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How to adapt your business to meet increased customer expectations

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How to adapt your business to meet increased customer expectations

Written by Paul Macildowie, founder of outsourced contact centre company Mpl Contact

There’s no doubt that advancements in technology have led to increased customer expectations. We want communication and solutions quicker than ever before and we become impatient and agitated if we can’t get through to a business in a ‘timely’ manner, if we’re put on hold for longer than we deem ‘necessary’, or are passed on to another member of staff. The increase in agile and flexible working, in conjunction with longer working days, also means we’re often unable to contact companies within the typical 9-5 weekday office hours.

Paul Macildowie

Paul Macildowie

In order to provide the best customer service possible and maintain a competitive advantage, companies have no choice but to address this change. Amazon, for example, is tackling this head on by introducing same-day, evening deliveries in certain areas. It’s also recently filed a patent for a delivery drone that responds when you call or wave at it. Though these are great ideas, businesses should start by reviewing their in-house customer service processes, how calls are taken during the day, and after hours if needed. Here are some key considerations:

Overflow calls

 Depending on the type of financial institution you run, you will have an idea of when you are the most and least busy (this could be a certain time of day, day of the week or season). But sometimes you just can’t plan for times of increased demand, which is why it can be useful to outsource overflow calls. This is one way to bring down call-abandon rates, because it stops people from being kept in a queue for too long. As a result, customers will be less frustrated and you’ll be able to maintain brand loyalty and retention rates. Companies that specialise in call handling services should integrate seamlessly with your firm so that customers are unaware that their call is being answered by a third-party.

Out-of-hours calls 

As discussed earlier, more and more customers are contacting companies outside the traditional 9-5 office hours. Lengthening your opening times naturally enable you to take more calls, which could result in more leads, sales and a better customer experience (which should always be a priority for businesses!). It can also prevent losing potential and existing customer to the competition, who may be open longer. You may choose to recruit more staff for this, change your current shift patterns or invest in an external company.

 Web chat 

Though the phone remains a popular way for customers to contact companies, they do enjoy having the option to communicate through email, online contact forms and web chat tools. Chats can be live, manned be a real member of staff, or powered by AI. The advantage of having a live chat is that customers get a guaranteed personalised experience due to the human interaction involved. A real amount of empathy can be ingrained into the conversations between advisor and customer, which can lead to them feeling significantly more satisfied. On the flip side, customers can only use the tool during the hours that you pay staff to work.

Chatbots have the ability to deal with a large amount of conversations simultaneously due to their robotic nature, and are available 24/7. Intelligent chat is even more advanced than that, using Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand what people really want through the analysis of sentences and synonyms (not just keywords). 

Emergency planning

There are scenarios when your business – or dedicated contact centre if you have one – could be impacted by an emergency, such as as floods, fire or technology failure. These failures often come without any warning, and could result in a lot of downtime, excessive wait times and a drop in customer satisfaction. If you don’t already have a plan in place to deal with such eventualities, then now is the time to correct that. You should prepare different responses for different circumstances e.g. if it is hardware failure, do you have a backup solution where calls can be re-routed and handled?

When is comes to a disaster recovery plan, putting it together is only a small part of making it successful. It’s also important to train staff on the process, provide written instructions of the disaster recovery procedures, and test it out at least 1-2 times a year.

A word to the wise: considerations when outsourcing 

If your plan to meet increased customer expectations involves outsourcing, then it’s essential to research different providers to find one that’s right for you. Check whether they’ve had any previous experience in the financial sector before, and whether they’ve got any supportive case studies and testimonials on site. Testimonials/reviews (either on-site or on dedicated review platforms) give an indication as to whether a company has a good track record. In addition, you should always enquire into a business’s training programme. You want to feel confident that the company you are spending money with is active in training their agents and are aware of any new or changing financial regulations that may impact the way they work with you.

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Commodity prices boost Anglo American in 2020 after COVID-19 hit

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Commodity prices boost Anglo American in 2020 after COVID-19 hit 1

By Zandi Shabalala

LONDON (Reuters) – Anglo American beat forecasts with a small fall in 2020 earnings and boosted its dividend after strong commodity prices helped the diversified miner recover from coronavirus disruptions in the first half of the year.

The company’s shares were 4.5% higher in London at 1025 GMT, the second biggest gain on the benchmark FTSE 100.

Anglo was the worst hit among its peers by coronavirus lockdowns, including in countries such as South Africa and Botswana, and also had operational problems at its platinum unit.

But a rebound in commodity prices and a change in operational fortunes helped deliver its best second half since 2011.

“It was certainly a year of two halves,” Chief Executive Mark Cutifani told reporters.

Price for many metals have jumped due to tight supply and higher demand. Copper and iron ore are trading at 10-year highs, while platinum hit its highest in six years.

This has also benefitted Anglo’s larger rivals Glencore, Rio Tinto and BHP, which all beat market expectations for profits and dividends.

“Let me reassure you, whilst the fundamentals for the industry are strong, we aren’t being seduced by good prices,” Cutifani said, adding Anglo would continue to remain disciplined on costs.

The miner is, however, investing in the Quellaveco copper mine in Peru, one of the few large scale copper projects globally. First production is on track for next year.

Underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) fell 2% to $9.8 billion last year, beating a forecast of $9.4 billion from nine analysts compiled by consensus platform Vuma.

Anglo declared a final dividend of 72 cents per share, in line with its 40% payout policy and up 53% from a year earlier, beating the consensus forecast.

Finance director Stephen Pierce said Anglo would consider a “special return above the base” as part of its normal six-monthly consideration of shareholder returns and if prices keep up.

Net debt at the end of December was $5.6 billion, up from $4.6 billion a year earlier, but down from $7.6 billion at the half year.

Cutifani said the miner would complete the demerger of its South African thermal coal assets within the next two years if they are spun off, currently the preferred exit route.

Bidders have approached Anglo to buy the assets, however, so a sale is still a possibility, he said, adding Anglo also expected to exit its Cerrejon coal mine in Colombia in two to three years.

Miners beat wider market

 

Commodity prices boost Anglo American in 2020 after COVID-19 hit 2

“Anglo’s differentiated growth strategy is continuing to, literally, pay dividends as the group is able to benefit both from higher prices while still investing at a rate ahead of peers,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Tyler Broda.

(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Mark Potter)

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Primark owner warns of 1.6 billion pound sales hit from lockdowns

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Primark owner warns of 1.6 billion pound sales hit from lockdowns 3

By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) – Primark-owner AB Foods warned that lost sales from COVID-19 lockdown store closures would amount to 1.58 billion pounds ($2.23 billion) but said it expected strong trading when they reopened.

The group, which does not trade online, said it estimated Primark’s lost sales would be 1.1 billion pounds in the first six months of its financial year to Feb. 27 and 480 million pounds in its second half as restrictions loosened up.

Primark, which has outlets in Britain and several other European states, had 77 stores open on Thursday, or 22% of its retail selling space. By the end of April, it aims to have 310 stores open, or about 83% of its retail space.

“We know that people will welcome us back when we reopen,” finance chief John Bason said. “There is pent-up demand.”

In the past few weeks, Primark stores in Austria, Poland and Slovenia had reopened and were delivering like-for-like sales ahead of last year’s pre-COVID levels, he told Reuters.

Shares in AB Foods were up 0.4% at 0952 GMT, valuing the group at 19.2 billion pounds.

The group expects Primark’s first half sales to be about 2.2 billion pounds, down from 3.7 billion pounds, and adjusted operating profit to be marginally above break-even versus a profit of 441 million pounds.

Primark’s performance meant the overall group’s first half sales and earnings would be lower than the previous year, the company said.

AB Foods has a grocery division, with brands that include Kingsmill bread and Twinings tea, as well as major sugar, agriculture and ingredients businesses.

It forecast revenue and profit in all of these units to be ahead of both expectations and the first half of last year.

Despite the pandemic, the group has continued to open new Primark stores. Six opened in the first half and nine are planned for the second half.

($1 = 0.7070 pounds)

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Kate Holton and Edmund Blair)

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Tesla temporarily halts production at Model 3 line in California: Bloomberg News

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Tesla temporarily halts production at Model 3 line in California: Bloomberg News 4

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc has told workers it will temporarily halt some production at its car assembly plant in California, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Workers on a Model 3 production line in Fremont were told their line would be down from Feb. 22 until March 7, according to the report. (https://bloom.bg/2O1QpeB)

The report did not clarify the reason for the halt and Tesla could not be immediately reached for comment.

It was also unclear how much volume or revenue Tesla would lose due to the production halt. The Fremont plant has an annual production capacity of 500,000 Model 3s and Model Ys combined.

Tesla said last month that it might face a temporary impact from a global semiconductor shortage.

Several automakers, including General Motors Co, Volkswagen AG, and Ford Motor Co, are hit by the shortage of chips, forcing them to scale down production.

(Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Anil D’silva)

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