Financial IT had an interview with Gary E. Barnett, the CEO of Semafone about the company and trends in telecommunications industry
Financial IT: Could you please tell us more about Semafone and your background?
Gary E. Barnett: Semafone is the leading provider of data security and multi-channel compliance solutions for call and contact centers. We enable businesses in any industry to securely accept payments across all customer engagement channels, including telephone, webchat, social media, email, SMS, QR codes and more. Our patented data capture method collects sensitive information such as payment card or bank details and social security numbers directly from the customer for processing. This prevents personally identifiable information (PII) from entering the business and IT infrastructure, which protects against the risk of fraud and the associated reputational damage, while also ensuring compliance with industry regulations such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Semafone’s suite of solutions create a seamless, omnichannel experience that increases sales conversion rates and boosts customer loyalty, while at the same time simplifying compliance. We were founded in 2009 and now support customers in 26 countries, on five continents.
I joined Semafone in February of this year as CEO and have been thrilled to be leading the company through a period of exciting growth and product innovation. I myself have had a more than 30-year career working in contact center and unified communications technologies and developing solutions for the contact center industry. In my role at Semafone, I’m glad to be continuing to help contact centers and businesses in any industry, strengthen their data security and privacy practices while enabling a seamless and frictionless customer experience.
Financial IT: How other companies and customers benefit from you?
Gary E. Barnett: Businesses across every industry are challenged with meeting their customers’ high expectations for fast, convenient and frictionless services while at the same time maintaining strong data security. Contact centers are often seen as a high-risk area for data security compromises because they collect, process and store a wide variety of sensitive data, including PII, payment card data and more. This not only makes them a target for hackers and fraudsters, putting them at risk of suffering a data breach, but also means they must comply with numerous data security and privacy regulations such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the upcoming California Consumer Protection Act and others. Semafone’s technology solutions make it easy for contact centers to securely accept payments and collect sensitive customer data over the phone or through digital engagement channels, while streamlining compliance and providing a frictionless customer experience. Our Cardprotect Voice+ and Cardprotect Relay+ solutions enable businesses to collect payment card data and other PII, and securely route it straight to the payment service provider (PSP) for processing, so that it never enters the businesses’ network or IT infrastructure.
By keeping sensitive data out of the contact center’s business infrastructure in the first place, we reduce our customers’ risk of data breaches and fraud, and we help them keep their contact centers out of the scope of compliance for industry regulations – making compliance much easier and less costly. At the same time, because our technology solutions are so simple to use, our customers are able to provide their customers with a better experience when making payments or purchases. Businesses using Semafone’s solutions are able to serve their customers in the channel of their choice – be it over the phone, in-person or through any digital channel – without having to send them to another channel to complete the payment process. This increases customer satisfaction and positive brand experiences, leading to stronger customer loyalty. Additionally, our new Intelligence+ data analytics solution enables contact centers to capture valuable insights throughout their customers’ payment processes – enabling the business to make data-driven decisions that can increase sales revenue, improve contact center performance, provide a better working environment for agents and increase efficiency and profitability.
Financial IT: What is next for Semafone and your predictions for the next 5 years in the telecommunications industry?
Gary E. Barnett: One of the most significant trends we see affecting the telecommunications industry over the next few years is the increasingly complex and stringent regulatory landscape. Businesses in every industry are facing a growing number of data security and privacy regulations. New standards and regulations are being introduced all the time and existing regulations are updated to add new requirements. As a result, meeting and maintaining compliance becomes ever more complex and costly. The best strategy for most businesses will be to, as much as possible, keep sensitive data out of their network infrastructure. Don’t process or store sensitive data like payment card information, social security numbers or bank account information unless you absolutely have to. Consider deploying technologies within certain areas of your business that keep sensitive data segregated from your network and business systems. Afterall, no one can hack data you don’t hold.
Another major trend we’re seeing in the telecommunications industry is the move to the cloud. Organizations are increasingly migrating core functions of their operations, including their IT and telephony infrastructure to the cloud. By using cloud-based operating models and services, businesses are able to better position themselves for cost optimization, nimbleness and scalability in today’s fast-changing business environment. Like other parts of the organization, enterprise contact centers have also started to adopt cloud-based solutions to take advantage of the many benefits, including offloading maintenance of their hardware to third-party service providers and enabling greater productivity across their IT teams. Cloud-based IT solutions also allow for faster deployments and enable businesses to easily scale operations up or down to meet changing demand or seasonal fluctuations.
And finally, no matter what business you are in, it will be hard to ignore the ever-increasing role that data and artificial intelligence (AI) will play. When it comes to the wealth and volume of data that telecoms companies work with on a daily basis, especially within the contact center, real-time data analytics offerings can provide valuable and deeper insights into things like contact center call performance and productivity. Innovations in data analytics tools will allow businesses to quickly turn their contact center data into meaningful, actionable insights that improve call center performance, all while ensuring secure, compliant and seamless payment transactions. And with AI-based technologies -- one of the hottest trends making its way across organizations in the telecommunications industry -- we will see businesses completely change how they interact with their customers. In fact, this coming year in 2020, Gartner predicts that customers are expected to manage 85% of their relationships with a business without interacting with a human. Things like AI-powered chatbots, for example, will help businesses increase revenue by enabling customers to make transactions, including purchases and payments, securely and seamlessly through chat.
As far as Semafone’s future plans, we will be continuing to focus on delivering new innovations and customer-led technology developments that help businesses improve efficiency and ensure easy and secure transactions across all customer engagement channels. Our aim is to help businesses on their digital transformation journeys by providing them with flexible options that help them attract and serve more customers through mobile and digital channels, all while making security and compliance easier.