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Siddharth Parashar, Executive Vice President of client relations and strategic account management at Firstsource Solutions, looks at how the financial services sector is adapting to new technology to improve the customer journey – and keeping pace with fresh-faced fintechs

A recent study shows that more than half of all banking customers have now turned to fintech start-ups to cater for their banking needs.It’s the latest push in a tug of war between high-street banks and fintech start-ups as they compete for customers and drive digital innovation – and the Capgemini and LinkedIn-backed report states that customer service is a key deciding factor in consumers choosing new providers.

Indeed, the digital revolution has introduced a seismic shift in customer expectations, whatever the sector. Digital customer-centric tools such as webchat, apps and social media are now the norm – and with fresh-faced fintechs snapping at traditional banks’ heels, the race to get ahead is firmly underway in the financial services space.

Is messenger next?

Messenger is the next big thing in the digital transformation of customer experience. An instant and direct way of communicating with customers, anytime, anywhere, it gives brands an opportunity to engage with them on a personal level, and in a sophisticated way.

For digital natives, these platforms offer an efficient and familiar interface. Instead of having to switch applications and create new account details, customers can stay on a platform that they use every day. On a practical level, users will also have notifications enabled, meaning they do not have to sit around waiting for a reply.

This familiarity is particularly valuable in the financial services sector, where younger customers can often feel forced into interacting in a way they view as antiquated and unfamiliar. For retail banks, who have long struggled with their conservative reputation, this can help attract newer, younger customers – and keep pace with their fintech rivals.

For agents, meanwhile, they will benefit from having a log of previous interactions readily available, helping them to gain a better understanding of a customer’s profile and previous problems. Channel bounce is cited as one of the main frustrations of customer experience– but the nature of messenger means this problem will become obsolete.

Integrating messenger in the mix

A crucial part of good customer experience relies on providing the right mix of channels to fit in with customers’ lifestyles and preferences. Customer service has traditionally focused on voice, but our increasing reliance on technology – with its huge potential to enhance customer experience – mean businesses are constantly innovating and integrating new methods of engagement into their strategy.

That said, messenger has so far often been used in a disjointed way, and simply bolted onto other methods of customer interaction.This lack of channel integration canunsurprisingly leave customers frustrated, having to repeat conversations they’ve already had over the phone.

As a relatively new CX platform, brands are still working out the best way to integrate messenger into their customer offering, but it’s important that banks – both old and new – start thinking about how to make customer journeys as seamless and straight forward as possible.

Of course, it will take some trial and error. But there are some golden rules businesses must take into consideration when using messenger.

Firstly, it’s vital that agents on messenger are empowered enough to be able to resolve a customer’s problem quickly, professionally and efficiently, despite the relative informality of the platform. A cardinal CX sin is shuttling a customer from agent to agent and channel to channel to find someone better qualified to help. Agents on messenger should demonstrate the same empathy, skill and engagement as on other channels like voice.

Messenger is also a prime opportunity to build an intuitive and personal connection with customers. Even the use of emojis or text speak, where appropriate, will help show the personality behind your brand, and make customers feel as if their interaction is almost as familiar as a conversation with friends – perhaps the holy grail of customer service.

To chatbot or not to chatbot?

Microsoft, Uber and Twitter are just a few of the brands who have recently launched chatbots – although some with more success than others.

It’s easy to see why they’ve chosen to take the leap into AI. Although there’s potential for chatbots to go wrong – as Microsoft’s Tay showed earlier this year– they can also provide a novel way for brands to evolve how they use messenger as a channel. Chatbots can be particularly useful to solve straightforward transactions and simple questions, or to shepherd customers on a relatively linear journey, such as everyday banking queries.

But they also have their limitations. The financial industry is heavily regulated so the potential fallout if bots ‘get it wrong’ could be much greater. What’s more, personal finance is a sensitive topic for many, and can be fraught with confusion or anxiety. Bots simply aren’t intelligent enough to decipher tone, context or customer frustrations. For non-linear journeys, this is particularly dangerous – and it’s important businesses have a human agent on hand for when the “computer says no”.

Limitations aside, it’s clear that both chatbots and messenger are set to be a key channel in the customer service of the future. Banks need to be ready to integrate both where appropriate, and determine how they can play a vital role in delivering the best customer experience possible.


Exclusive: India woos Tesla with offer of cheaper production costs than China



Exclusive: India woos Tesla with offer of cheaper production costs than China 1

By Aftab Ahmed and Aditi Shah

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India is ready to offer incentives to ensure Tesla Inc’s cost of production would be less than in China if the carmaker commits to making its electric vehicles in the south Asian country, transport minister Nitin Gadkari told Reuters.

Gadkari’s pitch comes weeks after billionaire Elon Musk’s Tesla registered a company in India in a step towards entering the country, possibly as soon as mid-2021. Sources familiar with the matter have said Tesla plans to start by importing and selling its Model 3 electric sedan in India.

“Rather than assembling (the cars) in India they should make the entire product in the country by hiring local vendors. Then we can give higher concessions,” Gadkari said in an interview, without giving details of what incentives would be on offer.

“The government will make sure the production cost for Tesla will be the lowest when compared with the world, even China, when they start manufacturing their cars in India. We will assure that,” he said.

India wants to boost local manufacturing of electric vehicles (EVs), batteries and other components to cut costly imports and curb pollution in its major cities.

This comes amid a global race by carmakers to jump-start EV production as countries work towards cutting carbon emissions.

But India faces a big challenge to win a production commitment from Tesla, which did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment about its plans in the country.

India’s fledgling EV market accounted for just 5,000 out of a total 2.4 million cars sold in the country last year as negligible charging infrastructure and the high cost of EVs deterred buyers.

In contrast, China, where Tesla already makes cars, sold 1.25 million new energy passenger vehicles, including EVs, in 2020 out of total sales of 20 million, and accounted for more than a third of Tesla’s global sales.

India also doesn’t have a comprehensive EV policy like China, the world’s biggest auto market, which mandates companies to invest in the sector.

Gadkari said that as well as being a big market, India could be an export hub, especially with about 80% of components for lithium-ion batteries being made locally now.

“I think it’s a win-win situation for Tesla,” Gadkari said, adding he also wanted to engage with Tesla about building an ultra high-speed hyperloop between Delhi and Mumbai.

India is drawing up a production-linked incentive scheme for auto and auto component makers as well as for setting up advanced battery manufacturing units, but the details are yet to be finalised.

Switching to cleaner sources of energy and reducing vehicle pollution are seen as essential for India to meet its Paris Accord climate commitments.

India last year introduced tougher emission rules for carmakers to bring them up to international standards. It is now looking at tightening fuel efficiency rules from April 2022, which industry executives say may compel some automakers to add electric or hybrid vehicles to their portfolios.

Battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry says it needs longer to make the transition.

Gadkari said he was not directly responsible for making the decision on whether to delay, but was confident India would meet its Paris treaty commitments without disrupting economic growth.

“Development and environment will go hand in hand. We will take some time but we will soon reach the international standard norms,” he said.

(Reporting by Aftab Ahmed and Aditi Shah. Editing by Mark Potter)

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Is it legal for an employer force an employee to have the COVID vaccine?



Is it legal for an employer force an employee to have the COVID vaccine? 2

By Amanda Hamilton, CEO, National Association of Licensed Paralegals

Can you force your staff to have the vaccine before they return to work? Quite simply, no, not legally!

Despite the claims of some of the anti-vaxxers, there is no law in the UK which requires mandatory vaccination. The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 devolves powers to Parliament to legislate in order to protect UK Citizens. The law enables Parliament to intervene in an emergency situation, such as the pandemic, and impose lockdowns and restrictions to protect citizens, but it cannot impose mandatory vaccinations.

In other words, there is no power to make vaccinations mandatory. This raises a whole host of issues – from human rights to equality – and balances them against the rights of others to be safe in their workplace. In addition, it raises issues around the possible criminal implications of forcing someone to be vaccinated against their will.

Potential criminal implications: The Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 s20 states that an unlawful wounding would occur if a person were forced to have a vaccination against their will. A wound means ‘a break of the skin’. This statute still remains in force today.

Human Rights and Equality: Compulsory medical treatment or testing is contrary to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights meaning that it is a human right to refuse medical treatment if you wish to do so. Refusing medical treatment could be because of deeply held religious or other beliefs, and this brings into play the Equality Act 2010. This statute states an individual is protected from discrimination from nine possible characteristics including: age, disability, gender re-assignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief and sex.

So, an employer cannot force an employee to be vaccinated. But can that employer dismiss an employee for refusing the vaccine?

Again, simply no. If they did, then it would amount to an unfair dismissal and the employee could justifiably take the employer to an employment tribunal for discrimination. The case would be brought under the Equality Act 2010 in that the claimant’s refusal to be vaccinated is founded on a fundamental belief or on religious grounds. It would of course, be for the claimant to prove that she/he has such beliefs.

And it would be exactly the same if the claimant felt that they were being victimised, because of their belief, to such an extent that they felt that they could not continue being in the employ of the employer, and consequently, resigned. This would amount to constructive dismissal. The result being the same as if the employer had dismissed the employee – an employment tribunal case could ensue for unfair dismissal.

So how on earth can an employer manage such a situation if there is a statutory duty to provide a safe environment for employees in the workplace? The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 places the responsibility on employers to protect the ‘health, safety and welfare’ at work of all employees and includes others on the premises such as temps, contractors and visitors.

This appears to be in contradiction to the premise that it is an individual’s right to refuse the vaccine. The only way to manage this is to impose certain guidelines on employees such as those we are all asked to follow during the current pandemic, e.g. social distancing, mask wearing and sanitising/hand washing etc.

It may also be prudent to find alternative work for the employee until it is safe for them to return. A reasonable solution such as this should be acceptable to an employee. If not, and the employee brings an unfair dismissal case against the employer for constructive dismissal on the basis of discrimination, then a Tribunal, hearing such a case would weigh up the rights of the claimant to refuse the vaccine, with the nature of the work they do, the alternatives offered to them, and how many others would be put at risk, if they were to continue in their role without vaccination. In other words, they would look at the situation and apply a test of reasonability.

Lastly, can an employer insist that their staff tell them whether or not they have been vaccinated?

If you can demonstrate that asking them to be vaccinated is a reasonable management instruction, then asking them for this information will also be reasonable. However, just as you can’t force them to be vaccinated, you also can’t force them to reveal their vaccination status. Again, equality laws will come into play if there is a risk that revealing their vaccination status will result in discrimination within the workplace.

If they do agree to tell you then this will constitute sensitive personal health data and you’ll need to comply with GDPR. The same applies to information about who has not been vaccinated and why.

Generally, the best policy is one of unambiguous communication. Explain why you’d like staff to be vaccinated and why you’d like the information about their status. Give them an opportunity to discuss this privately with you or your HR department, and look at ways to mitigate the risks and offer alternative working options.  This way you have done your best to provide the right working environment, have kept staff informed and engaged in the process and ultimately reduced the chances of a successful Tribunal claim.

Amanda Hamilton is Chief Executive of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit Membership Body and the only Paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its Centres, accredited recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for a career as a paralegal professional.


Twitter: @NALP_UK


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UK’s Taylor Wimpey sees recovery building in 2021 after good start



UK's Taylor Wimpey sees recovery building in 2021 after good start 3

By Aby Jose Koilparambil

(Reuters) – Britain’s third-largest homebuilder Taylor Wimpey reported a strong start to the year on Tuesday and forecast a recovery in sales and margins in 2021 after a slump in 2020.

The group also earmarked 125 million pounds ($174 million) for fire safety work on its developments amid a nationwide drive to improve building safety following a deadly tower block fire in London in 2017.

The FTSE 100 firm said it expected to develop fewer affordable homes than usual this year, with a higher proportion of more profitable private homes, which would help improve its operating margin.

Its shares were trading 2.2% higher at 1000 GMT.

“The key news is that they are talking better on the operating margin for 2021, recent trade has been resilient … and all looks in pretty good shape,” said Canaccord Genuity analyst Aynsley Lammin.

Taylor Wimpey said it expected 2021 operating margin to rise to between 18.5% and 19% after it tumbled to 10.8% in 2020 from 19.6% a year earlier.

Britain is expected to extend a tax break on home purchases by three months and unveil a mortgage guarantee scheme in Wednesday’s budget, moves that could bolster the housebuilding sector after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled an exit plan from coronavirus lockdowns.

Taylor Wimpey, which has operations in Britain and Spain, joined rivals Barratt and Persimmon in setting aside funds to meet new fire safety regulations introduced after a deadly fire at London’s Grenfell Tower in 2017.

The group made pretax profit of 264.4 million pounds ($367 million) last year, down 68.4% from a year earlier and just below analysts’ average forecast of 267 million in a company-provided poll. Revenue fell about 37% to 2.79 billion pounds.

It resumed dividend payments, with a final payout of 4.14 pence per share.

($1 = 0.7202 pounds)

(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru. Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Mark Potter)

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