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The future of your organisation depends on a skills investment

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FS/KKR Announces Agreement to Merge FS Investment Corporation and Corporate Capital Trust

Attributed to Kathy Schneider, CMO at Sungard Availability Services 

It is essential for organisations and businesses today to adopt new technologies, solutions and systems in order to remain competitive and achieve vital growth.

However, the current pace of change and rapid emergence of technological innovations is making it increasingly difficult for companies to find staff with the necessary specialised skills.

Forward-focused companies are increasingly aware of the importance of learning and development at work and that the regular upskilling of current employees is just as important for ensuring a company’s workforce can capitalise on these new technologies and enjoy competitive advantage.

Training is future-proofing

Continuous employee development is vital for businesses to future-proof their organisation. New applications and tools continue to shake up the way businesses are run. Ensuring your employees have the expertise, as well as the mindset, to welcome and use them is essential. Employees need to feel supported by and committed to their organisations and be confident they can do their jobs now and in the future.

Unfortunately, recent research by Sungard reveals this is not currently the case: both IT decision makers (31%), and line of business decision makers (41%) have labelled skills as the biggest issue impacting digital initiatives, yet seven in ten employees claim they’re not getting the training or tools they need. Here we see a true divide with organisations identifying a lack of skills as a pitfall, but not doing enough to ensure that staff are able to rise to the challenge and upskill themselves.

It’s crucial that organisations put in place a training strategy to ensure their workforce can develop the skills they need to use new technologies and retain their competitive edge. In addition, having a loyal and dedicated workforce that feels enabled and valued can help them avoid potential staff retention issues. Upskilling staff through schemes such as Learning at Work Week is a crucial aspect of tackling this issue and shows that their growth and development is important to the wider business.

Kathy Schneider

Kathy Schneider

An advocate for technology training

It would be rare to find an organisation that denied the importance of having regular training. However, many still aren’t offering enough opportunities to their employees to develop technical skills – and a reason for this is that they struggle to define who the responsibility lies with.

One of the challenges here is that training sits naturally within the HR department; but technology requires the application of specialist knowledge, and given digital tools are constantly evolving, HR personnel alone may find it difficult to guarantee a successful transition into the digital age.

As a solution, organisations should promote a cross-functional approach to identify skills needed by different departments, and leverage experts from inside the business itself.  In marketing, for example, we have seen the emergence of new software and SaaS models across CRM and marketing automation to help run and measure marketing programs.  These often require new skills, some of which can be found in sales operations.  In certain cases, having ‘super-users’ who can train and support other team members within and across organisations can be an effective way to cultivate the new skills required. An effective Leaning and Development strategy should tap into the transferable skills across organisations to help employees develop and adopt new tools.

Digital adoption and wider cultural change

While it requires an investment of time and resources, driving a wider cultural change in your organisation is the best way to ensure digital adoption and get the most out of your employees. The businesses that survive the turbulent times ahead will be those that bring employees on board and invest as much time into training them as they do in hiring fresh blood.

Moreover, training is no longer something that only happens once a quarter, or even once a year. It needs to be woven into your business’s fabric. A cross-functional approach ensures gaps are identified and internal knowledge is leveraged.

The business world is in a state of flux, and organisations will need to manage and adapt their organisations as they encounter unpresented challenges. The market is tough; with Britain’s departure from the European Union imminent, and regulatory changes such as the introduction of the GDPR having serious implications for data protection, business leaders will need to ensure they are benefitting from the technology at their disposal. If they want to gain competitive advantage, organisations simply can’t afford the neglect their strongest asset – not the technology itself, but their staff.

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Retailers need to deliver better rewards to ensure customer loyalty

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Retailers need to deliver better rewards to ensure customer loyalty 1
  • 62% feel retailers need to improve the ways they reward consumers for shopping with them
  • 55% believe that loyalty programmes rarely offer them the things they actually want or would use
  • 48% want retailers to focus on making the shopping experience better for them, rather than a loyalty programme

Rewards programmes are not delivering on their promise to drive customer loyalty for retailers, according to the latest research from Adyen, the payments platform of choice for many of the world’s leading companies. The majority of customers (55%) say that rewards programmes do not offer things they actually want and that customer experience holds almost equal influence when it comes to loyalty (48%). 

 

The findings come from a report conducted by Adyen exploring how agility will be key for the retail sector as it emerges from the Coronavirus pandemic. The research polled more than 2,000 consumers in the UK in 2020.

 

The results showed that, while rewards and loyalty schemes are still welcomed by many customers, the majority (62%) feel that retailers need to improve how they reward their shoppers.

 

“Every customer counts – especially in the context of the pandemic. Anything retailers can do to keep customers coming back for more is worth exploring. But it goes beyond a loyalty or rewards scheme. The customer experience, both online and in store really matters. Making it as easy as possible to shop is equally as important as other incentives. And, if you do go down the rewards route, a one-size-fits-all approach rarely delivers. You must make the effort to understand your customers and offer something they really want,” said Myles Dawson, UK Managing Director, Adyen.

 

Nearly half of the respondents (48%) want retailers to focus on making the shopping experience better for them, rather than delivering a loyalty programme.  When it comes to an experience that will drive loyalty, customers want a seamless link between online and physical stores. 60% of consumers said they would be more loyal to retailers that let them buy out of stock items in store and have them shipped directly to their home. And 53% said they would be more loyal to retailers that let people buy online and return in store.

 

“The high street is under increasing competition from online retailers who put convenience and usability at the centre of their customer experience. To succeed now, businesses must harness the best of their physical and digital worlds to create amazing experiences. This will increase conversions and also raise the prospects of customer loyalty.

 

“For those consumers that want loyalty schemes, it must be as seamless and easy as possible. 61% of respondents were more likely to shop with a retailer that linked their loyalty scheme to the payment card. By doing this, businesses can track customer buying behaviour and shopper data which lets them offer a more personalised shopping experience,” Dawson concluded.

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The pandemic has changed consumer behaviour and retailers need to adapt

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The pandemic has changed consumer behaviour and retailers need to adapt 2

By Mary Keane-Dawson, Group CEO of TAKUMI

It’s no secret that the retail industry has been badly hit by the pandemic, with the recent collapse of Arcadia and Debenhams providing a harsh reality check as to what the future could hold for brick-and-mortar stores. With all non-essential shops being ordered to close last month, with no re-opening date confirmed, it is inevitable that a natural shift to online platforms would occur.

Online giants, ASOS and Boohoo, have established themselves as the new industry leaders. Both e-commerce giants bought failing Arcadia brands and Debenhams and ruthlessly closed all the retailers’ physical premises. The shift to online in the retail sector has never been more apparent.

Retail brands need to establish their digital presence to serve their consumers’ changing behaviour and to remain competitive in the retail industry.

Capitalising on changing consumer behaviour

The pandemic has meant consumer needs have adapted, which in turn has led to a shift in consumer behaviour. Retailers need to capitalise on changing consumer behaviour to remain relevant, but more importantly profitable.

The ‘stay at home’ message from the government, which has been almost constant throughout the past 12 months, has meant many consumers have started to become more reliant on online channels and platforms.

Supermarkets, such as Aldi and Co-Op, responded to this change in consumer behaviour by deciding to serve their customers on delivery apps, such as Deliveroo. As fewer people were ‘popping to the shops’ due to lockdown restrictions, supermarkets reacted by offering an instant delivery service, essentially where the ‘shop pops to you’.

The shift to online platforms and influencer marketing

Retail brands need to follow suit and adapt their ways of working to reflect this shift to e-commerce. Ted Baker, the premium fashion retailer, has admitted its disappointing online sales figures last quarter could be due to its slow response to the shift to ecommerce. The retailer is aiming to “significantly improve” its online shopping platform because of this.

As the shift to online platforms accelerates, retailers need to start investing in digital marketing, for example influencer marketing, to ensure their brand stays at the forefront of their consumers’ minds. Evan Horowitz, CEO of Movers+Shakers, a creative agency, explained in our whitepaper in August how the pandemic has led his company to increase its influencer marketing as “influencers are more influential than ever”.

As such, many traditional retailers have started exploring the benefits of influencer marketing. Wickes, in partnership with TAKUMI, launched the UK’s first ever home improvement industry TikTok campaign to reach a new audience with authentic and creative content and to drive awareness of its range of products. Our whitepaper, Into the Mainstream: Influencer Marketing in Society, which surveyed over 3,500 consumers, marketers, and influencers across the US, UK, and Germany, found that almost three-quarters of marketers (73%) upped spend on influencer marketing in the past 12 months, with spending significantly increasing in the retail (79%) sector.

It seems inevitable that more brands will continue to invest in influencer marketing with social media’s popularity increasing as we start to enter a post-pandemic world.

Using social media as a tool to respond to changing consumer behaviour

With marketers upping their influencer marketing spend, many social media platforms have also responded to the growing popularity of ecommerce.

Instagram redesigned its layout to ensure its Shopping and Reels tabs were given more prominence. The Instagram shopping feature allows brands to attach a virtual shopping tag to their ads on the platform. People can click on a tagged item and then be re-directed to the brands’ product webpage.

Similarly, TikTok’s rising popularity has led it to launch its own ecommerce offering. Last October, TikTok announced a partnership with Shopify. This partnership will enable Shopify merchants to create, run and optimise TikTok marketing campaigns that will attract consumers from TikTok’s growing user base.

Instagram and TikTok are slowly evolving from content platforms to ecommerce hubs. This transformation coincides with the rise in consumers shopping online following the pandemic.

What’s to come for retailers, post-pandemic?

Consumer behaviour is changing and the pandemic has accelerated the shift towards social media and ecommerce. Retail brands need to recognise that the shift to online is here to stay.

To remain relevant, brands need to allocate appropriate budgets to digital marketing channels. Interestingly, our whitepaper found it was marketers from traditional media channels that were increasing their influencer marketing spend the most, demonstrating that the shift to digital marketing has already begun. Retail brands need to start to prepare themselves for the post-pandemic retail environment to avoid ending up like Arcadia and Debenhams.

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5 Trends Driving the Future of Customer Service in 2021 and Beyond

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5 Trends Driving the Future of Customer Service in 2021 and Beyond 3

By Matt McConnell, CEO of Intradiem

2020 ignited radical shifts for contact centre operations with the move to a remote work environment. Our customers say this trend is more of a permanent transformation – one that uncovers trends that include more flexible operations and greater efficiencies in leveraging contact centre data.

Trend 1: The Remote Agent Model is Here to Stay, Permanently

Historically, many IT teams discouraged remote working for customer service teams, but it was quickly proven virtual contact centres could work and offered a significant upside. The average annual cost to physically house a call centre agent is approximately $8,300 per agent in the United States. If a 200-person contact centre decided to move only half of its agents to home offices, that translates to $830,000 in annual real estate cost savings.

Working remotely also opened the doors to reach talent and hiring beyond a specific geography. For example, call centres based in rural locations who may have exhausted their local talent pool can bring in quality agents from anywhere in the world.

Trend 2: The Role of AI will be to Support Human Agents, Not Replace

Despite many years of buzz, it’s worth acknowledging that AI cannot entirely replace one-on-one human interaction in customer service (yet, or maybe ever). Many interactions with chatbots or other entirely automated CX tools only drive the escalation of customer issues rather than resolving them at the first touchpoint.

Instead, AI is best used to assist and manage agents to help them work more efficiently. For example, AI-powered technology can reduce handle time by auto-populating call notes or automatically log agents into or out of applications to further save time.

AI will provide an added layer of support as a management tool to keep agents on track in remote environments. AI also enables better connectivity for customer service teams and enables agents to receive consistent communications and Information they need to excel in their role in serving customers.

Trend 3: A Swift Migration to the Cloud

Call centres have been notoriously slow to move to the cloud. In the past, this has not been an issue when centres use on-premise technologies. With fully remote call centres, companies must reconsider their approach to the cloud.

Call centres can no longer rely on on-premise data with a decentralised workforce. Often their information is locked up in data centres, while operations remain outside of the office. Moving to the cloud offers more flexible operations, easier access to data and substantial cost saving, but only if call centres tap the right partners to make the most of the shift.

Trend 4: The Emergence of Predictive Analytics

Call centres generate an enormous amount of time-sensitive data that must be gathered and analysed in real-time to effectively manage their operations. Without real-time capabilities, Insights gathered on a Monday may only be contextualised later that day or week. This is not impactful as the time to act has passed and call centre conditions have already changed.

Looking beyond 2021, we will see call centres take their analytics a step further to go beyond real-time analytics, and into predictive analytics.  This will leverage real-time data at scale to offer preventive support to both agents and customers, moving call centres from reactive to proactive. Instead of waiting for a customer to call with an issue, centres can leverage historical data to reach out pre-emptively.

The same approach can be used to identify agents who struggle or may be experiencing burnout earlier in order to reduce attrition rates. A smarter mindset on data will revolutionise how call centres operate and in turn, companies will see higher customer and agent retention.

Trend 5: Real-Time Technologies Will Be Applied to the Back-Office

We will also see companies increasingly apply call centre technologies to their back-office operations. They will start to leverage back-office data in real-time to cut down on wasted hours and better track employee activities.

This part of the business has not been managed with the same technology investment as the call centre, leading to inefficiencies where back-office employees may struggle with certain tasks or spend time in non-work applications. Now, companies will be able to use AI-powered technologies to drive productivity gains in the back-office — leading to significant savings to the bottom line.

2020 served as the inflection point for call centre transformation. The shift to remote work unlocked new uses of technology and opportunities thought impossible before. We are now at the tip of the iceberg, as successful call centres will continue to innovate and think differently on how they can improve their operations in the new year and beyond.

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