By Gary E. Barnett, CEO of Semafone
In political spheres, many have the opinion that the first 90 days after taking office set the tone, cadence, and expectations for the rest of the official’s term. Many within the business world may also hold that opinion of an incoming executive. As I have completed my first 90 days at the helm of Semafone, I wanted to reflect upon this period and share what we are collectively focused on as a company.
As an introduction, I’ve spent the last 35 years working predominantly in Silicon Valley focusing heavily on communications and the contact center space. So when I considered the role of CEO for Semafone, it felt like a welcome, natural fit. Fit is one thing, yet future is another, and this company has an extremely bright one ahead of it.
Working alongside Tim Critchley in preparation, I frequently marveled at and was encouraged by the momentum the company has achieved thus far. Here are a few highlights:
Semafone accomplished significant customer and partner growth in the last year, with a 32 percent increase in global customer adoption and a 42 percent increase in our partner channel. One of Semafone’s largest partners, BT – a British multinational telecommunications holding company – grew their sales of our product by 77 percent! With this trajectory, Semafone now serves more than 100 of the largest contact centers around the globe, securing their critically vital payment channels.
Semafone has expanded geographically, with offices in the U.K., U.S., and Australia and we are focused on increasing our customer base around the world, particularly in the U.S. and Canada. In the U.S. alone, our customer base has grown by 50 percent this year. Revenue and employee count also continue to increase.
Semafone just announced last week that its flagship Cardprotect™ secure payment solution is now available in the cloud for the U.S. market. The availability of pure cloud and hybrid delivery models for call and contact centers will enable faster, more scalable, cost-effective deployments that strengthen payment data security and vastly simplify compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). In addition, we introduced Rushmore™, an out-of-the-box and fully supported appliance for hybrid cloud that allows contact centers to experience the fast and easy deployment benefits of the cloud while keeping their telephony systems on-premises. With the new cloud delivery models, Semafone gives U.S. contact centers the freedom and flexibility to choose from a full range of deployment options and models that best meets their needs.
Semafone also recently announced that Cardprotect (version 4) is now validated by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) against the latest version of the Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS). This achievement makes Semafone one of the only payment security solutions for contact centers to provide such a high level of certification. In addition to PA-DSS certification and being a Level 1 PCI DSS Service Provider, Semafone is also certified for ISO27001 and is a Level 1 Visa Listed Merchant Agent, making the company the only software vendor to hold all four certifications, offering both on-premises and cloud solutions for securing telephone payments.
Semafone has gained numerous industry awards, including being named the Most Innovative Company of the Year by the Best in Biz Awards and winning the “Most Disruptive” category for our Phone Concierge Alexa Skill prototype in the PYMNTS Voice Challenge with Amazon Alexa. We were also recognized for the third time as the industry-leading solution for compliance and data protection by the PCI Awards for Excellence.
As contact center challenges evolve, this growth and ingenuity isn’t just something to be proud of; it is an absolute necessity. Data breaches are becoming all too common, and consumers are increasingly seeking the protection of their personally identifiable information (PII), putting increased pressure on businesses to implement fool-proof data security solutions. However, fraud and theft (from both internal and external sources) are becoming ever more sophisticated, frequent and costly. According to a 2018 Ponemon study, the average cost of a single data breach is nearly $4 million, which includes missed business opportunities due to reputational damage. Governments and regulatory bodies have been responding accordingly, with sweeping new mandates like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which hit its first year anniversary on May 25, and the pending California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which is tentatively set to come into effect at the turn of the calendar year.
And Semafone is here to help ensure that contact centers are not only keeping up with the ever-changing threat landscape but also with these evolving regulations, industry standards and customer expectations.
While we are known in the payment card industry as the leading provider of data security and compliance solutions for call and contact centers, I firmly believe we have the potential to be the market leader in protecting more than just payment card data, and in more than just the voice channel. The voice channel remains strong, but in today’s digital landscape, other forms of communication – like chat plus SMS and messaging through services like WhatsApp and Facebook – are all becoming mainstream and require the same level of protection as the voice channel. Businesses should be able to accept secure, PCI DSS compliant payments across all digital channels including webchat, chatbots, social media, e/m-commerce, email, and SMS. Our aim is to provide our customers with flexible options to ensure easy and secure transactions across all channels, all while simplifying PCI DSS compliance.
We are also heavily invested in growing our footprint in North America. We have an incredible opportunity in the U.S. and Canada and according to a recent report from Research and Markets, “the acceleration of omnichannel and digital transformation, coupled with the C-suite demands for stronger and swifter growth, is driving future technology acquisitions and investment (within North American contact centers).” The study also stated that “contact center service providers (CCSPs) will need to improve the Customer Experience (CX), and contact center performance and productivity, through using a broadened set of analytics tools that incorporate new technologies, including machine learning (ML), Big Data, etc., with a more critical eye to simplicity and ease of use.”
The future holds many things for Semafone, but if I were to boil it down to three key areas of focus, it will be to provide our customers with the most flexibility, the richest set of features and a truly frictionless experience. That is the vision I am committed to, and I’m excited to share more over the coming months that will demonstrate this pledge.