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Work-From-Home Customer Service Agents: The Security Pros and Cons

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customer service agent

Businesses realize many benefits from hiring remote call center agents. The biggest cost savings comes from reduced agent attrition; remote agent turnover is 10 percent compared to an in-house agent turnover rate of 30 percent or more. Hiring virtual call center agents helps companies staff their phones during off-peak hours, which lets in-house agents keep a more predictable schedule. It also helps managers meet demand during peak hours and high-volume seasons.customer service agent

Unfortunately, the at-home agent model comes with potential security headaches. Call center managers can minimize security problems by combining a strong defensive posture, common-sense security policies, and effective supervision. The cost savings and morale bonus gained by hiring remote agents shouldn’t be undone by a costly data breach.

Security for Remote Agents Managers usually partner with agents during training, sometimes training remote agents onsite in the company’s main call center. After agents go home, however, managers rely on call auditing and metrics to evaluate agent performance.

Agents who don’t receive regular monitoring and supervisor follow-up can easily be tempted to go rogue. From simple PCI compliance issues to overt payment card fraud, poor supervision puts businesses on the hook for big-time losses.

Protecting customer payment information begins with the right call center technology. Businesses should provide remote agents with high-quality equipment and a good broadband connection, both for quality of service and security purposes.

They should train remote agents to never access the call center over public Wi-Fi and provide a VPN for logging into to the call center. These technologies provide a good starting place for security, but some industries need stronger measures. Cloud security, IVR, and call encryption can keep customer information safe.

Secure Cloud Telephony

customer service agent1Customer call data can include both personally identifiable information and sensitive financial information. If businesses suffer a data breach that gives attackers access to call recordings, customers can fall victim to fraud and identity theft.

Call centers should protect cloud data with solutions for private cloud and AWS security. Also, businesses should require all remote agents to activate and update antivirus software on any computer used to access the call center. This simple precaution keeps agents from spreading malware to the company network. It also keeps attackers from using screenshots and keyloggers to steal login credentials.

IVR for Payment Information

Set up an IVR system to take either spoken or keyed credit card numbers from customers. When a call requires agents to collect payment information, agents route the customer to IVR. The IVR system validates the customer’s credit card number and routes the call back to the agent. The agent never hears the card number or the touch-tones used to enter the card number. The company can encrypt the recording to protect customer information.

Phone Call Encryption

Whether businesses encrypt live calls or stored calls depends on what information they’re collecting. For example, calls dealing with personal health information or payment information require stronger security than calls dealing with everyday customer service issues. The most secure call encryption solutions start encrypting when the agent takes the call. Other solutions only encrypt calls after the agent hangs up and transmits the call to the datacenter for storage.

Safe Virtual Desktops

When remote agents login to the call center to access a virtual desktop, their local desktop access should be temporarily unavailable. This action prevents agents from taking screenshots of information presented on the virtual desktop, and it disables commands like “print screen” that can be misused. Also, an agent’s virtual desktop should only access needed information. Agents should be assigned administrative privileges only when absolutely necessary, and when an agent leaves the company, managers should delete the agent’s credentials.

Many companies implement multi-factor authentication as a protection against weak agent passwords. For example, after a remote agent logs in, the agent has to input a code, which is sent via text message or email. Companies can also use voiceprint technology, which ensures that the agent’s voice matches the login credentials. The technology can analyze mouth size, nasal passage length, and vocal tract dimensions, making it virtually impossible to duplicate an agent’s unique voiceprint.

Data Analysis

Call analysis helps to catch internal agent fraud, but it also protects agents from malicious callers. By monitoring historical voice data and call content for suspicious signs, companies can prevent many instances of fraud. Also, real-time analysis can alert remote agents to the presence of a suspicious caller. The agent can then transfer the call to a fraud prevention specialist.

Businesses should start with tools that can mine voice, email, and chat data to unearth suspicious interactions. These tools can send alerts to managers, who can then review the interactions in more detail later. If voice analysis suggests that an agent might engage in non-compliant behavior, managers can audit calls more closely. Then, they can decide whether the activity warrants additional training or whether it should be grounds for dismissal.

Training Remote Agents to Recognize Fraud

customer service agent 2Criminal callers are masters of using social engineering to manipulate helpful agents. The best security tools in the world can’t thwart a fraudulent caller who tricks remote agents into violating policies. These callers often get through remote agent gatekeepers because companies use poor customer authentication techniques. Information such as an account number, address, date of birth, or the last four digits of a Social Security number are easy for criminals to steal. Companies can help by using the same voiceprint technology that’s good for verifying agents to verify legitimate customers.

It’s all too easy for criminal callers to use VoIP services to change phone numbers frequently. They can also spoof caller ID to make calls look like they come from legitimate sources. Most recently, attackers have started taking advantage of company SIP trunking systems to flood both onsite and remote customer service lines with junk calls. Businesses have to train agents to recognize and respond to fraud, but they have to do it without making agents suspicious of legitimate customers.

Great Service, Minimal Risk

Hiring remote agents is good for customers, and it’s a good staffing decision for many companies. By using technology and good training to mitigate threats, companies get the benefits of virtual agents with the security worries.

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Research exposes the £68.8 billion opportunity for UK retailers

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Research exposes the £68.8 billion opportunity for UK retailers 1
  • Modelling shows increasing the proportion of online sales by 5 percentage points would have significantly boosted retailers’ revenues during the first lockdown
  • 72% of Brits want retailers who started an online service during the pandemic to continue operating it full time

New data released today by global payments platform Adyen, outlines the economic gains that could be accessed by getting more UK retailers online.

Economic modelling conducted by Cebr for Adyen indicates that if the retail sector increased the proportion of turnover stemming from online channels by 5 percentage points, £68.8 billion would have been added to the economy during the first lockdown.

While retail turnover stemming from online sales has grown significantly during 2020 – from 19% to 28%[1], there is still considerable room for growth.

Myles Dawson, UK Managing Director of Adyen comments: “The UK retail sector is facing an incredibly tough quarter, so creating the link between physical stores and online channels is more important than ever. With the festive period approaching and many shoppers unable, or uncomfortable leaving their homes, establishing and maintaining a positive online experience is a billion-pound opportunity for retailers.”

The research[2] of 2,000 UK consumers found that 31% are less likely to shop in physical stores now because of positive experiences shopping online during the pandemic. Furthermore, 72% of these consumers want retailers who started an online service during the pandemic to continue operating it in the long term.

However, making the process of shopping online as frictionless as possible will be key to unlocking the opportunity presented by online channels. 70% of Brits say that when shopping online, the ease of use is as important as the quality of the product, and 72% won’t shop with a retailer whose website or app is difficult to navigate.

Myles Dawson concludes: “Many retailers did amazing things during the pandemic in terms of adapting and creating new experiences – it’s a testimony to their agility that 57% of Brits said their expectations of the retail sector has improved during the pandemic. The challenge now is to consistently meet these expectations going forward. With local lockdowns in place, online channels will be key to serving many consumers in the short term. However, retailers need to see the shift to unified commerce as a long-term trend. The sooner they can demonstrate agility and jump on board, the longer they’ll reap the rewards.”

[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/retailindustry/bulletins/retailsales/august2020

2 Research conducted by Opinium Research LLP

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Want to serve your customers better? An effective online strategy is what financial institutions need 

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Want to serve your customers better? An effective online strategy is what financial institutions need  2

By Anna Willems, Marketing Director, Mention

A strong online presence matters.

Having a strong online presence, that involves social media is now a crucial part of all business strategies. Whether they are retail brands, sports teams, libraries or even restaurants, most companies are investing more and more in developing their digital brand image and online presence – financial institutions are no exception.

When it comes to market trends and innovation, financial institutions are first on the line. After all, we — people and companies — trust them to manage our money to the best of their abilities. And even more so than any other market, we demand secure, trustworthy, fast and user-friendly services.

Reaching such high expectations is not a given. To this point, banks and other financial institutions have no other choice but to have a perfect understanding of their market, their audience, and their needs. What they need to get there is a fail-proof online strategy.

Gaining a deep understanding of your market

One of the best things about using social media to learn about your audience is that people give unsolicited opinions. They speak their mind and share their thoughts candidly.

This is the key to help any business to learn about themselves. They get to analyze their audience’s challenges and aspirations without having to ask them directly or serve them time-consuming surveys and polls.

UK-based Asto, a company that is part of the Santander Group, is committed to helping small businesses have access to financial and non-financial tools. Asto was looking for something that could help them discover what their target audience was talking about and find opportunities to add to the conversation. Mention enabled Asto to keep on top of reviews and customer comments, which has helped us provide a better service for our customers.

Which platform suits your offering the best?

There’s no point choosing to create campaigns on TikTok if your customers don’t use it – you need to think about who they are and work back from there.

You do this by automating the process using a social listening tool. A social listening tool will help you to view your market as a whole and identify where the key conversations are happening — and, therefore, where you should be. What’s more, you will never miss any relevant mention of your institutions, products, services, or competitors.

Handling a crisis

Financial institutions need to watch carefully for negative press – social media is the first place people will go to if they feel they’re not getting the service they need. In theory, rogue employees or unhappy clients can post anything they like online to try and hurt your brand. And if their messages gain traction, you’ve gone from one person saying bad things, to thousands.

That’s why listening needs to be part of any crisis management plan. Now, sometimes, there are crises you cannot prevent. And those usually hit pretty hard.

Power of influencers

For an influencer marketing campaign to work for your financial institution, partnering with nano content creators may well be the best way to go. They’re ability to play a part in how they shape your brand story can make a huge difference when it comes to engagement and reason to believe in your service.

Many financial institutions are already leveraging influencer marketing. It’s an efficient strategy to: Build trust and gain credibility, reach out to new audiences and share engaging stories.

The online review conundrum

94% of consumers check online reviews before they decide to buy something or subscribe to a service. They need what we call social proof. It says that the more people say they use your service, the more it will look like a good service. In short, you need to show how happy people are using your service. But not all online reviews are positive.

Having said that, we find that financial institutions shouldn’t ignore negative reviews. Instead, embrace them as an opportunity to rebuild trust in your brand. Less delicately put, take the bull by the horns and turn them to your advantage. Always respond to relevant complaints (and as fast as possible). Take responsibility for what happened. Be helpful.

And ignore trolls.

Learn from the competition

Over the last two decades, a marketer’s daily life has greatly evolved. Most importantly, we now can measure everything we do, including the consequences of our actions on our business. Having said that, you can’t evaluate how well you’re doing without comparing against

others.

Truth is that 77% of businesses rely on listening to keep an eye on their competitors. What this means is that 4 in 5 of your direct competitors are likely watching each and every single step you take. And you should do the same.

Setting the trend

From staying up to date with the latest industry trends and innovations, to keeping an eye on the competitors’ newest services, to being the first to know of potential brand crises – tracking relevant online conversations lets marketing and communication professionals working for financial institutions to stay one step ahead in an industry that is leading change and innovation.

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Why the Boom is Long Overdue (and Here to Stay)

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Why the Boom is Long Overdue (and Here to Stay) 3

By Roger James Hamilton, CEO, Genius Group

Virtually every aspect of our lives has been taken over by tech, so why is it that our schools, that are educating the business leaders of tomorrow, are still operating in much the same format as they did 100 years ago?

The global pandemic put digital learning in the spotlight and an Edtech boom has ensued, with companies like Coursera, Quizlet and Udemy seeing unicorn style growth. And the market is not slowing down. The education technology (Edtech) boom will continue.

Resilience and Growth

Unicorns are defined by rapid growth. Traditionally, these companies are not overly concerned with early profitability, long-term sustainability or value creation as much as with putting their competitors out of business.

But something different is going on in the Edtech market. The unicorn has lost its appeal. When learning platform Quizlet achieved unicorn status this year, CEO Matthew Glotzbach was keen to play down the moniker reserved for start-ups valued at $1 billion or more, preferring to liken his company to a camel.

Unlike unicorns, camels are real, hardworking beasts. Respected for their adaptability to various climates, resilience, and abilities to survive for long periods without sustenance. These are all traits much better suited to weather the economic storms created by the pandemic.

Despite their considerable abilities to adapt to challenging conditions, the climate is looking particularly sunny for camels within the Edtech market. In fact, all creatures great and small have the potential to capitalise on unprecedented growth in this sector.

The nature of education makes it a traditionally slow-moving area, which renders it unattractive to some investors. Yet, the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent surge in remote learning this year triggered a flurry of uptake in e-learning platforms.

We’ve seen the adoption rate for new technologies be accelerated by events like this before. For example, the SARS crisis of 2003 contributed to the boom in China’s ecommerce industry, as quarantines lead consumers to shop online. Of course, this market trend did not slow down once quarantine restrictions were lifted. Ever since, global online sales have risen exponentially. The same is set to happen in the Edtech market.

Providing a Solution

As with ecommerce in 2003, the demand for Edtech in 2020 was already there. It has been there for years. For the past decade at least, there has been a notable need in recruitment for qualified talent in data science, coding and digital. Edtech can bridge the skills gap, not only within formal education but also for adult learners upskilling and reskilling for today’s digital world.

Similarly, the financial crash of 2008 had the effect of fast-tracking the rise of the gig economy, requiring millions more to learn entrepreneurial skills. The idea of a job for life is now a distant memory. The Edtech sector can deliver the tools to equip students of all ages with the skills necessary for creating their own opportunities, as well as exchanging knowledge and collaborating in a digital economy.

Rising unemployment, as well as competition for jobs and government furlough schemes has seen interest in digital learning courses for adults also soar during the past few months. Figures show that the corporate e-learning market is set to increase by as much as $3.09 billion between 2020 and 2024.

Roger James Hamilton

Roger James Hamilton

The Edtech boom kickstarted by the pandemic is just the beginning in a paradigm shift in how we view education and work.

Over the next 10 years, with the rise of artificial intelligence, automated technology, and augmented reality, traditional, manual and customer service based roles will diminish and there will be less need for a large workforce when computers and machines can do the role equally well.

The need for a truly 21st century education system that reflects the needs of the job market is long overdue. Edtech companies are offering solutions to many of these issues that have troubled the economy for the past decade or more.

A Different Animal

Enter the zebra (back to our animal analogies). These types of Edtech businesses will be the ones to watch within the sector. With zebra companies, there’s a sense of community and collaboration, rather than competition. They understand that there’s room for more than one superstar in a market. Zebras are herd animals after all. The zebra believes that competition is healthy for everyone involved—something to watch and use for motivation and growth. It closely observes consumer trends and continually strives to solve new and developing problems for those consumers.

For zebra companies, profit margin is vital because it is necessary for steady growth and sustainability. Revenues hover between $5M and $50M, it serves customers within a specific niche, requires annual growth capital of $100K to $1M, and generally has more than four streams of revenue.

Zebras are both black with white stripes and white with black stripes – they have a fluidity in their approach and are camouflaged at the same time. This creates a double bottom line: Zebras want to conduct real business, by solving a pressing problem in a sustainable way, whilst reacting to contemporary challenges. This too could be said of the Edtech industry as a whole.

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