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Majority of UK workforce lacks basic cyber security training

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Seventy-seven per cent of UK workers admit that they have never received any form of training cyber skills training from their employer.

That’s according to a study from Centrify and comes during the European Union’s CyberSecMonth, which is designed to raise awareness of cybersecurity threats, promote cybersecurity among citizens and organisations; and provide resources to protect themselves online, through education and sharing of good practices.

The survey of 2,000 fulltime UK workers in professional services, conducted by independent survey company Censuswide, also found that over one quarter (27 per cent) of workers use the same password for multiple accounts, including work email and social media, putting both their personal security and that of their company at risk from hackers.

Most worryingly, the survey also found that 69 per cent admit that they do not have the confidence in their own cyber security processes when it comes to protecting their own data.

Additionally, 14 per cent have admitted to keeping their passwords recorded in an unsecured handwritten notebook or on their desk in the office. The news comes despite the UK government’s drive to improve cyber security for companies, with its Cyber Essentials programme.

A further 14 per cent do not utilise multi-factor authentication cyber security measures for apps or services unless required to do so – despite the fact that many consumer banking apps and social media now offer this service. 

Experts have warned that such a lacklustre approach to critical cyber awareness could land employers in hot water.

Donal Blaney, a cyber law expert at Griffin Law, said: “Ignorance of the law is no defence. Company directors and business owners owe it to themselves, their staff, their shareholders, and their customers to know how to protect their businesses and their customers’ data. They will only have themselves to blame if this blows up in their face one day.”

Andy Heather, VP at Centrify, added: “In an age where cyber attacks have emerged as one of the most ruthless and successful forms of crime that can be committed against a business on a large scale, it is astounding to hear that so many UK companies neglect to instil even the most basic cyber security measures in their employees.

“Just one misplaced password could result in the theft of millions of sensitive company documents, personal information and financial fraud, allowing hackers access to critical data. Tackling this issue requires urgent investment in cyber skills training and adopting a zero-trust approach, to further reduce the risk of weak passwords leaving easy entry points and to ensure malicious parties cannot run riot in company systems with stolen log-in credentials.”

Blended human and digital customer service tops investment focus for retailers

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Capabilities that bridge the online/offline customer experience gap prove a key investment focus for UK retailers over the next two years.

That’s according to the latest report from iAdvize, which polled 50 senior UK retailers in its ‘Blueprint For The New Digital Store Associate In The Age Of Conversational Commerce’ report.

It says that with 40% of UK shoppers now wanting human interaction in the online buying process, customer service functionality that blends human and digital touchpoints made up four out of the top five investment priorities for retailers over the next 24 months.  

Almost two thirds (64%) of UK retailers plan to invest in live messaging capabilities with customer service agents – either through online messaging or chat functions.

In app customer service agents (37%), social media influencers (21%) and online brand ambassadors (19%) also featured in the top five investment focuses when it came to customer service. 

In the same way retailers are looking to deliver human interaction in online encounters, retail businesses also plan to use in-store staff to answer digital queries. Over half (58%) of the retail leaders polled as part of the research wanted to digitise store staff by giving them online capabilities, while two-fifths (40%) said they plan to use store associates to engage in digital conversational commerce when store footfall is light. 

Stuart Gordon, UK Country Manager at iAdvize, said: “Retailers realise that store staff need access to quality customer, stock and order insights in general, but even more so if they are going to make a valuable contribution to the online customer journey, successfully closing the customer experience gap.

“There is a growing realisation within bricks-and-mortar retail that physical stores need to focus on what pureplays cannot do, rather than trying to compete on their home territory of price, friction-free convenience and ease of delivery.  And that means unlocking human capital to offer quality insight, delivered with ‘emotional’ human interaction.”

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

Brits ‘divided’ on AI Virtual Assistant security

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

British consumers are deeply divided in their opinion of using virtual assistants via a smart device, with a lack of trust and security fears being the main issues.

That’s according to research from Maintel, in which data protection was cited as a key concern of consumers, with almost half (47%) of them saying that they are unwilling to use a virtual assistant to contact a company out of fear their device could be hacked.

Maintel says this is unsurprising given the high-profile data breaches by consumer brands using this kind of technology in recent months. Almost half of British consumers (46%) were discouraged by the amount of data they believed these communication channels collect, with 44% saying that they were worried that their smart devices were always on and listening to their conversations. 

Out of the whole of the UK population, consumers are roughly split into two distinct camps – those who recognise the value of virtual channels such as voice assistants and AI-powered chatbots and use services such as SIRI, Google Assistant and Alexa in their homes and daily lives, and those who fear the security implications of the technology and currently have little or no intention of adoption. 

There is a wider feeling of reluctance amongst consumers in Britain when it comes to engaging with virtual or voice platforms. Almost two thirds (59%) of consumers don’t own a smart device (such as a smart TV, smart speaker or mobile apps) with access to a virtual assistant and almost half of consumers (46%) have no intention of using these channels to contact a service provider.

Crucially, this group doesn’t see the benefits of adopting this kind of smart technology – almost two thirds of those who don’t own a smart device (59%) have no intention of purchasing one in the future.  

Attitudes towards the uptake of virtual assistants by UK companies 

Despite consumer concerns surrounding data protection and privacy, it’s clear that voice is still a fast-growing and key focus area for companies in the UK. Furthermore, almost a third (30%) of consumers currently use a smart or virtual assistant to contact a service provider.  

The majority of companies (61%) plan to offer customer services via virtual assistants in the next three years, 36% planning to offer them in the next 12 months, followed by 18% in the next two years.

At the same time, just over a third of companies don’t currently see a need for a service of this kind. When asked what challenges were preventing organisations from being able to offer customer services over smart virtual assistant channels, proving consumer demand was the most common obstacle – experienced by 44% of senior decision makers. 

Maintel say reluctance when it comes to adopting voice technology is not only felt by consumers, but is also echoed within companies throughout the UK: 

·        More than a quarter (27%) of senior decision makers stated that they had difficulty proving the ROI and benefits of voice-assisted channels when convincing senior leadership within their companies to adopt this kind of technology. 

·        More than one in five senior decision makers (21%) highlighted selling the need to the board as a key obstacle to adopting this kind of technology.  

·        Over a third of those companies surveyed stressed a lack of available budget (36%). 

·        A third of companies cited a lack of understanding of the technology requirements (33%) for voice assistants. 

·        Just under a third of senior decision makers mentioned the absence of the skills needed to successfully deploy the technology (28%).  

·        The skills gap appeared especially prevalent in customer services teams, with a third (33%) of businesses doubting their capability to deliver a quality service over virtual channels. 

Rufus Grig, Chief Technology Officer at Maintel, said: “The development of virtual assistants via smart devices is inevitable, as technology becomes increasingly intuitive and tailored to fit the needs of its users. However, what this research reveals, is that consumers still tread with caution when adopting this kind of technology or purchasing these smart devices for their homes.”  

“With so many mixed feelings towards this issue, there is a clear call to action for companies to be transparent with consumers on the implications of using this technology and to implement virtual assistants in a responsible way so that consumers’ data is protected. Whilst companies are reluctant to talk openly about security issues, there is clearly work that needs to be done before this technology is welcomed into all UK households. For now, virtual assistants aren’t the ultimate solution and should be used alongside other customer service technology solutions such as call centres, websites and chat bots.” 

Image by HeikoAL from Pixabay

Compliance software investments ‘a priority’ for contact centres

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

91 per cent of contact centre IT staff consider compliance software investments a priority.

The research commissioned by enterprise software solutions company, NICE, also found that 97 percent of IT and compliance professionals were concerned about the ability of their organisation to meet today’s compliance requirements.

These concerns ranged from the introduction of new regulations and growing threat of cyber-attacks to the increasing complexity of internal systems.

When asked to identify the most important factor for improving contact centre compliance, 88 percent of respondents highlighted a need to improve proactivity and speed through better mechanisms to detect violations (26 percent), better error prevention (23 percent), improved visibility across different tools/systems (21 percent) and quicker violation resolution (18 percent). 

The survey also found that a quarter of the Contact Center IT staff’s time is being invested in compliance-related activities

A key conclusion identified by the research was that dedicated compliance solutions comprising analytics and automation will help contact centres optimise resources while empowering employees to ensure compliance and building trust among customers.

“Contact centres must protect the interests of their customers when it comes to their personal data,” said Barry Cooper, President of the Enterprise Group for NICE. 

“Ensuring compliance requires contact centres to navigate a maze of regulations, standards and best practices, which are becoming increasingly resource draining for IT and compliance professionals. Businesses must leverage analytics, AI and automation to adopt a proactive approach, uphold the trust of their customers and simplify their employees’ day to day tasks.”

Image by bhupendra Singh from Pixabay

Retail failing at social media for customer service

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Retailers are neglecting social media when it comes to customer service, and are not listening to consumers to drive customer experience improvements.

That’s according to the 2019 Eptica Digital Trust Study, which found that while retailers successfully answered 59% of routine queries asked via web self service, chat, email, Facebook and Twitter, there were wide variations in performance between channels.

Retailers provided answers to 83% of queries on their websites but only responded correctly to 38% of tweets and 50% of Facebook messages.

Performance had worsened on many channels since 2017 – then retailers answered 73% of emails. By 2019 this had dropped to 68%, despite the continued popularity of the channel with consumers, who use it for over a quarter of their interactions with brands.

As part of the 2019 Eptica Digital Trust Study, 20 fashion and food & drink retailers were evaluated on their digital customer experience, alongside brands from other sectors, by testing their accuracy and speed at answering relevant, routine queries, repeating research conducted since 2012.

Questions included asking about ethical sourcing policies (fashion) and allergy labelling (food and drink). Additionally, 1,000 consumers were asked for their views on customer experience.

Fashion (answering 60% of all queries) and food and drink (59%) were the top sectors surveyed, but still failed to respond to 4 in 10 of all routine queries.

The research also demonstrated a direct link between trust, listening and loyalty. 89% of consumers surveyed said they either will stop buying from brands that they don’t trust or will spend less. Building trust begins with delivering on basic promises – 59% ranked giving satisfactory, consistent answers as a top three factor in creating trustworthiness, while 63% rated making processes easy and seamless as key. Just 8% of consumers felt that brands were listening to them all of the time, with 74% believing brands pay attention to their views half the time or less.

“The move to digital has transformed the retail landscape,” said Olivier Njamfa, CEO and Co-Founder, Eptica. “Greater choice means consumers are becoming more demanding and are actively seeking out brands that they can trust and who listen to them. While retail brands have made some improvements since 2017, they have slipped back in others, damaging trust and ultimately customer loyalty and revenues. If they want to succeed they need to listen to customers and use their insight. Only those who do this will thrive and stay ahead of the competition.”

RetailAccuracy 2019
versus 2017
Average speed 2019
versus 2017
Web83% vs 70%n/a
Email68% vs 73%10hr 19m vs 24hr 12m
Facebook50% vs 28%43m 24s vs 3hr 34m
Twitter38% vs 50%1hr 56m vs 1hr 43m
Chat35% vs 25%8m 43s 4m 24s
Total59% vs 55%

Speed of response also varied widely between channels – and even within sectors and brands. One fashion retailer answered a tweet in 17 minutes, yet another took 50 hours to reply. A food and drink retailer responded on Facebook within one minute, but needed nearly 23 hours to provide an answer on email.

Overall response times on chat doubled from 4 minutes back in 2017 to 8 minutes this year. Facebook had the fastest average speed of response, at 43 minutes, 24 seconds – over twice as fast as Twitter (1 hour 56 minutes) and nearly 15 times faster than email (10 hours 19 minutes). This is despite exactly the same questions being asked across these channels.

The study evaluated 50 UK brands, split equally between the fashion, food and drink, travel, insurance and banking sectors. Brands were rated on their ability to answer five routine questions via their websites, as well as their speed, accuracy and consistency when responding to email, Twitter, Facebook and chat.

Additionally, 1,000 UK consumers were surveyed on their attitude to trust, its relationship with customer experience and on loyalty and brand reputation. All research was completed in H1 2019.

A full report, including the study results, graphics and best practice recommendations for brands to transform customer experience is available at https://www.eptica.com/19cxretail.

AI key to customer service, but performance overrated

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Sixty-three per cent of contact centre leaders agree that chatbots and virtual assistants make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved.

That’s according to findings of the second annual NICE inContact CX Transformation Benchmark, a global research study that gauges the changing attitudes of both industry professionals and consumers.

NICE inContact polled contact centre leaders in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. The report compares global findings to the 2018 consumer wave of the study, and includes year-over-year findings for the US.

NICE inContact says results reveal that businesses are confident in artificial intelligence’s (AI’s) role in delivering exceptional customer service experiences, but they overrate their own CX performance.

Compared to consumers, businesses overreach when estimating their own net promoter scores (NPS), overrate their own CX success, and underperform when it comes to delivering seamless omnichannel experiences.    

Key findings:

·       Businesses express confidence in AI. The CX Transformation Benchmark found that 63 percent of contact center leaders agree that chatbots and virtual assistants make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved, and 68 percent of those surveyed agree that consumers want to use virtual assistants to interact with them. Findings show that significantly more US businesses now offer automated assistants / chatbots online, at 54 percent compared to 44 percent the prior year.

·       Business overreach in self-assigned Net Promoter Score (NPS). Compared to consumers, businesses give themselves higher net promoter scores for every method of communication tested. Businesses overestimate most channel-specific NPS by broad margins. For example:

o   Automated Assistant / Chatbot: While consumers award automated assistants an NPS of -8, businesses estimate they earn an NPS of 25, for a gap of 33 points.

o   Email: The consumer NPS for email is -9 while the business NPS is 19, for a gap of 28 points.

o   Text: Consumers give text a -2 NPS while businesses estimate 25, for a gap of 27 points.

·       Businesses overrate their CX success. Businesses are 15 percent more likely than consumers to agree that they make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved in their preferred channels, and that they provide a consistent customer service experience across the purchase journey.

·       Businesses understand the value of omnichannel experiences, but underperform. While 93 percent of businesses agree that consumers expect companies to provide a seamless experience when moving between channels, only 24% of businesses globally give themselves an excellent rating on allowing consumers to switch seamlessly between methods of communication.

Paul Jarman, CEO at NICE inContact, said: “We are at an inflection point for AI in the contact center. AI innovations are at their best when paired with the human touch and deployed to address targeted customer and agent experience opportunities. AI in the contact center has the potential to add significant value to customer experience outcomes and operational performance.

“The CX Transformation Benchmark shows contact center leader confidence in AI, and we join them in delivering end-to-end AI capabilities that span the entire customer and agent experience, to empower organizations of all sizes to stay one step ahead of customer expectations.”

NICE inContact surveyed more than 900 contact center decision makers in the US, UK, and Australia. The report presents global findings from the business wave of the research and provides comparative results to the consumer study published in 2018.

For more information and to download the full research report, please click here.

Conversational marketing

Consumers love messaging for customer care… but hate its experience silo

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Consumers love the convenience of messaging but ‘struggle mightily’ with its experience silo, according to a new study.

Conducted by YouGov on behalf of eGain, the survey was based on responses from 1,777 consumers in the US and UK who messaged a business for customer service in the last 12 months.

When asked about their struggles when messaging businesses for customer service:

  • 43% hated repeating information across agents or when escalating to other channels;
  • 28% struggled with the speed of response; and
  • 23% were stumped by the relevance of response.

Another interesting and somewhat expected finding was the higher adoption of messaging for customer service among younger consumers. The survey found:

  • 39% adoption for the 18-34 age group;
  • 32% for the 35-54 age group; and
  • 20% for the 55+ age group.

Finally, younger consumers had a more positive view of messaging as a customer service channel compared to other contact channels like web chat, email, or phone.

  • 37% in the 18-34 age group were more satisfied with messaging than other contact channels; versus
  • 23% in the 35-54 age group; and only
  • 18% in the 55+ age group.

First Direct tops latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Banking provider First Direct has topped the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), with a customer satisfaction score of 86.7 (out of 100).

The UKCSI, published today by The Institute of Customer Service, is produced twice a year and rates customer satisfaction at a national, sector and organisational level across 13 sectors – incorporating the views of 10,000 consumers on 247 brands.

Retailer, John Lewis, and M&S Bank follow immediately behind first direct with scores of 86.5 and 86.3 respectively. High street brand, Next, ranks fourth.

Next recently reported overall sales growth of 1.5% for the last two months of 2018, against a backdrop of ever-growing challenging conditions on the high street. Online giant, Amazon, which became the world’s most valuable listed company last month, takes fifth position.

The Index reveals M&S Bank is the top performing brand in the UKCSI’s ‘emotional connection’ dimension, which measures the extent to which an organisation engenders feelings of trust and reassurance in customers. Three banks and building societies make up the top 10 in a year where providers have been compelled to publish their customer ratings by the Competition and Markets Authority.

The Institute’s research shows a brand achieving high ratings for customer experience (such as ease of doing business with, getting things right first time) and on measures like emotional connection, customer ethos and ethics can engender higher levels of satisfaction, particularly when paired with a customer-centric approach.

The top 10 rated organisations in January 2019 are:

1. first direct

2. John Lewis

3. M&S (Bank)

4. Next

= 5. Amazon.co.uk

= 5. Nationwide Building Society

7. Netflix

8. Argos

9. Nationwide Insurance

10. LV=

The upper part of the index is dominated by retail brands, making up almost half of the top 10 and top 20. John Lewis outperformed other historically bricks and mortar retailers as the leading non-food retail brand. Iceland is the supermarket consumers are most satisfied with for the second time in a row with a score of 83.2, followed closely by Aldi.

Retail food and retail non-food are the highest scoring sectors in this latest iteration of the UKCSI, followed by banks and building societies. Insurance is the only sector to have risen by more than one point, helped by top 10 rankings for Nationwide Insurance at number nine and LV= at 10. Overall, the UKCSI puts customer satisfaction at its lowest since July 2016 – the third consecutive half-year drop.

Twenty-five customer measures are surveyed as part of the UKCSI, including staff professionalism, the quality and efficiency of the service, trust and transparency, the actual customer experience, complaint handling and ethical dimensions. To reflect evolving customer priorities, an additional set of measures reflecting consumer emotional and relationship needs were introduced in this latest iteration of the UKSCI. These include whether consumers feel organisations keep their promises, do ‘the right thing’ in business practices and make them feel reassured.

In the food retail sector, Co-op Food is the most improved supermarket, in line with a 7% sales growth and market share increase of 0.2%. Companies whose customer satisfaction was at least one point higher than the sector average earned average sales growth of 6.9%, compared to 1.5% for those with lower than average satisfaction; showing a clear ROI on exceptional customer service.

Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service, said: “In today’s complex world, it is vital organisations get the basics rights first: efficiency of service, complaint handling and the actual customer experience. On top of this, consumers are placing growing importance on trust, transparency, emotional connection and ethical behaviour. Our research shows there’s a compelling argument for meeting both these types of customer priorities for a profitable business return.”

Impact of bad customer service on retailers revealed

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Nearly six in ten (59%) consumers have stopped shopping with a retailer due to poor customer service in store, on the phone, or online.

That’s according to new data by 8×8, which 2,018 UK adults in October, finding that when asked about the bad service they had received, the most common issue consumers cited (78%) was being ‘passed around the houses’ or having to re-explain their problem multiple times to different people in order to get an answer.

The majority have had to speak to three different people on average, with some saying they spoke to 12 different agents for just one query. Nearly half of customers (49%) also said that staff had been rude to them.

Retailers struggling to join up their internal data is also impacting service levels. Over half (51%) of consumers said they are less likely to shop with a retailer if they can’t talk to the online customer service team about in-store purchases, or go into a physical store to ask about online orders.

95% also said that they found it frustrating when agents didn’t have any information about their previous calls or emails.

When asked what they consider the most important elements of good customer service, having queries resolved quickly is the most important factor for retail customers (48%), followed by getting a human response (47%), and  having one person being able to answer their query first time (44%).

David Rowlands, Director, Customer Success, UK & EMEA, 8×8, said: “For UK retailers, every customer counts and in a tough year for the sector, this has never been more important. Yet if customer service isn’t up to scratch, customers are happy to vote with their feet and shop elsewhere.”

8×8’s  research also revealed the UK’s top eight customer service frustrations:

  1. Being put on hold for a long time (86%)
  2. Automated responses or obviously scripted answers (85%)
  3. Customer service teams not having information about their previous calls or emails (83%)
  4. Customer service teams not caring (82%)
  5. Being told to go to a help section or FAQs instead of being helped on a call (77%)
  6. When I call a company for a specific query, but get asked to visit their website instead (76%)
  7. When staff try to sell them a product while they are still trying to get their problem solved (75%)
  8. Not being given rewards for being a loyal customer (64%)

55% of UK contact centres expect lower live call volumes in 2019

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The majority of contact centre operations expect their live inbound call volumes to decrease in 2019, according to a new study.

The survey of over 200 contact centres undertaken by ContactBabel for its UK Contact Centre Decision-Makers’ Guide report also found that despite this expected drop, live telephony is still seen by businesses as the most effective channel for customers to use for sales, service or complaints.

The report also finds that:

  • Average cost per call is slightly higher than email and web chat (£4.27 / £3.81 / £4.24)
  • Web chat, interaction analytics & AI are expected to show the strongest growth in 2019
  • At 41 seconds, mean average speed to answer is more than 2.5 times as long as it was in 2004
  • UK average new agent salaries rise to £17,507; contact centre managers’ to £40,785.

Steve Morrell, Principal Analyst at ContactBabel, said: “The steep rise in digital channel usage (email, web chat and social media), as well as customers’ increasing familiarity with web self-service means that, for the first time in the 18 years that we have been studying the industry, the majority of contact centres expect fewer calls in the next year.

“Yet many businesses believe that customers would usually be better-off calling the contact centre, rather than using a digital channel. Although many see email as a good channel for resolving complaints, and web self-service for account-based issues, live telephony is still viewed by businesses as the gold standard for customer contact. ”

The 2018-19 UK Contact Centre Decision-Makers’ Guide is downloadable from www.contactbabel.com/reports.cfm.

Based on detailed interviews with over 200 UK organisations, the report provides hard data about every aspect of UK customer contact management, technology and strategy, including AI & machine learning, customer personalisation, digital channels, robotic process automation, agent engagement and HR/operational benchmarking statistics.