Top Tech Trends in Contact Centres

The contact centre industry is rapidly changing thanks to technological innovations, changes in employee working habits and expanding customer expectations (such as quicker response and resolution times). These changes combined have made contact centre professionals have to restructure their centres, taking on new technologies in order to meet the new expectations set.  Below we’ll take a look at some of the technologies which are shaping the future of call centres.

Softphones

Statistics show that employees like working from home. It lowers stress, raises productivity and ultimately improves job satisfaction. However, not all jobs are suitable for working at home, so it is important that the right technologies are implemented to try to make it as doable as possible.

Employees can’t take their work phones home with them, so in place of desk phones, you can implement softphones (software phone). Often built into CRM or UC systems, softphones bring all the functionalities of a telephone onto a computer or mobile device, and offer a way for agents to have telephone services to hand without the need for hardware.

Artificial Intelligence

Contact Centres have already begun to be early adopters of Artificial Intelligence. AI is already used for performance monitoring and analytics, predicting customer needs and also for chatbots. Another interesting way AI will be used is for speech analytics – whereby, the AI can recognise the tone of the caller, then match the caller with an agent based on the agent’s personality and skill level.

Live Chat and Social Media

A study carried out by Call Center Helper found that 40% of managers want to implement live chat next, 22.5% want messaging apps 15% of Call Centre Managers want social media to be the next technology they implement into their call centre.

All these features enable real-time communication, with live chat being used on the company website, messaging apps (such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger) happening over mobile, and social media interactions occurring on both mobile and desktop.

All these platforms enable customers to create interactions with companies on platforms that they already frequently use, making it easy for them to begin their enquiry as they are already familiar with how their platforms work. This ultimately has a positive effect on the customer experience if the resolution as handled effectively.

Unified Communications

Nowadays, customers want to have their own choice of how they interact with businesses. And when they do interact with a business, they don’t have to have to repeat themselves or explain their issue when it comes to a follow-up. For example, a customer calling in after sending an email wants to be able to pick up where the email left off, not start the query from the beginning.

This is where Unified Communications solutions come in. UC tools are online platforms designed to integrate telephony, email, social media, chat and more communication methods into one, allowing the agent to quickly see the correspondence between that of the business and the customers.

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Next Read: 10 Tips to Motivate Call Centre Employees (Infographic)

Finance market needs to take immediate action as UK Government enshrines 5th Money Laundering Directive into UK law

The government has introduced the Fifth EU Money Laundering Directive (5MLD) into UK law as of last Friday 20th December. It was introduced as part of ‘The Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Regulations 2019’ and will come into force on 10th January 2020.

This is an amendment to existing regulation, the ‘Money Laundering Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017’, but has some fundamental new inclusions that everyone in financial services will need to take action on.

A key amendment to the regulation is new wording which says that wherever possible businesses must use electronic verification for their anti-money laundering checks rather than just looking at paper-based documents such as passports and driving licenses. The wording says:

“(19) Information may be regarded as obtained from a reliable source which is independent of the person whose identity is being verified where […]

(a) it is obtained by means of an electronic identification process, including by using electronic identification means or by using a trust service (within the meanings of those terms in Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23rd July 2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market(11)); and…

b) that process is secure from fraud and misuse and capable of providing an appropriate level of assurance that the person claiming a particular identity is in fact the person with that identity.”.

All firms in the financial services sector will need to implement these changes immediately. This means lenders, financial advisers and any third parties including accountants, solicitors and estate agents. Other sectors to now fall under the regulations include crypto-currency exchange platforms and letting agents, where the rent is €10,000 per month or more. Failure to comply with the regulations can result in prosecution and heavy financial penalties.

Martin Cheek, managing director of SmartSearch commented, “The Fifth Money Laundering Regulations coming into law may well catch a number of people by surprise, happening, as it has, so close to Christmas. It comes into effect on the 10th January, so companies will not have long to prepare.

“It is the need for electronic verification that is likely to take most people by surprise. Any lenders or IFAs who do not already have a trusted means of doing this will need to implement this immediately to ensure they are compliant and save themselves from a heavy fine.

“The regulations are designed to help tackle rising levels of fraud and eliminate money laundering, things that are likely to be a key priority for everyone this year.”

SmartSearch, the UK’s leading provider of electronic verification has provided a guide as to five of the key amendments to the regulations, which can be found on its website at: https://www.smartsearch.com/resources/blog/5-amendments-of-5th-anti-money-laundering-directive

5MLD: SmartSearch’s guide to Top 5 changes for business

With new European regulations set to be implemented in the New Year, anti-money-laundering specialists SmartSearch have produced a guide to the top five changes for businesses likely to be affected by the regulations:

  1. Strict conditions for the issuing of e-money and prepaid cards
  2. A clampdown on virtual currency bringing cryptocurrencies into scope for the first time
  3. Registers of beneficial ownership to be made publicly accessible
  4. Better access to information for Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs)
  5. Increased due diligence for individuals and businesses in high-risk countries

The Fifth EU Money Laundering Directive (5MLD) is due to be transposed into domestic law by 10th January 2020.

The Treasury has yet to produce final regulations for British businesses but the Directive sets out minimum requirements for Member States. The UK government has previously indicated that it will implement and enforce the new rules regardless of the country’s future relationship with the EU.

The Directive also specifically endorses the use of electronic ID verification, and states that it should be used wherever available.

Money-laundering regulations affect a wide range of businesses in the property sector including lenders, estate agents, brokers and conveyancers. The new Directive will further expand this to letting agents for high-value properties.

Failure to comply with the regulations can result in prosecution and heavy financial penalties.

Commenting on the launch of the guide, Martin Cheek, managing director of SmartSearch commented: “Although we’ve yet to see final details, the new money-laundering regulations are bound to have a serious impact for large numbers of firms in the UK and across the EU.

“We have called on the Government to publish the final rules without delay so businesses can prepare more effectively and ensure they are compliant. In the meantime, our ‘Top Five’ guide is aimed at giving them a bit of a helping hand.”

Full details of the guide can be found at https://www.smartsearch.com/resources/blog/5-amendments-of-5th-anti-money-laundering-directive

Brits ready to see the light on retina recognition

More than six in ten Brits (62%)* would be happy to try retina recognition identification, according to new research from Equifax, the business and consumer insights expert.

In general, respondents were very open to trying new forms of biometric verification, including fingerprint (61%), facial recognition (57%) and palm verifier (57%). There was, however, some reluctance when it came to verification by heartbeat recognition (45%) and keystroke dynamics (44%).

The survey, conducted online with OnePoll, also revealed fingerprint was currently the most widespread form of biometric verification, regularly used or tried by 54% of respondents, followed by facial (32%) and voice (29%) recognition. Unsurprisingly, the use of biometric verification is more prevalent among 18-24 year olds, especially when it comes to fingerprint (78%) and voice recognition (43%).

Keith McGill, Head of ID & Fraud at Equifax, said: “It’s encouraging to see a healthy openness to try new forms of identification verification. Biometric verification is safer and less fallible than traditional, knowledge-based verification, and its future development and success will be an important pillar in the fight against online financial fraud.

“People will accept and adapt to technology that makes their lives easier and their finances more secure. However, developers, while making huge technological strides in their field, must be mindful of educating consumers on the inherent benefits biometric verification offer to build public trust and accelerate its mass adoption.”

Five top tips on surviving the office Christmas party

Christmas is a time we tend to indulge. It’s not uncommon for many of us to eat a little too much, slack off the gym and have a few more tipples than usual. It’s also a time for celebration, with the annual Christmas party a highlight for many employees who use it as a chance to blow off steam with colleagues, as they reflect on the past year at work.

However, this can come with significant risk. Whilst Christmas parties should be a time to bond with colleagues and have a good time, having a little too much fun could be to the detriment of your career. Last year, a survey conducted by OnePoll revealed that 1 in 3 office workers has done something they regret at a holiday party, while research from The CIPD found that 1 in 10 people know someone from their organisation who has either been disciplined or sacked for inappropriate behaviour.

So, how can you have a jolly time without overstepping the mark or waking up the next morning lamenting, ‘oh, oh, oh’? Here are our top tips to help you survive the office Christmas party and avoid the naughty list:

Stay 2 drinks behind your boss (or the client) at ALL TIMES

When the drinks are flowing it can be easy to lose track of how many you’ve had. However, to avoid any reputational headaches, know your limits and don’t try to keep up. Always be in control and if you start to feel this slipping, drink water and fast – everyone’s tolerances are different so don’t feel the pressure to match others drink for drink. Alcohol causes a loss of inhibitions and affects our decision-making process, which is most likely to trigger something you’ll regret the next day. So, if you’re drinking alcohol, keep to a steady pace and know when to stop.

Don’t get loose lipped

We all like a gossip, especially after a mulled wine or 3. However, remember that while you may be getting on with colleagues famously in that moment in time, it doesn’t mean a throwaway comment won’t come back to bite you. You never know about other relationships within a business or where loyalties lie. Keep to safe topics – after all, the Christmas party is meant to be fun, so don’t add any unnecessary drama into the mix.

Dress appropriately

There’s nothing worse than turning up to a room full of people and feeling out of place. A way to avoid this is to read the invite and sense check any wardrobe decisions beforehand with colleagues. While the odd comedy outfit will add extra merriment, make sure it’s not going to fall flat with senior management.

Put your phone away

Of course, you want to document your fantastic night with your colleagues. However, don’t get too Instagram happy when you’ve had a few. It’s likely colleagues and acquaintances will have a cheeky profile stalk if they’re tagged in photos, so don’t let them see a steady stream of photos showing you enjoying the night a little too much. Take a few choice shots and then put your phone away. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.

Make sure you’re still on form the next day

The morning after the night before can end up being the moment when you regret not booking annual leave like some of your colleagues. But if you’re in work the next day it’s important to plan your day. Whilst employers might be more lenient, they’ll still expect you to work professionally and productively. Plan for meetings, making sure that anything important is scheduled for the afternoon when you’re likely to be more switched on.

The future of FS – 2020 predictions from Software AG

Laura Crozier, Senior Director, Industry Solutions, Financial Services at Software AG, has put together some of her thoughts, exploring the role of integration and automation projects, the drive to the cloud, smart banks and commercial risk prevention.

Clouds on the horizon & lipstick on a pig

Banks have always over-hired and then overfired as the economy rolls through its cycles. Again, today we read of layoffs taking place in all corners of the world – but this time it will be different. The majority of the positions that are being cut will not come back.

A potent combination of flattening yield curves and negative interest rates, trade wars, the election year in the US, Brexit, and fear of economic slowdown, will propel integration and automation projects across the mid- and back-office to reduce costs and increase accuracy permanently. Companies of all sizes have come to the realisation that a good CX needs end-to-end digitalisation, otherwise it’s just “lipstick on a pig.”

Be afraid, be very afraid

Banks will accelerate moving to the cloud and taking on value-add partnerships in response to the Asian titans Alibaba and Tencent. The world’s largest retailer Alibaba owns Ant Financial and Alipay with one billion clients, and Tencent, the world’s largest gaming companies, owns WeChat. They are leading the world in financial services and payments products and have discovered the secret sauce for creating value out of data: Cloud for scalability and AI for perishable insights.

Separately, neither big tech nor banks have this capability. But together, they do – and the West is taking note. Witness the recent announcement of the Citi and Google partnership. And Facebook’s faceplant with virtual currency Libra, saw big tech get a painful lesson in jumping through banking regulatory hoops.

Your bank account will have a brain

With the firehose speed of 5g data transmission, and the ever-increasing sophistication and effectiveness of AI, banks will cease to interact with their retail or commercial clients in a reactive fashion. By analysing cash flows, behaviours and trends, banks will step forward as partners in financial management. They will proactively assess if, for example, your utility bill that will be automatically paid is appropriate given your historical consumption and the weather patterns, and either pay it or flag it accordingly. For commercial clients, banks will proactively offer up credit lines given an analysis of their working capital history versus current requirements.

Banks will also have to sacrifice overdraft fees (forfeiting around $2 billion annual revenue globally) because it will promote stickiness, and because technology will never allow overdrafts to happen.

Better to prevent an accident than pay for one

Rather than shell out for risk events after the fact, insurers will double down as partners in risk prevention and control, particularly with business clients. Commercial customers are much more willing than retail clients to share data, knowing that it can help improve risk control and prevention.

For instance, while an individual might be reluctant to use a wearable to share biometric information with a health insurer, companies will have less qualms insisting that their fishery, construction, or steel workers wear wearables to prevent injuries in high-risk situations.

The FLA’s Priorities for 2020 – an agenda for the incoming Government

The Finance & Leasing Association (FLA) has identified three improvements that the incoming Government must adopt to transform customer protection in the consumer credit market, and strengthen the growth of a sustainable and productive economy.

Priorities for 2020 and Beyond highlights the fact that the 45 year old Consumer Credit Act (CCA), which underpins every consumer credit transaction in the UK, is failing consumers because not only does it require lenders to send old fashioned and severely worded letters to those in financial difficulty, but it actually delays how quickly lenders can step in to offer those customers more time to make payments.

The CCA has also not kept up with the kind of innovation in the motor finance sector that could help to increase the uptake of low emission vehicles. As currently drafted, the Act makes it unnecessarily complex to finance a vehicle and its charging point in the same transaction.

Finding the right finance at the right time is vital for small businesses to grow and thrive, but the reality for owners is that the search for finance often starts at the end of the working day. The UK’s patchwork of information needs to be streamlined into one single, intuitive source that can diagnose the type of finance needed, signpost where to find it, and provide links to local growth hubs where the quality of business advice is consistent across the country.

Commenting on the publication of the FLA’s Priorities for 2020, Stephen Haddrill, Director General of the FLA said: said: “Government should reform the CCA urgently, rather than continuing to turn a tin ear to those in financial difficulty, or those trying to help them. Consumers need to be given a credible, firm promise of legislation early in the new Parliament; legislation that will deliver protections appropriate for the 21st century.

“Although there is no shortage of online business advice, it’s less clear whether a small business owner could find, in one sitting, all of the information needed to decide on the appropriate finance for their circumstances. Remedying this would be a great step to improving UK productivity.”

Is My Export Business Ready For Brexit?

Brexit is going to pose challenges for anyone who deals with members of the EU. Read more to find out if your export business is ready.

A lot of our clients have asked us how Brexit is going to affect their export business, and what they can do to prepare for it. So we’ve put together this handy guide. Remember, this is only for exporting goods to the EU. If your business also exports to Northern Ireland, or if you import goods from the EU, you’ll need to check out our other articles.

Step 1 – EORI Numbers

An EORI number, or Economic Operator Registration and Identification number, is required by all firms who move goods in or out of the EU. If you don’t have one, you may end up having to pay extra fees, and you may end up with delays or storage charges from HMRC.

EORI numbers are 12 digits long, and if you’re registered for VAT it will include your VAT registration number.

If you’ve already got an EORI number that starts with GB, you’re good to go: you can keep using it. If not, you’ll need to get one from the UK Government website. The process only takes 5 or 10 minutes, but you do need to make sure you have a few details before you start.

You also need to make sure your importer has an EORI number. If you’re not sure, check with the customs authority from their country.

Step 2 – The Export Process

When it comes to export compliance, you first need to decide who is going to handle the process for you. You can do it yourself, or you can hire someone else to do it on your behalf.

If you do it yourself, you’ll need to carefully follow the instructions from HMRC. The process involves a customs declaration and can be quite complicated. If you decide to go down this route, make sure you check the requirements.

If you’d rather have someone else do it for you, you can hire a customs broker or a specialist freight handler. There are specific rules as to who is allowed to act on your behalf, so make sure you read the list of customs agents before you sign a contract.

Then you need to see if you can use the Common Transit Convention (CTC) for your goods. This offers a streamlined process which removes some of the administrative burden, and can cut down on some of the export fees, but there are some restrictions. The CTC guidelines lay this out very clearly, so check if you apply.

Step 3 – Taxes, Duty, Licenses & Certificates

Different types of goods will incur different fees for the importer. They will also affect the various licenses and certificates that you need to get, especially for things like:

Alcohol & tobacco

Certain types of oils

Controlled goods like firearms

Foods, plant seeds & manufactured goods

Live animals & animal products

Chemicals, drugs & waste

Diamonds

Most of these products require extra attention, so make sure to check the specific compliance documents for your industry.

Step 4 – VAT

If the UK leaves the EU with no deal, you won’t be able to use HMRC’s VAT online services to claim a VAT refund from an EU member state. You’ll have to use the individual process for the country you’re exporting to.

This also applies for unclaimed expenses you had before Brexit.

The European Commission has a good summary of EU country specific information on VAT which you should check out.

If you sell digital services to EU customers, you won’t be able to use the old system for VAT; you’ll have to register for VAT (or VAT MOSS) in the individual member state. The European Commission page has the information you need.

Step 5 – Transporting The Goods

If you decide to transport the goods to or through Europe yourself, you need to make sure you comply with the rules.

There’s quite a heavy burden in terms of what you or your driver needs to carry:

Operator licenses

Vehicle permits

Valid passports

Driver’s licences

Mixed load or restricted load permits

Export documents

Insurance documents

Further Help & Advice

Fortunately, there are lots of places you can go for help and advice on preparing your export business for Brexit.

The UK Government has a dedicated Brexit phone number – 0300 3301 331 (Monday to Friday)

Your local Growth HUB has free support, advice and sources of finance

The Business Support Helpline for England has a live chat

A good accountant will be able to offer you compliance and business advice

Leeds-based financial recruiter launches specialist credit control division

Leeds-headquartered financial search and selection consultancy Woodrow Mercer Finance has launched a new division specialising in the recruitment of credit control professionals.

Associate director Natalie McGregor, commented: “Over the last two years, our entry level finance recruitment arm has gone from strength to strength and this new division is a natural extension to that. We identified a real demand for a dedicated team able to fill credit control positions from assistants up to manager and director level, while also delivering the client service and professionalism for which we are renowned.

“Credit control is about so much more than just making sure you get paid. An effective credit control professional will ensure that your figures add up and your invoicing is accurate, as well as being one of the most regular points of contact with your customers, making it a vital function within any business. A huge number of SMEs and corporates in Yorkshire are currently looking for the right person for this role, and we believe there is an opportunity for us to establish ourselves as specialists in this niche area.”

Credit control specialist Jodie Lazenby has joined the firm to manage the new division across Woodrow Mercer Finance’s offices in Leeds and Hull, working alongside Georgia Dutton. They will focus on the search and selection of entry level positions through to senior management roles within credit control throughout Yorkshire, the Humber and the North West.

Jodie has ten years’ experience within the financial services sector, mainly within the insurance industry, and moved into the recruitment sector two years ago.

“With a background in financial services as well as having a proven track record of building business within specialist areas of recruitment, Jodie has the skills we need to drive this new initiative. He understands our ethos of building long-term relationships with clients and brings enthusiasm and ambition to the role,” comments Natalie. “Already, our new offering is being well-received by clients and we expect it to grow quickly over the next six months.”

Jodie comments: “Having previously worked for a large, generalist recruitment agency, I was keen to hone my skillset and become a specialist within the financial recruitment sector. Woodrow Mercer Finance ticked all the boxes in terms of having an outstanding reputation in the market and providing a platform for me to develop professionally. This is a fantastic opportunity to work with some exceptional individuals and I am really looking forward to playing a key part in the growth and success of the new credit control division.”

Woodrow Mercer Finance was formed in 2016 when long-established Leeds financial consultancy FDYL formed a joint venture with Birmingham-based recruiter Woodrow Mercer to expand its financial recruitment nationally.

The £2.6m turnover firm offers a full range of specialist financial consultancy and recruitment services from the search and selection of portfolio finance directors and financial controllers to full-time interims and permanent FDs and FCs. The firm also has a division providing entry level and part/newly qualified staff.

Premium products defy UK export slide

British-made luxury goods, sports and leisure equipment and homeware exports grew consistently during the first three quarters of 2019, outstripping the performance of overall UK manufacturing exports which fell.

The trend was driven by resilient consumer confidence in key export markets in Europe, North America and the Middle East.

The Lloyds Bank International Trade Index, based on data from Lloyds Bank Commercial Bank in partnership with IHS Markit, is a quarterly report that brings together export growth and supply chain indicators to provide insight on conditions for UK exporters.

For July to September, the Index measured a reading of 46.5 for new manufacturing export orders, down from 46.9 in the second quarter and the lowest for almost seven years (Q2 2012). A reading of above 50 indicates growth, while one below 50 signifies contraction.
However, exports of other manufacturing* goods – including luxury items such as jewellery, sports and leisure equipment and homeware – bucked the trend, posting an Index reading of 52.3 in Q3.

This follows readings of 53.2 and 51.5 in the first two quarters respectively, making other manufacturing the only manufacturing export category measured by the Index to have new order growth throughout the year to date. Alongside pharmaceuticals, it was the only manufacturing category to grow during Q3.

Accounting for the findings, separate research[1] from IHS Markit revealed that between July and September consumer spending rose in six of the top ten overseas markets for exports such as sports gear and jewellery – France, Germany, Ireland, the US, the UAE and Saudi Arabia – propping up demand for some the UK’s most loved brands.

Lloyds Bank’s research follows a recent report from trade body Walpole that found the UK’s luxury goods exports reached £38 billion in 2017, compared to £25 billion in 2013.

Gwynne Master, managing director and global head of trade for Lloyds Bank Global Transaction Banking, said: “This year manufacturing exports have suffered as a result of international trade tensions and a slowdown in global economic growth, so it’s encouraging to see the pull of Brand Britain driving overseas sales of premium goods.

“Manufacturers of these products have benefitted from favourable sterling exchange rates and a reputation for quality associated with UK exports. Robust consumer confidence in key overseas markets has also translated into consistent new order growth.

“Exporters are, however, operating in a challenging environment, and we will continue to be by the side of firms seeking to seize opportunities abroad – whether that’s by providing insight to identify the best markets for products and services, or through specialist finance to help them prosper in international markets.”