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Brands against Brexit: a risky business

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Brands against Brexit: a risky business

Sven Hughes, CEO and Founder of Verbalisation

BREXIT is back on the agenda. The internal political turmoil in Theresa May’s cabinet has rocked the government.

The Chequers agreement has claimed two of the Prime Minister’s most high-profile Brexiteers and prompted a re-shuffle but as a CEO and as a British business owner, my point of view is that should we not embrace Brexit and leave the European Union with our head held high?

The business opportunities for Britain outside of the common market are endless. All the commentators and media onlookers need to stop wagging their fingers at the Conservative government and instead approach Brexit with fresh and renewed enthusiasm. The opportunities for trading with countries and markets away from the European Union are there and ripe for the taking. Personally, I am excited about Brexit, with large companies like Airbus and BMW warning that the negotiations need to benefit big business. The government is certainly listening to these business leaders, but should we not be more upbeat about what lies ahead for us after March 2019?

We need to start promoting Brexit Britain. Fly the flag around the world and to business leaders far and wide. British brands need to be championed and we must be utilising our innovative skills in marketing and brand promotion to the wider world and striking back against these brands like BMW who are threatening to move jobs away from our fine lands.

British workers have specific skills in industries like my own – marketing and soft power. We lead the world as our workforce in the services are second to none. If you look at what our best British exports are now, industries that take advantage of our educated and highly skilled middle-classes are our most valuable commodity in 2018. Our marketing firms, educational institutions and technological companies push the boundaries and are the exports that should be celebrated on the world stage.

With the US imposing fresh trade tariffs on the EU and China, and becoming increasingly isolationist in their economic policies, there will be a gap in the global market for our businesses to trade with a wide-range of countries from China, Russia and separately with America itself. All away from the constraints we have been under as a member of the European Union. Why are we not working more with Russian companies and advising them on their marketing strategies? Our British schools and higher education facilities should be starting businesses and academies in China. Ultimately by looking far and wide for our new trade agreements, the British economy will surely flourish.

Diversification of our key industries and exports is paramount. There will be new opportunities that will arise post-Brexit and we need our service industries to grasp this with both hands rather than try to re-work old relationships with businesses in the European Union.

Here at my company Verbalisation we have recruited professionals with a wide-range of backgrounds. British marketing professionals, ex British army servicemen who have experience in psychological operations and senior managers and directors who have worked in large multi-national corporations and all of whom have come together under one roof at our offices in London to create a marketing firm that can work with a wide-range of international clients on targeted marketing campaigns, helping their businesses grow. We use all the skills that my workforce has to advise and help our clients update and mature in 2018.

We need to keep in mind the objectives and the goals of why the British people voted for Brexit in the first place. Hopefully, we can catch the ball with both hands and run with it. Whatever the deal is agreed by Theresa May and her cabinet or even if it is another Prime Minister behind the door at Number 10 Downing Street, we must be positive and plan to capitalise on Brexit Britain.

Business

Do You Even Know What is Happening in Your Back Office?

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Do You Even Know What is Happening in Your Back Office? 1

By Jennifer Lee, Chief Strategy Officer at Intradiem

Consumers may not realise this, but many of the most important tasks required to provide a great customer experience (such as processing claims, solving disputes, or issuing refunds) are completed by people – specifically, by a team of associates in the back office.

Back office associates are really the unsung heroes of any service organisation. They are tasked with time-consuming and critical work which, if not completed efficiently and effectively, translates directly into lost revenue when customers take their business elsewhere. It’s an important and often misunderstood or overlooked customer service function.

The reality is that, even in an era driven by transformation, many companies’ back office associates are still working with antiquated processes and legacy systems, and service leaders lack transparency into their back office operations. The good news: the technical landscape is evolving, and savvy service leaders are realising that back office associates deserve more focus and attention.

Applying Contact Centre Success to the Back Office

Over the last decade, contact centre leaders have blazed a trail that demonstrates how to leverage technology to improve operational efficiency, leading to cost savings and better customer experiences. Having created a blueprint to drive change, this approach has paid serious dividends, even in a pandemic.

Companies adopting technologies like AI-powered intelligent assistants have dramatically reduced costs in their contact centres. As a result of this success, forward-thinking service leaders are now taking measures to apply similar solutions in the back office to realise productivity gains and cost savings.

The Back Office is Full of Untapped Potential

Back office associates have a difficult job. Their primary role is to complete tasks that make up for a process or technical gap in a service delivery model. This means they work in multiple, unintegrated systems, handle a wide variety of tasks, and often work on many tasks at once – typically in a self-directed structure. The nature of this problem-first approach has led to some common operational issues and trends within back office operations.

Back offices often only have historical and disparate data on hand and thus, lack impactful insights into their operations to gauge and benchmark productivity. This is unlike the contact centre, where each touchpoint of the customer and agent journey can be mapped and actioned in real-time. Just as contact centres have evolved to turn actionable insights into actioned ones, the back office must evolve in order to realise its potential.

Recognising the untapped potential is the first step. If back offices can untangle these disjointed legacy systems and standardise a methodology similar to the call centre for benchmarking productivity, the possibilities for cost savings and optimised customer experiences are limitless.

Leveraging the Power of an Intelligent Assistant

Without a standardised framework, back office managers are unable to gauge if associates are idle or engaged in completing a task, or to benchmark time spent on different tasks. An intelligent assistant can create this framework, collecting and standardising data and providing insights in real-time.

This arms back office managers with crucial information they have never had before. Real-time data helps back office managers define productivity thresholds and set guidelines for managing associate time. The intelligent assistant can then automate the appropriate actions that redirect associates who may spend too much time in non-work applications or sit idle for a period of time beyond the pre-set threshold. For example, at a certain threshold, you can send a notification asking an associate if they need help with a certain task and offer assistance. Supervisors can also use this information when coaching associates.

The result? Higher performing associates, better customer experiences and substantial cost savings.

We are at the gates of a revolution in the back office. Companies, now more than ever, must discover ways to reduce costs and the back office is an untapped opportunity. If managers can translate the proven approach used in the contact centre to the back office, they will see increased efficiency and substantial cost savings.

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Toyota develops fuel cell system to cut carbon footprint

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Toyota develops fuel cell system to cut carbon footprint 2

TOKYO (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp said on Friday it has developed a packaged fuel cell system module, as it hopes to expand its usage and accessibility of the zero-emission technology amid the industry’s shift towards electric vehicles (EVs).

The world’s biggest automaker, which launched a revamped Mirai in December, has not been successful in winning drivers over to fuel cell vehicles (FCV).

The FCV segment remains a niche technology despite Japanese government backing, amid concerns about lack of fuelling stations, resale values and the risk of hydrogen explosions.

The new fuel cell (FC) battery system, which has been offered in separate parts, will be available in a compact packaged module to be used as a stationary power generator or in trucks, buses, trains and ships, the company said on Friday.

Toyota said it plans to sell the module to other companies in the spring of 2021 or later, but did not disclose details on price or sales target.

“Toyota has been taking various initiatives toward the creation of a hydrogen society,” the Japanese company said in a statement.

“Through these experiences, the company has learned that many companies involved in FC products in a variety of industries are looking for FC systems that can be easily adapted to their own product.”

The automaker said it plans to offer horizontally and vertically packaged models, weighing about 240kg-250kg, each with a rated output of 60kW or 80kW.

These module models can be combined to flexibly adapt to the output level and amount of installation space available.

The module, which packages individual fuel cell system-related products of the revamped Mirai car with enhanced performance, will be produced at Toyota’s Honsha plant in Aichi prefecture, a company spokesman said.

(Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Tom Hogue and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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Analysis: Hyundai bought chips when rivals didn’t; its assembly lines are still rolling

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Analysis: Hyundai bought chips when rivals didn't; its assembly lines are still rolling 3

By Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) – Hyundai Motor has so far avoided a chip shortage that has plagued global automakers, largely maintaining its stockpile of chips last year and even accelerating purchases towards the end, three people with knowledge of the matter said.

The shortage has forced production cuts worldwide, including at Volkswagen and General Motors, prompting Germany and the United States to ramp up efforts to resolve the shortage.

Other than Japan’s Toyota Motor, which said this month it had enough chip inventory to last it about four months, Hyundai and its sister firm Kia Corp are the only global automakers to have maintained a stockpile of low-tech chips that helped them keep up production.

If it doesn’t ease soon, though, the shortage could hit Hyundai too, as tight capacity on factory floors starts pressuring production of even high-tech auto chips, said two of the people, who are familiar with the company’s purchases.

The South Korean automaker kept buying chips even as rivals cut orders to reflect diminished demand because of the pandemic.

Analysts said past events that roiled Hyundai’s supply chain and forced it to halt production have shaped this more conservative take on inventory, a departure from automakers’ typical just-in-time approach.

“Like other automakers, Hyundai also planned to cut production at the beginning of the year because of COVID-19,” said one of the people with direct knowledge of Hyundai’s purchases.

“But procurement read the trend of the semiconductor industry cutting auto chips production and said, ‘if we don’t buy them as well, we’ll be in trouble later on,'” said the person, referring to a rush of buying by gadget makers that sucked up most chipmaking capacity.

Chipmakers who supply auto companies outsource most of their production to contract manufacturers like Taiwan’s TSMC, which analysts say often prioritise orders from electronics clients who account for nearly all their revenue.

Hyundai still bought fewer chips in 2020 than it did in 2019, said one of the sources with direct knowledge of auto chip production. But it sharply increased buying in the quarter that ended in December, the person said.

The people declined to be identified because they are not authorised to speak to media.

The fact that Hyundai’s domestic market was relatively solid through the pandemic most likely influenced the company’s plans, analysts said, as did its experiences with China and Japan.

Hyundai took lessons from a diplomatic spat with Japan in 2019 that affected supplies https://www.reuters.com/article/us-southkorea-japan-laborers-chip-analys-idUSKCN1UR3LZ of chemicals at South Korean chipmakers, and in early 2020, when the coronavirus was spreading in China, production was halted in Hyundai and Kia’s plants because of shortages of a part from China.

A spokeswoman told Reuters Hyundai was collaborating with its suppliers to maintain stable production.

RISING CONCERN

Since Hyundai kept buying from chipmakers and global auto parts suppliers such as Bosch and Continental before the shortage worsened, they also managed to keep costs down.

“This has allowed Hyundai to first, secure auto chips, and second, buy them when they were cheaper,” said Kim Jin-woo, analyst at Korea Investment & Securities.

Hyundai also has more local suppliers than rivals.

These suppliers – including Telechips, which contracts fabrication out to Samsung Electronics – are likely to prioritise Hyundai, from whom they get much of their revenue, analysts said.

One person with direct knowledge of Hyundai’s purchasing decisions said the company has diversified suppliers for at least one chip since late last year.

In a statement on Thursday, Hyundai said it plans to halt operations at one South Korean factory for five days in March to adjust inventories of some models.

A union official told Reuters the company was trying to save chips by adjusting production of its weaker-selling Sonata model. Sonata in South Korea sold 67,440 units last year versus 145,463 units of Hyundai’s most popular sedan Grandeur.

According to an internal document seen by Reuters, Hyundai expects the shortage to ease in the third quarter, and Kia said last month that since October it had been reviewing its supply chain to prevent production disruption.

“We would not say we are prepared for the next three to six months, but we could tell you that we are not seeing any immediate production disruption,” Kia said on an earnings call last month.

Still, there is rising concern at Hyundai, two of the three people said. The company is checking inventory more frequently and trying to lock down supply contracts earlier, one of them said.

The union official said Hyundai had told the union this week that Hyundai “had secured a lot of chips” but that the situation was becoming “a bit difficult”.

“Clients are trying to pull all they can, while suppliers are being strategic about which order they meet,” said the source with direct knowledge of auto chip production. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang; additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Gerry Doyle)

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