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BRITONS WOULD RATHER FILL OUT THEIR ANNUAL TAX RETURN THAN SPEAK TO CUSTOMER SERVICE TEAMS, STUDY SUGGESTS

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BRITONS WOULD RATHER FILL OUT THEIR ANNUAL TAX RETURN THAN SPEAK TO CUSTOMER SERVICE TEAMS, STUDY SUGGESTS

Research suggests that service providers are not doing enough to listen to and understand the needs of their customers ~

Nearly one in three (29 per cent) Britons say that they would rather fill out their annual tax return, scrub their toilet, or sit in a traffic jam on a hot, sunny day than have to deal with their service provider’s customer service team, according to research conducted by Redshift Research. The study was conducted on behalf of strategic business applications provider Pegasystems Inc. (NASDAQ: PEGA) and raises significant questions about whether British service-oriented industries are doing enough to understand their customers and their needs.

The research examined attitudes towards customer service and experience in two of the UK’s leading service-providing industries – retail banking and broadband – and surveyed more than 1,000 UK customers and 100 business decision makers at banks and broadband providers based in this country. It found that existing levels of customer service amongst service-focused organisations are not adequate to meet the needs of consumers, with one in ten (10 per cent) banking customers and one in six (16 per cent) broadband customers admitting that they would rather clean their own toilet than have to speak to their provider’s customer service team.

One reason for this discontent may be a failure on the part of service providers to understand their customers and their needs. Almost half (46 per cent) of all consumer respondents identified having a customer service team that listens to them and understands their needs as one of their top three considerations when dealing with a service provider. However, despite this, more than one in three (34 per cent) banking customers stated either that they expect their bank to know them better as an individual or that their bank does not understand them at all.  This number rises to over half (52 per cent) of all broadband customers who responded to the same question.

Nearly a quarter of all consumers interviewed (23 per cent) said that being offered irrelevant product or service recommendations was their leading service provider annoyance, suggesting that a high number of service providers have an incomplete view of their customers and their needs. This is further emphasised by the fact that nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of service providers stated that they felt they know their customers and their individual needs ‘extremely well’.

The survey chimes with the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index, published bi-annually by the Institute of Customer Service, which reveals that just 22 per cent of customers believe customer service teams ‘listen carefully’ or ‘want to fully understand’ their needs.  The Institute’s survey, which is based on 10,000 customers’ views, also found that just 13 per cent felt customer service teams took responsibility for helping them.

Tellingly, the Redshift study found that only 22 per cent of banks and 28 per cent of broadband providers said that they felt that they excelled in listening to and understanding their customers’ needs, with respondents from both industries placing their failure to do so amongst the top three problems they had in terms of the customer service they currently offer. This could prove significant when considering 75 per cent of banking customers and 69 per cent of broadband customers cited inadequate customer service as either an important or top reason for switching to another supplier.

Commenting on the findings, Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service, said: “The service sector is responsible for generating 78 per cent of GDP in the UK and with over 70 per cent of the working population performing roles that involve dealing directly with customers, it’s clear that the economic consequences of any prolonged disconnect between customers and service providers could be dire. Service providers across all industries need to understand that providing a positive customer experience is not an optional extra and is something that should be fully embraced if this apparent culture of complacency is to be eliminated.”

Robin Collyer, Marketing and Decisioning Specialist at Pegasystems, said: “British consumers have stated loud and clear that they need service providers to understand them, and start treating them as individuals and not just a number. To achieve this aim it’s important for organisations to bear in mind that it should be the responsibility of everyone within the organisation to ensure a positive customer experience. It’s not about the customer always being right (they aren’t) – it’s about the ability of the business to balance its objectives for growth, service, retention and risk with the customers’ need for better, more timely, and more effective engagement across whichever channel they happen to be using.

“It’s not that the companies don’t have this information available for them to use – it seems as though many are just unable to use it effectively. It’s also telling that only 12 per cent of service providers interviewed said that omni-channel was a key focus for their customer service efforts. That’s not good enough. You can’t “know” the customer if your interactions are lost across multiple channels. Service providers would be wise to adhere to this useful mantra of a positive customer experience: ‘Know me and give me your brand experience – wherever I am.’”

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Robinhood plans confidential IPO filing as soon as March – Bloomberg News

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Robinhood plans confidential IPO filing as soon as March - Bloomberg News 1

(Reuters) – Online brokerage Robinhood, at the centre of this year’s retail trading frenzy, is planning to file confidentially for an initial public offering as soon as March, Bloomberg News reported late on Friday, citing sources.

The California-based brokerage has held talks in the past week with underwriters about moving forward with a filing within weeks, Bloomberg said.

Robinhood did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reuters reported last year that Robinhood has picked Goldman Sachs Group Inc to lead preparations for an initial public offering which could value it at more than $20 billion.

Robinhood was at the heart of a mania that gripped retail investors in late January following calls on Reddit thread WallStreetBets to trade certain stocks that were being heavily shorted by hedge funds.

The online brokerage tapped around $3.4 billion in funding after its finances were strained due to the massive trading in shares of companies such as GameStop Corp.

(Reporting by Ann Maria Shibu in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin)

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Analysis: How idled car factories super-charged a push for U.S. chip subsidies

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Analysis: How idled car factories super-charged a push for U.S. chip subsidies 2

By Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) – When President Joe Biden on Wednesday stood at a lectern holding a microchip and pledged to support $37 billion in federal subsidies for American semiconductor manufacturing, it marked a political breakthrough that happened much more quickly than industry insiders had expected.

For years, chip industry executives and U.S. government officials have been concerned about the slow drift of costly chip factories to Taiwan and Korea. While major American companies such as Qualcomm Inc and Nvidia Corp dominate their fields, they depend on factories abroad to build the chips they design.

As tensions with China heated up last year, U.S. lawmakers authorized manufacturing subsidies as part of an annual military spending bill due to concerns that depending on foreign factories for advanced chips posed national security risks. Yet funding for the subsidies was not guaranteed.

Then came the auto-chip crunch. Ford Motor Co said a lack of chips could slash a fifth of its first-quarter production and General Motors Co cut output across North America.

“It brings home very clearly the message that the semiconductor is really a critical component in a lot of the end products we take for granted,” said Mike Rosa, head of strategic and technical marketing for a group within semiconductor manufacturing toolmaker Applied Materials Inc that sells tools to automotive chip factories.

Within weeks, automakers joined chip companies calling for chip factory subsidies, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Biden both pledged to fight for funding.

Industry backers now aim to be part of a package of legislation to counter China that Schumer hopes to bring to the Senate floor this spring. Still, all agree it will do little to solve the immediate auto-chip problem.

Headlines about idled car plants resonated with the public that had shrugged off abstract warnings in the past, said Jim Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Lawmakers, already worried that a promised infrastructure bill will not materialize this year, decided to push for quick solution.

“Nobody wants to be seen as soft on China. No one wants to tell the Ford workers in their district, ‘Sorry, can’t help,'” Lewis said. “It was one of those moments where everything aligned.”

The package includes matching funds for state and local chip-plant subsidies, a provision likely to heat up competition among states including Texas and Arizona to host big new chip plants that can cost as much as $20 billion.

The subsidies could benefit a factory in Arizona proposed by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co and one in Texas eyed by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, even though those factories would be geared toward high-end chips for smartphones and laptops, rather than simpler auto chips. And those factories would not come on line until 2023 or 2024, according to plans disclosed by the companies, the world’s two largest chip manufacturers.

In the longer term, a raft of U.S. companies are also poised to benefit. Any chipmakers that build factories will source many tools from American companies such as Applied, Lam Research Corp and KLA Corp.

Intel Corp, Micron Technology Inc and GlobalFoundries – which already have U.S. factory networks – will also likely benefit.

Smaller, specialty chip factories also could benefit.

“The recent chip shortage in the automotive industry has highlighted the need to strengthen the microelectronics supply chain in the U.S.,” said Thomas Sonderman, chief executive of SkyWater Technology, a Minnesota-based chipmaker that makes automotive and defense chips. “We believe that SkyWater is uniquely positioned due to our differentiated business model and status as a U.S.- owned and U.S.- operated pure play semiconductor contract manufacturer.”

Even with subsidies, the U.S. companies still must compete with low-cost Asian vendors over the long run, and the immediate auto chip troubles will probably persist.

Surya Iyer, a vice president at Minnesota-based Polar Semiconductor, which makes chips for automakers, said his factory is booked beyond capacity and has started to speed some orders up while slowing others down, to meet automakers’ needs as best it can.

“We are expecting this level of demand to continue at least for the next 12 months, maybe even longer,” he said.

(This story has been refiled to add attribution to quote in paragraph 9, add dropped words in paragraphs 10 and 17)

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis and Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco and Alexandra Alper in Washington. Editing by Jonathan Weber and David Gregorio)

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Atlantia disappointed with CDP bid for unit, continues talks

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Atlantia disappointed with CDP bid for unit, continues talks 3

By Francesca Landini and Stephen Jewkes

MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s Atlantia said on Friday an offer by a consortium of investors led by state lender CDP for its 88% stake in Autostrade per l’Italia fell short of the mark and asked its top managers to see if the bid could be sweetened.

“The offer falls below expectations,” the Italian infrastructure group said in a statement, adding it had mandated the chief executive and the chairman to assess “the potential for the necessary substantial improvements” to the bid.

Italian state lender CDP, together with co-investors Macquarie and Blackstone, has presented a proposal valuing all of Autostrade per l’Italia at 9.1 billion euros ($11 billion).

The consortium also requested Atlantia guarantee up to 700 million euros in potential damage claims and another roughly 800 million euros for a pending legal case, making the bid less attractive than previously expected.

One source said the consortium estimated overall pending legal claims against Autostrade at 3 billion to 4 billion euros, adding the 700 million euro cap did not mean the amount would be detracted from the offer price from the start.

Earlier on Friday Atlantia’s minority investors TCI and Spinecap had called on Atlantia’s board to reject the offer, saying it undervalued the asset.

“No deal is better than a bad deal, especially a bad deal and a wrong price,” TCI Advisory Services partner Jonathan Amouyal said in a emailed comment to Reuters.

TCI, which holds an indirect stake of around 10% in Atlantia, repeated that the value for 100% of Autostrade should be no less than 12.5 billion euros.

The board will hold a further meeting in order to take a final decision on the offer in due time, Atlantia said.

The negotiations between Atlantia and the CDP-led consortium are part of an effort to end a political dispute over Autostrade’s motorway concession triggered by the collapse of a motorway bridge run by the unit.

(GRAPHIC – Atlantia share performance: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/qzjpqggjdpx/image-1614331237501.png)

The bid expires on March 16, but the deadline could be extended in case Atlantia calls an extraordinary shareholders meeting (EGM) on the issue, according to one source with knowledge of the matter.

Shares in the group ended down 0,7%, after recovering some losses, as investors waited for the decision of the board.

Atlantia, which is controlled by the Benetton family, owns 88% of Autostrade, with Germany’s Allianz and funds DIF, EDF Invest and China’s Silk Road Fund holding the rest.

The group also kept open an alternative plan to demerge and sell its stake in Autostrade per l’Italia unit and called an EGM on March 29 to extend to end-July a deadline for offers for the demerged stake.

(Additional reporting by Stefano Bernabei, editing by Louise Heavens and Steve Orlofsky)

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