4 Ways Financial Services Can Get More Daring in CX

The pressures of the ongoing shift to a digital-first strategy is forcing financial organizations of all kinds to improve operational efficiency, reduce costs, and provide best-in-class customer service. Decision-makers have been forced to move towards cloud technology to more easily meet the challenges of shifting economics, customer needs, privacy, and compliance requirements. But those who have quickly adopted a future-forward digital CX strategy have realized the potential gains of a cloud collaboration solution to attract and retain customers while optimizing their technology stack.

The result has made switching financial institutions much easier, with competitors offering new benefits daily and customers continually demanding more: more services, more attention, more programs. It’s no longer enough for a cloud solution to just work; it has to be modern, run smoothly and be easy to use. A bank is no longer a place you go to but a thing you do, and consumers weigh the importance of a modern, easy experience ahead of other factors. To make it work, adopting a high-performance all-in-one cloud communications solution is now table stakes.

The good news is, it’s easier than ever to move to the cloud. Here are four ways a cloud collaboration solution can help your financial organization modernize internal collaboration and create a winning, future-proof customer experience.

  • Transform traditional business models
  • Create differentiated customer experiences that maintain the human touch
  • Establish a platform for innovation and business agility
  • Meet compliance needs

Transform Traditional Communication Business Models

Banks and other financial services organizations have traditionally been slow to adopt new technology because of inflexible infrastructures and complex, outdated systems that are layered together. However, adopting a cloud communications solution can increase the value that organizations in this industry deliver. It creates efficiencies of scale, supports revenue growth, and enables innovation, all without the traditional overhead costs of managing hardware. According to the Mitel white paper, Delivering Digital CX for Today’s Mobile Customer, “To truly deliver an optimal customer experience in today’s digital environment, businesses must transition independent communication silos to an integrated digital framework, either funnelling all interactions to one central location or facilitating easy collaboration between customer touchpoints and subject matter experts.”

Create Differentiated CX That Maintains The Human Touch

Beyond digital transformation, the personal touch is still important to maintaining trusted customer relationships and loyalty. With MiCloud Connect you can meet customers where they want to be, how they want to interact, with a consistent experience. You’ll be able to offer customers self-service options that can give them the answers they need, faster without jeopardizing a valuable customer text, chat or video due to a poor experience. For years, the only way to make deposits and withdrawals at a bank was to visit the bank and stand in line. Today, banks offer consumers 24/7 access to bank accounts from millions of automated teller machines (ATMs), through online banking and mobile apps.

Consumers like the convenience these options offer. They don’t complain about how much more impersonal the experience is compared to standing in line to see a teller during business hours. They recognize that these alternatives offer a good self-service option that provides an opportunity to get things done quicker. As a result, they are more likely to be loyal to the bank that offers the most convenient self-service alternatives. Consumers get the experience they expect, and the bank gets an enhanced reputation, as well as a dramatic drop in operating costs.

Establish A Platform For Innovation And Business Agility

Your cloud collaboration solution will create a platform for innovation and business agility. Employee work styles and customer expectations are shifting as we speak. As the next generation of analysts, brokers, relationship managers and workers gravitate towards more flexible working environments, to remain competitive companies must accommodate the many ways people and employees want to collaborate.

In a cloud-based environment, workers can collaborate and share knowledge and experiences to support organizational innovation. Employees want to be able to launch sessions quickly and seamlessly while communicating with clients, co-workers, or business partners. Starting a chat with a co-worker moving quickly to a video call to share screens and files in real-time enables faster decision making, improving both client and employee experiences and outcomes.

Meet Compliance And Regulatory Needs

Mitel ensures financial institutions are protected.

  • Our security efforts are aligned with ISO27000 series of standards.
  • Our security posture is based on the NIS Cybersecurity framework.
  • Our GRC program is based on the OCEG Capability model.
  • MiCloud Connect is subject to an annual internal audit and third-party executed SSAE18 SOC2 audit.

In our new age of flexibility and choice, financial services organizations continue to pivot toward adopting cloud technology including collaboration tools to keep businesses moving forward.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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3 Reasons You Can’t Afford to Let Your Communications System Fall Behind

We’ve all watched high-performance athletes lose a race by mere fractions of a second. Whether the athlete is running on a track, racing down a ski hill or skimming across a swimming pool, it’s compelling to watch. It’s also heartbreaking, because that margin, no matter how small, meant the difference between winning the race and being left behind.

The business world isn’t much different. Competition is extremely tight in almost every industry. It’s all-too-easy to be left behind by competitors who are faster to market, work more efficiently and do more to keep their customers happy. 

Your business systems are key to increasing your competitive edge and winning the race, no matter what industries or markets you serve. Every system you rely on must reliably operate at peak performance levels at all times. Especially your business communications system.

Your business communications system is at the heart of every strategy and tactic you employ to stay ahead of the competition. It is the lifeblood of your organization. And if you don’t keep this vital business system in peak condition, you’re far more likely to fall behind.

There are many reasons you can’t afford to let your communications system fall behind, but here are three important ones.

Seamless Communications Accelerates Time To Market

It takes unconstrained teamwork across every area of your organization to get new offerings to market faster. Every member of every team needs the ability to quickly and easily connect, collaborate and share information, from anywhere, at any time.

If your communications system isn’t up-to-date, your teams can’t leverage the latest features and functions available in the web, mobile and desktop applications they rely on to stay connected. Like high-performance athletes, your teams need every advantage they can get. No matter how seemingly small that advantage is, it makes a difference — especially if you multiply the effects across your entire organization.

Keeping your communications system up to date means your teams always have the most recent voice, messaging, video conferencing, screen sharing and file sharing capabilities at their fingertips.

Depending on how long your communications system has languished without updates, getting current could bring you entirely new capabilities that will jumpstart collaboration initiatives across your teams.

Lost Productivity Is More Expensive Than You Think

In a 2019 survey of 2,500 business professionals across five countries, respondents said they spend half of the average workday communicating and collaborating. They also said about 13 percent of their day is wasted due to communications inefficiencies. When you add up the lost time, those inefficiencies cost more than $10,000 per employee, per year.

But productivity losses aren’t only measured in dollars. Almost half of the survey respondents also said that inefficient communications and collaboration had created friction with co-workers and with other departments. While these types of losses are more difficult to quantify, no business can afford them.

Communications technologies and the systems that deliver them are constantly evolving to deliver more features and functionality that are key to making communications and collaboration more efficient. The capabilities that were cutting-edge just a short while ago are no longer at the forefront of what’s available. Your staff knows this, and they’re looking for you to provide more efficient solutions.

Of the 2,500 survey respondents, only 15 percent of respondents felt their current communications technology had poor features. But 80 percent felt productivity would increase with better communications tools.

If you look at these statistics in another way, it seems employees are saying “we like what we have, but it needs to be enhanced.” The easiest way to deliver on this requirement is to keep your communications system fully up to date with the latest enhancements all the time.

A Great Customer Experience Depends On Great Communications

We’ve already shared a few statistics in this article, but we could fill pages with the statistics that confirm a better customer experience leads to increased business revenues.

The communications that customers have with your organization are central to their experience, and those revenue increases. The key is to ensure your customers have a great experience at every touchpoint across your organization. To do this, you need to look beyond your contact center technology and the service delivered by your contact center agents, and take a holistic approach to the customer journey.

According to customer experience consultants, Temkin Group, “every single person in a company plays a direct or indirect role in determining whether it provides consistently good or consistently bad human or digital interactions.”

Your business communications system plays a major role in those human and digital interactions. When evaluating the current state of your communications system, think about how:

  • Customers interact with your sales team and employees located at remote sites
  • Your internal teams connect and collaborate to deliver on customer requirements, especially when customized solutions are required, delivery dates change or supply chain issues slow down processes

If your communications system doesn’t provide the capabilities needed to ensure customers have the best possible experience, they can become disillusioned with your organization. They might assume the outdated communications system they encountered when they called your sales team reflects the overall state of your organization. And they might assume the challenges they’re experiencing with their order or inquiry is due to lack of effort or care, rather than internal disconnects caused by out-of-date communications technology.

Don’t Let Your Communications System Slow You Down

With these few examples, it’s easy to see that if your communications system falls behind, your business can also fall behind.

If you’re using Mitel MiVoice Business for communications and collaboration, there’s an easy way to reduce the risk of falling behind. Simply renew or reactivate your Mitel Software Assurance subscription.

Mitel Software Assurance ensures your MiVoice Business system always has the best, most up-to-date software and features for voice, data, and video communications and collaboration. Your software is also protected with the latest security fixes to reduce security vulnerabilities.

In addition, you can choose to receive proactive fault reporting and performance analytics so any system issues can be dealt with before they impact your business. And, if you run into issues that can’t be resolved by your Mitel certified partner, they can contact our technical experts for added support.

If high-performance athletes could easily access new capabilities that would help them edge-out the competition, they surely would. High-performance companies need to do the same.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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Integrated Communications are Essential in the New Normal

Almost every day, I hear or read about the “new normal” — the state that countries, businesses and people will find themselves in as pandemic-related restrictions are lifted. Some aspects of our work and personal lives will go back to the way they were pre-pandemic, but others won’t. And we will all need to make adjustments to navigate these uncharted waters.

For many businesses, the new normal will mean some employees may never return to working on-site in offices. Some will only work on-site part time, while others will return to the office full-time. You’ll need to support all of these arrangements. And you’ll need to provide that support in a way that allows dispersed team members to seamlessly connect and collaborate as if they were all together.

Those Band-Aid Solutions Were Only Temporary Fixes

As the pandemic struck, in the rush to adapt to and support a remote workforce almost overnight, you may have turned to third-party apps for messaging, video and collaboration capabilities. This strategy was the right one at the time because it solved a new, and immediate, need. Your teams could quickly and easily download these apps so they could connect and collaborate from their homes and allow your business to continue functioning.

Now, you need to look beyond your basic ability to function with remote workers. It’s time to fortify your communications strategy by replacing disjointed tools with fully integrated solutions that are designed for long-term sustainability.

Integrated solutions provide the data, voice and video communications and collaboration features you’ve come to rely on, but are less expensive to maintain, less complex to manage and less complicated for your teams to juggle than disparate apps. And they seamlessly connect to your existing infrastructure.

Integrated solutions let you do more

When your communications and collaboration solutions are fully integrated, team interactions are more natural and intuitive, no matter how people are sharing information. People are free to focus on the topic at hand rather than the mechanics required to use, and switch between, a variety of disparate tools and apps. Everyone can work more efficiently and collaborate more instinctively.

Here are a just a few examples of what’s possible when you integrate Mitel communications and collaboration solutions into your existing MiVoice Business system:

  • Access all capabilities from a single application. With Mitel MiCollab, you have one, cost-effective application that provides everything needed — voice, video, messaging, presence, audio conferencing, mobility and team collaboration. There’s no need to jump between apps with different user experiences. And you can seamlessly switch devices mid-conversation. Picture someone talking on their desk phone or on the softphone on their computer, then easily switching the conversation to their mobile phone as they head out the door.
  • Expand team interactions. With Mitel MiTeam Meetings, you can transition between chat, voice and real-time video conferencing across time zones and geographies. You can also securely extend communications and collaboration opportunities to remote team members, partners, suppliers and customers to increase touchpoints and strengthen relationships.
  • Have more flexible conversations. Over the past year, many businesses have taken advantage of Microsoft Teams, the collaboration tool that comes with Office 365 subscriptions. Our Microsoft Teams integration solutions let you easily switch between chat, video and voice while staying within the Teams web or desktop app. For example, you can use the Mitel Assistant bot tolaunch MiTeam Meetings directly from a chat conversation in Microsoft Teams and smoothly shift from a text conversation to a video conference. Our Chrome extension lets you make softphone calls within the Microsoft Teams web app with a single click. And our app dialer lets you set up a hotkey to select numbers to dial in the Microsoft Teams desktop app.

Evolution Is Faster, Easier, Less Expensive

Naturally, you’ll want to continue evolving your communications system over time. Adding new features and functions is far easier when you’re using a modern, integrated communications system than it is if you’re using a disjointed collection of systems and apps from different vendors.

These point solutions were not designed to smoothly evolve together. Updates are provided by multiple separate companies when it makes sense for their business, not yours. Third-party applications that worked together one day can easily become out-of-sync the next if one is updated and the other is not. Managing all of these different apps becomes very complex and expensive compared to an integrated system where all components smoothly evolve together.

An integrated system also simplifies your evolution to the cloud when the time is right. Every business will fully migrate their communications system to the cloud at some point. Why not put the pieces in place today to ensure your teams benefit from the smoothest possible transition?

A purpose-built MiCloud Flex solution brings your teams all of the same great communications and collaboration features they’ve come to rely on in MiVoice Business, MiCollab and MiTeam Meetings, but they’re delivered from the cloud. You have a single communications integrated cloud solution that provides the same experience on desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets, but you don’t have to spend time, effort or money managing the system. At the same time, you maintain full control over upgrade and maintenance windows, and can mix and match service levels to meet changing business demands.

You can also integrate with Microsoft Teams in the cloud. Mitel MiCloud Connect for Microsoft Teams is a direct routing solution that integrates MiCloud Connect’s cloud telephony capabilities into the Microsoft Teams interface. Your staff can stay within Microsoft Teams while accessing MiCloud Connect features such as flexible phones, real-time rich presence and availability and ring group control. You also have a seamless unified communications experience across Mitel MiCloud Connect, Google Chrome and G Suite.

The Right Partner Helps You Find Your New Normal

There are numerous factors to consider and multiple options to choose from when determining how to evolve your MiVoice Business platform today and tomorrow. The good news is you don’t have to make this journey on your own.

A Mitel certified partner is standing by, ready to help you find the best path to your new normal, no matter where that path may lead.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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When it Comes to your Communications System, Complacency is Risky Business

The well-known saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” was popularized in the mid-1970s by Bert Lance, director of the Office of Management and Budget in U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s government. In many situations, the saying makes sense. We can all think of examples where the risk factors associated with trying to improve a perfectly functioning system would very likely outweigh the rewards.

This is not the case with your business communications system. In fact, the opposite is true, and the risks associated with maintaining the status quo are extremely high.

You Can’t Afford To Stand Still

It’s easy enough to be lulled into complacency. The best communications systems are virtually invisible in your organization. Your teams, customers and partners rely on the integrated voice, data and video capabilities these systems provide to stay connected, collaborate and work more efficiently. But the system itself fades into the background, a silent business enabler that can perform for years without issue.

Unfortunately, even the most reliable communications systems become vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks if they’re not regularly updated with the latest system software and security patches.

Cybercriminals also work silently and invisibly, but they’re always improving their tactics. These bad actors are constantly introducing new attack vectors, unleashing more sophisticated threats and looking for systems with older, more vulnerable software they can target. The longer the software has been neglected, the more likely it is that someone can find a way to exploit its vulnerabilities.

We’ve seen what can happen when businesses and business systems aren’t ready for unexpected events. When millions of workplaces around the world suddenly found themselves shifting to virtual operations and remote working in 2020, cybercriminals saw an opportunity they couldn’t resist. And they struck with a vengeance. According to cybersecurity firm, CrowdStrike, cybersecurity intrusions around the world grew 400 percent in 2019 and 2020 combined. The term “cyber pandemic” was used in numerous online articles focused on the dramatic increase.

Proactive Software Updates And Security Fixes Protect Communications Systems

The explosive use of mass communications solutions was a major factor in the steep increase in cyberattacks. According to Devin Partida, editor-in-chief of ReHack.com, hackers target the tools people use most frequently because they offer the highest chance of success. No doubt, we all remember the sudden spate of video call intrusions in 2020.

Maybe your communications system hasn’t been hacked, but why continue to take the risk? No business can afford for its vital communications system to be compromised or shut down by cyberattacks. Internal teams lose productivity. Partners lose touch with your business. And perhaps worst of all, customers lose trust in your business.

A proactive service, such as Mitel Software Assurance, helps ensure your business is ready to smoothly handle unexpected events and cyberattacks on your communications system. Your Mitel MiVoice communications platform is always up-to-date with the latest software and features, and it’s protected with fixes that address security flaws and close security holes that could be exploited.

Protecting your MiVoice communications platform helps protect your business. It also allows you to take advantage of the latest features to ensure the system delivers maximum value to your organization over the long term.

The Cloud Is Ideal To Support Remote And Hybrid Workforces

In addition to ensuring your MiVoice Business system is fully up-to-date, you also need to start thinking about your next move.

Some of the changes you implemented to deal with the pandemic will likely remain in place as you and your teams take advantage of convenient and cost-effective new ways of working. That means it’s time to take a closer look at cloud-based communications solutions.

A purpose-built cloud solution makes it easy to provide unified and scalable communications to anyone, anywhere, on any device. Your entire organization benefits from increased mobility, richer team collaboration and better ability to deliver exceptional customer experiences. And you no longer have to worry about managing, scaling or securing a premises-based system. Outdated technologies, obsolete systems and invisible vulnerabilities are no longer a costly IT issue or a risk to your business.

When planning your migration to the cloud, there are a number of factors to consider. Public clouds, private clouds and hybrid clouds each have their own benefits. And new cloud technologies are emerging all the time. You’ll also need to consider which communications systems, programs and applications it makes sense to access from the cloud.

Your learning curve is faster and easier when you choose Mitel cloud solutions because you already know us, and you know what our solutions bring to your organization. The only difference is those critical capabilities are now hosted in the cloud.

For example, you can take full advantage of our partnerships with global technology leaders to benefit from systems such as MiCloud Flex or MiCloud Connect and leverage the cloud to integrate voice, chat, video, collaboration and customer experience in one, easy to use system.

It’s a lot to navigate, but a Mitel certified partner can help you make the right decisions for your current requirements, long-term goals and budget. With their experience and understanding of cloud-based communications, and our solutions, you’ll have everything needed to smoothly transition to the cloud in the way that makes the most sense for your organization. And as new technologies become mainstream, our certified partners will help you integrate those technologies in innovative ways so you can unlock all the capabilities cloud communications has to offer.

Whatever Path You Choose, It’s Time To Get Going

Whether your next steps are to immediately start planning your migration to the cloud, or to simply get current and stay current with software assurance services, now is the time to make your move.

As we all know from bitter experience, making decisions in advance is far easier, and far more cost-effective, than making panic-based decisions after an emergency has struck. Or, to quote another old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” While this statement was first made by Benjamin Franklin in the 1700s, it definitely applies to today’s communications systems.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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3 Tips for a Happy and High-Performing Workforce

Remote and hybrid work are here to stay, but they present new challenges for organizational leadership. How do you foster productivity and keep employees happy in this new normal?

It’s useful to start with an understanding of why employees overwhelmingly prefer remote workIn a recent survey, remote workers say they value: flexible schedules (32%), the ability to work from anywhere (25%), the lack of a commute (22%) and more time with family (11%).

And yet, they also have concerns. Two-thirds of employees worry they’ll miss out on career opportunities if they continue working remotely, McKinsey research shows, while almost half (49%) say they feel burned-out after the pandemic.

Leaders can use these desires and concerns as starting points for reimagining the workplace and company culture. Cultivating a happy and highly productive workforce will require both new policies and a new approach to management. Here are three tips to help you get it right.

Flexibility: A Workforce Advantage

In the war for talent, companies that are flexible about where and when employees work will gain an advantage. Thirty-nine percent of employees say they would consider quitting their jobs if employers didn’t offer flexibility, and the percentage was even higher―at 49%―among Millennial and Gen Z workers.

This doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the 9-to-5 paradigm altogether. In fact, 68% of employees who worked remotely during the pandemic say they favor returning to a hybrid workplace, compared to 26% who say they prefer permanent remote work.

Instead, flexible work conditions and giving employees more control over when and where they work can make organizations more attractive to workers. Options such as flexible hours, no-meeting days and training resources that focus on improving communications skills in digital media are likely to be viewed positively by potential job candidates. However, to make such changes stick, managers will need to instil new company values and let go of long-held attitudes that performance and advancement are contingent on being in the office.

Emotional Intelligence: Be Attuned To Stress Points

In America and Canada, 57% of workers reported higher stress levels in 2020 than their colleagues in Western Europe, where stress actually declined. Yet other research shows one-third of professionals say their overall performance and quality of work improved. Indeed, employees reported having more time to focus on professional growth by reading more (35%), taking online courses (34%) and continuing their education (29%).

Managers should lean into what worked. Providing opportunities for growth and learning have been known to improve performance. But the leaders of tomorrow will also need to be attuned to the causes of stress, anxiety and burn-out.

Leaders with high emotional intelligence will be quick to identify when an employee is showing signs of distress. They can take steps to alleviate stressors or improve the situation. For instance, they can lend an empathetic ear to a troubled employee. Other steps, like setting rules so that everyone has a chance to talk in team meetings or establishing “no video” days to reduce fatigue can also improve employee happiness. IT can play a role too by ensuring the right communications and collaboration tools are in place so everyone is on the same page and no one feels left behind or out of the loop.

Collaboration: Rethink The Workday

The hybrid workforce will be comprised of several types of employees. The fully remote worker is one who rarely or perhaps never comes into the office. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the 100% in-the-office employee. Then there’s the hybrid worker, who follows a 3-2-2 schedule: three days in the office, two days remote and two days off. Other models are also likely to emerge. Some employees may spend three consecutive weeks working remotely and only week in the office for the last week of every month.

This diversity of schedules has the potential to make it very difficult for managers to foster higher productivity. Cohesiveness is a vital element of a high-performing team. But when members are rarely together in the same room, this quality may feel elusive. Managers may be tempted to turn to a traditional solution: the team meeting.

Meetings can be productive and help achieve cohesion, but they can also have the opposite effect. During the pandemic, employees faced schedules of back-to-back meetings, contributing to both fatigue and stress. It’s tiring to be on-camera for several hours at a time, and overscheduling often doesn’t leave enough time for actual work to get done.

That’s why managers need to rethink the workday. Gartner suggests rebalancing the workload between synchronous (working together) and asynchronous (working alone) approaches. The analyst firm points out there has been an overreliance on synchronous modes, leading to a negative effect on health.

Although companies have invested in virtual technologies during the pandemic, there’s clearly room for improvement. When it comes to policies that will improve productivity and employee well-being, 34% of employees ranked setting clear hours for collaboration and when to be online as the top policy, according to McKinsey’s findings. At number two was “robust standardized and integrated virtual collaboration tools,” according to 29% of employees. Shared workspaces and the ability to seamlessly switch between video, voice and chat, for example, make it easy for employees to work with teammates or plug away at a solo task while still having access to project notes and other pertinent information.

Leaders and managers may be facing significant workplace change, but these tips can help them navigate a more complicated environment and even gain a competitive edge in attracting high-performing talent to their organization.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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How to Build Resilient Teams

A recent report detailing work from home statistics in 2021 shows that 43% of workplaces have half of their employees working from home.

How do you find the right people? How do you keep your team engaged and productive while working remotely and things are constantly changing?

That’s what we’re going to look at in this article.

What Is A Resilient Team?

A resilient team can handle unforeseen changes or challenges and persevere as necessary. According to HR consultancy firms LHH and Ferrazzi Greenlight, the members of your team should embody the following four critical characteristics of resilient teams:

  • Candor: Teams with open and honest dialogue are more likely to come up with solutions. Speaking truthfully with each other can help you identify challenges and address them quickly.
  • Resourcefulness: When faced with challenges, teams should work together to find creative solutions. Resilient teams bounce back from setbacks and stay focused on their goal.
  • Compassion & Empathy: Resilient teams consist of individuals who deeply and genuinely care about each other. Your team needs to be able to share both their successes and failures.
  • Humility: Resilient teams are willing to admit when they can’t handle a problem and ask for help.

How To Build A Resilient Team

Building a resilient team is no easy feat. It takes empathy, effective communication, and honesty to establish trust with one another. Below are a few key elements you can incorporate to build a resilient team.

Show Empathy

Leadership requires balance. It’s about strength and humility, focusing on vision and gathering input.

The most successful leaders inspire people, believe in others’ potential, and show empathy even when faced with difficult decisions.

Most people don’t immediately become managers the moment they enter the working world. They start on the bottom rung of the ladder and gradually take on more responsibilities until they reach leadership level.

You can use this to your advantage.

Share examples of times when you faced similar challenges to your team and coach them through the difficulties they’re facing. But importantly, don’t assume you know exactly how they feel. Ask them

It all ties back to those four characteristics of resilient teams. Speak truthfully about your own experiences; be compassionate about the struggles your team is facing; work with them to find solutions, and be humble enough to realize you don’t have all the answers.

Improve Communication

Without effective communication, you can’t be a strong leader, and you can’t build a resilient team.

How can you be resourceful in overcoming challenges or demonstrate compassion and empathy if you can’t communicate properly?

Unfortunately, a lot of workplace communication simply isn’t as meaningful or helpful as it should be. In fact, 50% of workers feel meetings are a waste of time and should be cut in half or better yet, eliminated altogether.

Here are three steps to level up your communication and use it to build your team’s resilience:

1. Communicate Consistently

If you’re a manager who has been tasked with building and sustaining a team, you know how difficult it can be to try and maintain consistency in the midst of the many projects and to-do’s simultaneously on the go. Consistency is one of the most important factors you should focus on to create a positive working environment.

Regular communication can help establish clarity in terms of roles, responsibilities, and expectations, as well as buy-in from everyone on the team for their role within its structure. It can also help build camaraderie, and foster mutual respect among teammates.

If you operate a team that works remotely, you should always have at least one instant communication channel open to keep everyone in touch and on the same page. Likewise, you can use a shared virtual space (such as a Facebook group) to share social media content on company updates or big industry news. Encourage your team to share relevant content, too.

Always-on communications create a culture in which messaging is the natural way to reach out to other team members with minimal delays in response.

2. Encourage Honesty

Some teams create an environment where everything can seem toxic. Even with the best intentions, raising any issue or concern could add fuel to the fire. How will this affect team collaboration down the road?

It’s important for you to establish a work environment where people feel comfortable speaking openly from the get-go. This helps individuals on your team make better decisions and be more willing to take risks that could lead to success.

When team members know they can raise difficult points free of consequences, your team becomes more resilient.

Encourage them to share openly by holding smaller meetings and one-to-ones.

3. Build Connections

A transformational leader can map out the highs and lows in each member’s journey so they can fully understand their colleagues and the adversity they might be facing. This builds resilience by creating an environment where compassion for others is welcomed while fostering trust and engagement between teammates.

In a group setting, encourage team members to discuss highs, lows, and other formative experiences from their professional and personal lives. Sharing in this way helps to normalize open conversations and encourages compassion.

Show Appreciation

Appreciation is a powerful tool that can dramatically improve the productivity and morale of your team. An appreciative boss is much more likely to have a high rate of success, and grateful teams have better work engagement and satisfaction levels.

In other words, for a team to be successful, it’s key that everyone in the group feels valued.

Celebrate instances when team members have gone the extra mile and embodied your company values. Hold regular meetings where you ask your team members to share their biggest “win” of the past month.

Create A Support System

Everyone needs support to maintain healthy habits. When it comes to organizational resilience, if you are able to create a supportive environment for your team (especially through stressful situations), you will be more likely to adopt a growth mindset and drive results.

Make this a key focus of your one-to-one reviews. Rather than diving straight into discussing performance and progress, start each review by simply asking, “How are you doing?”

Encourage team members to raise problems and generally encourage them that it’s okay to feel stressed or worried about challenging situations. Provide actionable advice and help them out when it’s relevant, but remember that sometimes all you need to do is listen.

Clarity

It’s crucial to keep your team in the loop and respond to them in a timely manner with as much information as possible when working within a team. Taking the time to get everyone on your team to understand your long-term goals and provide clarity for everyone involved can increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to building a resilient team, there are a variety of factors that need to be considered. Resilience is built, not found. It requires improving communication skills within your team, encouraging honesty and creating an environment based on the appreciation of each other’s strengths.

Whether it’s the constant change and remote work that comes with the pandemic, or a need for organizational growth—building up your team’s resilience will enable them to react effectively when faced with tough times or adversity.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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Life-Changing Communication Tips for Remote Work

Remote work is becoming the norm for both employees and managers. While some will make a return to the physical office this year―either some or all of the time―a good percentage of workers will stick with the remote approach.

In fact, managers believe 26.7% of the workforce will be fully remote by the end of 2021, according to the December 2020 Future Workforce Report. Additionally, the report predicts the number of remote workers will nearly double over the next five years, reaching 36.2 million Americans by 2025.

Fortunately, remote work is, for the most part, going well, with 68% of hiring managers reporting that remote work is going more smoothly than it did at the start of the pandemic. Many employees now find they’re more productive and enjoy the more flexible work schedule.

But remote work still presents challenges. When people first started working exclusively from home, many found it hard to “leave” the office, with the lines between work and home blurring. As remote work continued, employees became more adept at finding a better work-life balance. Even so, a Harvard Business Review study found the workday is still 10-20% longer on average when compared to pre-pandemic times.

Another major area impacted by long-term remote work is communications. Most workers and managers found ways (like embracing videoconferencing) to get work done and collaborate on projects. Still, some find it a challenge to have the same kind of in-depth conversations and brainstorming sessions without being in the same room. And let’s not forget about the importance of spontaneous, informal meetings that happen over a cubicle wall or in the hallway. These types of chance encounters are important not only for social interaction and morale, but they can also lead to ideas that positively impact the outcome of a project.

Since remote work isn’t going away, it’s important for both employees and managers to find ways around these challenges. Not surprisingly, the technology exists to overcome these remote work obstacles, thanks to cloud communications. Lucky for you, we have four communications tips to share. Be prepared to have your remote work life changed (for the better) forever.

1. Avoid Video Fatigue

When everyone made the initial shift to remote work, video meetings were a popular choice. However, video fatigue quickly set in, as it became draining to always be “on” from one meeting to the next. Making sure you have the proper lighting and professional background for video calls can create an extra headache and isn’t always necessary. The face-to-face feel of a video call may be ideal for brainstorming sessions or other important meetings, but there are occasions when other communications tools are better suited for the task at hand. Perhaps screen sharing will make a meeting more productive. Break-out rooms with smaller groups may be appropriate when a large project needs to be tackled in stages. With MiCollab from Mitel, you can even start an ad hoc meeting with a single click. The use of varied communications methods keeps teams productive while removing the stress that can accompany a long day of video meetings.

2. Give Remote Employees Control With A Choice Of Communications Options

If you want to keep your employees inspired and engaged, give them options. An integrated unified communications solution provides a multitude of choices when it comes to communications and collaboration. Use video when you need to see someone’s facial expressions. Draw or write on a shared whiteboard when it’s time to brainstorm. Check a team member’s status in real time to see if they’re available to chat online or answer an urgent question. Share a file or post a comment in a shared workspace or create an agenda and assign tasks so everyone can see the status of a project. An innovative cloud communications technology platform has a solution for every task at hand. The best part is employees can seamlessly move from one communications channel to another, creating a frictionless experience which makes for a happy work-from-home day.

3. Make Time For Casual Conversation

We may not be gathering around the water cooler as much these days, but there’s no reason we can’t recreate the experience. The same tools used for collaborating on work projects can also be used to promote social interaction among remote staff. Chat is just one way employees can engage in casual, lighthearted banter spontaneously. Other collaboration tools can also be put to good use for less professional (but still important) work. Employees can share recipes for a delicious post-work dinner or recommend inspiring music. They can even create a space dedicated to helping each other reach health and wellness goals. Remote employees will feel like they’re back in the office, chatting away, in no time.

4. Create A Connected Culture

Company culture plays a huge role in employee satisfaction and retention, but there’s no denying it’s a lot harder to build and foster a culture when most of your workforce is remote. Unified communications technology, however, provides managers with new and innovative ways to make even the most remote employee feel like part of the team. It all boils down to connection. Shared workspaces, chat, video and web conferencing can all be put to work to keep employees informed and engaged. With so many ways to connect, unified communications technology makes fostering the company culture remotely a seamlessly simple task.

Remote work may be here to stay, but the feeling of remoteness isn’t. Put cloud communications tools and technology to work and make everyone feel like a team player.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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How to Ensure a HIPAA Compliant Chat: A FULL Checklist

For Healthcare companies, HIPAA compliance is a core regulatory requirement, but does this mean you can’t use web chat or video chat software? It depends!

We put together a  HIPAA compliant chat checklist to help answer this question.

What is HIPAA compliance?

First, let’s be clear about what HIPAA compliance means in relation to patient contact.

In essence the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is designed to protect the confidentiality of patients and ensure PHI (Protected Health Information) is treated with the highest sensitivity.

HIPAA at a high level mandates that organizations:

• Ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of e-PHI created, received, maintained or transmitted

• Identify and protect against reasonably anticipated threats to the security or integrity of the information

• Protect against reasonably anticipated, impermissible uses or disclosures

• Ensure compliance by the workforce

Unfortunately, there are no crisply defined rules on achieving compliance for web chat. HIPAA specifies the outcomes, but not exactly how to achieve them.

This means that the onus is on you as an organization to do your own due diligence in coming up with a HIPAA compliant chat, set of systems and processes to safeguard your PHI.

Do I need a HIPAA compliant chat solution?

If you are a CE (Covered Entity), then yes! CEs include, but are not limited to:

  • Covered healthcare providers (hospitals, clinics, regional health services, individual medical practitioners) that carry out transactions in electronic formats
  • Healthcare clearing houses
  • Health plan providers, including: insurers, HMOs, Medicaid, Medicare prescription drug card sponsors, flexible spending accounts, public health authority, in addition to employers, schools or universities that collect, store or transmit EPHI (Electronic Protected Health Information), to enroll employees or students in health plans.

Now we have have the basics out of the way, let’s dive into the checklist.

Is live web chat HIPAA compliant? A handy checklist

HIPAA compliant livechat software

What must be in place to ensure a live web chat system is HIPAA compliant? Simply put – some chat systems are not HIPAA compliant, but some can be with configuration.

Here’s a checklist of things to look for to see if a chat solution is HIPAA compliant (or not).

1. BAA contract

No matter which web chat system you might ultimately decide to use to meet your HIPAA compliant chat needs, you need to enter into a contract known as a BAA (Business Associate Agreement).

The BAA is a contract that states your supplier adheres to the same procedures, policies, and obligations to protect and secure your data. There is a good chance you might have multiple BAAs with various suppliers depending on what services those suppliers provide.

Most off-the-shelf chat systems will not include a BAA, so be sure to check with the chat vendor that they will be willing to spend a bit of time with you to ensure the BAA is in place.

2. Employee access controls

HIPAA specifies that each employee at your organization should only see the “minimum necessary” information to do their job. This means your HIPPA compliant chat solution should have the ability to have separate permissions for different user roles. For example, agents should not be able to see chat transcripts from other agents. However, admins or “supervisors” may have a requirement to see all the chat transcripts.

Ideally, you should also have strong authentication controls to restrict access to the chat system. Solutions to this may include 2FA (2 or multi-factor authentication), IP whitelisting, SSO (Single Sign On), system-enforced password policies, or ideally a combination of all of these.

3. Data availability

HIPAA requires that organizations ensure patient data is available, including data that might be contained in a chat transcript. This means you need a HIPAA compliant live chat that is stable with consistent uptime (look for a minimum 99.95% uptime SLA) and that backs up your data.

You should make sure to thoroughly understand the availability of the chat system, not only does this mean understanding the data centre provider (public, private, hybrid or on-premise) but also the resilience of the application, database and other components that make up a chat system.

Where possible, ask for a report on historical uptime and any instances of lost or compromised data – both of which are obviously big red flags.

A great benefit of having chat transcripts and PHI data in the cloud is that even in the event of a disaster at your physical location (assuming you were storing chat records there), and everything was destroyed, you could still retrieve your records.

Storing data in the cloud is not without potential HIPAA-related drawbacks of course. You should be clear about where your data is stored, and the more third party providers that have access to PHI, the more stringent you will need to be with maintaining BAAs and compliance adherence.

4. Data security & integrity controls

HIPAA mandates secure data, so you need a solution with strong encryption. A HIPPA compliant chat solution should encrypt all messages – both while in transit and at rest.

Be careful to check that live chat providers encrypt all data at rest on their servers, in addition to encryption in transit). Most chat solutions will visibly show to the end user if they are served over HTTPS or HTTP, but encryption at rest is something you will need to verify.

Data storage must have a “high level of physical security”. Data centers should have policies for reviewing controls and should regularly oversee risk assessment procedures. Most major cloud providers such as AWS, Azure and GCP meet HIPAA compliance guidelines, but you should be careful to check for other cloud providers and be very clear about the risks of on-premise deployments.

5. Data sovereignty

HIPAA requires that your patients’ PHI data will not leave the United States territory. This is a simple one but easy to overlook – make sure that you are using a chat system with US-based data centers!

6. Audit controls

A core requirement that HIPAA mandates is to keep an audit log of user actions in the chat service. You need to be able to track who accessed which chat, when they did, and what they did.

Your HIPAA compliant chat software should be capable of creating and recording an audit trail of all interactions containing ePHI. Any chat service that archives conversations and provides transcripts of all chats will probably meet this requirement.

7. Recipient authentication

Any messages that contain PHI should go to the intended recipient and the intended recipient only. If those communications end up in someone else’s hands that represents a HIPAA violation!

As most web chat is “inbound”, you might think this is a straightforward one. Alas. Most chat systems will have a “chat transcript” option – this should be disabled for HIPAA compliance as it could send the entire chat transcript, inclusive PHI, to the wrong recipient with an accidentally mistyped email.

Remember:

It’s worth underscoring the fact that having a HIPAA compliant live chat does not necessarily make you HIPAA compliant, it can at best only support your organization in its ongoing efforts to achieve compliance and maximize data security.

Is SMS HIPAA compliant?

Definitely not! SMS messages are not encrypted and therefore should not be used for sending or receiving PHI under any circumstances.

Is video chat compliant?

Video chat software, from a HIPAA compliance perspective, is actually very similar to live chat in terms of access, audit controls and encryption. WebRTC, a browser protocol that powers most video chat solutions, mandates encryption by default.

Assuming you have the same controls in place as mentioned for live chat, then video chat can definitely support a HIPAA compliant strategy.

Is Talkative HIPAA compliant?

Let’s use the checklist above and go through each point to see if Talkative’s live chat solution is HIPAA compliant.

1. BAA contract

Talkative will work with you to sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) and our legal team can accommodate any changes to our BAA that you may require.

2. Employee access controls

Talkative can implement a number of agent access to control to ensure a HIPAA compliant chat service, such as:

  • Users have roles/permissions to ensure they only see the minimum required info
  • Agents can only see interaction logs that they have interacted with
  • IP addresses can be whitelisted for additional security
  • SSO is available
  • Our password policy mandates general info sec best practices
  • Agents are automatically logged out after pre-defined time intervals

3. Data availability

Talkative leverages regional AWS data centers with a fully resilient server architecture. The system is imaged and backed up at regular intervals to ensure data integrity in the event of any potential downtime.

We  provide you with an SLA with guaranteed uptime and can share historical uptime details with you. Single tenant deployments are also available, and admins are able to search logs and find and delete PHI where necessary.

While typically chat transcripts and interaction data is stored in the Talkative database in the cloud, you can configure a variable data retention policy, whereby data will be permanently and thoroughly purged from the Talkative system. In this instance, we typically integrate into your preferred CRM or on-premise database, where we send all the data, transcripts and PHI. The benefit of this is that no PHI resides on Talkative servers, limiting your exposure for having a third party (Talkative) storing PHI.

4. Data security & integrity controls

The Talkative solution encrypts all data in transit and at rest, and we use HIPAA-compliant data centers (in this case the USA, but other regions can be selected).

Encryption – TLS 1.2 or higher and HTTPS/WSS connections for data in transit and at rest.

We use AWS for hosting the Talkative solution. Any of the AWS infrastructure locations can be used for the Talkative solution.

  • Physical Security includes locking down and logging all physical access to the data centre.
  • Data centre access is limited to only authorised personnel.
  • Badges and biometric scanning for controlled data centre access.
  • Security camera monitoring at all data centre locations.
  • Access and video surveillance log retention.
  • 24×7 onsite staff provides additional protection against unauthorised entry.
  • Unmarked facilities to help maintain low profile.
  • Physical security annually audited by independent firms.

Operational security includes creating business processes and policies that follow security best practices, in order to limit access to confidential information and maintain tight security.

  • ISO 27001/2 based policies, reviewed annually.
  • Documented infrastructure change management procedures.
  • Secure document and media destruction.
  • Incident management function.
  • Business continuity plan focused on availability of infrastructure.
  • Independent reviews performed by third parties.
  • Continuous monitoring and improvement of security program.

5. Data sovereignty

As mentioned, Talkative uses US-based AWS data centers.

6. Audit controls

In line with a HIPAA compliant chat, the Talkative solution had a log of agent actions in chat conversations. We can audit the log to make sure that you meet this requirement.

7. Recipient authentication

By default, Talkative lets website visitors have the possibility to send the transcript of their conversation to any email address that they input. To make your chat HIPAA compliant, you should configure this option to be disabled. This is really easy to do, and if you do encounter any problems, we are always available to lend a helping hand.

This blog post was first published by Talkative.

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What is a Virtual Agent and what can it do for your Business?

Virtual agents are becoming an increasingly popular tool in contact centres. In this blog we take a look at what a virtual agent is, how it works, the benefits it can bring to a business, and finally, we offer advice on what aspects to look out for when looking to buy virtual agent software. We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get started! 

What is a virtual agent? 

A virtual agent is an artificial intelligence (AI) based system that provides automated customer service. It is employed by many contact centres to provide fast responses to customer queries and/or field initial questions before directing the customer to a human customer support agent. 

What’s the difference between a virtual agent and a chatbot?

The difference between a virtual agent and a chatbot is not always clear, and we find that many people use the terms interchangeably. 

The easiest way to differentiate between the two is to look at their capabilities; virtual agents are typically more advanced than chatbots. 

Chatbot – a chatbot is designed to handle basic communication tasks. It is programmed to respond to questions with pre-approved answers using scripted decision trees. When a customer enters a query, the chatbot picks up keywords and responds with the most suitable scripted response from its knowledge base. In a lot of cases, chatbots require customers to choose responses from set phrases (e.g. to start the conversation the customer chooses between ‘account’, ‘order’ or ‘billing’), which limits the scope of user input and therefore the questions the chatbot can be asked.

Virtual agent – a virtual agent is designed to interact with a customer. Rather than relying purely on scripted answers, a virtual agent uses machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to understand a customer’s intent and respond in a more personalised, ‘human-like’ manner. An advanced virtual agent can also ‘remember’ previous interactions, which means it can learn to handle more and more customer queries. 

The table below provides a brief summary of the capabilities of each system, showing clearly how they differ.

CapabilitiesChatbotVirtual AgentNotes
Natural Language ProcessingVirtual agents use NLP to analyse text and make sense of it, whereas chatbots need exact keyword matches in order to respond.
Understand customer intentChatbots typically require an answer from a predefined list of suggestions, which means they rely on keywords and don’t pick up intent like virtual agents.
Understand sentimentAs virtual agents analyse text, they can pick up sentiment (as well as intent) and adjust responses accordingly.
Machine LearningVirtual agents can learn over time by ‘remembering’ past interactions. This offers huge potential for dealing with organisation-specific conversations.
Decision tree routingDecisions trees are typically associated with chatbots, but virtual agents can also use decision tree segmentation to simplify a user’s journey.
Scripted/pre-approved answersWhile virtual agents draw information from a knowledge base and can only provide answers they’re ‘trained’ to answer, their responses are not scripted word for word like chatbots.
Draw information from knowledge baseVirtual agents are more advanced as they can grow their knowledge base by ‘remembering’ past interactions.
Answer FAQsBoth systems are best used to answer repeated queries, such as FAQs.
Answer complex queriesVirtual agents can answer more unusual and complicated requests than chatbots, but they’re still best at dealing with repeat queries. Both systems will need to hand over to human agents when complicated questions are asked.
Offer personalised interactionVirtual agents don’t use scripted answers meaning they can personalise responses. They generally sound more ‘human-like’ than chatbots.

How does it work?

A virtual agent draws on its knowledge base, machine learning and NLP to answer customer requests in the most appropriate and accurate way it can. 

When a customer sends a message, the virtual agent will analyse the words to determine sentiment and intent. Based on this, it will use the information in its knowledge base and experience from past interactions to respond. 

In this way, a virtual agent needs to be ‘trained’ to respond how you want it to. Do you want it to simply direct a customer to the right department? Do you want it to handle FAQs from start to finish, minimising human input wherever possible? Do you want it to gather initial details to save time and then handover to a human agent? There is no right or wrong; you determine how you want it to function to best serve your business. 

If you do want it to handle complete customer requests, bear in mind that the quality and amount of information you provide it with will affect the quality and range of answers it can provide, and even then it will have limitations. Virtual agents are great for dealing with routine queries, such as FAQs, but can get thrown by complex issues, which is why a human agent should never be too far away. 

Talkative virtual agent

Key benefits for organisations

A virtual agent has many use cases and can bring plenty of benefits to a business. To help you determine whether your contact centre needs to invest in a virtual agent, let’s take a look at the benefits in more detail. 

Improve customer experience – A virtual agent can help to improve customer experience and satisfaction in a number of ways:

  • Fast responses: one of the most important factors in determining a good customer experience is a fast response to queries. Virtual agents can answer customers instantly, making them a reliable way to provide fast responses. 
  • Reduce contact centre queues: both phone and live chat queues are a big turn off for customers. In fact, 60% of customers aren’t even willing to wait on hold for just one minute! One of the best ways to reduce contact centre queues is to provide a virtual agent. As the virtual agent deals with FAQs and simple queries, it puts less demand on other channels and significantly reduces, if not eliminates, queues.
  • Gather customer insights: virtual agents are a good way to gather information and data on customer behaviour and journeys. What are the most frequent questions it answers? What webpages trigger the greatest number of interactions? Insights such as this can show you where in the customer journey your customers encounter problems. You can then work to improve these areas and offer pre-emptive customer support. 

Reduce demand on agents –  as a virtual agent can handle many customer requests, it is a great tool for reducing the demand on human agents in a busy contact centre. This will give agents more time to deal with complex customer problems and improve employee morale. (We do not suggest a virtual agent replaces human agents, but it can be a very useful complement to human-powered customer support).

Round the clock support – being able to offer 24/7 customer support with a virtual agent is a clear benefit for your contact centre. An automated virtual agent can operate without human input, which means it can take over all customer support during your closing hours, and is also a great option if you have customers in different time zones. 

Generate leads – virtual agents can collect customer information, either via pre-chat forms or through the conversation itself. This information can then be used to retarget customers in the future with nurture marketing campaigns, updates and product promotions. 

Virtual agent best practices

If you’ve invested in a virtual agent, how do you ensure you get the most out of it? The following tips are essential to making sure your virtual agent does its job and helps you deliver excellent customer service:

Build a decent knowledge base – even though a virtual agent doesn’t completely rely on scripted messages, its responses are still drawn from its knowledge base. This means you need to provide it with the necessary information. If its knowledge base doesn’t contain the right information, the virtual agent cannot provide the best answers to customers. 

Integrate with existing applications – like any new software you introduce to your contact centre, it’s a good idea to make sure your virtual agent is integrated with your CRM and other customer service tools. This makes sure information is easily shared across tools (which adds to the virtual agent’s knowledge base) and makes it easier for live agents to take over from the virtual agent if needed. 

Enable escalation to other channels (e.g. video and cobrowse)– a virtual agent is not capable of dealing with all customer queries, which is why it should be programmed to hand over to a human agent when it cannot deal with a certain request. There are different ways you can trigger a hand over (e.g. keywords, time passed etc.), but the key is to make sure the escalation is seamless and fast. Key channels for escalation are video chat and cobrowse. These offer customers a personal experience and ensure swift resolution to problems, which is essential if a virtual agent has not been able to resolve the issue. 

Go omnichannel – offer your virtual agent where your customers want it! Virtual agents aren’t just for your website, implement it across the different customer contact channels you offer, such as a mobile app or other messaging platforms. 

Proactive interactions – virtual agents are a good way to initiate a conversation with a customer. For example, if a customer has been inactive on a web page for a couple of minutes, a virtual agent can pop up to ask if they need any assistance. This proactive engagement is a good way to generate leads and guide customers to the next stage of your sales funnel. Set up rules to determine when your virtual agent is triggered (remember not to overdo it, virtual agents popping up as soon as you enter a web page can be very annoying and turn customers away!).

Automation – make sure your virtual agent is programmed to respond to customer requests and search its knowledge base without human input. Automation is key to reducing human involvement: without it, a virtual interaction will still need to be manually triggered by a human agent. 

Multilingual support – if you serve customers in different languages, ensure your virtual agent can offer multilingual support. This can be achieved through real-time translation technology or by adding scripted FAQ answers in different languages to its knowledge base. 

Compliance – like a live web chat interaction, virtual agent exchanges need to follow the necessary rules to be compliant with your industry. For example, if it gathers data, it needs to be GDPR compliant, and virtual agents for healthcare providers need to be hipaa compliant. Make sure it ticks all the compliance boxes before it goes live. 

This blog post was first published by Talkative.

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The Now of Work: Building the New Normal

Remember when masks were for Halloween and “social distancing” meant ignoring phone calls? A lot can change in a year.

When 2020 threw business as usual out the window, we were all forced to make quick and sometimes major changes to the way we work, play and live. As we continue to move towards a post-pandemic reality, we have an exciting opportunity to re-evaluate how we do business, how we connect with coworkers and customers, and how we can improve the safety of our industries. The new normal doesn’t have to—in fact, shouldn’t—be an exact replica of the old normal.

Review, Revise And Reimagine

There’s nothing like an unforeseen disaster to highlight pain points, outdated processes, and inefficiencies. While under pressure, many businesses found that they could be more agile and innovative than they previously imagined.

As the trend towards remote and hybrid workforces continues, long-standing business practices must be reworked to support new realities for employees and customers. It is also time to evaluate what changes to keep and what should be rolled back to pre-COVID practices.

Laurie McCabe, Co-founder and Partner of SMB Group, Inc. suggests formulating a strategy for the hybrid future of work. To do this, you need to identify the tools, spaces and technologies needed to keep your workforce on track and scalable.

McCabe asks three questions:

  • For what purposes is it important for employees to be in the office?
  • How can office space be designed to accommodate these activities?
  • What do employees and managers need to work collaboratively and productively, and to track progress and performance?

Some employees are more productive and engaged at home, while others can’t wait to get back to their desks. For certain roles, the solution may be flexible, hybrid work. Companies can make informed and successful decisions by starting with a clear picture of the support needed for all scenarios.

No matter where your workforce is in the future, business has to be able to go anywhere at any time. Cloud services, for example, link employees and customers from wherever they are. As Frank Thelen, Founder & CEO at Freigeist Capital puts it, “Now more than ever, I suggest getting used to the idea of digitizing processes. Regardless of the current situation, the future of any industry is digital.”

Thelen adds that successful transitions to digital processes now will yield competitive advantages in the future.

Nurture Employees & Customers

Changing the way we socialize while working has been one of the biggest remote work challenges we’ve faced. It’s easy to become isolated from potentially productive collaboration if the only time you interact with coworkers is during scheduled, structured meetings. Impromptu huddles in the halls used to give people time to brainstorm, discuss customer needs and catch up with other aspects of the business. One big downside of remote or hybrid working is that employees can lose the ability to communicate spontaneously.

It is possible to foster human interaction in a virtual workplace, however. Scott Dawson, Author of The Art of Working Remotely, explains: “Communication and collaboration don’t happen by accident. You have to provide the tools and guidance for discourse. For tools, make sure you have platforms that encourage asynchronous communications. It’s key that communications persist so participants can jump in when it makes sense for them.”

Creating spaces for spontaneous collaboration and casual communication is just as vital as making sure everyone attends a video conference and doesn’t forget to mute their mic.

Relationships with customers, vendors and partners have changed, too. Customers are able to conduct business virtually, but it is still vital to support the relationships that were built through personal interaction. Michael Krigsman, Industry Analyst and Host of CXOTALK, stresses the importance of training remote workers to provide exceptional virtual customer experiences.

Krigsman suggests, “Offer every customer the opportunity for chat, phone call or a video meeting to ensure that they can connect in their preferred way. Make it easy for your customers to connect and be sure to make them feel comfortable and supported. Simplicity is essential.”


Do This To Build Better Connections While Remote >


Get Ahead Of Threats

Workplace safety and security is about more than not using “1234” as your login password. New technologies that allow access anywhere, anytime are vulnerable to cyber threats. People with varying degrees of tech savvy are now tasked with maintaining security while working remotely.

Employees need to be trained on why cybersecurity matters and how to be cautious consumers of virtual services. This may take the form of test phishing emails, tech support for multi-factor authentication or open-ended conversations about which cloud services and apps are safe and necessary.

Shelly Kramer, Founding Partner & Senior Analyst at Futurum Research + Analysis, stresses that going forward, “…data security and compliance must be at the forefront of solution (and vendor) consideration.”

It’s crucial to give employees the tools they need to maintain scalability and flexibility while also keeping an eye towards cyber security: “Technology alone is never the answer—technology solutions that check all the right boxes when it comes to solving business challenges and which employees love using— that’s what personifies today’s best-in-class solutions,” Kramer says.


This Is Why The Cloud Is Every Business’ Ultimate Safety Blanket >


The Newer New Normal

As we collectively start to think about what our post-crisis lives will look like, we may find that some emergency measures are worth keeping for the long term. Many workforces will continue to be remote or hybrid, while others will return to the office with new skills. It’s important to be aware of the tools and practices your business needs to keep employees and customers engaged, connected and safe.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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