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Stuart O'Brien

5 ways digital technology is improving the utility service experience

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By Tony Corlett, Commercial Enterprise Client Director at Maintel

The current utilities market has never faced greater competition or demands from regulators. However, adopting digital technology can significantly improve the overall utility service experience; from engaging and retaining customers, to adhering to regulation.

It’s easy for organisations to be overwhelmed by the myriad of services and technologies that are available to help them improve competitiveness or compliance. Selection of the appropriate technology and delivery partner is key to success.

Failure to effectively choose and integrate new technologies can have significant repercussions and affect relationships with customers, regulators, and ecosystem partners.

New technology can help utility organisations to improve operational efficiency, resilience, and compliance. Through integration of the online and on-phone experience, reducing costs, and empowering employees, digital technology has an important part to play in improving the utility service experience:  

  1. Improving customer experience

A great customer experience is paramount for utilities; from sales to in-life service, expectations are high, and competition is intense. This pressure comes in many guises, from industry peers, to resellers and comparison websites. So, the service experience must be easy, informative, and available through a range of contact channels. Failure to quickly meet customer expectations can result in them easily moving to another supplier.

Digital technology can significantly improve customer satisfaction by delivering systems that can provide information, handle calls efficiently, and integrate online and on-phone communications. Also, information provided during a service disruption or outage can significantly reduce customer frustration and improve overall call handling efficiency.

Services such as contact centre and unified communication solutions can help address the above challenges and improve the utility customer experience.

  1. Enhancing employee productivity and satisfaction

New technology now allows utility organisations to enable a more empowered and flexible workforce and therefore drive greater productivity. Ensuring that employees are engaged, motivated, and digitally empowered is key to maximising efficiency. Utility organisations typically depend on good internal communications to operate effectively, and so designing and integrating an effective workplace communication infrastructure is critical to improving the overall employee experience. Using technology to automate processes and free teams from repetitive tasks significantly helps drives efficiency and allows a focus on providing a great supply experience. Conversely, not harnessing new technology can undermine operational efficiency and restrict employees’ ability to deal with customer enquiries.

  1. Increasing security and ensuring compliance

Utility companies have unique safety requirements and often operate in high risk environments, with stringent compliance and security regulations across the entire organisation. Network security, protected data, intrusion protection, virus detection and removal are critical requirements for all utilities. Ensuring the safety and compliance of these organisations is essential to enhance cyber security and prevent threats including viruses, hacking, piracy and DDoS attacks. Leading-edge technology can help prevent breaches which could result in the loss of customer data or operational failure, both of which can be catastrophic for any utility organisation.

  1. Optimising organisational resilience

Organisational resilience is a priority for any utility organisation, both for competitiveness and for regulatory compliance. Installing a highly secure network solution ensures that multiple devices and locations can be seamlessly connected. This enables telemetry and usage data to be captured and analysed to optimise energy network performance and customer consumption. Networking technologies can also be used to monitor utility distribution infrastructure and help avoid leakage and wastage problems by allowing instant and secure access to critical system data. A highly resilient utility organisation is better positioned to sustainably serve the long-term needs of its customers.

  1. Operational efficiency

Managing costs and ensuring operational efficiency is critical for any utility organisation. Replacing old technology with more effective alternatives can lower support costs, improve the ability to collaborate and increase resilience. Proactively monitoring networks and usage patterns can also help to reduce wastage, minimise consumption and deliver sustainability. By using technology to monitor energy consumption, not only can the optimal supply and distribution balance be achieved but customers can also receive real-time consumption information to help them reduce their usage. In addition, digital transformation offers a convenient opportunity to simplify infrastructure by consolidating to fewer suppliers. Using a variety of technologies from disparate vendors is complex to manage and not always cost-effective.

Do you specialise in Virtual Call/Contact Centres? We want to hear from you!

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Each month on Contact Centres Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the customer care market – and in July we’re focusing on Virtual Call/Contact Centres.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help customer care industry buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of Virtual Call/Contact Centres solutions and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Carly Walker on c.walker@forumevents.co.uk.

Here are the areas we’ll be covering, month by month:

Jul – Virtual Call/Contact Centres
Aug – Training & Development
Sep – Knowledge Management
Oct – Web Self Service/Chat
Nov – Display Boards
Dec – CRM

For more information on any of the above, contact Carly Walker on c.walker@forumevents.co.uk.

WEBINAR REWIND: Staff wellbeing and engagement in your contact centre: Why your business success depends on it

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Don’t worry if you missed MaxContact’s recent webinar about why improving staff wellbeing and engagement is more important than ever to ensure business success in your contact centre – you can now watch the entire session on-demand.

With 72%* of contact centre workers saying they are burnt out or facing burnout, and the ‘great resignation’ hitting the UK contact centre industry hard, how do you look after your employee’s wellbeing, keep them engaged with your business and drive business results?

The panel discusses:

• Why staff wellbeing matters to your business
• How to engage staff to improve retention rates and hit targets and KPIs
• Key wellbeing and engagement initiatives to implement in your business now
• Live audience Q&A

About the speakers:

Natalie Calvert: CX and EX executive coach, Natalie Calvert, has led over 100 customer and employee experience transformations across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the USA. Natalie helps transform business culture, with her proven track record having impacted over 200,000 employees globally.

Sean McIver: With over 15 years experience in various roles and industries within the contact centre industry, from the front lines to looking after teams and systems, Sean has a wealth of industry knowledge. Now a Product Owner at MaxContact, Sean focuses on delivering the vision and objectives of MaxContact’s customer engagement platform, ensuring the customer voice is at the heart of every decision.

Click Here To Watch

*Independent research of 750 customer facing workers conducted in November 2021 by MaxContact.

Consumers want more self-service options

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81 percent of consumers say they want more self-service options yet only 15 percent of consumers expressed a high level of satisfaction with the tools provided to them today whereas businesses believe 53 percent of consumers are very satisfied with their self-service.

That’s according to the NICE 2022 Digital-First Customer Experience Report, which highlights significant gaps between company and consumer perceptions of current digital- and self-service channels.

This despite 95 percent of companies reporting a major increase in self-service requests in 2021, indicating a rapid growth in consumer demand for greater speed and convenience.

The 2022 Digital-First Customer Experience Report was designed to compare the perspectives of businesses and consumers regarding self-service and digital channels, drawing on responses from 1320 respondents in the United States and the United Kingdom.

NICE noted that consumer expectations are increasing as digital and self-service channels proliferate and evolve, which has led to companies searching for insights into customer experience and brand loyalty. The NICE report is intended to meet that need, revealing potential blind spots among service providers and helping them improve their digital and self-service options. For example, although 36 percent of consumers say they would like to see companies make their self-service smarter, less than 11 percent of businesses are making that a priority.

More generally, the NICE report indicates that 95 percent of consumers place great importance on customer service which impacts brand loyalty. Online self-service and easy access to their preferred channels are two of the top customer service factors in their decision regarding brand loyalty. The majority of consumers (57%) surveyed said they would abandon a brand after one or two negative digital customer service interactions, yet most businesses tend to underestimate how quickly that could happen. Nonetheless, the survey does show that companies recognize the importance of current digital channels to consumers and are attempting to improve their availability. In 2022, the top digital channels companies are planning to expand significantly are chat (47%), website access (44%), and search options (42%).

Paul Jarman, NICE CXone CEO, said, “Avoiding friction is the key factor today in shaping opinions and differentiating between brands consumers love and those they feel are not worth their time. We undertook the 2022 Digital-First Customer Experience Report in order to provide companies with the consumer’s viewpoint and to help them set priorities that drive frictionless experiences. While focusing on digital-first interactions, our report underscores the importance of both agent-assisted and self-service channels, with businesses primarily wanting the ability to choose whichever option they prefer at any given time. This confirms the need for CXi–Customer Experience Interactions–a new approach that focuses on the end-to-end digital customer journey, requiring a complete customer experience platform that only NICE CXone offers.”

You can download a copy of the report is available here.

Join the industry at the Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit this September

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There’s a free place waiting for you at the Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit – As a professional in this field, the event is designed to give you the opportunity to network and create new business relationships.

Here is what you need to know;

When: 12th & 13th September

Where: Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester Airport

Format: Corporate ‘speed-dating’. As our guest, you will be provided with a bespoke itinerary of pre-arranged, 1-2-1 meetings with suppliers relevant to your requirements. A series of seminars will also be hosted throughout the day, and overnight accommodation, all meals and refreshments are also included.

Who Attends: Senior customer service professionals, with representatives from the likes of EasyJet, Direct Line Group, Cineworld, The Perfume Shop, Ocado Retail, Hoist Finance and many more.

Click here to secure your FREE place or contact me today to find out more.

WEBINAR: Staff wellbeing and engagement in your contact centre: Why your business success depends on it

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Join MaxContact and CX & EX expert Natalie Calvert as we discuss how improving staff wellbeing and engagement is more important than ever to ensure business success in your contact centre.

With 72% of contact centre workers saying they are burnt out or facing burnout, and the ‘great resignation’ hitting the UK contact centre industry hard, how do you look after your employee’s wellbeing, keep them engaged with your business and drive business results?

By attending, you’ll have the opportunity to:

  • Find out why investing in employee wellbeing is key to successful business’ performance
  • Learn how to engage staff to improve retention rates and hit targets and KPIs
  • Discover key wellbeing and engagement initiatives to implement in your business now
  • Ask the experts in a live Q&A – Natalie has led over 100 customer and employee experience transformations across the world.

About our speakers:

Natalie Calvert: CX and EX executive coach, Natalie Calvert, has led over 100 customer and employee experience transformations across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the USA. Natalie helps transform business culture, with her proven track record having impacted over 200,000 employees globally.

Sean McIver: With over 15 years experience in various roles and industries within the contact centre industry, from the front lines to looking after teams and systems, Sean has a wealth of industry knowledge. Now a Product Owner at MaxContact, Sean focuses on delivering the vision and objectives of MaxContact’s customer engagement platform, ensuring the customer voice is at the heart of every decision.

Click Here To Register Your Place

Do you specialise in Artificial Intelligence? We want to hear from you!

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Each month on Contact Centres Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the customer care market – and in June we’re focusing on Artificial Intelligence.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help customer care industry buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of Artificial Intelligence solutions and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Carly Walker on c.walker@forumevents.co.uk.

Here are the areas we’ll be covering, month by month:

Jun – Artificial Intelligence
Jul – Virtual Call/Contact Centres
Aug – Training & Development
Sep – Knowledge Management
Oct – Web Self Service/Chat
Nov – Display Boards
Dec – CRM

For more information on any of the above, contact Carly Walker on c.walker@forumevents.co.uk.

UK businesses experience up to five security incidents each year

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Attackers are seizing on vulnerabilities in hybrid working environments, creating more work – and also larger budgets – for security teams, despite organisations accelerating digital transformation projects.

The latest State of Security Report from Infblox, which surveyed 100 UK respondents in IT and cybersecurity roles in the UK as part of its global sample, discovered that the recent surge in remote work has changed the corporate landscape significantly.

In fact 64% of UK organisations have accelerated digital transformation projects in order to support remote workers since 2020. This is higher than the global (52%) average.  

  As part of this shift just under half (49%) of organisations have increased customer portal support for remote engagement and 43% have added resources to their networks and data basis. Given that over a third (34%) have close their physical offices for good, this investment may prove to be a strong strategic move.  

Cybersecurity still causing headaches   

An increased digital footprint inevitably brings increased digital risk and the reality of a hybrid workforce is causing headaches for IT teams and business leaders. The data reveals that the loss of direct security controls and network visibility has half (50%) of UK companies more concerned about data leakage than anything else. Almost as many (45%) are worried remote worker connections will come under attack.    

It appears that organisations have good reason to worry, given the report found that 61% experienced up to five security incidents in the last year. However, there is some good news: 66% report that these incidents did not result in a breach. This may be because 73% were able to detect and respond to a security incident within 24 hours.   

Of the 44% reporting a breach, insecure WiFi access (47%) was the biggest cause. The data also suggests that UK workers are continuing to fall for phishing scams. In fact 4 in 5 (82%) breaches reported in the last 12 months were caused by this attack method. Phishing usually signals the need for or failure of employee and customer security awareness training that require technological backstops  

Defense in depth   

Infoblox’s report discovered that the majority of organisations are investing heavily in security tools to protect their hybrid environments. In fact, 59% of respondents saw bigger budgets in 2021 and 64% anticipate an increase in 2022.   

Many are turning to defense-in-depth strategies, using everything from data encryption and network security to cloud access security brokers and threat intelligence services to defend their expanded attack surface. As part of this, almost half of organisations (47%) are relying on DNS (Domain Name System) to block back traffic.    

“The pandemic shutdowns over the past two years have reshaped how companies around the world operate,” said Anthony James, VP of Product Marketing at Infoblox. “Cloud-first networks and corresponding security controls went from nice-to-have features to business mainstays as organisations sent office workers to work from home. To address the spike in cyberattacks, security teams are turning to DNS security and zero trust models like SASE for a more proactive approach to protecting corporate data and remote devices.”  

The full report is available for download here.  

Technology ‘increases employee inclusion’ in hybrid work

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In a world where 60% of employees say a hybrid work model is their ideal work arrangement, only three in ten (30%) strongly agree that their organisation provides them with the necessary technology to collaborate equally and inclusively from anywhere.

That’s according to Jabra’s 2022 edition of the Hybrid Ways of Working Global Report, carried out amongst 2,800 knowledge workers across six countries worldwide to understand the employee sentiments and motivations in this hybrid working era.

The future of work is virtual-first. With hundreds of millions of people collaborating on Teams, Zoom, and other unified communications platforms every day, these digital environments are the new standard for how we connect to one another. In fact, many employees have only ever met some of their colleagues on these platforms. Because of this, it is critical that leaders do all they can to get the most out of the virtual workspace, so employees can create more human and authentic relationships with their colleagues.

Professional audio technology impacts meeting inclusivity

Jabra’s research found that users of professional audio devices reported feeling more included in virtual meetings than those using either consumer audio devices or the microphones and speakers built into their laptops. In fact, users of professional headsets globally were 11% less likely to feel left out of the conversation in virtual meetings than consumer device or built-in audio users. Similarly, professional headset users were 14% less likely to report not being able to hear what’s being said in the meeting than built-in users and 12% less likely than consumer device users.

At present, only 29% of workers are using professional audio devices. As 87% of all meetings are either fully virtual or hybrid, with only 13% happening fully in person, it’s crucial that employees are able to make the most of them with purpose-built technologies. A lack of proper technology may make relationship-building in these virtual environments more tenuous and difficult than it needs to be.

Organisations that prioritise meeting equity have higher hybrid meeting engagement

Since the start of the pandemic and alongside the rise of hybrid work, the term “meeting equity” has entered the discussion to explore how organisations can create equitable virtual environments. In a traditional meeting room, every meeting participant has a place at the table and has equal opportunity to contribute to the meeting. However, a hybrid meeting setting consists of both physical and virtual meeting participants, so true meeting equity becomes harder to achieve.

Luckily, the research finds that organisations that take active steps towards achieving greater meeting equity are likely to increase engagement in hybrid meetings. In fact, 48% of hybrid workers say that their organisation priorities meeting equity, resulting in 53% saying they’re just as engaged in hybrid meetings as face-to-face meetings. This is compared to only 34% of full-time in-office workers who say that their level of engagement in hybrid meetings matches that of face-to-face meetings; amongst in-office workers, 32% feel their organisation prioritises meeting equity. Leaders need to take decisive steps to address meeting equity, regardless of the primary type of work model their organisation practices.

Video increases inclusion and productivity in virtual environments

Roughly half of all employees (49%) consider their office to be their laptop, headset, and wherever they can get a strong internet connection. But the research found a key location-agnostic way to impact an employees’ wellbeing and productivity levels: video. Sixty-two percent of employees say they feel more included and present in meetings when everyone attending has their camera turned on.

Similarly, 53% feel they can collaborate more productively on video calls than on audio-only calls. This is likely why 68% of employees say that standardised professional video cameras would help everyone participate equally in hybrid meetings. Moving forward, leaders have an urgent need to look into the best technology to inclusively connect all employees and business partners no matter where they’re working. This will be an essential part of achieving greater meeting equity and succeeding in the hybrid future.

Holger Reisinger, SVP at Jabra, said: “The way we work has changed forever and the current state of knowledge work requires access to digital platforms and technologies to be successful. As such, leaders need to prioritise the employee experience and ensure that they can thrive in virtual meetings regardless of location. It starts with identifying technologies that will enable both in-office and remote employees to collaborate on an equal playing field, so employees can seamlessly move between these places without feeling left out, unheard, or distracted. Only then will employees truly be able to work a flexible arrangement on their own terms and have a stronger emotional connection to both their digital and physical workspace.”

To download a copy of the full research report, visit: https://www.jabra.co.uk/hybridwork/2022

Register now for September’s Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit

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Following on from April’s successful event, we’d like to invite you to our 2nd annual Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit taking place on the 12th & 13th of September at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester Airport.

This intimate two-day event allows you to explore the latest insights and innovations.

As a professional within this industry your place is entirely free.

Your free pass includes;

· A personalised corporate “speed-dating” itinerary of relaxed meetings with innovative and budget-saving suppliers

· A seat at our industry seminar sessions

· Overnight accommodation at the venue – free of charge

· Complimentary breakfast, lunch and refreshments throughout

· An invitation to our evening drinks reception and networking dinner

Click here to register.

If you have any questions or would like more information then please do not hesitate to contact Victoria Petch at v.petch@forumevents.co.uk.