Which? Survey Reveals Best & Worst Online Retailers

The results of a new survey by consumer watchdog ‘Which?’ has revealed the UK’s best and worst online retailers, according to the experiences of 10,000 Which? members over 6 months.

Homebase, Red Face…In a Bad Place

Unfortunately for Homebase, which is currently undergoing a restructuring that will involve 42 store closures, their online store was ranked lowest with a score of 55%.  The low score was mainly due to users saying that navigation was difficult and that the online shop didn’t always provide up-to-date information.

Near The Bottom

Other companies just ahead of Homebase, but still near the bottom of the online retail pile according to the survey were Sports Direct and Dorothy Perkins with 61%, DIY retail giant B&Q with 62%, WHSmith.co.uk with 63%, and JDSports.co.uk also with 63%.

Liz Earle Top

At the other end of the scale, Liz Earle’s online store was voted top with an impressive 94% satisfaction rating, closely followed by RicherSounds.com, Rohan.co.uk, SeasaltCornwall.co.uk, and WexPhotoVideo.com, all with 93%.

Best Big Retailers

The best of the big retailers to make it into the top 10 online favourites were JohnLewis.com in sixth place with a 90% satisfaction score and Dyson.co.uk just behind in seventh place with 89%.

The full tables of best and worst retailers can only be viewed online at the Which? website by Which? members, although many media outlets have published the key elements of the results.

Factors

The factors that the numerous online shops were rated on were based on the experience of Which? members as regards things like ease of navigation and other experiences of the online shop itself such as price, product range, deliveries, quality and the returns process.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

ONS figures show that online sales accounted for 17.4% of all retailing in the first quarter of this year, and as such it is a vital component in modern retail success stories. Online shopping offers consumers convenience, speed, a wider choice of products than the physical store, and often better prices, particularly when you factor in the money saved by not paying for travel to the store. There is also a general perception that goods are cheaper online, even if that’s not always the case.  With Black Friday and Christmas shopping online ahead, these results are significant for both the retailers and the consumers. For retailers that had low scores, the results (not the publicity surrounding the results) may even be a good thing in helping them to make changes to their online stores that could increase sales.

The results and customer satisfaction tables from this survey serve to illustrate that being able to offer personal service, quality items, being able to give customers exactly what they want, and offering a good delivery service are very important, and these are areas where smaller, specialised retailers can often win.

Blurring of Personal and Business Technology Cause For Concern

A report by CCS Insight showing how three-quarters of employees are forced to install work software on their personal mobile devices has highlighted how the increased blurring of personal and business technology is causing concern.

Objections

The report, which took into account the views of 672 employees across the US and Western Europe about digital technology, revealed how, among many other concerns, workers object to the practice of having to download work-based applications onto their personal mobile devices just so that they can carry out their jobs. As well as the understandable objection to feeling forced to blur work and home life by having to install intrusive work software on a personal device, employees also objected to the practice out of fear that their employers could use the software to track them.

Poor Connectivity

Another major annoyance indicated by workers who took part in the survey was poor connectivity in the digital workplace.

WhatsApp Popularity

Despite highlighting poor connectivity at work as a major grumble for workers, it appears that it hasn’t stopped them from using always-on, connected apps. For example, the report revealed that WhatsApp is now the most widely used mobile app in businesses, even beating out Microsoft Office 365. WhatsApp, however, is likely to be something that workers will have on their phone anyway, and its end-to-end encryption means that workers don’t have to fear any kind of tracking by the boss through its use.

Other Concerns

Other employee concerns highlighted by the report include:

  • The fear that their job may be lost to AI. This concern was expressed despite half of the employees surveyed saying that they expect digital assistants such as Google Assistant to help them in their job.
  • Only two-thirds of employees saying that they trust their employers with their privacy.
  • A mistrust of tech giant companies, although Microsoft was shown to be more trusted than most.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The fact that many employees have high spec mobile devices and access to apps that could be used by the company, and the fact that ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) schemes are commonplace, doesn’t appear to make employees feel comfortable about having to download work-based apps. Employees may be justified in feeling that they shouldn’t feel pressured into having to employ their personal devices for work tasks, and that employers shouldn’t rely so heavily upon the personal devices of employees instead of providing their own, and that respecting the barrier between work and home life is important. By the same token, employers who allow workers to use their own devices at work may also expect employees to be respectful in terms of how much time they spend dealing with personal matters during work time on their devices.

Workers may be justified in worrying about the impact of AI on their jobs in the future, and connectivity problems are a known source of work stress, particularly in the case of mobile workers.

When it comes to the mistrust of tech giants, this seems reasonable considering the number of high profile reports of data breaches and unauthorised data sharing in recent times (e.g. Facebook and Cambridge Analytica).

Microsoft Education For Dyslexics

In partnering with charity ‘Made by Dyslexia’, and in signing the Made by Dyslexia pledge, Microsoft has announced that it is the first company to sign a global pledge to help people with dyslexia.

Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a lifelong condition that is not related to intelligence. Those with the condition experience difficulty with reading, spelling, writing and sometimes speaking because their brains have trouble recognising or processing some types of information.

It is estimated that it affects 700 million people worldwide and at least 5% of schoolchildren have dyslexia. In many cases, these schoolchildren are often (mistakenly) labelled as having a learning disability, which is why it is believed that they could make up as much as 85% of special education classes.

The Pledge & Partnership

The ‘Made By Dyslexia’ pledge that Microsoft has signed-up to states that the tech giant will endeavour to recognise dyslexia as a different and valuable way of thinking, understand the importance of identifying each dyslexic and their pattern of strengths and challenges, and give targeted support to dyslexics to enable them to harness their strengths and flourish.

The Pledge says that this can be achieved by “skilling up” staff in schools with regard to spotting, understanding, and how best to support those with dyslexia, using digital screeners to check whether people are dyslexic, and making sure that tests and assignments are adjusted so dyslexics can demonstrate their full knowledge and skills.

Through the pledge, Microsoft is essentially partnering with the global charity ‘Made By Dyslexia’, which describes itself as being led by successful (and famous) dyslexics.

What Will Microsoft Do For Dyslexics?

Microsoft has said that by adhering to the pledge, it hopes to democratise Dyslexia support, and it’s been reported that Microsoft’s contribution will include the creation of free training materials, including short films and reading tools, which are designed to help teachers and parents improve ways of spotting Dyslexia. Microsoft is reported to be working with top researchers and partners in the dyslexic community, with the hope of encouraging those involved in a child’s life to intervene earlier, and thereby improve their future.

Microsoft has announced that it will expand access to (and improve ease of) implementation of a number of tools, including:

  • The Dictation Tool in Learning Tools – to help students to write with their voice.
  • The Immersive Reader tool – to help students with maths problems, to invite all learners into the conversation, and to support students in their native language with real-time translation.
  • A partnership with the University of Washington – to help students sound out words.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

As the ‘Made By Dyslexia’ charity demonstrates, dyslexia needn’t be a barrier to success if the right support and tools are available to help those with the condition. Dyslexia is not linked to intelligence, and it presents many extra challenges to those who have the condition. Understanding this and providing help in the form of adherence to the pledge, means that Microsoft is seen to be taking a high profile lead and demonstrating that it understands that those with Dyslexia are just as valuable in the workplace as those without, and that providing help at a young age can help dyslexic people to reach their potential.

Microsoft, like many other big tech companies, is showing how old problems can be tackled with new methods, hopefully with success.

The Support Agent and how you can use it to make your life easier

  • Why the agent?
  • The Status of the agent.
  • Using the agent to get your machine information
  • Using the agent to submit a ticket
  • Change your machine description
  • Using privacy mode

Why the agent

The focus is moving from on-site, over the shoulder IT support to remote and automated assistance for a whole raft of reasons. Faster resolution, lower costs (travel, vehicles, equipment etc) and much more.

To enable this, as well as other functionality we have an “agent” installed on all appropriate machines. This enables us to :

  1. Run reports and audits
  2. Monitor the state of the machine
  3. Send messages to one, several or all machines.
  4. Schedule updates and patches
  5. Tech to user chat
  6. Remote control sessions
  7. Copying files to and from machines
  8. Updating registry entries
  9. Locking down machines
  10. ………and much more (again!)

So…..if the agent isn’t installed and running on your machine then there’s not much we can do to help. You’ll know if it is as there will be an icon in the system tray.

The Status of the agent

The icon in the system tray will change depending upon the status of the agent. Sometimes this can indicate a problem and other times it can show something is in progress.

Here’s a list of the icons and the brief description of the status.

(NOTE : The back-end system we use for the management is called the “AEM platform”)

Name Description
Online Managed Agent that is currently connected to the AEM platform.
Offline The Agent is not connected to the AEM platform.
Privacy Mode The Agent is currently connected to the AEM platform and has Privacy Mode enabled.
OnDemand Mode OnDemand Agent that is currently connected to the AEM platform.
Alert Mode Online The Agent is online and waiting for a job to be run by the end user.
Alert Mode Offline The Agent is offline and waiting for a job to be run by the end user.
Stopped The Agent service has stopped. No logging is performed at this time.
Active Screen Share (Shown with ‘Online’) A screen share session is currently in progress. The tray icon alternates between the Active Screen Share icon and the Online icon for the duration of the remote session.

 

Using the agent to get your machine info

Double clicking the agent icon will open up a window on your desktop which is called the “agent browser”.

As you’re not an Endpoint Management Administrator you can just ignore the login fields on the left.

On the right, you have three tabs.

1)      Summary – this shows you information that we often as you for but which you’d not necessarily know off the top of your head. We refer to machines by their name in the same way you refer to vehicles by VIN or registration. It also lists the operating system, the machine’s serial number, the currently logged on user and so on. Take a look as you can’t damage anything.

2)      Tasks – this is where we will have a list of tasks that you can fire off, either when requested by IT support or that we’ve pre-informed you about. For security reasons very few users have administrative rights on their machines. This just isn’t required unless you are a virus and want to infect a machine or you need to install an update or patch. We want to avoid the former but we hope to populate this with useful tasks you can invoke when you need them rather that raise a support ticket.

3)      Tickets – we like you to raise a ticket by email as the preferred method. However, despite a well designed and fairly simple support ticket procedure (which you can find on the Intranet) getting the basic information from users to allow us to know where to start troubleshooting is like getting blood from a stone. See below for how to submit a ticket from here to make both your and our live easier.Using the agent to submit a ticket

Using the agent browser, you can raise a ticket and it’ll populate it with much of the info we need and ask to explicitly for other relevant information. Furthermore, for tickets raised here you can add notes and close them from the same tab. (Please note, you don’t see the note you’ve added until later so click submit once only)

On the ticket tab clock on the New Ticket button and then just fill in the form that you are presented with. Simples!

 

Change your machine description

If you right click on the agent icon, the menu that pops up allows you to change the machine description. It won’t change the actual machine name, but you can write a short description that you can remember, and we’ll have logged against the machine name. Like having the vehicle with registration AL61 RDT known as “John’s yellow Porsche Carrera” for example.

 

Using Privacy Mode

For some staff such as senior management, HR and personnel there are times when you are working on something confidential and don’t want to be disturbed. You can use the Privacy mode to restrict IT access to your machine while you are doing this.  Privacy mode is avaialble from a right click on the system tray icon.

If you turn on privacy mode to surf dodgy websites then we have a klaxon that sounds at IT support and a screen showing your name.

You can choose to have it on, off or off for a specific period.

Cloud Backup

Cloud-backup

We’ve taken a while to get on board with cloud backup solutions. Due to cost, maturity of the available offerings and the general performance limitations, including that of many Internet connectivity options, we just didn’t think it was reliable or cost effective.

Things change and now we have the following portfolio of cloud based backup options. What suits your environment and the functionality, costs and performance will vary from client to client so please get in touch if you’d like to discuss.

File/Folder Backup

A cloud backup solution to backup any number of devices and charged per month based upon usage. Prices are such that a daily backup of your accounts data spanning several months should costs less than a family mean at MacDonalds.

Office 365

Microsoft provide good data security and safety. Versioning is excellent and most data can be recovered from the past 30-90 days depending upon the service.

However……..we can build on that by providing complete, unlimited backup of  your Office365 user data from the point you start using the service, for a company with up to 25 employees this would have a monthly cost of £60.

Benefits include:

  • 3x/ daily backup for Office 365’s Exchange, OneDrive and SharePoint
  • Perform additional backups as needed at any time.
  • Security controls that include compliance with SOC 2 Type II, HIPAA, and PCI Compliant. Data is secured with 256-bit encryption.
  • Browse and preview backups by user and item. Search for metadata.
  • Restore individual files or groups of files back into a user’s account or export them directly to your machine.
  • Monitor data with domain health status and activity log.
  • Store an unlimited amount of data in the backup Cloud forever.

Business Continuity

Cloud or remote site hosted reverse chain image based backups of servers with instant restore and hosted virtualisation that boots in seconds. Got it? Ok, let’s say if you have a business that would suffer should your server go down for more than a few minutes this could be just what you need. Probably best to get in contact so we can explain, discuss and demo.

Spoofed emails and the repercussions

A spoofed email is one in which the sender’s address has been forged. It’s not hard to do…..really!

I’ve sent emails to friends in the past appearing to come from ghengis@themongols.com threatening invasion but like to think I’ve matured since then.

You’re thinking “Big deal, I can recognise a fake email and I wouldn’t do anything silly anyway” which is great. Well done you.

However, you can be the victim of a spoofed email that’s directed at someone less smart that you.

For example: Someone sends an email to school spoofed as having come from you and saying that Uncle Buck will collect your 8 year old son from school early to take him to a dental appointment that you’ve just remembered. OK, that’s unlikely with the security in modern schools but you get the picture. More likely is that an email arrives with one of your customers or suppliers purporting to come from your accounts department informing them of a change of bank and providing new transfer details to be used for the payment of invoices. Hell, it might even offer a 25% discount for the settlement of current outstanding amounts if completed within 24 hours. By the time you realised it would be too late.

So – you’ve been warned but what can you do?

You can’t stop the spoofing. The security measures available will help but it’s a constant battle between the bad guys and the good guys and it’s always going to be a neck and neck race with the lead constantly changing.

We’d suggest you think about the procedures you have in place. Inform your business partners that they need to verbally confirm any changes in payment (and other) processes. Remind them that email is NOT secure. Point them at this blog post and suggest they subscribe as knowledge combined with common sense is free and very important.

Also, enquire with us if you would like to know about secure, signed and encrypted email options which can all help.

Again, remember standard email is NOT secure.

Outlook – Don’t File, Search.

How would you like to spend less time housekeeping your emails, less time finding a particular email and be better able to see exactly what you need to deal with?

If you’ve answered “yes” then read on.

We see it all the time and yes, we used to do it ourselves. You have a multitude of subfolders in your inbox and you conscientiously sort incoming emails into these folders. This has the following problems though:

  1. It takes time
  2. Sometimes something can be filed in one of several ways and you have to choose only one
  3. Changing how you have things setup becomes a major upheaval
  4. Scrolling down a huge list or navigating a deep tree of subfolders is a pain
  5. Probably more…..

How? The key phrase to remember is Don’t File, Search.

Quite simply, when you file messages you do so based upon criteria that you check manually and then move the message. If you use that same criteria to search for messages, you’ll realise the same list of messages. So, don’t bother filing. Just search as you need to. Now, if you know you’ll need to work on a specific subset of messages regularly, for example say from a particular person, and don’t want to type in the search criteria each time then create a search folder. It’ll appear just like a subfolder you’ve filed into but it’s automatic and any message can appear in several search folders at the same time. So, an email about your vehicle insurance can be in a folder containing all emails related to the vehicle and also a folder containing all emails from your insurance broker.

In order to keep the inbox tidy I prefer to have a single subfolder called “Processed” email and I move anything into it that I’ve dealt with, or at least that doesn’t need to be sitting in the inbox looking at me, using a Quick Step.

Most emails that need action you should either flag for follow up when you have time or create tasks from them with appropriate start and due dates.

There are a variety of Inbox management systems, one of which may suit you. I’m not proposing any particular one, just suggesting you search instead of file at the very least. It’ll take minutes to set it up and get the hang of it but will save you hours during the course of a month.

Here are some links on the procedures you’ll need to become familiar with. They relate to Outlook 2016 so please search for the same information for earlier versions of Outlook if you need it.