Richard ChiumentoRichard ChiumentoFebruary 21, 2019
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6min60

The emergence of new roles such as Chief Employee Experience Officer and Director of Digital Workplace is the clearest indication yet to C-level leaders that a distinctive and noteworthy Employee Experience is a critical factor of business success.

According to Forrester Research’s 2019 predictions, Employee Experience is set to take centre stage this year, fuelled by low unemployment and high quit rates. There is also a single compelling reason why leaders must up their game in this respect: Employee Experience is intrinsically linked to Customer Experience.

The obituary for the psychological contract that once existed between employers and employees was written long ago and the concept of a ‘job for life’ is probably gone forever. Yet while such topics have been the subject of discussion for some time, the intervening years have failed to define a new kind of contract between the leaders and the employee that takes into account seismic changes that have impacted organisations.

Workforces are more remote, disparate, mobile, and in some cases far more contingent. Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing what we do and how we do it and the incoming generations’ expectations of going to work are hugely different.

While employers can no longer rely on seeing employees every day, they must find ways of ensuring their people are highly engaged, motivated, fulfilled, and happy so that they perform to their best ability, are prepared to go the extra mile, and will deliver exceptional Customer Experience.

Hence one of the latest trends in HR is the concept of the “workplace as an experience”, where every aspect of work is carefully designed, arranged, and controlled to energise and inspire employees. The aim is to create a deep, experiential connection between individuals and their workplace that begins with onboarding strategies and continues throughout their employment lifecycle with the organisation – for the benefit of all stakeholders and especially customers.

To achieve this, organisations need to look at their people through the same lens as they do their customers and apply marketing and sales-oriented strategies to improve attraction, motivation, and retention. They must make greater use of data analytics, AI and machine learning, and techniques like gamification to learn more about their preferences and behaviours to create differentiated and high performing Employee Experiences.

Employees expect to use the same mobile and smart technologies in the workplace as they do in their personal lives and AI in the form of chatbots and virtual personal assistants (VPAs) are already being used to help remove distractions and to aid and augment employees’ tasks and productivity.

Employees also have high expectations of the environment in which they work and organisations are enlisting workplace design companies to come up with innovative spaces to simplify work and improve productivity. The Dutch office of professional services firm Deloitte is widely considered to be one of the smartest buildings in the world and allows employees to personalise the lighting and temperature at their individual workspaces using a smartphone app.

The Edge building, based in Amsterdam’s business district, is described as inspirational and fun. It’s no coincidence then that it has become an asset in terms of recruitment. Three fifths of candidates (62 percent) specifically state in their applications that one of the reasons they want to work for Deloitte is the possibility of being posted to The Edge.

It is evident that the Employee Experience is becoming more central to organisational success. If organisations are to attract, retain, and engage the talent needed in 2019 and the years ahead, C-level leaders must develop a new mindset and prioritise a new approach and type of contract and relationship with employees – one where the Employee Experience is viewed holistically and makes an emotional connection to improve engagement and alignment to the organisational purpose – thus improving innovation and the Customer Experience along with other key business metrics.

Article author Richard Chiumento is a judge at the upcoming UK Employee Experience Awards in London. Click here to find out more.


Seb BurchellSeb BurchellFebruary 20, 2019
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6min95

Technological sophistication is all pointing towards one thing: reducing the requirement for human labour, and input.

But in the fintech industry, humans aren’t simply a necessity – they’re irreplaceable.

Human developers are obviously needed to write, and maintain code, as well as learning and understanding the products that make the code necessary. Say these processes eventually become automated, the need for humans would remain.

That’s partially due to the fact ‘build it and they will come’ isn’t applicable to the disruptive world of fintech. Even the most boisterous, compelling and revolutionary products need effective branding, marketing and PR teams that will help the product succeed. Particularly as we see the rise in the importance of search ranking, SEO professionals will also have an integral part to play in making their fintech visible in an increasingly competitive space.

Moreover, while technology drives many fintechs services, certain businesses need real-time human emotion to overcome unique challenges. For some enterprises, such as online mortgage brokers, they’re task is to convince consumers to change from traditional brokers to their banks or existing lenders. This is just one case in which human empathy can’t be replaced or simulated by technology.

Consumer attitudes

Understandably, customers can be hesitant to trust small, relatively unknown startups with their personal and financial data, especially if it involves one of the biggest financial decisions you can make.

Recent research conducted by TopLine Comms found a whopping 83 percent of respondents were ‘unsure’ of fintech companies and how they work. Insightfully, 27 percent ascribed a lack of understanding as the reason why they were unsure.

Consumers will only trust Fintech firms once they understand and address customers’ concerns, one pertinent method to educate and earn potential consumers trust is through marketing, communication and branding.

But that’s solely acquiring customers. Consumer experience is what turns a cynical user into a fully-fledged customer, and a hybrid approach that encumbers an equilibrium of tech and human interaction is likely to be the key to the best customers experiences in fintech.

For example, fintechs in the banking industry can use technological innovation to alleviate their human advisers from the arduous and time-consuming parts of the job. Now finance experts can spend more time sourcing the best advice for their customers and building a relationship that raises trust between both parties.

These relationships build advocacy, which can in turn convert others – offline and online word of mouth is undoubtedly one of the best methods of attracting new customers. Ninety-three percent of respondents in a recent survey by Podium said online reviews affected their decision to make a purchase or not.

Many people intend to use an online fintech, as opposed to a traditional service because they won’t have to deal with a human when liaising with the former. Often, customers aren’t too keen to talk about their own sensitive financial situations issues and said customers in these circumstances may prefer to not speak to an actual human. Entirely digital experiences, that use complex technological features such as Artificial intelligence in the form of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning, could be the best solution for them.

The truth is that both kinds of consumers exist – and so a hybrid model that uses tech and human interaction flexibly, to improve the Customer Experience may be the most pragmatic approach.

The future

As fintech moves into the mainstream, consumer attitudes may also move in a certain direction. The more sophisticated and accessible technology becomes, the more likely it is that people may start to feel less anxious about trusting new businesses with their data. The arrival and widespread adoption of Open Banking could be the catalyst to start this paradigm shift.

But in the meantime, fintechs must combat the dichotomous challenges of converting sceptical customers and making themselves stand out in a crowded marketplace. In both cases, humans will remain an integral and irreplaceable element to any fruitful fintech.


Craig SummersCraig SummersFebruary 20, 2019
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8min108

Embracing technology is a prerequisite for success in the modern retail environment.

There are many ways in which retailers can deliver a new in-store experience – and while some retailers will undoubtedly look to emulate the human touch free Amazon Go model, for many others human interaction is the primary and fundamental component of a positive bricks and mortar experience. From hiking boots to party shoes, it is still the shared experience of the store associate and customer that will remain an essential component of the in-store engagement for many.

Each retailer will need to understand the optimal model for its customer base, offering the best mix of touch free interaction and empowered store associate. With cloud-based mPOS, there is no technology barrier to delivering a new and positive retail experience – the challenge is to envisage the right customer model. The checkout of the future must be whatever the customer wants it to be, at any time. Released from the shackles of legacy technology, retailers now have enormous opportunities to rethink and reconsider the in-store experience and reimagine the customer journey.

Getting the basics right

The checkout is the point of sale – but it is not a standalone function; it needs to be embedded within the overall service proposition. Customers don’t want to wait in line; nor are they willing to undertake multiple separate transactions to fulfil in-store needs. They want one, simple and frictionless transaction that covers an in-store purchase, a click & collect order, a product return, even ordering another item that is not in store but can be sent from another location either to that store or to the customer’s preferred address.

An effective and efficient checkout process also needs to automatically and effectively handle coupons, apply the correct promotional pricing, capture loyalty information, and so on. But it will also be integrated directly with core operational systems to provide store associates with real-time inventory information and customer history.

The question for retailers is how and where to deliver that point of sale. Should be it the fast, touch-free approach enabled by kiosks or self-service? Or should it be provided by a store associate? And if the latter, how and where within the store should that interaction occur?

Man vs Machine

Clearly for many retailers, an Amazon Go approach appeals. It maximises technology to minimise costly store associates and provides customers with a fast, frictionless experience: the checkout is achieved simply by walking out of the store with automatically scanned items and payment taken from the pre-authorised account.

This is not, of course, a model that has generic appeal – aside from the fact that it is massively unprofitable today and unachievable for the majority of organisations. Forget tagging technology and customer identification solutions, right now many retailers can’t even provide their Store Associates with a single view of available inventory!

But there are undoubtedly aspects of this frictionless experience that should be embedded within every retail model – and a core component of this process will be the checkout. Whether a customer is looking for speed or experience – or both – the checkout is key.

Retailers have spent over a decade optimising the ‘buy button’ online, and the checkout is effectively that ‘buy button’ moment in store. The challenge for retailers is to create a checkout in store that effectively masks the growing complexity of the retail model from both the customer and store associate. Mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) is an obvious solution, providing Store Associates with the ability to close the deal with customers anywhere in store, yet, just 42% of retailers have mPOS in place.

Retail as a service

Retailers have been massively constrained by the incredibly outdated legacy solutions deployed in-store. Hard wired, monolithic systems based on fixed telephone lines for payment, these solutions are both over specified and under delivering. The latest generation of cloud-based technology supports deployments anywhere – in-store, on traditional Windows terminals, or on mobile iOS and Android devices, delivers real-time access to global network availability and ensures that high-speed checkout is available even if the network connection is disrupted.

A store associate armed with a mobile device that provides real time access to inventory across the organisation and ensures the aisle is always endless – and the ability to order those products – can embark upon a meaningful customer dialogue anywhere within the store.

Critically, with a mobile solution that seamlessly supports the checkout process whenever the customer is ready and through whatever payment format the customer prefers, the store ‘buy button’ is optimised. Whether a traditional ‘card present’ payment process or a customer’s own mobile payment app, there should be no break in the engagement to achieve the seamless in-store check-out that consumers crave.

Conclusion

It is only now, thanks to the power of the cloud, of the mobile app, of rich POS solution functionality that is seamlessly integrated with other store and enterprise systems, that retailers have the chance to break away from the constraints of their legacy technology and reconsider the entire store concept.

Does the retailer even need a static desk anymore or can all store associates be mobile? Will the customer base respond well to this model or does the retailer have a core demographic that wants a choice of both traditional and new? With confidence in the technology and an ability to deliver diverse customer services within the store, a retailer can begin to rethink the experience, to experiment with new models for customer engagement and truly offer an efficient and personalised service with a bit of ‘wow’ thrown in.


Anubhuti ShrivastavaAnubhuti ShrivastavaFebruary 19, 2019
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11min174

Ruby on Rails (RoR) is a flexible and collaborative web development framework which works on the principles of an agile and iterative approach to building web apps and solutions.

It has become an integral tool for businesses to create customised web apps quickly without compromising on the quality.

But to hire Ruby on Rails developers is a challenging task for entrepreneurs as it’s a fiercely competitive marketplace where there’s limited availability of experienced Ruby developers in the niche Ruby development domain. In such a scenario, it becomes much more significant to hire and retain superior RoR professionals.

This issue can be addressed with exploring this definitive guide to interviewing the RoR wizards in the right manner. Here, we have come up with common interview questions for RoR developers that will allow you to get an idea of how well they can expound their awareness and intellect of the domain. Let’s take a look at four such questions…

1. Questions related to Ruby in order to test the applicant’s expertise in basic language concepts & skills to write code for business apps

First phase

You might wonder what the point is of asking Ruby related questions to a RoR programmer? But as the framework is written in Ruby, the developer should be aware of all the ins and outs of the language.

While you may go through the engineering resume, assessing their Ruby knowledge will allow you to spot the programmers who have the capacity to write quality code by using their understanding of the basics of Ruby language. You can ask questions related to the key concepts of Ruby, such as inheritance, class hierarchies, polymorphism, object-oriented design patterns, etc.

In case the potential programmer answers the first round of questions well, you can easily consider him for being eligible to appear in the next round and take the interview process further.

Second phase

After examining the fundamental language expertise it’s mandatory to assess the applicant’s capability to write code for business apps. Here, you have to judge their ability to work efficiently with key Ruby interfaces such as Rack which makes it possible to create a Ruby app.

In order to assess this skill, you should ask the interviewee questions related to Rack such as its definition, how does it work, rack application interface, etc. Also, you can make him write a simple Rack application.

Third phase

In the third phase, you will be examining the applicant’s ability to recognise the basic configuration of a Ruby library. Being a popular programming language, Ruby is blessed with an enthusiastic community of programmers who strive to develop and maintain several useful libraries.

This is the reason why RoR developers must have the knack of taking advantage of this third-party code in order to accelerate and simplify the entire development process. It will give you an idea of their ability to understand code written by experts. In addition, you can ask questions related to Ruby gems which is an integrated system built to let programmers easily construct, share, and apply gems.

2. Questions related to Ruby on Rails in order to test applicant’s proficiency in the framework

The second set of questions will be dedicated to the RoR framework in order to assess an applicant’s familiarity and skill to work efficiently with the platform for building scalable apps and solutions. You can ask the following questions:

a. General questions related to Rails framework, such as:

I. What is your definition of a Rails engine?

II. What do you understand by Asset Pipeline?

b. Questions associated with main parts of a business app routing, controllers, and views, such as:

I. How do you describe CRUD verbs and actions?

II. What is that we need to test in controllers?

c. Queries related to ActiveRecord in order to understand an applicant’s ability to comprehend the Model part of an app, such as:

I. How will you define Object-Relational Mapping?

II. What are the major types of associations in Active Record?

d. Questions related to security of RoR apps by understanding an applicant’s knowledge of possible attacks and their solutions, such as:

I. What do you mean by a session mechanism and how does it work?

II. Explain the difference between CSS Injection and SQL injection.

e. Questions associated with automated testing of RoR apps in order to judge applicant’s capability to enhance the workflow. The RoR professionals must have a comprehensive understanding of automated testing, its types, and the reason to write them.

I. State your two favourite tools for writing unit tests.

II. What primary technique do you use for writing tests?

f. Questions related to refactoring to get an idea of an RoR programmer’s ability to polish the existing code they’ve written to make it more efficient and cleaner. This skill will allow developers to produce code that can be easily maintained and expanded. Here, it’s a good idea to ask questions such as:

I. Why should you avoid fat models and controllers?

II. What do you mean by a code smell and what are your favourite tools to spot them?

3. Allocate a pair programming task and give them a home assignment

Assigning a pair programming task allows you to check an applicant’s ability to work in harmony with senior professionals in the team. Also, it’s the best way to understand their mindset and get a grip on their line of thought.

Therefore, after screening the candidate on all the above questions, make them share the screen with a senior programmer and solve a task. After comprehending the problem, the applicant can suggest a few methods to solve in accordance with their expertise. And, the senior professional can let him understand the big picture and what can be the best solution to it.

In the end, you should provide the RoR developer with a home assignment in order to check their ability to use multiple frontend and backend technologies for seamless web development. Also, by evaluating the outcome you can get an idea of their proficiency in JavaScript, its libraries, markup language, and stylesheets.

If you find the result above satisfactory, you can make the final call to hire that RoR professional because a home assignment can be the ultimate yardstick to judge their expertise and intellect.

There can be several other questions that you can ask when interviewing a RoR programmer when they apply for a job. But the above-mentioned are the most important ones to ensure that you hire the best RoR developer who will definitely be a great asset for your organisation.


Parham SaebiParham SaebiFebruary 19, 2019
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6min160

The popularity of smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo and Alexa and Google’s Home Hub is increasingly rapidly.

A recent study by Adobe revealed that almost a third of US households now own at least one of these devices, with the global adoption of voice assistants predicted to increase 1,000 percent by 2023, according to Juniper Research.

While digital text-based platforms have been the focus of customer service channel shift in recent years, it’s clear that consumers are falling back in love with voice. This presents a real opportunity for brands. Executed well, voice assistant technology can offer a natural-sounding, speedy response to common customer service queries, 24 hours a day.

The challenge for businesses is to integrate it successfully with existing customer service platforms, in order to provide a seamless experience that is consistent across all communication touch points. 

The human touch

It’s crucial that voice technology is deployed in a way that is genuinely useful for customers – businesses cannot fall into the trap of the novelty of voice automation, rushing to roll it out without properly considering its use. To engage with customers meaningfully, companies must be able to effectively leverage the technology that underpins all automated platforms – data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

AI is already allowing brands to deliver round-the-clock solutions to customer enquiries, using automation and data to process simple questions and provide responses via chatbots. The next step is to broaden the scope of queries that this technology can manage.

Delivering outstanding customer service requires personalisation, ensuring that responses are relevant to the customer’s specific situation no matter the channel they choose to make contact through. With a comprehensive customer management system (CRM) supported by AI, it’s possible to collate data from every customer touch point, to equip smart platforms with the information they need to deliver a more tailored, and ultimately more human, customer service.

Know your limits

Brands must also ensure they’re aware of the limitations of any automated platform. As voice automation technology becomes more popular, customers’ expectations of its capabilities will increase – if they end up trapped in a phone menu that’s unable to find them a solution or direct them to the right place, brands risk losing customers to frustration.

Ultimately, advances in AI will broaden the range of questions voice platforms can comprehend. Businesses looking to implement this relatively new technology now must make sure it is equipped to recognise complex requests beyond its scope, and to connect customers to a human when required. An example of this in practice is a voice assistant providing retail customers with information such as stock availability, delivery timescales, or store opening times, but deferring to an advisor for a personal query such as making a complaint.   

Augmented agents

As the capabilities of autonomous customer service channels become more sophisticated, so too will the roles of human representatives. The popularity of voice technology globally means that consumers will increasingly rely on this and other smart channels to find answers to day-to-day queries. But for those more challenging requests and judgement-based tasks, customer service representatives remain crucial.

Businesses must tailor their recruitment and training strategies to ensure that all employees are equipped with the digital capabilities they need to operate in this tech-enabled environment, as they work across multiple channels including voice, and manage complex CRM systems. However, as advisors will primarily be responsible for the highest-value and often most challenging tasks, an empathetic approach, strong communication and problem-solving skills must form a core part of their skill set.

Ultimately, the successful deployment of automated voice-based customer service channels relies on investment in employees as much as investment in technology, creating an experience that cultivates customer loyalty through convenience and quality. 


Josue Villamar CJosue Villamar CFebruary 18, 2019
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5min168

I was recently tasked with considering the possible challenges of creating a large-scale customer service centre.

I looked at how to combat these challenges and ensure a healthy balance between a traditional call centre and a start-up operation.

The ideal workplace

In my experience, having had the opportunity to have worked with both big corporations and start-ups, I would like to mention some of the characteristics that good start-up environments have in common

• Trust-based environment

• Open communication, a culture of collaboration

• Autonomy

• Innovation – promotes creativity

• Contributions have impact

• Meritocracy

• Casual yet energetic atmosphere

• Flexible hours

• Benefits and modern facilities

These points sound great, but this is not just how the environment is at a start-up – this is also the environment people would really like to have at any workplace. Who wouldn’t like to feel that their job has a great impact in the business?

Who doesn’t want the opportunity to learn new things every day, or to have the chance to own the process and be able to modify it as you see fit? Therefore, the challenge is not to maintain a start-up environment; the challenge is to create a work environment where people still want to be part of after a big scale-up.

Scaling is a big challenge that needs structure and organisation. The main challenge is to mitigate risks, and the faster the operations grow, the more challenging the risks will be. When we talk about risk, we refer to the risks of deteriorating the quality of service; the risks of the collapse of the infrastructure; the risk of burning out your team faster.

To mitigate these risks, it is important to create internal scalable strategy. Here are some recommendations:

1. Make sure you have the right tools

Helpdesk systems provide you with ticketing systems, support articles, reports, statistics, and so on. Do thorough research and tailor the helpdesk to your needs, and make sure you test it properly before you agree on a contract.

2. Define your metrics and get to know your customer more

The KPIs will be the navigator through this journey. Make sure you have a mix of KPIs that measure the performance of the group, the quality of the service, and the satisfaction of the customer.

To have the situation visibility that has already been mentioned, you need to have at least one of these three types of KPIs.

3. Make sure you have the right people

Once you have started the path of growth, you need to make sure that every addition to the team it is the right one. This will save the company so much time and money. Partner up with your talent acquisition team and go through the requirements and they will support you as you select the new talent. Make sure this person has the right mind-set, the right attitude, and lives by the same value standards as the company.

4. Documentation and automation

It is very important to have everything documented properly. This will not only work as a knowledge base for the future, but it will help develop so many other processes. The documentation needs to be accessible but should only be managed by a small group of people. It must be simple, precise, and well-structured.

5. The onboarding process must be well structured.

One of the most important processes that must be well thought out and able to be scaled is the onboarding of new talent. By the end of the onboarding, the agent should be ready to be as independent as possible.

A well-thought onboarding plan should include:

a. An extensive review of all the relevant documentation. Training.

b. A shadowing session with 1-2 different people to expose them to different styles.

c. A review of the Quality Program

d. A review of the company culture

e. A practice session

f. A coaching session with the Team Leader

g. A quiz/test to validate the learning.

h. Re-educate if necessary. Follow-coaching session.

 


Paul AddyPaul AddyFebruary 18, 2019
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5min185

We all hear CEOs, MDs, and leaders of companies saying that employees are their greatest asset.

Therefore, it makes sense to commit considerable resources into recruitment, training, and development. So, what exactly is the secret to attracting the right people and holding onto them?

Remuneration is an influencing factor, but people are growing increasingly more concerned about the overall benefits package.

Offering an imaginative benefits package, such as wellbeing programmes, will help improve the attractiveness of your organisation. These could include a gym, cyber cafe, incentive schemes (financial and non-financial), flexible benefit schemes, and flexible working schemes.

Getting these benefits out in the market is really important and using your company website is the best opportunity to do this. Make sure you utilise this external mechanism to sell the benefits of working for your company. Showcase to prospective employees the great culture you have. Consider setting up a careers microsite giving you the opportunity to create more positive content.

If you believe in your organisation and the culture, then use your current team to attract new employees by offering a recommend a friend scheme.

For most roles in an organisation you can look to recruit for attitude over skills. I am a real believer that if your employees have the right attitude then you can develop them to be great in their roles. It’s much easier to train skill rather than will.

What is really important is the period between the role being offered and the candidate starting with your organisation. Create an engagement process that makes the new employee feel special. Communicate with them regularly and reconfirm that the decision you and they have made is the right one.

If you are hiring based on attitude, then the key to the success of the new employee is the induction process. Ensure that it is thorough and provides them with the knowledge and skills they need to be competent in the role they have been recruited for.

Once you have recruited the right people, you’ll want to keep them. If you foster a great team culture and keep employees well-informed, involved, engaged, and recognised, then they will perform better, stay longer, and progress further. Develop initiatives that communicate your culture and how you engage with your team.

Regular reviews of performance is an important aspect of retaining team members. It is a way of ensuring that employees and their line managers meet regularly, that recognition is given, and development is discussed. If it is robust and is consistently applied, then your employees will feel that there is a culture of fairness across the business.

Ongoing development is important to people, particularly those that want to progress in the organisation, so ensure you have process for identifying these people.

Making your business a place where people want to work will attract a better calibre of candidate. Looking after your employees will not only improve retention but will also increase productivity; it’s better for them and better for you. 


Nathan Hill-HaimesNathan Hill-HaimesFebruary 18, 2019
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6min153

IT downtime can be a disaster for so many different types of businesses, causing lost sales, security breaches, time wastage, and so much more.

In this article, we discusses how you can prevent IT downtime in your business and reduce its negative impacts on your customer service.

Internet security

Internet security is of paramount importance for almost every modern business. Breaches within major organisations are often reported in mainstream media, but for every large company that gets breached, a whole load of smaller companies experience the same fate without the same spotlight.

Businesses need to invest in broadband security software, which will protect all corporate computers when your employees are browsing the web, downloading documents, and other daily online activities. Security packages also ensure viruses and online threats are kept at bay, including protection against identity theft, spyware, spam, hackers, and much more.

When you choose an internet provider, ask about their security options – most broadband providers will provide free security as part of their package, but some will require you to pay extra. If the latter applies, you always have the option to take things into your own hands and purchase specialist software from a developer such as AVG, Norton, or McAfee. Whenever you use the security software, make sure you update it whenever prompted to ensure you are properly protected at all times.

Firewalls are also necessary security methods for all businesses today. These are hardware or software solutions that essentially block the gateway between two networks – for example, the public network of the internet and your company’s private computer network.

The purpose of this is to make sure that unwanted visitors from across the web cannot get into your business’ private network. After all, your broadband connection is essentially open for action every hour of every day, leaving hackers with plenty of opportunities. By installing a firewall, you can have peace of mind that these cyber criminals will be blocked out.

Internet failover

An internet failover link is a secondary internet connection that is setup to ensure you don’t lose valuable uptime in your service. Relying on one connection is a risky approach, as downtime on this one line will take down all services, but by spreading that risk across a secondary connection you can have peace of mind. A failover link will help your colleagues remain productive and your customers receiving the services and products they need when your primary connection goes down.

To achieve the best results, you need to apply the redundancy concept. This means moving away from over reliance on any one technology – in this case, your singular internet connection.

A typical scenario might be a fibre link as your main connection and a wireless connection as your backup. Implemented correctly, a failover solution will automatically switch from your primary connection to your secondary link. A successful failover process instantly transfers tasks from a failed system (in this case your internet service) to a similar or redundant system, in order to avoid costly interruptions. An automated failover system has the ability to quickly reroute data and communications to minimise business disruption.

Public WiFi

Creating a public broadband service is more than just a case of handing out a password. You also need to ensure that your business broadband package can handle the amount of potential traffic that could be using it on a daily basis.

Even a generous sounding data limit is likely to be used up very quickly if many people are hooking into your account and using the internet freely. Choose an unlimited amount of data to cover your customers’ usage. If you own relatively small premises such as a cafe, a small office or a salon, a fibre optic connection should suffice.

Ensure you choose a package that offers very fast speeds because a frustrating internet connection can send customers packing to seek a new place to surf the net. In larger premises such as hotels or big restaurants you may find that a faster leased line or Ethernet connection is a better solution due to the large volume of people wanting to access the internet all at the same time.


Howard WilliamsHoward WilliamsFebruary 18, 2019
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9min184

The battle between chatbots and IVR is coming to a head.

Until now, customer service routing has predominantly been the job of IVR (interactive voice response) technology. But now, chatbots are threatening to take over the role of primary customer routing tool.

Both channels have their merits – and their shortfalls. IVR is time-tested, but much-hated. Chatbots are quick and trendy, but not without their teething problems. So, as they battle for the top spot in the automated customer routing category, is one tool truly better than the other?

Here we investigate the IVR vs chatbot debate. Are we leaping from the IVR frying pan, straight into the chatbot fire?

IVR: sizzling tech, or burnt customers?

IVR, or interactive voice response, is the formal name for an automated switchboard. It’s the long-established technology behind the phone trees that route calling customers to the correct agent or department. It’s familiar, and accessible for those with eyesight issues or poor internet access.

Routing customer contact correctly is essential for any business. Effective routing reduces customer wait times, and ensures they reach the right agent to best serve their needs. With IVR, businesses can achieve these benefits at a reduced cost, even with high call volumes. IVR can also collect useful information to help agents support the customer.

But there’s the dark side of IVR. After all, it is IVR. Otherwise known as the dreaded automated phone tree, liked by a paltry three percent of customers. We all have memories of dealing with the robotic voice on the end of the phone. The one that seemed to never understand a word we said.

We’d end up repeating ourselves. We’d shout ‘agent’ or ‘human’ down the phone, in the vain hope of getting the answer we need. Often, we’d end up through to the wrong department anyway, if we hadn’t already hung up the phone in disgust.

Chatbots: bringing the heat, or going up in flames?

With IVR so liable to frustrate customers, businesses are looking for alternative options for customer service routing. This search was answered by chatbots, the modern descendant of IVR technology. Like IVR, chatbots are used to authenticate, route, and support customers automatically. However, they do this online via a chat interface, rather than over the phone.

There are a few benefits chatbots bring to the automated customer routing table that IVR doesn’t. For example, because they’re text-based, chatbots aren’t confused by accents or poor connections. So, they understand customers more consistently.

Chatbots are also more flexible than IVR. They let customers change their mind about details already provided, and don’t get confused when amending details.

When they work to our advantage, chatbots turn automated routing into a friendly conversation. However, a hasty chatbot deployment can still lead to getting burned. When they aren’t deployed or used carefully, chatbots are just as liable to cook up customer frustration as IVR. They can misunderstand, provide limited options, and just plain fail.

Will we ditch the frying pan?

IVR is almost universally hated and can act as a hurdle for customers trying to reach you. With so many customers adverse to IVR, other automated routing options – like chatbots – look more appealing and more future-proof.

Plus, chatbots are still learning. As artificial intelligence technology continually improves, so are chatbots and their capabilities. For this reason, there is an argument for chatbots taking over as the ruling routing technology. However, it’s worth noting that voice recognition technology is also getting smarter. (As seen in Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant.) IVR, then, could also stand to improve over the coming years.

All things considered, it seems unlikely that chatbots are going to replace IVR entirely. Rather, chatbots and IVR both have benefits to offer businesses. They serve different customer channels, and there’s room for both in an omnichannel customer service strategy.

Care in the customer service kitchen

So, how can these technologies be used to cook up great customer service, without setting off the fire alarms? Whether you choose the tried and tested IVR routing, the up and coming chatbots, or a mixture of both, here are a few key rules to prevent getting burned.

  1. Keep the process short and sweet for both technologies. If you leave something in the frying pan, or over the fire, long enough, it will always end up burned.
  2. Make it easy for customers to escalate to a human. That way, if something goes wrong or the customer is in a rush to talk to a human, they can still get the support they seek.
  3. Make sure the bot or system can maintain conversational context. Never make your customer repeat themselves.
  4. Use them as a seasoning, not a supplement to your service. Chatbots and IVR aren’t replacements for human service. Use them to help your agents serve customers more efficiently and effectively, not to replace your team.

Cooking up a storm

Both chatbots and IVR are useful tools for cooking up tasty customer service experiences and business benefits. And both can leave you burned – whether it’s a voice call left in the pan too long, or an online support session up in flames.

It’s unlikely that chatbots will replace IVR any time soon. Customers come from all angles, with a variety of needs. So, instead of pitting the frying pan and the fire against each other, why not adopt both, and cook up a great Customer Experience on any channel?


Jamie ThorpeJamie ThorpeFebruary 15, 2019
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10min323

There’s no doubt about it – we’re seeing an epidemic of survey fatigue, and consumers and businesses are both suffering.    

A third of people will walk away from a brand they love after one bad experience – and that includes any follow up research.  There’s so much we want to know from our customers, but with requests for feedback constantly increasing, we risk turning off consumers with research that feels onerous and ‘old school’.

Brands need to stay focused. It’s not good enough to simply migrate old questionnaires onto newer platforms like mobile and hope for the best. Instead, brands should be thinking leaner and lighter. Here’s how:

Put yourself in the right shoes

Not yours – your customers’. Surveys shouldn’t overstretch your audience, bore them, or make them wonder what the point was.  A survey is part of their overall Customer Experience. With that in mind, make it feel right for the moment. Don’t ask everything at once – make the questions relevant and sensible. 

Get on with it

Don’t spread yourself too thin. Focus on a single aspect of their experience – one that is still fresh in their minds. By respecting the customer’s time and keeping things short and easy you’ll reduce drop-out rates, meaning you’ve got more insight to work with.

Look for the nuance

Shorter doesn’t mean multiple choice. Think about text analysis, and where written responses (and increasingly, feedback relayed via voice, video, photos, and even emoji) could help you identify key themes, pinch points, or barriers for your customers. If you’re worried about this making your survey more difficult to complete, especially if users are on mobile devices, even asking for descriptive words will help – you’re not looking for chapter and verse. 

Some companies are even moving back to interactive voice response (IVR) technology, because they understand that it’s easier for the customer to talk than to type – and that this often generates a more honest response. 

Technique matters

A series of questions measured against the same scale makes it easy for respondents to lose focus. That’s when they start simply answering ‘agree’ to everything or scoring all questions the same, because it saves thinking effort and gets them to the end of the survey faster. It’s a sure-fire way to get poor quality results. Shake things up to avoid it happening.

Make it personal

If someone’s a regular customer they don’t want to see the same old survey over and over again – survey fatigue is bad enough already. If you can, use transactional information to make your questions relevant to your customers’ experiences: dates, locations, money spent – anything that shows that you know them, and that you want to learn something specific from their feedback. Don’t show you know them too much though. Privacy is important, so don’t go against GDPR and the MRS Code of Conduct.

Give it energy

Ask a dull question and get a dull response. Instead, be creative and challenge consumers to be different. Try asking questions like: “What would you change if you were our CEO for the day?”, “If we were in a customer service competition, what medal would you give us?”, or “Would you employ one of our staff in your business?”.  

Don’t do it for the sake of differentiation or frivolity though – remember your resulting responses still need to be valuable and actionable. 

Stay on brand

Every survey is a golden opportunity to get people to engage with your brand. It’s a chance to strengthen relationships with customers and show you value them. Work closely with your marketing team to make sure that your surveys reflect your brand values and are true to its tone of voice. It might feel like you’re relinquishing control but these experts know what works, and when it comes to Customer Experience no organisation should be operating in silos.

Remember, the last impression you leave is often the most enduring, so the way you deliver your survey is going to be the way people will recall your brand.

Test it till it hurts

Test everything: your ideas, your subject lines, and your questions. Will they give you varied, insightful responses? Make every element of your survey work as hard as possible. Repeat to yourself: there’s huge benefit in marginal gains. 

Appreciate the limitations

There’s no doubt that surveys can deliver value, but they’re not the only way to gather feedback. Even when designed well, you’ll only ever receive responses from a small proportion of the survey field, and those customers who do complete them may naturally share common characteristics and preferences – something frustrated CX teams would be quick to confirm.

Think about what surveys are not giving you – are you trying to validate existing data, or fill in gaps in information? Or are you trying to gauge the opinion of a hard-to-reach group, or tap into unsolicited feedback?

Consider harvesting social data, using text or voice analysis or predictive analytics. Remember: the average NPS score of a company which integrates feedback from four or more different channels is 14 points higher than the baseline. Not convinced?  One airline we worked with saw a one percent increase in NPS translate to more than 100,000 extra bookings a year, so there’s a lot to gain from getting it right. 

And if you’re still thinking “But…!”

Relax. As a first step, concentrate on in-the-moment feedback – there’s never a better moment than now. Capturing live responses means better quality answers, higher response rates, and the chance to fix any immediate problems your customers are flagging. Once you’ve got that down, you can start joining the dots and creating a bigger picture later.




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