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UK businesses experience up to five security incidents each year

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

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

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

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

Working from Home: How Blurred Boundaries Affect the Contact Center

960 640 Adam Aftergut

Part three of a three-part series by Adam Aftergut, Product Marketing Manager at NICE, on the root causes of work-from-home challenges faced by contact center agents and their employers…

As we detailed earlier in this series on work-from-home challenges, changing boundaries are having an impact on staffing and performance in the contact center. In addition to a new separation between the employee and the workplace, there’s also a blurring of boundaries in the employee’s workday: With many agents now working from home, the boundaries between work and home life have gotten a lot fuzzier.

While many agents enjoy the ability to work from home, it nevertheless creates new challenges. Living spaces have been converted into makeshift offices and interruptions are unavoidable, making it difficult or impossible to truly focus. Over time, distractions and a lack of structure can affect productivity – in fact, 78% of business leaders think hybrid and home-working models have a negative impact on productivity. Over the long term, a lack of boundaries can hamper work-life balance and ultimately also increase burnout, which has a detrimental effect on employee engagement.

Overcoming the challenges this blurring of boundaries causes for agents also overcomes them for the contact center, and vice versa, ensuring that operations run smoothly. Here’s how.

Employers need staffing agility; employees need flexibility

With many families working and learning from home simultaneously, call volumes are less predictable and don’t conform to previous contact patterns, which means that employers need to be very agile in their workforce management capabilities, tools and policies. At the same time, agents working from home need greater scheduling flexibility to deal with unexpected interruptions and obligations in the home environment – but they can also have an easier time pivoting from free time to work time in order to cover unconventional shifts. A failure to recognize these changes runs the risk of greater staffing gaps for the operation and increased employee frustration.

How technology can help you solve this challenge: Contact center leaders can leverage Intelligent Intraday Automation® for more elastic staffing. A solution that continuously analyzes fluctuating staffing needs, identifies shift change opportunities and communicates them to agents can help contact centers prevent overstaffing and understaffing. The agent can interact with such a solution in multiple ways, including through a portal for automated self-service schedule changes and automated “push” offers of preapproved schedule change opportunities sent via text message, email, in-app messaging or displayed as alert popups on the agent’s desktop.   

Employers need occupancy; employees need to avoid distractions and interruptions

Contact centers need to maintain occupancy levels, a key metric that shows the percentage of time employees are occupied, performing call center activities.  However, remote employees are more easily interrupted or distracted at home.

A University of California Irvine study found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to a task following an interruption. This means that home-office distractions can lead to lower agent productivity, effectiveness and service quality. Agents are then unable to meet performance goals, and customer experience suffers.

How technology can help you solve this challenge: Automated KPI-based notifications alert supervisors and agents via text, email, in-app notifications or desktop alert popups when the team or individual agents have hit occupancy and other key goals – regardless of where employees are working from. Alerts and calls-to-action can be used to notify agents that they’re overrunning scheduled activities or have an upcoming event, prompt agents to switch tasks (which can improve focus while adjusting occupancy) and more.

In addition, automated self-scheduling for agents enables employees to achieve unique schedule adjustments that reduce the disruptions inherent in a work-from-home routine, while still ensuring net staffing. One such example of this is NICE Employee Engagement Manager’s (EEM’s) automated self-swap functionality. Rather than having to work through a distraction, such as a repairman working in the home or a child practicing piano, the agent can simply use a preapproved self-swap to move his or her hours around rather than having to take time off or reduce the number of hours they’re scheduled to work.

Employers need consistent team performance; employees need work-life balance

For effective customer service, contact centers need to ensure that their frontline teams operate with consistency and reliability, especially during times of instability. Supervisors and workforce management personnel need to be able to quickly communicate with agents and depend on their commitments. However, when agents feel overworked and overburdened due to a blurring of the lines between their personal and professional lives – and studies have found that the average workday has increased by 48.5 minutes since the widespread move to remote work – burnout sets in and customer service suffers. Unfortunately, just one in three employees say their employers have increased flexibility in recent months to deal with burnout, according to an Eagle Hill Consulting survey.

How technology can help you solve this challenge: Burnout soars when agents have many consecutive days of intense work without breaks or are unable to manage their work-life balance and find themselves pulled into work frequently. Automated self-scheduling, including adjustments like automated shift trades, can help. If opportunities for voluntary time off (VTO), paid time off (PTO) and self-swaps – which are preapproved based on the contact center’s needs – are unavailable in EEM,  there is still the possibility of automated shift trades, which have a neutral impact on net staffing. EEM thus provides a multilayered set of options for agents to achieve work-life balance through highly flexible and patented self-scheduling capabilities while optimizing net staffing.

In addition, communication controls help agents set boundaries between their personal and professional lives to ensure that work does not encroach. Agents can select days and times they can be contacted with scheduling offers, performance notifications and the like. They can choose both when they are willing to be contacted while “off the clock” and how (e.g., email or text message, in addition to in-app messaging and alert popups). If an agent feels the need to completely disconnect from work in order to refresh, EEM’s communications can be silenced during personal time.

Different perspectives, common solutions

With workday boundaries blurred and personal and work responsibilities increasingly intermingled, achieving both productivity and work-life balance can feel like an obstacle course each day. Over time,  the cumulative effects of work repeatedly encroaching on an agent’s personal life can cause burnout. Giving employees a sense of control with automated self-service scheduling increases their satisfaction, and doing so with an intelligent solution ensures alignment with the contact center’s operational needs to consistently improve both day-to-day and long-term operational results.

NICE Employee Engagement Manager (EEM), a key component of the NICE Intelligent WFM Suite, enables contact centers to preserve work-life boundaries in a remote employee’s workday while meeting the needs of the contact center.  The broad capabilities of EEM’s intelligent automation engine not only improve staffing levels intraday and near-term but also drive a wide variety of employee actions for improved performance. Learn more about how EEM helps contact center teams adapt to changing boundaries in the work-from-home environment.

For a more complete understanding of the work-from-home challenges faced by the contact center, see the previous two installments in this series here and here.

Do you need help in generating more efficient schedules and automating the challenge of optimizing your net staffing?

Download our complimentary eBook:  Intelligent Automation and Simulation in WFM for Dummies

This book will help you understand how using machine learning based simulation can help create schedules based on true multi-skill efficiencies based on ACD routing rules and skills not just static percentages. It will also help you see how you can automatically and proactively create offers for voluntary time off and overtime based on skills to the exact right agents, thus solving the age-old issue of net staffing optimization.

The root cause of work-from-home challenges

960 640 Adam Aftergut

By Adam Aftergut, Product Marketing Manager, NICE

Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD Bank) moved more than 9,000 call center employees from 15 cities in the US and Canada to a work-from-home (WFH) model in the weeks following widespread shutdowns due to COVID-19. Company leaders told Bloomberg that the bank, which serves 26 million customers, helped ease the massive transition by giving workers who suddenly found themselves juggling work and new distractions in the home an extra 10 personal days and the ability to change schedules and do split shifts.

Like TD Bank, many organizations found that the overnight transition to employees working from home created new challenges related to staffing (who is working and when) and performance (how they’re working). In the contact center, these challenges can be traced back to a single root cause: changing boundaries.

Fundamentally, boundaries are changing for employees and teams in two key ways: 1) a separation between the employee and their workplace; and 2) a blurring of boundaries in the employee’s workday.

Remote work, by its very nature, is accompanied by a physical distance between the employee and his or her workplace. Many workers view the ability to work remotely as a job perk, with more than half seeking the arrangement as a way to improve work-life balance, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Moreover, researchers have found that remote work, when done right, can even improve employee productivity, creativity and morale. However, the relative isolation from colleagues makes communication and collaboration more difficult, and can intensify feelings of loneliness, according to an annual survey of remote workers carried out by Buffer and AngelList.

In the contact center, this separation poses several critical WFH productivity challenges:

  • Visibility: Employers need to maintain open lines of communication with their employees, which starts with being able to reach them. To make that possible, WFH employees need visibility and active contact options.
  • Motivation: For sustained motivation, agents need to feel that they are on a path toward definite goals, with timely, personalized, and real-time recognition of their progress, and rewards for their successes.
  • Development: Employers need to periodically help their employees develop professionally or to correct non-productive behavior with targeted interventions or guidance; this enables employees to self-improve while working at home.

Agents and their supervisors are also facing new challenges due to the blurring of the boundary between work and home. As the dining room table doubles as an office, it can be hard for employees to separate their personal and professional lives.

“In this new work-from-home reality that we’re living in, it’s particularly challenging for segmentors, people who like to keep a sharp line between work and home,” Wharton management professor Nancy Rothbard told Forbes.

On the one hand, remote work can lead to the expectation that an employee will be available at all times. On the other, disruptions run rampant; researchers have found that it can take an employee an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to fully resume the previous task following a disruption.  As contact centers moved their agents to a WFH model, we saw a 400% increase in the use of self-service scheduling to better balance work and home commitments, while meeting the needs of the organization.

In the contact center, the blurring of the distinction between work and the rest of life when agents work from home directly causes challenges in three key areas:

  • Staffing agility: Employers need to be able to respond quickly to changing customer demand, while employees need more flexible scheduling options and the tools to make last-minute changes.
  • Occupancy: Employers need to maintain optimal occupancy levels, a key KPI for many contact centers, while also ensuring that agents are focused on the task at hand. Yet, employees are more easily interrupted and distracted while working at home.
  • ConsistencyEmployers need to ensure that teams operate with consistency and reliability, especially during uncertain times. WFH employees tend to be less consistent and more unreliable due to the needs of the home, as well as to a higher rate of burnout. A recent report found that one-fourth of US employees are currently experiencing burnout, much of which can be linked to the lack of work-home boundaries.

Our professional boundaries have changed indelibly. And we can expect the challenges this has created to persist: 74% of CFOs who were surveyed recently said they intend to make remote work permanent for some employees, according to Gartner. These challenges can be addressed from the perspective of the employer or the agent, as resolving them for one invariably resolve them for the other.

Learn more about how to address WFH challenges in the two upcoming blogs in this series on their root causes, the separation between employees and their workplaces and the blurring of boundaries in during the home-based workday. You can also find out more about how TD Bank helps its contact center agents independently manage their schedules by reading our case study.

Do you need help in generating more efficient schedules and automating the challenge of optimizing your net staffing?

Download our complimentary eBook:  Intelligent Automation and Simulation in WFM for Dummies.

This book will help you understand how using machine learning based simulation can help create schedules based on true multi-skill efficiencies based on ACD routing rules and skills not just static percentages. It will also help you see how you can automatically and proactively create offers for voluntary time off and overtime based on skills to the exact right agents, thus solving the age-old issue of net staffing optimization.

Fast, accurate analytics vital as call centres adapt to ‘new normal’ of WFH

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The immediate provision of accurate speech analytics is becoming increasingly vital as contact centres increasingly look to maintain 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 and Customer Services Summit on the 16th November.

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.

The cloud-based Xdroid solution 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.”