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IBM

IBM and Lenovo partner on blockchain-powered customer services

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

IBM is providing Lenovo’s Data Center Group with Cognitive and Blockchain-powered field service solutions in over 200 countries worldwide.

The multi-year agreement continues to build on the IBM-Lenovo relationship that began in 2005.

According to IBM research, more than $1 trillion is spent on 265 billion customer service calls each year industry-wide, with 50% of those calls going unresolved.

It says that data, compounded by a recent report, revealed that poor customer service is costing businesses more than $75 billion a year –up $13 billion since 2016.

IBM says its latest enterprise collaboration means when a customer connects with an agent for Lenovo’s server, storage, or networking services, IBM’s Virtual Assistant for Technical Support uses its natural language capabilities and contextual recognition to personalize the conversation.

It is designed to ask targeted questions about service issues and obtain solution advice. It will also access key customer information.

“The enterprise today is equipped with a host of new technology solutions built to offer customers unprecedented support and deliver a world-class customer experience,” said Laura Laltrello, Vice President and General Manager, Lenovo Data Center Group. “We are looking forward to working with IBM to take the next step with our customers to deliver a personalized and seamless experience that ensures we continue to deliver industry leading customer satisfaction in data center support.”

These IBM services are designed to improve the customer experience for Lenovo’s end users by integrating the global coverage and capacity of IBM’s Customer Engagement Centers'(CEC) field service solutions, and parts and logistics services around the world, with the help of:

  • Blockchain to help create a more secure and transparent environment to process and monitor the purchase and distribution of critical hardware and software equipment for Lenovo’s data centers.
  • Virtual Assistant for Technical Support to use customer history and preferences, product manuals, technical documentation, and any other available information including FAQs, all within fingertip reach for call center agents.
  • Client Insight Portal to provide data analytics and trend analysis with enhanced personalization, on screen alerting to identify troubled areas, and automated root cause logic.
  • Augmented Reality to enable more than 19,000 field agents to help deliver a consistent client experience around the globe by allowing customers and technicians to share real-time video of machines requiring repair with fellow IBM professionals to help diagnose problems and illustrate the best practices to solve them.

“Data can have an unprecedented impact on the enterprise, and artificial intelligence can take customer service to a whole new level of personalization,” said IBM General Manager of Technology Support and Services, Vivek Mahajan. “This global collaboration with Lenovo further strengthens our long-standing relationship and will help to empower technicians in every corner of the globe to help deliver service excellence using the power of Blockchain and Cognitive Computing.”

IBM Technology Support Services receives more than 50 million service requests per year in over 200 countries worldwide, and provides proactive, reactive, on-site, and remote support for over 30,000 IBM and non-IBM products.

IMAGE CREDIT: PRNewsfoto/IBM

Outdated practices at call centres increasing security risks

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

A new survey by Semafone has revealed that 70% of contact centres require customers to read sensitive data aloud, increasing risks and compromising security.

Drawing responses from more than 500 agents across industries around the globe, the survey shows that a concerning number of contact centres rely on outdated, risky practices for customer interaction, data collection and fraud prevention. This exposes organisations to inside and outside security threats, and puts sensitive customer information at risk.

 Key survey findings

Contact centres still use data collection and customer interaction practices that create opportunities for agent fraud and leave data vulnerable to a breach.

  • 72 per cent of agents who collect credit/debit card information over the phone require customers to read numbers aloud, despite the readily available technologies that secure voice transactions
  • 30 per cent reported that they have access to payment card information even when not on the phone with customers

Agents are experiencing and witnessing breach attempts from both insiders and outsiders, yet many do nothing to mitigate the risks.

  • 7 per cent of agents admitted that someone inside their organisation has asked them to access or share customers’ payment card information or other sensitive data
  • 4 per cent said the same about someone outside their organisation
  • 9 per cent said they personally know someone who has unlawfully accessed or shared customers’ payment card information
  • 42 per cent of those approached said they did not report the situation to either management or the authorities
  • These percentages may seem small, but just one successful breach attempt could cost an organisation an average of £2.5 million, according to IBM’s 2017 Cost of a Data Breach Study

Contact centres aren’t doing enough to protect customer data and prevent fraud, while current practices contribute to low employee morale and high turnover.

  • 79 per cent of agents are not allowed to have cell phones at their work station
  • 38 per cent are not allowed paper or pens at their work station
  • 31 per cent are not allowed personal items or bags at their work station
  • 28 per cent must pass through a security check before entering or leaving work
  • 26 per cent work in a contact centre “clean room,” which prohibits any personal items and recording devices of any kind.

Industry trends are apparent.

  • 35 per cent of agents in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry have access to customer information when they aren’t on the line with them; 11 per cent have been approached to share customer information
  • The findings pertaining to BPO emphasises the increased risks created by outsourcing and offshoring. In fact, research shows that poor outsourcing decisions cause 63 per cent of data breaches, so strong data security is vital for those with such business models.

“Our survey confirms that many contact centres are still using inadequate practices when capturing, processing and storing payment card data and other personally identifiable information (PII),” said Tim Critchley, Semafone CEO. “When a single data breach can cost a company millions, traditional security controls like clean rooms and check points are not enough. The only way to truly protect sensitive data is to remove it from the business infrastructure completely.”

Critchley continued: “Although just four and seven per cent of survey participants had been approached by outsiders and insiders respectively, these are alarming numbers when extrapolated to the greater contact centre agent population. While the majority of agents are good, honest people, it takes just one malicious person to expose sensitive data and ruin a business’ reputation. Contact centres need to act now—otherwise, they are just sitting around, waiting to be breached.”

To address and simplify data security, Semafone urges organisations to descope their contact centres from Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance. This is achievable by adopting dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) masking technologies, which allow customers to enter payment card information and other PII directly into the telephone keypad. DTMF tones are masked with flat tones so they are not captured on call recordings, and neither the agent nor an eavesdropper can decipher the numbers. The agent is also able to remain on the line in full voice conversation with the customer, which ensures better customer service. The sensitive data is then sent straight to the appropriate third party, such as the payment processor, bypassing the contact centre’s infrastructure altogether.

To download the full report, click here

To download the infographic, click here

www.semafone.com