month 02
day 17
year 2017

Memorable Passwords – Was it an “o” or a “0”?

Identifying ourselves as the account holder, customer, user or client of a particular service, is much faster with a password, especially when online. A correctly entered password can see you accessing your emails, contacting family and friends on the other side of the world and monitoring or transferring your hard-earned money in seconds. An incorrect password entry can see you denied access.

The doors that are opened by your memorable password are endless. Much faster and more efficient than making a phone call or carrying or photocopying ID, passwords are best kept private, ensuring that the system that the data is being entered into can come to the conclusion that the person logging in is you.

The average person in the UK has anywhere between 10 and 118 active accounts requiring passwords, according to Dashlane. If you want to keep each account secure, you will need a distinct, strong password for all of them.

So how can we create memorable passwords to access our accounts and ensure that we’re not inviting any unwanted visitors?

Memorable Sentences

A popular method is to think of a saying or sentence that means something to you and preferably, only you. It should be a reasonable length (absolute minimum 8 characters, we would recommend starting with 12), but not so long you forget it.

Tip: Try adding a misspelt word into your sentence to add an extra layer of entropy.

Random Words

You can also use the xkcd method and go with four (or more) random, common words which are made even more memorable by the mental imagery they conjure up.

Tip: Something like the cartoon below…

xkcd password strength

 

Don’t Overcomplicate Things

Yes, 2#^G;*x”F(`0C^s-+Npr0 would make a secure password and you could have any password generator spit out something like this, but what are the chances you will remember a password that looks like this, let alone twenty?

Password Generators

Trying to come up with a random phrase or string of words seems easier than it is, luckily there are a variety of password generators that can be found to help do that part for us. Whether you’re looking for a random word generator or a clever pattern to assist with remembering a password, it can be found online.

Whatever method you choose, please check the strength of the password methodology before applying across your accounts.

month 02
day 13
year 2017

How does the GDPR affect debt collection agencies?

GDPR Implications for Debt Collection

The debt collection industry is already heavily regulated, for obvious reasons. But there’s a new guideline being introduced by the ICO from 25th May 2018 which adds another very important consideration to the list of your internal business costs and priorities.

What is the GDPR?

It’s the General Data Protection Regulation, and replaces the Data Protection Act of 1998, although a lot of the principles are the same.

There are two key adjustments of which you need to be aware: transparency over customer data, and accountability.

The GDPR ensures personal data is processed lawfully, fairly and transparently; taking care to explain to customers why you collect their data, what you’re doing with it, and what their rights are to manage the data you hold for them.

The accountability principle means you must be able to demonstrate compliance with the data protection principles – to show your workings, so to speak.

What does this mean in practice?

To put it into real terms, contacting someone to address their account is acceptable, but ringing them multiple times a day with misleading Caller Line Identities (CLIs) or no voicemail option isn’t.

The transparency check fails when the CLI is misleading, and the accountability check fails if you can’t prove that you have all of your dialling and outbound communication channels working in sync.

In an already crowded market full of rules and regulations, this isn’t one to ignore.

Getting this one wrong has serious implications on you and your business’s profitability to the tune of €10 million or 2% of your turnover – that’s your growth plans squashed by one (very big and costly) mistake.

Will Brexit impact the implementation of the GDPR?

The simple answer: no. The UK government has already confirmed this is to be rolled out irrespective of our EU status in the future.

Esendex’s top tip on this: plan your next budget talks and focus investments around ensuring this is met and tracked. Look at your existing contact strategy and understand how GDPR can be implemented AND monitored.

Your GDPR checklist (courtesy of Bird & Bird LLP):

  • Review your data protection policies, codes of conduct and training to ensure that these are consistent with the revised principles
  • Ensure that you have a paper trail of decisions relating to data processing so that you can ‘demonstrate compliance’ if required
  • Review and (where necessary) update existing information notices
  • Review the training provided to your customer facing agents; updates may be required to processes and procedures
  • Make somebody responsible for data protection compliance within your organisation
  • Audit existing supplier arrangements and update template RFP and procurement contracts to reflect the GDPR’s data processor obligations
  • Assess liability exposure under existing customer, supplier and/or partner arrangements.

Can we help?

We’ve been serving the collections and customer contact space for over 10 years. We’ve seen the way customers are interacting with you change, from the traditional high-cost agent on the door, to low-cost tech-savvy self-service channels.

We know what can (and can’t) be said and can work with you, collaboratively, to help build a robust contact solution fit for your needs. Here’s a quick overview of our communication solutions for financial services.

month 02
day 8
year 2017

Password protection – The good, the bad and the ugly

Password Protection

In an increasingly more connected digital world, passwords are like the locks to your front door – they protect your online world. Traditionally the use of these was restricted to just bank accounts and emails. These days, the average UK email address has 118 accounts registered to it which also means 118 passwords to remember.

Your password is vital to keeping your personal data secured. So, how do you choose a password that will actually protect your digital world?

The bad

As would be expected, the most common passwords are the easiest to breach – qwerty, 123456, password and 111111 all appear on the list of 25 most common passwords and all, can be breached by a modern computer near instantly.

The ugly

You may have received previous advice that suggested to take a common phrase and replace letters with numbers and add punctuation, throwing in the occasional capital letter. An example would be pA5$W0rd. In reality using this would only take 9 hours to crack. As xkcd illustrate, this is hard for people to remember and easy for computers to hack.

The good

When it comes to passwords (for want of a better phrase) size does matter. The length of your password is more important than an incomprehensible string of letters, numbers and punctuation.

The best advice is to choose a phrase from song lyrics, a bad pun, a line from a Donald Trump speech – anything with an element of randomness to it.

You can also customise this to the account that the password relates to. Banking passwords become ‘if you invest your tuppence’ (approx 343 septillion years to crack) social media becomes ‘you’re so vain’ (approx 111 thousand years) and work becomes ‘working 9 to 5’ (two million years).

So the next time your application tells you that your password needs to be “Eight characters long including special characters” forget pA5$W0rd and go for “snow white and the seven dwarves” instead.

You will no longer need to remember which ‘S’ you replaced with ‘$’ and it will take a modern computer approximately 38 duodecillion years to crack (38,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 for those that were wondering).

month 02
day 3
year 2017

SMS Surveys: Yes or no?

SMS Surveys, yes or no

The landscape of customer service has radically changed in the past decade. 59% of 25-34 year olds share poor customer service experiences online (source: New Voice Media), and 60% of consumers have higher expectations for customer service now than they did just one year ago (source: Parature).

It’s never been more important to proactively gather feedback from your customers to gauge their level of satisfaction with your product and/or service.

Customer satisfaction has always been important to businesses, but now it’s right at the top of the agenda; so it’s not surprising that SMS Surveys are becoming increasingly common.

Speaking with friends and family, it’s rare to hear of someone who’s never received an SMS Survey. More “traditional” survey types have left consumers numb to email, telephone and checkout requests for “5 minutes of their time,”..

The good news is…

…Our pockets are within easy reach

From retailers, charities and banks right through to airports, the adoption of SMS as a method of communication is becoming ever more popular for businesses who want higher levels of engagement and even better response rates. Why? Because it’s instant and 93% of us own and use an SMS-enabled mobile phone (source: Ofcom).

Why ask your customers to put pen to paper or trawl through a lengthy email to find a link to an online survey when they can pull their phones out their pockets and tap their touchscreens to give you a one-touch response?

Time for a chat?

The average response time of 90 seconds to a text message (source: Customer Think) indicates not only that SMS is a great tool to gather instant feedback, but also a great tool to engage in conversation.

Find out more about what makes your customers tick and who they really are. Invite them to give their unfiltered, honest opinion and make sure they know you value their business. It’s an opportunity to do more of what gathers rave reviews, and a chance to respond to negative feedback so you can turn their frown, upside down.

Use SMS as an opportunity to not only find out how well you did but also push something more suited to them, based on their response. A discount on a future purchase or a similar product perhaps.

Already collecting feedback and want to do it better?

Speed is key when responding to feedback and the instant delivery of SMS is one of the main advantages of this platform. Instant delivery means instant feedback and instant feedback should enable your business to act more quickly.

77% of customers state that SMS services help them feel as though they are cared about and in control of the services that they received (source: SAP SMS Advantage report 2014). SMS Surveys help you to process feedback with improved reporting and act quickly on any negative responses.

More granular results based on location, product purchased, agent or a unique identifier of your choosing allow you to target instances of positive or negative sentiment more clearly and focus on rewarding great outcomes or implementing changes where required.

Alerts which notify selected members of your team of positive or negative responses allow you to react in real-time, while improved reporting enables businesses to see raw data in a condensed manner.

Whether your challenge is maintaining your high level of performance or retaining customers, SMS Surveys open the doors for support, customer service and marketing in any industry. Learn more or contact our team on 0345 356 5758.

month 01
day 31
year 2017

The Dos and Don’ts of SMS Marketing [infographic]

SMS messages are one of the best ways to keep your customers up to date with your latest offers and promotions, new products, exclusive deals, and much more.

We’ve put together an infographic outlining best practice in SMS marketing: content, length, timing and more.

Bookmark this and it’ll help you get consistently great results from your SMS marketing campaigns!

The dos and don'ts of SMS marketing infographic

About Esendex

Esendex is a mobile business communications provider helping thousands of customers worldwide. We offer 1-2-1 account management to help you get the best out of your marketing campaigns, and have direct network connections to all of the major networks, meaning that your messages will be delivered quickly, securely and reliably.

month 01
day 23
year 2017

Power to the people: debt collection in 2017

Debt Collection Challenges

If you’re in the debt purchasing and debt collection world, it can be hard to keep up with the cultural, technological and legislative changes that determine how you interact with customers.

As part of the Esendex financial services team, I’ve seen huge changes in the last few years: from restricting what can (and can’t) be said, controlling and enforcing voice solutions, and even enforcing how Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) policies are installed and implemented.

So, what’s in store for debt collection in 2017?

Demonstrating how we are treating customers fairly has never been more prominent.

How do you know if someone is in a debt management programme? How can you ensure the customer isn’t vulnerable before you send them a reminder?

In an ideal world, your agents shouldn’t have to worry about this, and the effect on how your overall collections strategy is implemented and enforced should be minimal.

Surprisingly the solution is relatively simple – give customers a means of engaging with you in a fair, reasonable and efficient manner.

The first (and golden) rule is: if you are going to send outbound communication to your customer – MAKE IT COUNT!

Each SMS, email or voice call should have routes to self-serve and manage accounts (ideally multiple routes) – without direct involvement from yourself or your staff.

Empower your client base, give them the means of interacting with you at a time, and on a channel, that works for them.

As a simple guide to getting the most from your investments, ensure that:

  • Your dialler is compliant
  • Your emails are mobile friendly and easy to interact with
  • Replies to your SMS messages go straight to agents on standby
  • Customers can access a mobile optimised payment page so they can make payments from their smartphone at their convenience.

Every DCA seeks to reduce internal business costs, deliver an exceptional customer experience, and build a great reputation.

With the impact of challenger banks over the last six to 12 months, improving your customer engagement cycle through the intelligent application of technology isn’t a nice-to-have. It’s essential.

The end goal?

Get your client re-engaging with the market place, transacting, and out of the position they were in – by interacting and engaging with you.

How are you making it easier to do business with yourself?

  • Do you offer free-to-reply SMS services?
  • Interactive mobile-optimised emails?
  • Local rate voice calls that go straight to the department in question rather than five minutes of navigating through painful menu systems?

Whatever it may be, don’t get left behind. This topic is highlighted for a reason – it is firmly on the FCA’s agenda for 2017 (source).

If you’re looking for expert help, get in touch.

Whether your challenge is how mobile technology can help in the collections cycle, or how 24/7 self-serve channels can help you manage internal resources for peak inbound periods – we can help. Learn more or contact the financial services team on 0345 356 5758.

month 01
day 9
year 2017

Protecting yourself from phishing attempts

Phishing – where malicious third parties disguise themselves as a trustworthy entity to get you to provide usernames, passwords and credit card details – is on the increase.

In the first quarter of 2016, phishing attacks surged by 250%, according to a report from APWG.

Chairman Dave Jevans noted the attackers’ increased aggressiveness and sophistication – these examples showing attacks on Google Drive and Dropbox illustrate how far they’ve come from the days of sending poorly written emails posing as banks.

Esendex customer accounts have also been targeted, and so this post aims to alert you to some of the new tactics in play, advise you on how to protect yourself, and what measures you can take as a company should you also be targeted.

Look out for unusual domain name endings

As at March 2016, there were 882 domain extensions – this infographic lists them all – and while any of them *could* be used for legitimate business, they do present an opportunity for hackers to pass themselves off as a legitimate business.

We’ve seen this at Esendex, with hackers purchasing .pro, .me and .top domain extensions to attempt to fool customers into thinking that the website they’ve landed on belongs to Esendex. They’ll do a pretty convincing job of it, too, lifting the styling from your website so it looks virtually identical.

Phishing site example

As you can see, there’s little to choose between them if you’re not paying attention – the domain name, the use of https and the lock symbol, and the copyright notice are the only differentiating marks.

Your options for preventing this are fairly limited: you can report abuse to the domain name registrar (use https://www.whois.net/ to find out who the registrar is), and they *should* take the fraudulent website down (some registrars are more responsive than others though!).

However the most sustainable course of action is education: make your customers aware of the issue, and make sure they know the correct URL to access your services.

For the record, Esendex’s services should only be accessed via our brochure site at https://www.esendex.co.uk/ (using the login button at the top right), or directly at https://login.esendex.com/.

Takeaway point: stick to recognisable domain extensions such as .co.uk and .com.

Don’t place blind trust in Google Ads

Like a lot of companies, Esendex bids on our own brand name in Google Adwords, so that when someone searches for ‘Esendex’, they will see Esendex at the top of the results as a sponsored link (indicated by the green ‘Ad’ button).

However, there is nothing to stop a third party from also bidding on Esendex’s brand name, or your brand name; Google lifted the restriction preventing companies from doing this several years ago, and it can lead to a result like this:

Adwords Phishing

Whether you use Google Adwords or not, this is something to be aware of. Bitcoin was heavily targeted by this tactic in 2016, and ironically even Google Adwords itself has had a similar experience.

If you use Adwords, you can set up alerts to advise you if someone has outbid you on your brand name, and you can automatically increase your bid to redress the balance.

You can and should report the activity to Google, who will take action to close the scammer’s Adwords account.

Google shut down 7,000 phishing sites in 2015, and I’d be surprised if that figure wasn’t significantly higher in 2016.

Again, educate your customers to access your services via a bookmarked website rather than using a search engine, and you’ll remove the scammer’s ability to phish for details this way.

Change your password regularly

https://haveibeenpwned.com/ is a useful resource to check whether your email address has been caught up in one of the much publicised hacks of recent years.

It checks stolen databases to see if your email’s among them, and if it is, this is a clear warning sign that you should change your password for all online services.

But it’s simple best practice to:

  1. Change your password every six months
  2. Use different passwords for each online service you use
  3. Avoid easy to guess passwords (How to Geek has some great advice here).

Has your business experienced phishing attacks? Please share your experiences and stay safe online.

month 12
day 15
year 2016

WhatsAppening with SMS? 3 ways SMS beats OTT apps

Why is SMS better than WhatsApp?

As the final days of WhatsApp’s support for smartphones with “aged platforms” such as Android 2.1, 2.2, iOS 6, and Windows 7, draws ever closer, the company has recommended that those affected upgrade to a new smartphone by the end of the year or get disconnected from the OTT app – sounds like an expensive option, no?

Back in February, WhatsApp had initially added Blackberry to their list of smartphones to be affected by the upgrade, but since more than 7 million users purchased a Blackberry in 2014, with tens of millions of users globally, they announced earlier this week in a U-turn decision that they would be extending support to Blackberry and Nokia until early Summer 2017 – well, that’s ok for now.

Mobiles, mobiles everywhere

In today’s world of mobile-first communication, mobile apps, software and websites are  relied upon for creating and supporting vital connections with consumers, but which way is the right way for your businesses?

As of November this year, there are still 8% of registered iPhone owners using versions iOS 9 or earlier and there are around 2% of Android users on the blacklisted versions, which means millions are set to lose support for the popular app.

While WhatsApp remains a service relied upon heavily for communication with distant family and friends, reliance on the app, and similar apps, for mass communication or business announcements is looking more and more redundant as OTT providers look to isolate millions of users for their choice of phone.

How do you ensure your important messages are delivered, regardless of age of handset or operating platform? SMS of course!

Here are 3 ways SMS beats OTT apps for mass communication:

1. SMS is omnipotent

Well almost…

Text messaging capabilities are available on every mobile phone or smartphone, while apps are not.

In the UK only 66% of adults own a smartphone (Ofcom), the rest own a mobile without connection to the internet. This means that a third of the adult population are ineligible to browse, download or update a chat app on their mobile, let alone use one. And I won’t go into the details about how few of those smartphone owners actually use the apps they download.

In a saturated market of apps there will always be intense competition irrespective of the categories the app falls into. But SMS is the only one of its kind boasting a 98% open and read rate within minutes and achieves the highest engagement rate at 43% within 15 minutes (Dynmark) when compared to an average of 34% overall from OTT apps.

The technology for sending and receiving a text message is also not reliant on a high internet speed which makes anyone with a mobile phone (that’s 93% overall) reachable anytime, anywhere, while on-the-go.

2. Text messages are reliable

It is very uncommon to find or download an app that doesn’t require an internet connection when being used. With OTT apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype & Twitter a good data connection, usually 4G, not 3G, is vital in order to get messages delivered and read by recipients

Poor connection, means no communication.

Where critical communications are required, and instantly, your business is better to rely on text messaging which use satellite signals that provide coverage to the mobile user when there is no data connection available. Useful in emergencies.

Esendex can process 90% of text messages within 5 seconds and you can see the progress of your sends within your account with Push Notifications options via our API.

3. SMS stands for “Secure Message Service”

Well it doesn’t, but perhaps it should.

SMS is often used, not just marketing but for authenticating online interactions in banking transactions and even for first time WhatsApp registrations (the irony!), which suggests how secure it is considered to be.

Although end-to-end encryption is now available across multiple devices there are always security concerns with its potential vulnerabilities to hackers. WhatsApp provides a HTTPS-secured web interface but still poses opportunity for message interception if a malicious version of the application were to be delivered on page load. A security flaw that would be better resolved using safer delivery routes.

If you were to lock something really precious behind a door, you’d likely put more than one lock on. For extra security you may even keep the two keys separate from one another for complete peace of mind.

This method epitomises the way SMS Two Factor Authentication works by providing one factor and placing another barrier (a second factor) to authenticate entry or access. This is something SMS doesn’t need.

So suddenly WhatsApp’s upgrade doesn’t seem as important after all…

Interested in being able to communicate with your customers and staff without barriers? Considering making SMS a part of your existing mobile strategy or combine with existing solutions? Call us on 0345 356 5758.

month 12
day 13
year 2016

Santa’s secret helper revealed

Employee engagement is crucial to smooth operations, especially during the busy seasons. According to Weekdone, companies with highly effective internal communications are 7 times more likely to use agile communication tools.

We’ve been working with Father Christmas this year to make sure his grotto is running as efficiently as possible. With 526 million chimneys to squeeze down, a workforce of hundreds of thousands of elves and one delivery sleigh, Santa has a huge task on his hands.

When your goal is as ambitious as making sure Christmas goes without a hitch, ensuring that your team are working towards a shared goal can be achieved through routine communication with your staff.

Mobile provides multiple solutions in thousands of scenarios. Think real life: office closures, last-minute meetings, employee surveys, voting polls and work rotas; there’s no faster way to notify staff about short notice events.

Even the most committed company at the busiest time of year uses mobile and SMS solutions to help get everything right on Christmas Day.

Santa's little helper infographic

month 11
day 29
year 2016

Putting your customers on the right path

While they have improved our ability to multi-task, smartphones and their capabilities have left us with a much shorter attention span –  even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer.

Research conducted by Microsoft earlier this year, highlighted the effect of digitalised lifestyles on the brain claiming that the average person’s concentration was lost after just eight seconds.

How can your business benefit from this?

79% of respondents stated that they regularly dual screen, using a portable device while watching television, so reaching customers on-the-go is key. But with a plethora of features and options available on a smartphone, committing to a purchase or filling out forms are always going to be easily distracted by something else.

Smartphone users love their phones, more than two billion people use theirs for more than two hours a day (Call Centre Helper) which is why being mobile friendly is no longer enough. Most businesses offer mobile users a responsive experience when really these are just scaled down versions of their desktop site. At what point are you considering user experience?

If there’s one thing the mobile was made for, it was for getting things done on-the-go. By removing distractions and providing a simple route you can guide your customers along a simple, successful journey from A to B.

Opt for efficient and accessible paths which reduce obstacles often present with a scaled down version of your desktop site.

Introducing Mobile Journeys…

Encourage customer engagement, increase mobile form completion, securely process mobile payments and create rich media marketing campaigns that achieve your business goals.

Take a look at what mobile-first means to Esendex.

Take a demo here.