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HOW PREVENTING AND MITIGATING FRAUD CAN IMPACT YOUR CUSTOMER RELATIONS

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Matt Mascherin, Solutions Engineer, Enterprise Sales Americas, Syniverse

 

Texting has become a staple of modern life and is so pervasive that it even has its own language. Any communication channel that is so widely used is bound to be targeted by scammers. Despite increased public awareness, fraud continues to be a very real threat for businesses. In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission reports over 120,000 cases of fraud accounting for $78.25 million in loss. And Citizens Advice states more than one third of adults in the UK have been targeted by fraudulent communications since the start of the coronavirus lockdown.

Scammers are constantly finding new and more sophisticated methods to gain access to customer data. Even languishing landlines left unused as part of broadband package deals are being recruited as part of a larger campaign. Scammers can reassign these numbers without the user’s knowledge and subsequently use them to commit fraud.

The challenge exists in how these incidents are handled and prevented. With numerous enterprises holding sensitive personal data, companies must implement tactics to mitigate fraud attempts and minimize the impact when incidents occur. Communication empowers the customers to understand how to prevent and manage fraudulent activity.

 

Matt Mascherin

The value of immediate response

It is critical for enterprises to contact customers in real time to alert them to anomalous activity. When fraud strikes, rapid responses can alleviate identity issues for customers and financial loss for enterprises. A faster reaction to fraud can work to secure the account and prevent further fraudulent activity.

While faster response times add value, customers are seeking to engage with brands through their preferred channel. SMS provides unmatched reliability, security, and reach. 90% of text messages are read within three minutes, making this channel excellent for fraud alerts. Despite these benefits, not all consumers will prefer receiving text messages. It’s important to gather the preferred delivery method to best alert customers of suspicious behaviors along with an alternative to maximize key customer engagement during fraud situations.

 

Education for prevention

Suspected fraudulent alerts work to provide a solution during and after a possible incident. But empowering customers with knowledge of what to watch for can work to prevent fraud before it happens. As technology evolves, scammers morph their tactics to infiltrate personal data and systems. When companies learn of these new methods, they should communicate them to prevent customers from falling hostage to the attacks. For example, when the company learns of a scam attack, they can circulate images of the text as well as how customers should act if they receive a similar fraudulent message.

This information must be easy for all customers to access with clear instructions on what to do and who to contact if fraud is suspected. These training messages should be shared regularly to refresh customers’ knowledge and advise them on new attack tactics.

 

Next steps to minimize fraud

Working with customers to mitigate fraudulent activity’s impact and prevent subsequent cases establishes trust and loyalty. To continue to build upon this trust, companies must stay on top of technology trends, including new communication channels. And these companies don’t need to have all the answers. The best solution may be through partnering with a trusted company who understands fraud, communication channels and effective measures to reach customers. Working with a messaging partner allows companies to focus on their strengths while the messaging partner takes care of delivering content to customers with customizable reliability.

Ultimately, companies and their customers both play critical roles in fraud mitigation and prevention. By getting all parties dedicated to the cause, fraud can dramatically decrease and trust can intensify.

 

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HOW TO ENHANCE THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IN YOUR RETAIL STORE

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Do you own your own retail store? Are you hoping that 2021 is the year you are able to grow your customer base, increase sales, and really start hitting those exciting milestones that you laid out for the company? Obviously, there is a lot of planning that goes into running a successful retail store, but there’s also the customer experience. A negative customer experience is hard to erase, and likely not something you can come back from. All it takes is for that one customer to then tell their circle of friends about their experience, and suddenly you’re missing out on a number of potential future customers. So, what’s the solution?

No matter what your store sells, the top priority should always be providing an excellent customer experience from start to finish. This can be a pretty involved task and one that you need to stay on top of at all times. Let’s take a look at a few ways in which you can enhance the customer experience in your retail store in 2021 and moving forward.

 

Hire the Right Staff for the Job

First off, you need to be sure that you’re staffing your store with the right people for the job. This means they have the necessary experience, training, and product knowledge to answer the questions that customers have. Even if employees lack in product knowledge and training, this is something you can quickly remedy by offering ample training. This could be done through product knowledge seminars, guide books, and training by other more experience staff members.

Besides the knowledge and experience, they also need to have excellent customer service skills. Most people are well aware of just how challenging it can be to work in a retail environment. Those that succeed tend to have excellent people skills and communication skills. They are approachable and friendly, and have a desire to help others.

 

The In-Store Experience Has to Be Unique

In order to stand out from the competition that exists in pretty much every retail industry, you’ll also need to come up with something unique and memorable when it comes to the in-store experience. When customers walk in, they need to recognize that your store looks different, feels different, and stands out from others they have been in. This helps to create brand awareness, which then helps to build your customer base.

Unique experiences can include such things as the way merchandise is displayed, the décor of the store, the music and atmosphere, the store layout, product demonstrations and samples, a store greeter, unique carts or bags to use while shopping, and so forth.

 

Ensure You Offer Multiple Methods of Payment

When it comes to payment for the goods customers are purchasing, they need to be offered as many different types of payment options as possible. The goal should be to make the payment process smooth, fast, convenient, and secure.

Looking at statistics, debit card processing should be an absolute must-have in your retail store. In 2020 alone, 29% of payments in the U.S. were made by debit cards. Customers expect this form of payment to be offered and, without it, you may actually be missing out on sales opportunities.

You can learn more about the benefits of offering debit cards as a form of payment, as well as how to set it up in your business with this guide to debit card processing from Nada Payments. It takes an in-depth look at how exactly merchants can use debit card processing, what the fees are like, the sort of technology and equipment needed on your end to get set up, and more. No matter the size of your retail business, this guide can help lay out all the necessary steps and information.

Of course, you will want to offer more than just debit cards as a method of payment. Also coming in top of the list for the most popular forms of payment are cash and credit cards. Lesser used ones, but still as important, are store issued gift cards, pre-paid cards, and a digital/mobile wallet.

 

Is Your Store Kid-Friendly?

Here’s a question that many retailers don’t bother to ask, but the answer can have a huge impact. Even if you don’t sell items meant for kids, it’s important to think about ways to make your store kid-friendly. Doing this will attract parents to come inside, and once they see how kid-friendly it is, they will be more likely to take their time browsing the products. This works in your favor, as you want to keep them in the store for as long as possible.

Kid-friendly features can include sitting areas for the kids (kid-sized tables) complete with coloring books and puzzles, a giant chalkboard they can draw on, an in-store movie viewing area, a video gaming area, and even snacks for them to enjoy.

 

What About the Products You Are Selling?

Your inventory also plays a huge role in the customer experience. Not only does it come down to the actual products you are selling, but also whether you have a good selection of choices in terms of sizing, colors, and so forth. If stock is constantly sold-out, customers will start to get frustrated and may end up shopping elsewhere.

It’s a fine balance to achieve as you never want to carry too much inventory at once, but not having enough also causes a fair number of problems. This is why it’s so important to be tracking sales so you can identify trends, and of course keep accurate and up-to-date inventory at all times. There are plenty of software solutions that can prove to be extremely useful, many of which can generate stats, data, and charts to shed more light on your sales and inventory numbers.

 

Offer a Customer Loyalty Program

Then there are customer loyalty programs, which aren’t a new concept but they aren’t always embraced as often as they could be. A customer loyalty program is all about providing a VIP experience, making them feel important and appreciated, and giving them a reason to continue to make purchases at your store.

You can create any type of loyalty program you want, but remember that it needs to be easy to understand, simple to enroll in, and the rewards and milestones need to be achievable.

You’ll want to step into the shoes of your customers and ask yourself what would make you happy, and what would seem like a reward to you if you were a shopper at the store? This can include cash or percentage discounts off merchandise, exclusive deals, first-peak at new launches, special shopping dates closing the store to other customers, referral discounts, cash back programs, and so much more.

 

Creating the Kind of Experience That is Exceptional

At the end of the day, no matter how great the products are that you’re selling, the fact is that the retail industry is incredibly competitive and it can be very hard to stand out. It helps if you can find a niche of course, and set yourself up as an industry expert, but outside of that it often comes down to the customer experience. This can prove to be even more important than pricing and product selection.

 

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A GLOBAL ESG STANDARD IS ON THE HORIZON. IS UK INDUSTRY READY?

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Richard Wall is the Founder and CEO of Emex, which provides ESG and EHS software solutions to businesses 

 

Fifteen years ago, the UN introduced six principles to encourage the inclusion of ESG into investment practice. A great deal has changed since not least the norms around ESG disclosure. However, while interest in ESG has soared, a disconnect persists: mounting pressure coming from investors and stakeholders has not been matched with the adoption of consistent standards or adequate ESG infrastructure on the part of most businesses.

This is not lost on global standard setters or governments; efforts are underway to create a global system where investment can flow where it is most urgently needed. This will be a critical tool in the race to net zero, helping meet the funding needs associated with the Paris Agreement goals and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It is also absolutely essential at the level of the business. Unless companies are equipped with quality ESG infrastructure, they will struggle to make the kinds of necessary, drastic decisions that are often needed nowadays. They may also be overtaken by events; forced by regulators or stakeholders to sharply step up their commitment but not afforded enough of a “grace period” to develop the necessary systems, processes and know-how to meet those standards. Doing so is best viewed as a journey – it requires time and a good deal of institutional learning for an ESG culture to become embedded across a business.

COP26 will no doubt catalyse pledges around ESG. Commitments made by countries and governments will be welcomed and mirrored by companies around the world. A milestone moment, the conference provides a brilliant opportunity for businesses to articulate or revisit their ESG pledges. However, UK companies should also ensure they have the infrastructure to drive those commitments forward.

They might otherwise run the risk of breaking their promises. It will ultimately be the strength of a company’s systems and processes that determines its success rather than the ambition of its pledges. To assess how to make drastic and lasting changes at pace, UK businesses would be wise to begin investing in putting these necessary building blocks in place and shifting from a ‘reporting’ to a ‘journey-oriented’ mindset.

 

Sorting through the ESG “alphabet soup”

ESG rose to prominence on the back of a growing body of evidence suggesting that businesses can be aligned with the public interest – and those that do, tend to reap the rewards. In this new model, profitability and sustainability are no longer viewed as competing forces – a zero-sum game that would condemn businesses as either “broke saints” or “heartless capitalists.”

Businesses are instead best understood as complex organisms, being constantly shaped and shaping the world around them. To be legitimate, they rely on trust and social capital – a complex net of relationships that they can ill afford to risk or ignore. Businesses that are attuned to the needs of the broader ecosystem that sustains them, know that. Proactive businesses act on it.

ESG has been at the centre of our collective “rethinking” of business and its role in society. There is an increasingly broad recognition among investors that businesses that neglect their ESG responsibilities are bad bets. To weed them out, investors have had to rely on varying and competing standards.

This is because as institutional interest in ESG grew over time, so too did the number of ESG metrics. By 2018, there were more than 600 ESG ratings and rankings globally. This has added a great deal of cost, complexity and risk to both companies and investors. Requirements can vary in scope and quality, and the same applies to audits. The concern is that, unless there is some semblance of a “ground truth”, decisions will continue to depend on swathes of data of varying value and utility. It is small wonder that data quality is cited as the main barrier to ESG investment, according to Blackrock.

 

The Road to a Global Standard

More consistency in measurement and disclosure is now in sight. In the past year, independent standard setters have joined forces to devise a comprehensive corporate ESG reporting system. The EU, for its turn, has begun to force financial firms to disclose “double materiality” which includes risks posed to society and the environment as well as profitability. More pertinently, the IFRS Foundation is expected to launch a global Sustainability Standards Board at COP26. The exercise, however, is not without its critics, and it may well be a while before we arrive at some version of universal standards, let alone see them being widely adopted. There are also legitimate questions about the extent to which comparisons can be effectively made across different sectors and jurisdictions.

Regardless, businesses that approach this with a proactive mindset stand to benefit.  Successful companies will put in place the necessary people, systems and infrastructure to measure, manage and improve performance. Businesses will more and more need to be able to properly back up and support their perceived external ESG rating to protect their reputation. Putting in place software systems to measure, manage and improve sustainability (ESG) performance is a core part of our focus here at Emex. We are working with businesses both embarking on their ESG journey or already on it to deploy precisely the types of systems that are needed to drive meaningful change.

 

Investing in ESG reporting

While the UK has been recognised for its efforts in ESG – listed companies, for example, will imminently be mandated to report on climate-related risk – it should not rest on its laurels. For one thing, businesses have not fully kept pace with the frameworks. As of March 2021, fewer than 50 public companies were comprehensively reporting on climate risk in line with Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

Private businesses should also take heed. In the long run, no company will be immune from ESG-related scrutiny – and COP26 will almost certainly be a catalyst in that direction. Investing in people and systems to measure, manage and improve sustainability will enable businesses to get ahead of the regulatory and standard-setting curve, and meet stakeholders’ complex and evolving expectations.

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