Thursday, September 26, 2013

Survey Shows Majority of Tech Executives Planning for Cyber Security Attacks

Silicon Valley Bank, financial partner to the innovation sector, found the majority of technology and healthcare companies view cyber security as a serious threat to both their data and business continuity, and only one-third are completely confident in the security of their information in a survey of more than 200 technology company executives.

Nearly all (98 percent) of companies are maintaining or increasing their cyber security resources and of those, half are increasing resources devoted to online attacks this year. Resources are most likely to be invested in monitoring, preventative policies, training and staffing rather than in preventative infrastructure, indicating they are planning for when, not if, they are attacked.

While most respondents were moderately confident in the security of their information, they were less confident in their partners', vendors' and clients' security measures. Most respondents are storing their data privately, showing a lower appetite for storing their information in the public cloud. Software companies were the exception with 59% using the public cloud, versus more private behavior by hardware, healthcare and cleantech companies.

Forty-six percent of companies, whose main offering is not security, include cyber security functionality in their product and 8% more plan to add a cyber security component to their core offering.
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Monday, September 23, 2013

Next Generation Workforce Optimization for Customer Service Benchmark Research Released

Ventana Research has released its latest Benchmark Research on Next GenerationWorkforce Optimization. The research evaluated the current methods companies use to manage the workforce handling customer interactions, how applications and technology are used to support agents and best practices for improvements in customer experience.

In the last two decades, contact centers have evolved into the hub for customer interactions and relationships. They now support multi-channel, multi-interaction, multi-stage customer communications. To be able to handle the volume and complexity of these new models, next generation technologies need to be implemented to support efficient and consistent handling of interactions. Our recent research shows that more than 90 percent of customer interactions still are conducted on the telephone. Therefore it is vitally important to manage the contact center workforce - the agents - to ensure it delivers superior customer experiences at reasonable costs.

The research found the vast majority (78 %) of the participants indicated it is very important to improve agent performance with the over-arching goal (86%) to improve customer satisfaction. Almost 80 percent use call recording and quality monitoring tools, more than half use workforce management and agent coaching systems, and more than 40 percent use e-learning and screen capture systems.

The research also revealed conflicting evidence that operational goals may get in the way of efforts to improve the customer experience. Ranked first in importance is to reduce the cost of handling interactions by increasing the use of self-service (by 27%) and to optimize agent utilization (15%). The results show that larger companies more often handle calls by self-service. Three in five organizations have implemented Web-based self-service systems, and nearly half use touch-tone interactive voice response (IVR). Previous research shows that such systems have had limited success with the majority of customers reverting to calling the contact center.

More information on workforce optimization can be found at

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Customer Contact Centers' Criticality during Disasters Necessitate Business Continuity Strategies

Customer contact organizations are at the heart of business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) strategies, as they are the go-to information centers in times of calamities and disasters. Due to the vital role they play in disseminating information, there are wide arrays of BC/DR-enabling methods and solutions available to handle all kinds of events.

Disasters account for more than a thousand deaths and billions of dollars of damages in the United States annually, according to sources such as the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), the National Fire Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Labor. The sources range from natural events, such as storms and fires, to workplace violence.

With the rise in mobility and advent of social media, customers expect real-time updates on delays, disruptions and changes to the products and services they purchase. However, Frost & Sullivan's survey of more than 250 IT managers in 2012 revealed that only 31 percent of the respondents claimed their organizations are prepared to handle outages and disasters.

Customer contact organizations face two challenges when devising and implementing effective BC/DR programs. The first is balancing the potential risks and losses from adversity and the investments needed for putting in place effective BC/DR solutions. The second challenge pertains to enterprises' lack of motivation to deploy these solutions due to the unpredictability of these events.

The BC/DR solutions that will find the highest uptake are those that support customers, employees, and operations and yet minimize capital investments and operational costs. Some of the methods to achieve this include selecting sites away from vulnerable areas, "multishoring," enabling employees to work from home, placing applications and data in the cloud, employing multiple backup and response tools and channels, alerting customers through proactive customer contact, and improving contact center access control.

Effective BC/DR depends on the development and maturity of cloud/hosting to supply and support applications and data. The solution's success also rides on cloud vendors' deployment of redundancy, including active-active server backup, geo-redundancy, and onsite generators.

For BC/DR to be wholly functional, wireless communication should be prevalent. While social media has proven to be a useful alerting and interaction tool, it is effective only if the recipients have Internet access. Nevertheless, even with Internet access, the bandwidth can fluctuate wildly in the aftermath of a disaster. Hence, there is a huge need for a multilayered approach, such as inbound and outbound interactive voice response (IVR) and SMS/text.

Apart from these external threats, contact centers also must prepare for employee violence, especially aggression against women. This is all the more relevant in the light of the fact that women account for more than two-thirds of customer service representatives. Furthermore, contact centers will do well to initiate military veterans into the workforce, as they have proven abilities to assess and respond to sudden and difficult situations.

More information on contact centers and customer service can be found at

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders

While the state of the U.S. economy has changed substantially since 2000, the state of the American workplace has not. Currently, 30% of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their work, and the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is roughly 2-to-1, meaning that the vast majority of U.S. workers (70%) are not reaching their full potential — a problem that has significant implications for the economy and the individual performance of American companies. Gallup’s research shows that employee engagement remains flat when left unmanaged.

This report includes an overview of the trend in U.S. employee engagement, a look at the impact of engagement on organizational and individual performance, information about how companies can accelerate employee engagement, and an examination of engagement across different segments of the U.S. population.

Key finding from the report include:

-- Engaged workers are the lifeblood of their organizations. Work units in the top 25% of Gallup’s Q12 Client Database have significantly higher productivity, profitability, and customer ratings, less turnover and absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents than those in the bottom 25%.

-- Gallup estimates that active disengagement costs the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion per year.

-- Engagement levels among service employees — those workers who are often on the front line serving customers — are among the lowest of any occupation Gallup measured and have declined in recent years, while engagement for every other job category increased

-- More than one-third (36%) of managers and executives were engaged in 2012, up 10 percentage points from 2009. By contrast, professional workers overall saw a modest two-point increase in engagement levels from 2009 to 2012.

-- Gallup has found that managers who focus on their employees’ strengths can practically eliminate active disengagement and double the average of U.S. workers who are engaged nationwide.

-- Although certain policies such as hours worked, flextime, and vacation time do relate to employee wellbeing, engagement levels in the work environment eclipse corporate policies.

-- Despite not always having a manager nearby to monitor their productivity, remote workers actually log more hours at their primary job than do their on-site counterparts.

-- Only 22% of U.S. employees are engaged and thriving. When employees are engaged and thriving in their overall lives, they are more likely to maintain strong work performance — even during difficult times.

-- Only 41% of employees felt that they know what their company stands for and what makes its brand different from its competitors’ brands.
More information on customer service and support can be found at