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Fast call centre analytics ‘vital’ in the new WFH normal

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The immediate provision of accurate speech analytics is becoming increasingly vital as contact centres increasingly look to maintain work from home (WFH) operational models.

That’s the view of leading call centre solution provider Avoira, which is anticipating heightened interest in the technology from delegates attending the virtual Contact Centre & Customer Service Summit.

The company reports managers are finding that the interactive nature of a sophisticated real-time analytics solution not only enables more effective call outcomes, but enhances employee engagement.

Speaking ahead of the Summit, Steve Watts, Avoira’s head of sales, said: “With team leaders and managers having lost the Captain’s Chair view of what’s happening minute-to-minute,  real-time analytics are even more important and compelling.

“As a result contact centre directors and heads of innovation are now taking a closer look at the sophisticated tools they might deploy to ensure productivity and service standards are maintained as the novelty of homeworking wears off.”

He adds that capturing real-time traffic not just within a centralised centre but across a remote working network, remains a challenge for all but the most potent speech analytic solutions.

As such Watts is expecting heightened interest at the Summit in the AI powered voice analytics solution which Avoira is set to showcase.

The cloud-based Xdroid solution is a rarity – arguably unique – in delivering real-time analytics of both voice and text communications. It automatically records and analyses all calls and monitors customer experience, compliance and the performance of individual agents, wherever they are working.

The powerful solution can detect and range of emotions, reporting on whether customers are displaying displeasure, uncertainty, disappointment or happiness. Based on analysis of dialogue, it provides on-screen prompts which can steer an agent to engage in specific actions – such as up-selling or making a compensatory gesture – at the time most likely to yield a positive response.

A formidable customer service tool, the technology claims to deliver an increased client retention rate of 30% and an inbound sales uplift of 14%.

It can also increase agent retention and reduce breaches which can result in legal or regulatory actions.

“It’s not just regulatory and legal compliance with which our solution can assist, but in ensuring employees, wherever they are, continue to subscribe to and share the organisation’s ethos,” says Watts. “By providing tools with which to help an agents job be performed more easily and effectively, it also helps them feel valued.”

Safeguarding your customers from fraud before – and after – COVID-19

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By Brett Beranek, VP & General Manager, Security and Biometrics at Nuance Communications

The spread of coronavirus has resulted in increased uncertainty for many. Even as we hopefully begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, feelings of ambiguity have triggered a variation of consumer behaviour. Some are plunging deeper into their work to stay productive and keep the feeling of development going. Others are ‘switching off’ from the news and current affairs by diving into box-sets. Many are calling their banks to check on payments, Direct Debits and seek reassurance.

Loitering behind the scenes of it all is an unfortunate reality often tied to uncertainty and associated behaviours – threat actors, also known as fraudsters. The sad truth is that fraudsters don’t stop their crimes because of a pandemic. In fact, they often seize the immense change that comes with an event like this to ramp up their activity. From social engineering to email phishing and the development of sophisticated – but bogus – websites, fraudsters are taking advantage of any guards down during this time.

During the initial phases of lockdown, we saw a huge increase in the volume of fraud attacks – ranging from 200% – 400%, depending on industry. Some of these relate directly to the pandemic and reports indicate there have been hundreds of coronavirus-related scams. With fraudsters now turning to track-and-trace apps in order to dupe individuals out of their data and hard-earned money, this is a number which is only likely to increase as we go on.

Last year, even before the impact of coronavirus hit, fraud reportedly cost the global economy $5 (USD) trillion. A global poll conducted by Nuance around the same time found nearly one in five (27%) UK consumers had fallen victim to fraud in the previous twelve months, losing an average of £1,000 each, due to inefficient passwords.

That fraud loss doesn’t just hit you and me, or the bank’s insurance premiums. It hits the firms unintentionally associated with the fraud. Customers are quick to move away from those associated to fraud when it happens, with three in five (60%) in the UK noting they would change service providers or brands if they fell victim to fraudsters through their services.

Safeguarding customers in the new normal

Over the last few months, businesses all over world have faced a myriad of challenges. Irrespective of size or sector, we’ve all needed to adapt in order to keep going. The early obstacles were around ensuring both connectivity and productivity, enabling employees to work effectively from home during this unprecedented period in history.

But securing this new home-based workforce and protecting every employee, as well as every customer, from fraud is still a major concern. Many are simply not prepared and do not have the latest safeguarding tools – such as biometric technologies – in place to shield themselves from financial loss and protect their customers from identity theft. In such an uncertain time, it’s never been more important for organisations to bolster their cybersecurity strategies and arm themselves with the technology to keep fraudsters at bay whilst maintaining usual levels of service.

The unsung heroes

The abrupt switch to home-working has put particular pressure on call centres – and their agents. Many have had little to no experience with enabling remote or home working environments and fraudsters are using this to their advantage – testing for vulnerabilities by directly attacking agents working from home or even pretending to be those agents to test for weaknesses in the wider business.

This would be a challenge enough in itself but those operatives are also having to manage a massive surge in customer call volumes at a global scale. The economic downturn has all but brought the travel and hospitality industries to their knees and customers are concerned about their finances. They have questions and – in a time when many physical banks and offices are only starting to reopen – they are turning to call centres for the answers. Banks in Ireland, for example, saw a 400% increase in contact centre calls, including an average of 7,000 calls a day from customers around mortgage-related concerns. 

In today’s circumstances, it can be difficult for customer care agents to navigate the sheer volume of calls, let alone separate the fraudsters from the real customers requesting to make these transactions. This is where biometrics can help.

The biometric barrier

With your contact centre agents tackling higher demand than ever before, biometrics could play a key role in protecting both them and your customers. Not only can it verify and authenticate a caller using just the sound of their voice and behavioural characteristics – saving your agents from having to ask knowledge-based questions – but it can also flag known fraudsters who are attempting to deceive.

This in turn gives your customers peace of mind in terms of the security of their account, and also streamlines the process and customer experience when they’re in contact with your brand.

Unfortunately, the most at risk of fraud are the elderly, especially during this pandemic. Indeed, according to Age UK, an older person in England and Wales becomes a victim of fraud every 40 seconds. This is an issue we need to address as an industry – and technology is there to support this fight. In fact, the most advanced technologies can now also enable organisations to identify those over 65 years of age when calling, and prioritise them accordingly using the sound of their voice – helping protect those at increased risk and further improve their experience.

Biometric solutions are emerging as a key resource in the armory needed to fight against fraud, especially during the coronavirus crisis. Their ability to identify customers, agents and fraudsters alike are helping to keep bad actors at bay and ensure that contact centre connections are safe and secure. By investing in such measures, businesses are taking a proactive stance to safeguard their employees and customers, putting security at the heart of their customer experience.

RPA: A key factor driving success in the COVID-19 era  

960 640 Catherine Gurwitz

By Catherine Gurwitz (pictured), Product Marketing Manager, NICE

Organizations around the world are turning to robotic process automation (RPA) to become more agile and efficient in the face of increased demand and rapidly changing environments during the COVID-19 pandemic. While call centers become increasingly aware of the necessity of a remote workforce, organizations are realizing the benefits of automation.

Leveraging RPA for COVID-19 challenges

Industries like healthcare, financial services and the public sector have rapidly mobilized resources to help people cope with the financial, health and practical challenges of life during a pandemic. But along with the growing volumes of service queries they face during the COVID-19 crisis, these organizations have been asked to allow their employees to work from home where possible.

The sudden need to accommodate remote work has put contact centers under enormous pressure. At this trying time, it is more important than ever to provide responsive, personalized and compassionate customer service. But providing a consistent customer experience in a distributed working environment can be challenging.

The pressures of responding to customers who may be anxious or ill can be overwhelming for remote employees used to working in a structured corporate environment. There are also the challenges of rapidly scaling up for demand and ensuring continuance in case employees cannot work because they fall ill or need to self-isolate.

RPA and COVID-19

Many organizations are turning to software robots for assistance. Robotic process automation (RPA) in the back-office and virtual assistants (attended automation) on employees desktops are helping enterprises to keep pace with growing service demands, support colleagues working from home, and ensure business continuity during these challenging times.

For companies wrestling with the challenges of COVID-19, RPA offers wide-ranging benefits. Every organization has clerical, time-consuming tasks that demand accuracy and speed, but don’t require decision-making to accomplish. Companies that have needed to downscale or even shut down normal contact center and back-office operations will have experienced a backlog in service requests such as changes of address or new account applications, for instance. Unattended robots are a perfect fit for tasks like those, which involve searching, cutting and pasting, updating the same data in multiple places, moving data around, and collating simple and repetitive items. Unattended bots, running on servers in the backend, can perform just about any rule-based work by interacting with applications.

With the escalating call volumes and back-office backlogs companies face due to COVID-19, unattended robots can power through high volumes of many admin driven tasks, such as: address changes, refund claims, orders, generation of customer letters and other tasks without any manual intervention required.  Everyone wins in this scenario: the customer gets a convenient experience and a quick response, employees can focus on complex, more personal interactions rather than on tedious manual work, and the company benefits from optimized efficiency and productivity.

Attended Automation, RPA and COVID-19 efficiencies

In the context of COVID-19, RPA really comes into its own when it is combined with an attended automation solution. Attended and unattended solutions working together can help organizations scale up and improve responsiveness at a time when contact centers are under enormous pressure because physical channels are closed for business.

At this time, employees may be facing a growing pile of paperwork and manual data capture requirements as national lockdowns begin to ease. An attended bot can help them catch up with the backlog. But it also improves engagement by helping them work efficiently to help each customer and freeing them from tedious work which machines can handle better.

Attended automation solutions can also capture data from scanned claim forms or faxes by using Optical Character Recognition (OCR), and then update back-office systems with the new data. The employee does not need to expend energy on this type of tedious, low-value task, allowing them to get more done and to focus on the human side rather than on data capture.

One common frustration for customer service employees is the requirement to cut and paste customer information from one system to another, or even to recapture data that exists in one corporate system in a different application. An attended automation solution can auto-populate forms in a blink of an eye, then allow the agent to add or change details as necessary, in real-time.

Attended automation is also a boon when front office employees need to work across multiple applications and systems. It can streamline laborious processes such as collecting data from numerous disparate systems and present it all in a single view for the agent. It can also perform real-time calculations for the agent and present a view of summarized customer data.

Challenges of remote work and automation

Since many employees are working remotely due to COVID-19, they are unable to turn directly to colleagues or supervisors for help and support. Virtual assistants have a valuable potential role to play in supporting remote employees – keeping them engaged, informed and connected. They can also prompt employees to follow company guidelines, policies and procedures – all in real-time.

This helps the organization to ensure regulatory compliance and maintain consistency of the customer experience. When a company changes processes or policies, the employee virtual assistant can help to quickly align staff to any changes. It can also enable front- line agents to speak in a coherent voice by providing them with contextually relevant guidance scripts in real-time.

When there are both attended and unattended process bots at work, in the event of a process exception or error, an attended bot can refer a request to a human worker for intervention when it cannot complete a task. The human worker can then ‘collaborate’ with their attended bot to resolve a process error or complication, in real-time. The automated flow can then resume without any downtime.

Succeeding with attended automation and RPA in the COVID era

Quickly getting to grips with attended automation and RPA, during this unpredictable and turbulent time can better equip call centers, agents and end customers to better adjust to this new reality and achieve success.  For more information on how to empower your remote workforce to click here.

COVID-19: A catalyst for change in the contact centre

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By Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO and Co-Founder, Content Guru

When COVID-19 caused mass lockdown across the UK, nearly every single organisation was required to send its employees home to work remotely, or face having to close business operations entirely. There is no escaping the monumental impact that COVID-19 is having and will continue to have on both individuals and businesses on a global scale.

From grandparents using Zoom for the first time, to legacy-reliant organisations modernising in the cloud, there is a huge wave of ‘digital acceleration’ building towards a ‘new-normal’. We are now seeing efficient remote working across industries that previously thought it impossible, as well as the clear environmental benefits resulting from this. Work-life balance may be somewhat strange, but employees are now being trusted more openly by their employers to work from home in an environment that suits their needs.

In light of this monumental shift to remote working and cloud-based technologies, the long-term effects of COVID-19 as a catalyst for change in all aspects of life will be profound, and one particularly strong instance of this can be found in the contact centre industry.

COVID-19 in the Contact Centre

The traditional contact centre environment – often characterised by its low-paid employees packed side-by-side into drab offices or warehouses under strict supervision – could be described as the mill of the modern age. While typically associated with a high employee churn rate, this environment is quite obviously a hotbed for spreading germs. The crowded spaces may make for unappealing working conditions during normal circumstances, but with the battle against COVID-19 firmly on the nation’s mind many contact centre agents now see their traditional working environment as a risky and dangerous place to be.

Social distancing measures have been in place for almost two months now. It is therefore surprising – if not shocking – to learn that research over this period has revealed many non-essential contact centres are still requiring agents to work in their offices on a daily basis. Undertaken by the University of Strathclyde, the research suggests only a third of contact centres now have social distancing measures in place, and half are still working face-to-face. When you consider that the majority (two thirds) of contact centre employees have asked to work from home and yet just four per cent of those requests have been granted, it seems likely that this is an industry not only taking a lackadaisical towards the pandemic, but one that is similarly uninterested in the wellbeing of its employees.

The dangers are real. More than 2,000 contact centre workers have answered the survey so far, reporting insufficient social distancing, multi-occupation workstations, poor sanitisation, and re-used headsets. On top of these poor practices, large on premise contact centres are potentially spreading germs through heating and ventilation systems in multiple open-plan offices. For an industry that employs around four per cent of the UK’s working population, these statistics paint a stark picture.

The time to innovate is now

It should be blatantly obvious that the contact centre of yesterday is not suitable for operation amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. However, looking beyond the pandemic, it is also suppressing the necessary evolution of the contact centre from a reactive centre of cost reduction, to a more proactive, value-driven engagement hub. Lifting these restrictions will provide the catalyst for the same digital acceleration we are now seeing across industries, while also empowering employees with the latest technologies, remote working capabilities, greater responsibilities, and more rewarding careers.

The contact centre industry employs more than a million UK workers, and this typically conservative, on-premise industry has faced a mammoth task of pivoting operations to react quickly and flexibly to the largely unforeseen pandemic. With cloud-based contact centre technologies leading the charge, organisations that have acted quickly to deploy remote working capabilities are now demonstrating to the industry as a whole how they can provide an excellent engagement experience for their customers, even under extremely strained circumstances.

Those organisations that have acted fast to move to a cloud-based technology platform are now breaking away from the pack. These are the architects of a revitalised industry, modernising in a post-pandemic world and rethinking how home agents can work in a liberated yet secure and supervised way – even in sensitive situations such as PCI-DSS-compliant card payments.

Beyond the pandemic

The influx of email notifications from service providers in all industries detailing a drop in contact centre service levels shows that many organisations still have some way to go. However, almost all will be taking action now and this will prove vital in the months and years ahead.

While the ‘new normal’, in which all businesses must operate, is certainly very different to the previous business landscape, the key issues and challenges facing the contact centre are the same. For those comfortably operating in the cloud and supporting secure remote working capabilities, the traditional challenges of reducing agent churn, managing learning and development and ensuring employee wellbeing will be far easier to overcome. COVID-19 has led many contact centre operators into an enforced proof of concept that will deliver them significant operational benefits in the long term. Those that were once scared or unsure about how to make the leap are quickly realising the benefits of a modern, cloud-based contact centre, remote workforce and a more environmentally-friendly industry.

Broken barriers

The pandemic has broken down barriers to innovation that blocked progress in the contact centre industry for decades. Agents across the country are comfortably performing their jobs in the same secure, compliant way as they would have in a physical office. Where there may have been a lack of trust around home working, the capabilities of cloud contact centre technology, such as real-time screen reporting and Quality Management for supervisors, have enabled contact centre managers to maintain complete visibility over their remote agents’ wellbeing and workload. Never has the call to innovate in the contact centre been more clearly heard than now.

This pandemic will change many things. For the contact centre, it will fundamentally alter the landscape forever – and for the better – marking the start of a more caring, efficient, agile and environmentally-responsible industry.

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