The Accident and Emergency service of the connected world
By Kevin Gillan, Managing Director for Europe, SquareTrade
Ownership of tablets and smartphones has exploded in the last five years. Already industry analysts are putting bets on the year in which some markets will reach saturation.
Compare this with the timeframe in which television became central to most of our lives – several decades – and we find that there is no comparison.
Tablets and smartphones have become runaway successes that enable us to run away, untethered, from our desks and our homes.
Take a trip on any train or pause for a moment on any sidewalk and you will recognise that slightly stooped posture of someone consulting their hand-held oracles, like 20th century versions of monks on their way to prayer.
On most train carriages that I have shared in recent years, the majority of my fellow travellers have been staring intently at the soft glow of their devices rather than the papers and magazines that they would have been looking at five or 10 years ago.
Both devices have consequentially become essential to consumer and business users. In a very real sense they are the Swiss Army knives of the 21st century, multi-functional devices that are a fixture in the briefcases, handbags and pockets of consumers around the world.
With miniaturisation and Moore’s Law, of course, comes fragility. For instance, in the UK alone, damage to iPhones and Android phones has cost smartphone owners more than £1.2 billion since 2007.
A recent SquareTrade study showed that smartphone owners were nearly 10 times more likely to suffer from accidental damage than loss or theft. We treat these essential, fragile devices as our third hand – and indeed they play that role – with the bruises and scars to prove it.
Several factors have combined to put these devices into the hands, clumsy or otherwise, of a multitude of users.
In addition to connecting us to everyone we hold dear as well as our jobs, companies like Apple, Google and Amazon (which recently launched Fire, its long-rumoured smartphone) have created vast credit-card enabled ecosystems with devices that enable consumers to transact. These devices include tablets and phones. The devices are essential to commerce.
Mobile operators have subsidised the cost of ownership through contract-based tariffs. According to the Pew Research Center, 83 per cent of 18-29 year olds in the US own smartphones.
Forty-nine per cent of workers in the US earning $30,000 or less now own a smartphone. What’s more, production methods have improved – and cost of production has fallen, enabling an enormous demographic to become wired for mobility.
Social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others – are enticing a new generation of digital consumers to appreciate the value of ‘now’.
With our lives increasingly nomadic (have you noticed the recent uplift in ‘out of office’ alerts?), a smart mobile device is essential to our lives. They are supercharged remote controls. We can do whatever we want, wherever we want.
Cloud-based data (look at the way that Microsoft is reengineering its business) requires us all to have a portal to our data wherever we are.
‘Windows on every desktop’ used to be Microsoft’s mantra. Surely now it is ‘Windows on every street corner’.
Combine these factors and you have a highly compelling user case. A recent piece of research in the UK found that the average UK citizen has used six separate digital channels in the last six months. Most of these channels are used on the move.
Remove the device and we are like ships without anchor. These devices and what they enable really matter.
Drop or damage your device and you are immediately off grid. The pressure begins to mount.
Consumers recognise that unlike most modern gadgets, our phones and tablets not only connect us to our mail and our banking, but hold our treasured repositories of photos, music, videos, contacts, our social lives and so much more. Offering customers cover for a smartphone is a form of virtual life insurance.
Delivering on the promise of cover – in that moment when consumers need us the most – that is where most warranty companies fall down. In fact, most consumers put on their battle gear before making a call to their insurance company. We don’t believe it needs to be this way and that when a consumer calls in that moment of crisis, they should expect great service and a new phone within 24 hours.
A damaged device is a headache – but for people without cover, it’s an irresolvable short-term financial burden. Without mobile carrier subsidies, the cost of a replacement device is usually more than £400.
It’s for all of these reasons that SquareTrade and other providers are finding an enormous global addressable market for the peace of mind that cover for their device provides.
Retailers, especially in consumer technology, are by necessity focused on managing stock, marketing and promotion to contend with ever-shortening product lifecycles.
Handling after-sales support is increasingly complex and costly, and in the case of device protection, has eroded the brand in the past: poor customer support, endless fine print and loopholes have cast a shadow on the retailer that sold the consumer the warranty.
Partnering with protection plan providers, retailers have not only seen attach rates increase but have also created a positive customer experience that connects customers months and even years later in a positive way with the retailer that sold them the protection plan.
It is a reputational reality that the days of customers tolerating poor customer service – and long delays in getting the service they paid for – are long gone. The age of instantaneous communication has created the age of instantaneous expectation.
Until recently, smartphones were largely status symbols in these markets because they lacked the network infrastructure necessary to take full advantage of their functions. These hurdles are gradually lifting and penetration is increasing.
It is difficult to recall the world before mobile devices were an everyday necessity. The expensive, heavy brick phones of the late eighties are now small precision instruments, packing firepower that exceeds anything that was dreamt of then.
It makes perfect sense that a device that fulfils so many functions can go wrong in an equally elaborate list of ways. What does go wrong? Our own data shows that accidental damage comes in all sorts of expected and unexpected ways.
Accidental drops, pet damage, breakages by kids at school, phones dropped in the bathroom, sat on – the list is endless.
Device manufacturers are doing a great deal to make their products robust and durable, but the sheer volume of use makes it inevitable that at some points in our working lives or during leisure activities our devices will come a cropper.
Delivery of timely replacements is what’s needed – and what the time-poor consumer, desperate to resume his or her connection, needs. Dealing with a provider with the real-time knowhow, built on fast-track analysis of global fault reports, offers reassurance to the consumer as well as relative affordability thanks to economies of scale.
It’s not just consumers’ mobile devices that services like SquareTrade replace, it’s their peace of mind, and at times, their sanity. Pew Research carried out another poll at the beginning of the year examining the technologies that we simply couldn’t bear to be parted with. Top of the list was the internet, which 46 per cent said it would be hard or impossible to give up. Second on the list was the mobile phone, of which 44 per cent said the same.
Here’s the thing. Mobile devices and internet usage are rapidly becoming one and the same. They represent our communities, they keep us organised, informed, motivated, and calm, in touch and connected. Robbed of that connection, as I said earlier, we find ourselves at sea.
That’s where businesses like SquareTrade help. In a sense we are the Accident and Emergency service of the connected world. We all have stake in staying connected. Our task as a global protection provider is to reconnect our customers at a rate that exceeds their expectations.
Kevin Gillan is managing director for Europe at SquareTrade, an protection plan provider for consumer electronics and appliances headquartered in London and San Francisco.
Northern Irish Brexit issue is two-way street, says EU’s Sefcovic
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Britain must show it is fully using the avenues available under the Brexit divorce deal to minimise trade disruption in Northern Ireland before seeking concessions, a senior EU official said on Tuesday.
Britain’s exit from the EU’s trading orbit in January has created trade barriers between Northern Ireland – which remains in the EU’s single market for goods – and the rest of the United Kingdom.
Maros Sefcovic, a vice president of the European Commission, said he hoped to learn of British efforts during an online meeting on Wednesday .
“I was also reminding my British partners that this must be a two-way street,” he told a news conference.
Sefcovic said real-time access to the IT systems of customs could smooth customs processes and a trusted trader scheme could ensure Northern Irish supermarkets were properly supplied.
“I hope that tomorrow… we will get feedback from our UK partners on how all these flexibilities and grace periods are being used because it’s clearly a pre-requisite for the EU, the Commission and the member states to assess any further requests,” Sefcovic said.
The EU’s insistence on Britain honouring its withdrawal treaty has left the British province of Northern Ireland within the EU’s single market and put a customs border in the Irish Sea dividing the province from mainland Britain.
Sefcovic said that there were inevitable consequences of Brexit so not everything could be resolved.
Members of Northern Ireland’s two largest pro-British parties have said they are set take part in legal action challenging part of Britain’s divorce deal.
However, Sefcovic said companies there might over time see the divorce arrangements as an advantage.
“Being in the single market and at the same time the internal market of the UK is actually a great business opportunity. And I hope that our joint work will amplify this possibility,” he said.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop. Editing by Mark Potter)
Calabrio charts record year-on-year UK growth as demand for cloud technology soars during lockdown
Digital transformation acceleration drives cloud contact centre adoption of Calabrio workforce engagement management technology
Calabrio, the workforce engagement management (WEM) company, has seen a strong growth trajectory in the UK during the last 12 months, despite the global pandemic. Achieving 30% year-on-year sales growth, Calabrio International has welcomed more than 150 new customers, with the UK adding a third of those from a wide range of industries including many online challenger businesses. In addition, Calabrio has made strategic new appointments to build its customer support network.
Kris McKenzie, SVP, Sales, International at Calabrio commented, “Our focus on cloud-first solutions has resonated well with our customers’ need to accelerate their digital transformation and move their contact centres to the cloud in order to maintain business continuity. At a time of uncertainty when consumers need robust support more than ever before, we are witnessing first-hand the cloud transformation of customer services by organisations looking to deliver the next level in customer experience. Modern businesses and contact centres using Calabrio are able to provide exceptional service to their customers through disrupted times.
“Coupled with businesses operating solely online, we have also seen strong demand across the board from more traditional sectors such as finance, insurance, retail, consumer goods, local and central government departments. These organisations require an innovative yet reliable solution to help them manage unprecedented levels in demand.”
When Calabrio surveyed its customers recently[i] 72% of organisations stated they are either moving to the cloud, are already there or plan to increase their investment in cloud technology in 2021. In order to support forward-thinking organisations looking to optimise their investment in cloud contact centre solutions, Calabrio has made two significant appointments.
Niall Gallacher has joined Calabrio as Business Intelligence (BI) strategic consultant and will be instrumental in the design of services that drive value from data and analytics, helping Calabrio customers to solve complex business problems. Before joining Calabrio, Niall spent 6 years with Qlik as Industry Solutions Director. He has 25 years of experience in data, analytics and BI, 15 of which have been with contact centres for leading companies in telecommunications, energy and high-tech industries.
Graeme Gabriel joins as a presales engineer, supporting Calabrio’s workforce engagement suite. He will work with customers to ensure that they achieve maximum benefit from their use of Calabrio solutions, no matter the remote, on-site or hybrid environment. Graeme has international experience encompassing telephony, contact centre, WFM, analytics and customer experience (CX) across a range of sectors, and has held consultancy, advocacy and planning positions at companies including Injixo, Vluent, QPC and AVIOS.
McKenzie concluded, “We welcome both Niall and Graeme to Calabrio, during what has been an incredible year of growth for Calabrio as we supported our customers through these challenging times. This is an exciting and dynamic time for Calabrio as we continue to deliver the value of our all-in-one cloud contact centre suite, including call recording, quality management (QM), WFM, speech analytics and business intelligence suitable for organisations of all shapes and sizes.”
[i] TechValidate survey of 192 users of Calabrio. Published 29 December 2020.
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Thomson Reuters fourth-quarter revenue, adjusted earnings rise
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Thomson Reuters Corp reported higher fourth-quarter revenue on Tuesday and said it would start a two-year program that will change it from a holding company to an operating company.
The news and information company, 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, a gain from an amendment to pension plan and lower costs.
Its three main divisions, Legal Professionals, Tax & Accounting Professionals and Corporates, all showed higher organic quarterly sales and adjusted profit.
It was not immediately clear if adjusted earnings per share of 54 cents were directly comparable to the 46 cents expected.
Thomson Reuters’ markets are healthy and evolving, making this a good time to transition the company from a content provider to a “content-driven technology company,” Chief Executive Steve Hasker said in a statement.
Workplaces have been transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic and artificial intelligence has a larger role in professional markets, he said.
(Writing by Nick Zieminski in New York, editing by Louise Heavens and Jane Merriman)
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