation in improving customer experience has to be a welcome one.

A staggering 9 in 10 contact centres are ignoring customer ‘experience’ demands

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eConnect - Article 2 ImageSince the rise of mobile and connected devices, contact centres have seen a sharp increase in customers demanding a service ‘experience’ across numerous channels. Furthermore, they expect a company to be able to recognise their ‘journey’ of interactions on those various different channels.

Unfortunately, supply has yet to meet demand — a recent WebHelp survey of 200 businesses around the world has shown that nearly 90% of them have not yet fully consolidated their voice and non-voice platforms into one seamless experience; or an ‘omni-channel’ experience. This figure is particularly staggering when the study shows the use of non-voice contact among consumers has more than doubled (from 32% to 68%) since 2012.

The study also revealed that some 70% of firms are investing in analytics to better understand how to serve their customers, but it would appear that they are either not acting on the results or simply ignoring the desires of their customers.

As technology advances exponentially in the future, businesses will have to keep up with new developments and meet changing demands. Putting development of the customer experience on hold or neglecting a core audience altogether could, as WebHelp concludes, ‘be the worst decision [a company] has ever made’.

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