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Delivering 360 customer service through AI, automation and the all-important human touch

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Delivering 360 customer service through AI, automation and the all-important human touch 1

By Andrew White, CEO, Contexta 360

The future is digital. That’s a mantra no one would argue with and, in recent years, we’ve really started to see how the practical applications of AI and automation can empower us as consumers, streamlining many aspects of our interactions with the organisations that provide our goods and services. Through apps, chatbots, and automated services, we can now make secure transactions, change settings and get most of the information we need at the touch of a button, without having to talk in person with supplier organisations.

So far, so good. And on top of this, our digital connection to the company is a two-way street. All this digital interaction is generating vast swathes of data on product and purchase trends that supplier companies can use to hone their services and gain insight into customer preferences.

The “moments that matter”

However, while consumers and businesses alike have embraced the benefits of automation, there are still many situations when the human touch is essential.

Indeed, all that data generated can be used to profile customers and route interactions for optimum efficiency to strike the right balance between automation and human service. For lower value customers with straightforward enquiries automation works well, but for high value customers, with complex queries, human interaction is what’s needed; customers become frustrated by automation and only a human will do.

In fact, 60 per cent of consumer interaction on average is via voice and video, and in the “moments that matter” – when there is an emergency or need for specialist advice – this rate jumps to 83 per cent. These calls are some of the most valuable from a customer service perspective. By the time the customer picks up the phone, it means they need help with something they cannot resolve themselves; they may be angry or need immediate assistance. At that point they expect to talk to someone who can solve their problems quickly and professionally, making immediate judgement calls on the best course of action – it’s the human touch that remains at the heart of customer service. For customer service agents, however, this means that the days of dealing with simple enquiries are over.

However, just because the customer interaction has, at this point, ostensibly crossed the border from digital to human, this doesn’t mean that the process shouldn’t continue to be supported by innovations in digital technology. Indeed, because of the high value strategic insight that these more complex calls offer, capturing and integrating their content into customer service streams to assist call centre agents is becoming a priority for customer-focused organisations.

Supporting the supporters and closing the digital loop

When a call comes in the call centre agent has only between 3-5 seconds to prepare – that’s no time at all in which to absorb any background data available on the customer and context of the call. When they pick up, they may fail to initially understand the customer request, which is likely to be complex. Even if they do, they must then enter it manually into the CRM system. Agents are only human and this is where errors creep in – fatigue, pressure and inexperience can all lead to inaccuracies – and the opportunity to build up a comprehensive “digital signature” for the customer is lost. Furthermore, and most importantly for the brand, the customer’s experience is less than optimum.

This is where many organisations have started using artificial intelligence and conversational computing to close the digital loop. Voice calls can be transcribed into the system with all questions or actions captured via speech-to-text, analysed for understanding, sentiment and topics. In short, it offers digital insight into the conversation, not via the agent’s keyboard, but via the conversation itself – no gaps, just great data.

The emergence of “tuned” speech processing that aligns to specific industry terms, products and phrases with incredibly high accuracy, together with the addition of AI and deep-learning capabilities, are giving call centre agents a real-time edge. These technologies “listen-in” to the call conversation and can detect questions, interpret sentiment, flag up key words, cross-reference with internal data or notices such as product notifications or sales offers, draw in external data from sources such as Bloomberg or other news-wire services and summarise all the previous voice interactions. This helps agents provide a more informed, satisfactory service, turning those critical “moments that matter” interactions from risks to opportunities, at the same time as protecting and enhancing the brand.

Powerful insights that form a competitive edge

The businesses or organisations that deploy this capability are capturing massive insights. They’re going beyond the contact centre as a low-value, transactional service and transforming it into a strategically important differentiator. Agent performance is dramatically improved in quality and complexity of what is being captured within the system of record, or simply by assisting with a summary of the call actions once the call has ended and they hit the wrap-up timer.

This is a premium role, non-scripted, that requires knowledgeable professionals that can react to customer needs and use a range of AI and information systems to deliver excellent service or sales strategy.  It is no longer a humble job, it is the centre of a business, as all calls that reach this location seriously matter.

By supporting contact centre agents in real-time with rich and detailed customer history across all channels, from web enquiries, chatbots, voice calls, backed up with contextual insight around the tone and sentiment of those conversations, we make all that data work effectively on a human level when the interaction occurs.

This underlines the fact that we shouldn’t be talking about a binary choice between automated or human interactions. Instead we need to operate on a customer service scale that collects and monitors data at all points – even voice – and uses it at the point it’s needed to deliver a fully 360-degree customer service. In this way we can combine the best features of automation, artificial intelligence and the human touch for optimum effect.

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Thomson Reuters to stress AI, machine learning in a post-pandemic world

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By Kenneth Li and Nick Zieminski

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Thomson Reuters Corp will streamline technology, close offices and rely more on machines to prepare for a post-pandemic world, the news and information group said on Tuesday, as it reported higher sales and operating profit.

The Toronto-headquartered company will spend $500 million to $600 million over two years to burnish its technology credentials, investing in AI and machine learning to get data faster to professional customers increasingly working from home during the coronavirus crisis.

It will transition from a content provider to a content-driven technology company, and from a holding company to an operational structure.

Thomson Reuters’ New York- and Toronto-listed shares each gained more than 8%.

It aims to cut annual operating expenses by $600 million through eliminating duplicate functions, modernizing and consolidating technology, as well as through attrition and shrinking its real estate footprint. Layoffs are not a focus of the cost cuts and there are no current plans to divest assets as part of this plan, the company said.

“We look at the changing behaviors as a result of COVID … on professionals working from home working remotely being much more reliant on 24-7, digital always-on, sort of real-time always available information, served through software and powered by AI and ML (machine learning),” Chief Executive Steve Hasker said in an interview.

Sales growth is forecast to accelerate in each of the next three years compared with 1.3% reported sales growth for 2020, the company said in its earnings release.

Thomson Reuters, which owns Reuters News, said revenues rose 2% to $1.62 billion, while its operating profit jumped more than 300% to $956 million, reflecting the sale of an investment and other items.

Its three main divisions, Legal Professionals, Tax & Accounting Professionals, and Corporates, all showed higher organic quarterly sales and adjusted profit. As part of the two-year change program, the corporate, legal and tax side will operate more as one customer-facing entity.

Adjusted earnings per share of 54 cents were ahead of the 46 cents expected, based on data from Refinitiv.

The company raised its annual dividend by 10 cents to $1.62 per share.

The Reuters News business showed lower revenue in the fourth quarter. In January, Stephen J. Adler, Reuters’ editor-in-chief for the past decade, said he would retire in April from the world’s largest international news provider.

Thomson Reuters also said its stake in The London Stock Exchange is now worth about $11.2 billion.

The LSE last month completed its $27-billion takeover of data and analytics business Refinitiv, 45%-owned by Thomson Reuters.

(Reporting by Ken Li, writing by Nick Zieminski in New York, editing by Louise Heavens and Jane Merriman)

 

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Putting data protection back on the financial agenda

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Putting data protection back on the financial agenda 2

By Wim Stoop, CDP Customer and Product Director, Cloudera

Despite the wave of changes that Brexit has brought financial organisations, from the end of ‘passporting’ to uncertainty over the longer-term equivalence rules, one thing has remained a constant — data privacy regulations are a core responsibility to protect sensitive data and mitigate data breaches. From PSD2 to GDPR, financial institutions need to ensure they are still processing and transferring data in accordance with the industry’s stringent rules and regulations. If not, they risk fines of up to £17.5 million or 4% of their company’s annual global turnover.

As the stakes get higher, the amount of data which financial enterprises are having to deal with is on the rise too. In fact, research by IDC estimated that businesses created and captured 6.4 zettabytes of new data last year alone. This increase in data production has linked to the pandemic and the move to remote working. Replacing face-to-face interactions with online communications has meant that financial businesses suddenly had to cope with a larger amount of data flowing through their networks. In addition, employees working from home are increasingly doing so on potentially unsecured devices, outside of the corporate network, risking exposure and data breaches according to numerous cybersecurity reports.

With an extensive stock of sensitive customer data and so many regulations to keep on top of, remaining compliant can feel overwhelming for financial organisations. However, this shouldn’t be the case. Today we often see businesses trying to retrofit data protection strategies, or take a reactive approach to external forces. Instead, they should be taking a proactive stance on data management. In doing so, security becomes a natural side-effect and financial companies can operate with the assurance that no matter what new regulations come into play, they are compliant. The question is, how to achieve this?

Taking a proactive approach to data privacy

To remain compliant, financial institutions need to get on top of their data. When data is sat in siloes, on legacy systems, it’s inaccessible to all and it becomes a challenge to identify what is sensitive and what isn’t. Poorly managed data can’t be protected and the risk of data breaches increases. By contrast, when properly controlled and stored, it becomes easy to apply data security rules.

From customer names and contact details to transaction records and PINs, financial organisations hold a lot of personal and financial data on customers. However, the trick is understanding that all data holds varying degrees of sensitivity and thus, needs to be managed accordingly. For instance, a customer’s bank account details are more sensitive, compared to their basic personal data, such as name and address, which are usually publicly accessible. By proactively identifying, prioritising and classifying data by its degree of sensitivity, financial companies can apply any and all data protection rules that are necessary, such as restricting certain users from accessing highly confidential information.

Yet, this identification process is often looked at as a reactive measure by many financial businesses. The challenge in proactive data management lies in an organisation’s ability to eliminate the frictions it has in tracking, identifying and classifying information, as opposed to doing so retrospectively. After all, data classification plays a vital role in ensuring data protection is upheld.

A proactive approach is integral to effective data management and governance. The first step in achieving this approach involves creating a data marketplace, or a curated, secured and governed data repository. Having something like a data marketplace in place means that as soon as data enters an organisation, enterprises can determine its degree of sensitivity, how it should be managed, and which analytics need to be run, to extract the most value out of the data.

Once these steps are taken, compliance and data privacy happen almost naturally and become ingrained in the business. When companies are aware of every single piece of data in their possession, they can know exactly how it’s being protected. Such a robust strategy ensures that institutions meet the high standards of trust that their customers have bestowed upon them in protecting their personal data. And, with this level of control, enterprises can avoid data lockout, reduce friction for employees, and optimise the value they unlock from their data. At the same time, they can have the peace of mind that they are compliant and protected.

A business-ready solution for data protection

With so many rules and regulations to keep track of, data protection shouldn’t be another worry to add to the list. Financial companies can maximise the efficacy of their existing security and governance strategies by applying it to all datasets across the enterprise – whether that be on-premise, in the cloud, or a combination of the two. In particular, as a scalable and low-cost solution, organisations are increasingly turning to the cloud for their data management needs. It’s expected that over half (51%) of business data will be stored in the cloud by 2024.

This is where an enterprise data cloud (EDC) really shows it’s worth, allowing financial companies to keep their data protected, compliant, and successfully governed. Simply put, an EDC is a hybrid and multi-cloud platform that harnesses analytics at every stage of the data lifecycle. It enables organisations to extract the true value of their data while still providing a consistent layer of security.

An EDC gives financial businesses a single source of truth, built on technology that operates on any cloud environment and right through to the edge. Armed with an EDC, companies have complete visibility over their data, no matter where it resides in the enterprise or the data lifecycle, easing the task of managing and protecting data. On top of this, an EDC supports a variety of data functions, including the data marketplace, and works to provide control, visibility and examination over data. With all these aspects working together, financial institutions can ensure that all data which passes through their infrastructure and into the data marketplace is efficiently governed and protected.

Bringing technology, people, and process together

Technological solutions, like an EDC, work at their maximum potential when they are in harmony with people and process. But, the triad has been thrown off balance by the rise of remote working and reduction in staff numbers. While all businesses recognise that sensitive data needs to be encrypted and access should be restricted, this has been a difficult feat as employees work from home and use devices outside of the traditional network security parameters. In fact, nearly half (48%) of employees are less likely to follow safe data practices when working from home. This will exponentially increase the risk of data breaches.

In addition, with almost a fifth (18%) of the UK workforce on furlough and team numbers shrinking, companies don’t have the same amount of manpower to validate both the systems being used, as well as the data being run in these systems, to ensure that they are compliant. Within the office environment, organisations were able to create ‘islands of perfect governance’, with all departments being aware of the applications used to manage data and therefore, guaranteeing higher levels of compliance. However, these safety nets have collapsed during home working and it’s become more difficult to ensure the security and privacy of data within an enterprise.

What’s needed here is an overarching framework that provides a standard for data governance. This is enabled by having the right technology solution, a proactive approach to data management and people within a business supporting it from the bottom up in place — forming a triad that works in perfect harmony. A framework such as this also enables enterprises to assess what they need to do to create data protection rules internally that ensure compliance, and allows employees to self-check their data security protocols eliminating any uncertainty about protecting sensitive data.

It is important to remember that the right technology alone won’t make people compliant – whether they are working in an office or remotely. Rather, as pointed out above, it is technology, people, and process, working in sync, that will ensure that regulations are adhered to and data is managed and protected.

Long-lasting success with data protection

With data volumes growing and remote working creating security vulnerabilities, financial businesses need to get on top of their data from the get-go. By proactively identifying sensitive data, accurately securing it, and delivering trusted data to end-users, the right data can be put into the hands of the right people.

Creating a watertight data privacy strategy requires financial organisations to deliver a uniform approach to data management and protection across departments to ensure compliance. In addition, harnessing technology, such as an EDC, will provide visibility and control over sensitive data, enabling financial institutions to unlock real-time insights from their data while still providing a consistent layer of security. With technology, people and process in harmony, enterprises can operate with the confidence that their data is being managed successfully and they are compliant with both existing and new regulations.

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Optimising and Securing Device Management in a Corporate Environment

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Optimising and Securing Device Management in a Corporate Environment 3

By Nadav Avni, Marketing Director at Radix Technologies

The proliferation of digital devices used in every organisation has only grown in the past few years. Digital devices provide greater flexibility and mobility for companies, but they also create more of a burden on IT teams and administrators to manage it all. Is there a device management solution powerful enough to support your corporate needs?

What Is Mobile Device Management (MDM)?

Mobile devices have more capabilities than ever before – and they’re accessing more sensitive and property data, too. In fact, 42% of enterprises now consider themselves mobile-first. As more employees moved to remote work, it underscored the need for greater security. At the same time, it made device management more difficult for IT teams.

Mobile Device Management (MDM) allows the remote management of every device in an organisation’s fleet from a centralised platform that’s accessible from anywhere. It gives complete control of devices and provides a way to manage settings, policies, and security in one place.

The Importance of MDM

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of CFOs said they expect to keep some employees working from home and shift others to remote work permanently. The need to manage devices remotely isn’t going away even when the pandemic is over. Even when employees are working on-site, they still use mobile devices.

Smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other single-use devices all need management. Workers may be in different locations than IT administrators. MDM allows efficient remote management of every device in the fleet regardless of the administrators’ and employees’ location.

Some of the core functions of mobile device management include:

  • Managing setting and policies
  • Monitoring app usage and performance
  • Updating equipment, software, and applications
  • Monitoring health of equipment
  • Monitoring equipment location, status, and activity
  • Remote device control for diagnosis and troubleshooting
  • Encryption of email and files
  • Segregation for work and personal device use, creating separate and secured environments for work data.

More than Security

Most MDM solutions focus mainly on Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) and the security layer. A fully-featured MDM/EMM system adds another layer that provides comprehensive device management. This gives IT administrators the ability to manage nearly every type of device running on every major operating system from one platform.

Flexible solutions can be installed as an on-premises solution or on the cloud for reduced latency, redundancy, and end-to-end security with encryption. When you’re running a mobile device management platform in the cloud, the service provider automatically applies updates and patches. Hence, it’s one more thing you won’t need to worry about. It also makes it easier for administrators to access the platform remotely.

Managing Compliance

Nadav Avni

Nadav Avni

Mobile devices increase the possibility of data breaches or leaks. Besides the possibility of cyber-attacks, a staggering number of laptops and smartphones are lost or stolen. On average, 70 million devices are lost or stolen annually, with less than 10% of ever being recovered. This is an exceptionally big problem for managing compliance in regulated industries, such as healthcare, financial, and other businesses.

A robust MDM/EMM software provides end-to-end security and encryption to protect data. Devices can be tracked with geofence and anti-theft filters. If a device leaves an authorised area, it triggers a warning note to administrators, who can remotely lock the device or wipe the data. MDM/EMM apps with advanced security features also create snapshots on the fly even while devices are running to make restoring or recovery from virus attacks or system crashes easier.

Besides automated data audits, these functions help organisations comply with even the most stringent compliance regulations, including GDPR, the EU’s General Data Privacy Regulations. It also acts as an essential element in complying with HIPAA, SOX, FISMA, PCI DSS, and other regulations.

More Efficient Deployment

Devices can be deployed in batches with preset configuration, settings, and corporate policies. By automating enrollment tasks, the devices can be up and running in your environment without user intervention. It all happens in the background the first time a device is fired up and connected to a network.

Besides the platform’s native and priority enrollment modules, devices can also be deployed using a range of platforms. This provides an extremely friendly out of the box experience (OOBE) for employees without tying up IT teams for hours to configure new devices.

Tools for All Stakeholders

Modern MDM/EMM tools also provide sophisticated reporting tools to all stakeholders in the organisation. IT teams can manage the entire device fleet holistically or drill down to any individual device. Managers can look at adoption and usage rates. CFOs can look at the ROI. Each automated report can be customised to show what each group of stakeholders needs to make data-driven business decisions.

Tools for OEMs and Vendors

APIs are usually available for solution developers. That means the platform can be embedded in device firmware and integrated at the factory level for OEMs. System-level integration is also possible, so mobile device management software can be pre-installed and ready to go upon device delivery.

Managing Use and Content

Not every employee needs every functionality on every device. MDM software allows you to apply single-app or multi-app kiosk mode. This creates an encapsulated environment with access to the functionality and apps you determine.

It creates a consistent look-and-feel for devices and control device elements, such as locking down external ports or preventing unauthorised interaction of non-company installed apps. You can limit external internet use or enable/disable Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections.

Device Management Solution

One of the biggest barriers to continued remote work is the lack of technology and infrastructure to allow remote employees to work productively. Therefore, implementing a modular and flexible MDM/EMM solution is key to successfully and efficiently managing your devices. Look for one that not only accomplishes the points listed above but one that also allows customisation for just about any use case. Take control of your entire mobile device fleet and gain the ability to finally manage nearly every aspect with ease.

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