It Should be a No-Brainer: Online Customers Want Better Experiences

Is it “Amazon or bust?” It certainly has been for a number of businesses.

The online shopping trend has been cannibalizing the sales of brick-and-mortar stores for quite some time now, as the last decade has seen major retailers such as Borders and Circuit City fold under competition from online retailers, even as others (Best Buy, for one) struggle to reinvent themselves in a “brave new world.”

This article originally appeared on the LiveLOOK blog, and is reprinted with permission.

Shopping at physical storefronts is still the primary way that consumers browse for and buy goods from their favorite brands, but they like the ability the Internet affords them to do extensive research about specific items and choose from wider selections of inventory. There’s only so much shelf space, and not many employees on the sales floor have in-depth knowledge of all the products they sell, if they can even help you locate everything.

Even with these seemingly baked-in opportunities awaiting online retailers, there are still some fumbles going on in the customer experience.

Online shoppers struggle regularly

While retailers aim to make their websites easy for consumers to navigate and buy items, more people encounter problems with ecommerce processes than decision-makers may think.

Eighty-three percent of customers require brands to guide them through their online purchases, according to Business 2 Community and Invesp. In addition, 89 percent of shoppers have left retail websites due to poor customer service, suggesting that companies’ support strategies must be finely tuned for success the digital age.

Customers have high expectations for ecommerce support platforms, which don’t always deliver. Thirty-one percent of customers with questions or concerns want to be helped immediately when they log on, while 40 percent expect to be in contact with a representative within five minutes.

Brands need to make themselves constantly available to meet consumer demands. Customers who experience poor service are reportedly twice as like to tell others about a business’ shortcomings than those who enjoyed their interactions.

Related article: Online Retailers Strive to Overcome Integration Challenges

Today’s customers want it all – and now

Not only do consumers in the digital era expect their questions to be answered quickly and accurately, but there is also a growing demand for integrated services across a range of platforms.

While 61 percent of consumers still turned to call handling as their primary channel of communication with companies, newer platforms are quickly catching up with this standby. Customer support email was chosen by 61 percent of shoppers as their preferred method, while 57 percent found live chat to be the most helpful.

The data speaks for itself: Online retailers must adopt the latest customer service technology as they can’t afford to miss out on opportunities and fall behind their competitors.

Most customers have an idea of what they expect from brands with regard to ecommerce support, but what is the most important component of service today?

Eighty-two percent of survey respondents cited quick issue resolution as the top element of a great customer experience, while 56 percent thought that resolving the problem in one interaction was the most vital component.

In addition to answering speed and efficiency, companies should work on keeping their customer-facing staff engaged and enthusiastic, as 45 percent of respondents said that friendly service reps were a crucial part of any memorable support experience.

Brands must hone their craft

With such a diverse array of consumer expectations facing brands today, it can be overwhelming for decision-makers to figure out where their support strategies are lacking, which is why BizCommunity suggested that managers seek feedback from both their target audiences and service representatives.

With a better idea of a brand’s strengths and weaknesses regarding the customer experience, leaders can make a more directed effort at improving aspects of their support that lag behind.

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A Closer Look at MiFID II Recording Requirements

The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II)—arguably the greatest reform to hit Europe’s financial industry—is finally in effect as of January 3, 2018. This EU legislation serves as a much-needed upgrade from the original MiFID, enacted in 2004, and addresses key issues that resulted from the 2008 global financial crisis.

The directive requires all national governments in the EU to adopt certain laws, which they are free to do in their own way should the resulting effect be the same. Financial services institutions—specifically investment firms, credit institutions and trading venues—are subject to MiFID II, including companies that are headquartered outside of the EU but do business there (for a more thorough overview, see this blog by industry analyst Sheila McGee-Smith).

Recording Regulations: Raising the Bar

Perhaps the greatest impact of MiFID II is the law’s tighter recording regulations. Under the 2004 MiFID directive, there was no mandatory requirement to record communications involving client orders. To ensure fairer, safer and more efficient financial markets, MiFID II now requires firms to record communications (both phone and electronic) for the following investment services:

  • Reception and transmission of orders
  • Execution of orders on behalf of clients
  • Dealing on own account (takes place when a firm puts its own trading books at risk)

The specific customer interactions that are required to be recorded in relation to investment services include:

  • Receipts of client orders
  • Transmissions of orders (both where the investment firm transmits and executes the order)
  • Conclusions of transactions when executing orders on behalf of clients
  • Conclusions of transactions when dealing on own account, regardless of whether a client is involved in the transaction

Important note: MiFID II covers all communications relating to activities intended to result in the conclusion of a transaction or the provision of client order services, even if they do not result in a financial transaction.

Communication of orders placed through channels other than voice—postal mail, faxes, emails, SMS, face-to-face conversations recorded using written minutes—must be stored in a durable medium.

Keep in mind a few rules that apply to this ‘durable medium’:

  • Records must be able to be replayed or copied
  • Records must be retained in a format that does not allow the original to be altered or deleted
  • Firms are required to ensure the quality, accuracy and completeness of all phone records and electronic communications
  • Records must be kept for a minimum of 5 years and, if requested by the National Competent Authority in a specific country, up to 7 years
  • Clients must be notified in advance of recording
  • Records must cover communications made with, sent from or received by equipment provided or permitted by the investment firm (privately-owned equipment used by employees or contractors is not prohibited)

Ensuring Compliancy with MiFID II Recording Regulations

If your business is involved in financial services in any way—even if it’s not your main focus (i.e. credit institutions performing investment activities, branches of third country firms)—you’ll need to investigate to understand whether this new legislation will affect you and, if so, what you need to do to comply.

We recommend a thorough review of compliance across all channels (including back office processes) to determine if they meet the new regulations. If not, you’ll need to deploy a workforce optimization (WFO) solution to demonstrate that policies, procedures and management oversight of the new recording and monitoring rules are in place. Here’s what you’ll need to consider in a WFO solution:

  • Continuous recording: This goes for all inbound and outbound voice and other electronic communications based on business rules. You need a WFO solution that will capture, search and retrieve calls, offer encryption for secure storage, and offer pause and resume capabilities.
  • Desktop screen capture: This is an undetectable back-end process that records desktop screen activity during each customer interaction. Supervisors and managers can use this both in the contact center and back office to view customer interactions from beginning to end via synchronized screen and call recordings.
  • Quality management monitoring: Identify and capture areas of non-compliance, while measuring how well employees are delivering services that align with customer experience expectations.
  • eLearning and coaching tools: Bring employees fully up to speed on regulatory changes and any new requirements, as well as correct any non-compliance behaviors.
  • Voice analytics: Proactively identify, measure and isolate areas of non-compliance by mining intelligence from large volumes of recorded calls.
  • Workforce management: Schedule employee compliance training while ensuring you have enough support personnel with the right skills to serve customers.

The greatest threat to reputability, revenue and customer experience is the thought that your technology is “good enough” to meet current needs. Your ability to innovate and grow are hinged on technology that meets the next-gen needs of today, tomorrow and beyond—something that only 24% of companies say their workforce optimization and recording systems achieve.

To complete a thorough review of your current MiFID II processes, connect with Avaya. For a deeper dive into MiFID II (including a few WFO features not mentioned above) download the white paper MiFID II: What Does it Mean for Your Organization?

MiFID II: What Do You Need to Know?

Sheila McGee Smith Sheila McGee-Smith is a leading communications industry analyst and strategic consultant with a proven track record in new product development, competitive assessment, market research, and sales strategies for customer care solutions and services. Her insight helps enterprises and solution providers develop strategies to meet the escalating demands of today’s consumer and business customers.

If you work in the financial services sector, you’ve likely seen news articles and heard IT, operations and other company managers and executives talking about the impending MiFID II regulation. It’s likely been a topic of conversation for months, if not years. Recently, The Washington Post began an article about MiFID II saying, “The impact of new market rules sweeping across Europe has been likened to motorists suddenly being told they must drive on the other side of the road.”

While the statement may seem like hyperbole to some, for those who work in financial services the statement will have the ring of truth. They have been working for years to create and refine practices and systems to be compliant with a European Union directive that became effective January 3, 2018: the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II or MiFID II.

An original MiFID was enacted in 2004, prior to the 2008 global financial crisis. Ad hoc changes were made by individual countries to address issues that resulted from the crisis. These issues are being addressed through MiFID II, which harmonizes the rules for all firms with EU clients, across all countries. The main goals of the MiFID II are:

  • Customer protection
  • Increased financial product governance
  • Unbundling of advice from the sale of financial instruments
  • Broader scope of supervision to include equity and non-equity trading
  • Firms must take “all sufficient steps” to ensure that transactions are executed in the best interest of customers
  • A considerable increase in the requirements for transaction data reporting

From an enterprise communications perspective, the aspect of MiFID II which is relevant is that it requires the capture of all communications and orders intended to lead to an execution of a trade, even if the transaction is not actually finalized during the interaction.

Penalties for non-compliance are set by the regulatory agencies in each European Union country. The first fine for non-compliance of the 2004 MiFID directive was given out to Barclays for inaccurate transaction reporting. Barclays’ fines totaled £2.45 million for their inaccuracies between 2006 and 2008. Since then, published reports say that banks have paid over $204 billion in compliance-related fines and infractions.

Every day, millions of transactions are reported by hundreds of trading venues, for thousands of different financial instruments. As a result, the potential for individual company fines of tens of millions of dollars is very real.

If, like so many companies, you are not sure if your current recording procedures will be sufficient to meet the requirements of MiFID II, the time is now to prioritize an assessment. Businesses need a comprehensive review of their compliance across all channels – phone, email, and SMS – to meet the new regulations. In addition, they need to demonstrate that policies, procedures and management oversight of the MiFID II recording and monitoring rules are in place.

If this post has made you wonder whether MiFID II regulations apply to your firm or what types of transactions need to be recorded and which do not, download the white paper MiFID II: What it Means For Your Organization? It gives a more extensive review of the MiFID II regulations and answers questions about what geographies are impacted, what types of firms are affected and how the new transaction recording rules are different from the rules in effect today.

Be Ready! Six Steps to Take Before a Natural Disaster Hits Your Communications

In what’s shaping up to be an unprecedented hurricane season for the U.S., Avaya wants to ensure that we all review our plans to keep communication systems running at peak performance and stabilized when disaster strikes. Keeping communication systems running often includes a great partner with a deep bench of experts who have experience in many complex situations. Particularly invaluable are battle-tested IT experts who can help rebuild and stabilize communications when disaster strikes. Avaya can engage in a proactive support dialogue to help you avoid complexity from the outset.

Before the Storm

Hurricanes like Harvey and Irma can be catastrophic to businesses. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused $65 billion in damage in the U.S., making it the second-costliest weather disaster in American history behind only Hurricane Katrina, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). During the storm, 8,204,220 Americans and thousands of businesses lost power.

No matter the weather (and because the average cost of downtime is $2,700 per minute), it is best to avoid outages by knowing what is most likely to cause communication system outages. According to the research report The Essential Guide to Avoiding Networking Outages, power outages are the leading cause of communications outages. This white paper features an analysis of the top five causes of outages with the percentage of those outages that could potentially have been prevented had leading practices been followed. The top five causes of outages are:

  • Power outages – 74%
  • Lack of routine maintenance – 73%
  • Software bug – 69%
  • Hardware failure – 39%
  • Network issue – 35%

The analysis shows that outages can be avoided by using industry-leading outage prevention practices. Leveraging resources now and on an ongoing basis to determine if facilities can meet power demands and ward off problems is essential. Also, make sure to:

  • Schedule maintenance of systems to avoid what is the high percentage of remediable outages (73%) attributed to poor maintenance and underutilized upkeep.
  • Watch for telltale signs from equipment that a problem is approaching. Proactive health checks, disciplined system monitoring, and observed maintenance schedules can aid in hearing the signal, helping improve the reliability of communications assets.
  • Upgrade equipment approaching end of manufacturing support (EoMS), avoiding the fallout from the over-sweating of assets.
  • Verify system redundancy, system health checks, and failover strategies for critical systems.
  • Patch whenever possible to eliminate software bugs or software-related outages. Some choose to let others occupy the upgrade frontlines and endure potential rollout hiccups, then follow along at a safe interval. This strategy breaks down disastrously when an organization suffers an outage that would have been avoided with a fix that it voluntarily chose to postpone.
  • Draw a network diagram to isolate an outage, speed resolution by illustrating the relationships among pieces of equipment, and isolate that outage!

As a hurricane or other natural disaster approaches, try not to depend on local team members who could be facing challenges of their own at home. Instead, move team members to locations where they can work with clients. When assembling a team, pull from across the organization and leverage readouts at defined intervals.

Pre-Event Checklist

Follow these six steps to prepare before a hurricane—or other disasters—strike:

  1. Save translations before an emergency event impacts the site. This will help ensure that recent changes are not lost and speed restoration in the advent of damage to the system.
  2. Review safety procedures with all employees prior to the emergency event, if possible, and make certain to have an updated contact list to keep in touch.
  3. Secure back-up media so that translations won’t be lost or damaged, thereby delaying restoration of your service. Take a copy of back-ups and any other information off site.
  4. Print and store a current list configuration of key solutions. If a new system is necessary, this simple precaution will save time in starting the process.
  5. Consider powering your system down before the emergency event impacts the site. Electrical power surges both before and after an emergency event can pose the greatest threat to your system.
  6. Contemplate moving switch/applications if the site is located in an area that may be exposed to damage from the emergency.

Taking the above actions can limit risk and help ensure your communications systems make it through a challenging, tough time. Learn more at our Help Center. And if you do have an outage on your Avaya equipment, report it at Support.Avaya.com. Or call 800-242-2121.