Connect with us

Business

Do customers really want to talk to robots?

SugarCRM embeds more data privacy controls in its products for GDPR compliance The new innovation within the company’s Cloud, Relationship Management, and Relationship Intelligence offerings will help companies implement best practices for data privacy SugarCRM Inc., the company that helps organisations build better business relationships, today announced new features for its entire cloud and product portfolio that will enable financial businesses to implement best practices for data privacy. These capabilities mean organisations can confidently deploy SugarCRM products as a key part of their GDPR compliance plans. Data privacy-related functionality is now available as part of the company’s Spring ‘18 Cloud update as well as the Sugar 8 release for on-premise customers. “SugarCRM has a reputation as a trustworthy CRM provider, so it’s not a surprise they took the GDPR challenge head on,” said Rebecca Wettemann, vice president at Nucleus Research. “What SugarCRM has done with this investment is accelerate time-to-compliance for customers and reduce the time and effort they need to ensure they’re managing GDPR compliance on an ongoing basis." SugarCRM’s new features will ensure financial institutions are better prepared for whatever comes next. New privacy-related features include: A “command centre” for data privacy –Sugar now includes a new module to address and log all customer requests related to data privacy. The advent of the data privacy manager (DPM) –SugarCRM added a new role within Sugar to review requests and mark records for erasure. Easy access to stored customer data– Sugar introduces a Personal Information Log (PI Log) feature that captures the sources of customer data input and modifications. Companies can send the personal data within the PI Log to data subjects upon request. Flagging Customers who object to data processing– Sugar users can “flag” anyone who requests that their personal data is not used in profiling or automated business processes. This is then used as a filter in campaigns and reports. Email Communications – A new global setting specifies if new email addresses should default to “opted-out” or “opted-in” for customer communications. If an email address is set to opt-out, a clear visual indicator is next to wherever Sugar displays the email address. Managing Consent – Organisations now manage within Sugar the process of a person providing “consent” to the storing and processing of their personal data. If the customer withdraws consent, Sugar records the request within the data privacy management module. Limiting data collection to only what is necessary– Data privacy regulations dictate that businesses should only process relevant personal data, and all other personal data may be inappropriate. Admins can easily remove unneeded fields via Studio (Sugar’s configuration console for admins). SugarCRM HintⓇ – Customers and prospects can request that any personal data not relevant to doing business be removed from all systems. Companies can now control what data is provided via a Hint search. Sugar Cloud– SugarCRM has put internal policies in place to protect our customers’ data in our cloud and to perform our obligations as a data processor. “SugarCRM has a reputation as a trustworthy CRM provider, so it’s not a surprise they took the GDPR challenge head on,” said Rebecca Wettemann, VP Research at Nucleus Research. “I’ve seen an early demo of the new features coming in Sugar and I’m excited to see how they will help organisations implement best practices for data privacy.”   The latest version of Sugar is available for both cloud and on-premise customers today. For more information and to sign up for a free trial, please visit www.SugarCRM.com.

By Anne de Kerckhove, CEO, Freespee

No matter which sector you are currently operating in, it’s more than likely that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will soon completely change the way you do business. Consumer-facing organisations in the retail, energy, finance, insurance and automotive sectors are embracing automation – not just to keep up with competitors, but also to keep pace with increasing expectations. However, with so much hype around AI in today’s media landscape, knowing the true value of what it can offer organisations – and how it can truly improve the customer experience – is increasingly difficult.

We have all been surprised at how quickly long-standing, established high-street retailers such as WHSmith, House of Fraser and M&S came under existential threat by the rise of more agile e-commerce players. At the heart of their woes lies a failure to provide customers with the experience they want – and need. And that is just as much a threat to online businesses as it is to their bricks-and-mortar counterparts.

E-commerce faces many of the same threats

The Internet is no longer young, and e-commerce has matured to a point where the market is not merely full but overcrowded. As these digital business models evolve, so do consumers’ expectations.

Thus, online operators who don’t keep pace with changing attitudes are beginning to stagnate – and feel the adverse effects of this upon their business. In this way, the digital marketplace shares the woes of bricks and mortar, at a different point in its lifecycle. Savvy businesses must therefore act now — traditional retail has shown us the likely results of any failure to adapt.

What do consumers want?

Anne de Kerckhove

Anne de Kerckhove

Where businesses are falling short is on customer experience. Consumers, in an increasingly digital and saturated marketplace, have an increasing expectation for their transactions to be instantaneous, immersive and entirely seamless.

As this becomes the norm, consumers’ needs will continue to evolve – the next holy grail is great customer service that not only meets, but also predicts, their needs and responds accordingly. Only data-driven insights will be able to facilitate this process, with AI and machine-learning moving in tandem with purchasing habits, and instantly identifying – better yet, anticipating – and meeting consumers’ needs.

Who wants to talk to robots?

According to PwC’s Global Insights Survey 2018, which surveyed more than 22,000 consumers worldwide, customers are happy to talk to robots. Brands must convince customers that they are authentic and caring in order to thrive – and though it may seem counterintuitive, AI could lie at the heart of this. AI can increase the human element to customer service – allowing businesses to offer the very best of human one-to-one service, in an online space. In fact, 60% of respondents in the survey agreed that AI can reduce the time it takes to get answers while being highly tailored to their preferences. [1]

In many cases, AI provides a great solution, and there is clear evidence in the PwC survey that not only are customers perfectly happy ‘talking to robots’ – hence the rise of apps like Siri and Cortana, and devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home – but they actually plan to do so more often. PwC found that while just 10% of respondents owned an AI device at the time of response, nearly one in three had plans to purchase one, and 18% of AI device owners associated ownership of that device with shopping behaviours.[2]

However, despite consumers’ likelihood of adopting AI in the near future, some businesses seem less keen on the technology. Of course, the fundamental problem here is that if organisations cannot meet their customers’ needs – in the way they prefer – those potential buyers will go elsewhere — as we have seen with high street brands. Here, the benefits of AI are clear; it offers far more than just customer service and client retention.

AI does human things, super-humanly

Interaction and conversations between humans and brands become more productive for both parties with AI-enabled technologies. This is because they combine artificial intelligence and data to provide analytics – learning from and responding to a slew of data points in a way that no human ever could. With this analytical insight available, a call centre agent can provide the empathetic, responsive service that customers appreciate – and, increasingly, require.

For example, it is relatively straightforward for a good AI application to analyse the past and recent purchasing behaviours of individual clients, combine this understanding with wider machine learning in various data sets, and come up with rational predictions of future behaviours. This lets businesses plan, make investment decisions, build marketing plans and generally arrange their business in response to these insights.

It’s a win-win: consumers get a customised service, and the business gets a healthy bottom line. The business can quickly and easily customise special offers and promotions to the individual, and clients will be happy and ready to spread the good news on social media and elsewhere — at which point AI can analyse that, too!

Another strength is the power of AI to analyse, more or less instantly, processes and behaviour paths and identify areas of weakness or failure, so that vendors can eliminate these and refine processes to better suit the customer.

Which sectors?

Currently, AI offers so many forms and applications, it is difficult to imagine a sector that can’t benefit from it. However, if we take a slightly more prosaic definition of AI as ‘technology doing things that humans do, in apparently human ways’, then any business that conducts substantial sales or marketing online has much to gain from the more widespread applications of AI. That’s because it effectively makes (super)human customer service available 24/7.

As technology develops, it seems inevitable that AI will become part of everyday business in much the same way as the telephone or the desktop computer. Now that we have seen the evidence of what happens to businesses that fail to meet evolving customer expectations, the pressure is on for organisations to embrace the power of AI. That’s why savvy companies are already deploying new technologies that incorporate AI — and are likely to see an expanding customer base as a result.

Business

Contis enters RBS Capability and Innovation Fund bid seeking £35 million for disruptive SME growth strategy  

Contis enters RBS Capability and Innovation Fund bid seeking £35 million for disruptive SME growth strategy   36

Leading payments provider, Contis, has applied for two grants from the RBS & BCR Alternative Remedies Package, totalling £35 million.  

Unlike most applicants who will deploy funds through a single brand, Contis is taking a completely different approach. The funding will be used to drive fintech innovation in the UK by developing an off the shelf, B2B electronic and card payment technology platform for SMEs. With Contis’ powerful tech stack and regulated status, this will empower hundreds of fintechs to support the SME market with groundbreaking technologies, payments and lending capabilities. Contis today services over 800,000 consumer accounts, 14,500 business accounts and processes £4bn in transactions per year, demonstrating a proven track record.   

UK businesses are facing a challenging economic environment with the impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit. As large corporations and entire sectors are affected, SMEs will play a vital role in the recovery. Contis’ approach is completely disruptive, offering three channels to maximise support for SMEs and sole traders, through three unique brands, all powered by APIs from Contis’ modular and configurable engine. 

1.       Canvas for Business 

Contis is a super-vendor in the world of fintech, offering payments through proven banking rails and card scheme capabilities including issuing pre-paid, debit and virtual cards. They’re linked to digital delivery like Apple Pay and Google Pay, and a trusted tech stack that boasts 99.99% uptime.  

With funding from the Capability and Innovation Fund (CIF), Contis’ technology and regulated services will be made available to the whole fintech community, enabling them to provide dedicated SME accounts with the latest leading-edge capabilities delivered via Contis’ wholly owned, secure, cloud-based technology and apps. Contis’ solution has a firm eye on the need for SMEs to compete internationally, particularly after Brexit, and offers FX integration as standard.  

Canvas for Business will increase competition by providing fintechs serving the SME market with technology that outstrips the big banks. Contis will also provide credit referencing capabilities and empower fintechs to lend to their SME client base through Contis’ own credit licence. Without the constraints of legacy systems, it will enable simple connectivity to accounting and payments solutions, as well as to unlimited future innovations.  

2.       Engage for Business 

Over 150 Credit Unions currently use Contis’ Engage service and technology, and hold an estimated £400 million in undeployed cash reserves. Developed with CIF funding, Engage for Business will enable Credit Unions to launch business accounts and payments products for the first time, and allow excess funds to be redeployed in the SME sector through business support loans. This will revolutionise access to funding for sole traders and small businesses. 

3.       Freedom for Business 

With CIF funding, Contis will also offer large scale SMEs a direct-to-market solution where Contis holds the relationship and provides a bespoke offer to meet the business’ exact needs. 

Contis’ application to the Capability and Innovation Fund is focused on creating the widest possible impact for UK SMEs by fulfilling their accounts & payments needs and driving innovation in SME financial services. 

Through the grant, Contis will empower over 200 fintechs and Credit Unions to provide credit, simplify payments integration into everyday business needs, offer digital credit referencing, provide budgeting tools to SMEs, enable automated payments, give predictive insight on cash flow, provide rewards to SMEs on spending, and much more. 

Peter Cox, Founder and Executive Chairman of Contis said: “Our mission is to democratise payments and financial services for all SMEs, so they’re spoilt for choice with innovative and affordable solutions that meet their exact needs. Our approach, based upon proven technologies, will broaden and disrupt the services available to SMEs far beyond the capabilities of existing providers such as the big banks.  

“By driving competition and innovation, while improving the availability of funding, our approach will increase the services on offer to SMEs and make them more affordable, therefore becoming easier for every entrepreneurial person with vision to run their own businesses.” 

Continue Reading

Business

Four years of digital transformation in four weeks: UK lockdown puts pressure on brands to digitally deliver

Four years of digital transformation in four weeks: UK lockdown puts pressure on brands to digitally deliver 37

Nearly a third (32%) of consumers would switch providers if a brand’s website is unavailable for more than 24 hours

A study released today reveals the scale of omni-channel pressure brands now faced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, as consumers flock to apps and websites to as the priority destination to transact with brands.

The UK has experienced a huge leap in use of online services thanks to lockdown, with the public appearing to have less concern for the availability of a brand’s physical location. Research by Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS) uncovers a “window of availability” that UK businesses now have before consumer loyalty changes:

  • If a brand’s website is down for 24 hours – 32 percent of consumers would switch provider
  • If a brand’s app is down for 24 hours – 28 percent of consumers would switch provider
  • If a physical store is closed for 24 hours – 20 percent of consumers would switch provider

The results by industry paint an interesting picture of the availability timeframes brands are expected to adhere to:

  • For online retailers, excluding grocery retailers – 23 percent of consumers would switch provider if they could not access online services for 12 hours, rising to over a third (34 percent) after 24 hours
  • For financial services and entertainment streaming platforms – 21 percent of consumers would switch provider after 12 hours, rising to 33 percent after 24 hours
  • In the case of online grocery shopping – 20 percent would switch provider after 12 hours, rising to one third 33 percent after 24 hours

The findings also highlight that as digital reliance increases, so will consumer expectations towards availability in the future. Over the coming two years, a third (33 percent) of consumers expect online financial services to always be available, rising to 35 percent for streaming services.

“UK consumers have become reliant on the constant availability of online services, and lockdown has only served to heighten this,” comments Chris Huggett, SVP, EMEA at Sungard AS. “What used to be a choice between physical and digital has now firmly accelerated into digital environments across various industries. As online worlds continue to outpace bricks and mortar as the face of businesses, ensuring constant availability and clear communications on downtime will be key for brands to build trust and loyalty.

Continue Reading

Business

Demonstrating the value of collaborative leadership during crises

Demonstrating the value of collaborative leadership during crises 38

By Jean Stephens, CEO, RSM International

In 2000, a leading expert in behavioural science, Daniel Goleman, outlined the six key styles of leadership: autocratic, paternalistic, democratic, laissez-faire, transactional and transformational, with each having their own merits and drawbacks. However, the recent global pandemic has irrevocably altered the business landscape, as traditional work practices and routines have been forced to adapt to the needs of an increasingly remote workforce. These changes have been easier for some and presented new challenges for others. At C-suite level, it has been integral that leaders continue to harness the potential within their workforces to ensure that growth and innovation do not fall by the wayside.  As such, it has become increasingly clear that our new normal calls for a seventh, more collaborative style of leadership to come to the fore. Through this, middle-market business leaders can continue to drive growth by empowering others to collectively nurture and experiment with new ideas across their business.

In a survey conducted by RSM International earlier this year, it was revealed that nearly half (48%) of new ideas within European businesses were never explored by senior management, with 37% stating that resistance from senior leadership is the greatest barrier to change. But change should not be feared; it is an opportunity to unlock new opportunities and to challenge the norm. As a middle-market business leader, letting go of control can sometimes seem the hardest task of all, particularly in times like these where the wrong move can spell disaster. But micro-management can stifle creativity and diminish potential, especially in moments of rapid evolution. It can prevent brilliant thinkers from experimenting, provide a false sense of security and render organisations inflexible.

New challenges will continue to arise as lockdown measures ease and tighten as the virus recedes and spreads. It is the responsibility of collaborative leaders to empower those within their businesses to find comprehensive and innovative solutions to these new problems. By working together and supplying teams with the necessary support and toolkits, leaders can face challenging situations head on, rather than simply directing from above.

Demonstrating collaboration is also a powerful way to motivate employees through difficult times. Businesses across the globe have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, with some having to introduce unpaid leave, cut pay or make redundancies. Asking employees to make these sacrifices while continuing to deliver in their roles requires trust in the leadership, transparency in the decision-making process and support where it is needed. In practice this can take many different forms; from weekly virtual meetings, where teams are encouraged to be open about the challenges they are facing, to offering additional technology and office equipment to those who do not have dedicated working areas at home. Internal surveys can act as a barometer for the mood of an organisation and show senior management how to help their employees’ transition to the new normal that bit easier. Weekly internal newsletters can also provide another layer of connection between staff in each corner of a sprawling business, from back office to support to front line workers, demonstrating that they are all part of a single team driving towards the same objectives.

As a leader, displaying understanding and empathy has also never been more crucial. Video conferencing has given us a window into the homes and lives of colleagues who we would not, ordinarily, have seen outside the office. Workers at all levels have taken responsibility for the emotional well-being of isolated colleagues. As a leader, all it takes is a little compassion and empathy to listen to those problems, provide support and help find a solution. Diffusing this ethos across a business will foster a community in which no one feels alone or abandoned in the face of pressure or stress, be it personal or professional.

2020 will be marked as a turning point for not only business but society as a whole. Many middle-market businesses have already proven themselves able to adapt rapidly to face new challenges and situations, but the change does not have to stop there. New circumstances provide new opportunities to listen, learn and innovate, to ensure your business and workforce can continue to thrive. We cannot predict how long this current situation will continue for but, as we continue to adapt, an empowered workforce under strong, collaborative leadership has the most potential to emerge more resilient and innovative than before – to thrive and not just survive.

Continue Reading

Latest Articles

How sustainable AI improves the triple bottom line 39 How sustainable AI improves the triple bottom line 40
Technology46 mins ago

How sustainable AI improves the triple bottom line

An investment in green AI enables financial services firms to align people, profit, and planet By Nick Dale, EVP business...

The impact and implications of Covid-19 on financial reporting 41 The impact and implications of Covid-19 on financial reporting 42
Finance1 hour ago

The impact and implications of Covid-19 on financial reporting

By Mark Billington, Regional Director, Greater China & South-East Asia, ICAEW The economic consequences of Covid-19 have been unprecedented, affecting...

Contis enters RBS Capability and Innovation Fund bid seeking £35 million for disruptive SME growth strategy   43 Contis enters RBS Capability and Innovation Fund bid seeking £35 million for disruptive SME growth strategy   44
Business4 hours ago

Contis enters RBS Capability and Innovation Fund bid seeking £35 million for disruptive SME growth strategy  

Leading payments provider, Contis, has applied for two grants from the RBS & BCR Alternative Remedies Package, totalling £35 million.   Unlike most applicants who...

Four years of digital transformation in four weeks: UK lockdown puts pressure on brands to digitally deliver 45 Four years of digital transformation in four weeks: UK lockdown puts pressure on brands to digitally deliver 46
Business4 hours ago

Four years of digital transformation in four weeks: UK lockdown puts pressure on brands to digitally deliver

Nearly a third (32%) of consumers would switch providers if a brand’s website is unavailable for more than 24 hours...

Demonstrating the value of collaborative leadership during crises 47 Demonstrating the value of collaborative leadership during crises 48
Business1 day ago

Demonstrating the value of collaborative leadership during crises

By Jean Stephens, CEO, RSM International In 2000, a leading expert in behavioural science, Daniel Goleman, outlined the six key...

Empowerment Accelerates Continuous Improvement 49 Empowerment Accelerates Continuous Improvement 50
Business1 day ago

Empowerment Accelerates Continuous Improvement

By Larry Sternberg, JD, Fellow, Talent Plus, Inc. Empowerment First, let me clarify how I am using the word “empowerment”...

What is loneliness and how can you manage it? 51 What is loneliness and how can you manage it? 52
Top Stories1 day ago

What is loneliness and how can you manage it?

By Iris Schaden Your Business and Personal Coach A mere century ago, almost no one lived alone. Today, many do...

How banks can build digital transformation into business continuity 53 How banks can build digital transformation into business continuity 54
Business1 day ago

How banks can build digital transformation into business continuity

By Andrew Warren, Head of Banking & Financial Services, UK&I, Cognizant Businesses around the world are falling victim to the...

Akerton Partners 55 Akerton Partners 56
Finance1 day ago

Akerton Partners

Akerton Partners S.L. is a Spanish independent mid-market corporate finance advisor founded over a decade ago, in 2008, amid a...

Looking to the future, virtual (or online) businesses will prove more profitable 57 Looking to the future, virtual (or online) businesses will prove more profitable 58
Business1 day ago

Looking to the future, virtual (or online) businesses will prove more profitable

By Richard Fletcher Magic Sauce Marketing Business owners of all types have had to make some major adjustments this year. With...