Customer Concerns: Are You Acting On App Security Issues?

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It’s a modern Catch-22: customers are anxious about app security and who can access their data, but apps also make it easier for customers to stop charges on a lost cellphone, keep track of their children’s whereabouts, and complete many other day-to-day tasks more easily. Use them, and you simplify many tasks and enhance some types of security; don’t use them, and you’ll be unable to use some security features and be cut off from a variety of useful tools.

As a business, of course, you likely have an app, and you want your customers to use it, so how can you balance user security concerns with the convenience – and often, improved security – of apps? The key seems to be in transparency. By being open with your customers about why your app is helpful, how you’re actively protecting their data, and publically responding when concerns arise, you can offer your customers the best app experience possible.

Test and Test Again

There are so many problems with app security today, but many of them could be prevented through thorough pre-release testing. Although 63 percent of users articulate a belief that app owners do their best to keep information safe, only 50 percent of companies test for security problems before launching an app. A full third of companies don’t test their apps at all, a practice that should appall any responsible designer.

Gone in a Flash

One reason why it’s so important for companies to respond to customer security concerns quickly is that failure to act on an issue often leads customers to delete your app. According to a study by the Mobile Ecosystem Forum, 52 percent of customers have deleted an app due to privacy concerns. Your company can’t tolerate that kind of attrition rate.

Of course, deleting an app doesn’t mean customers won’t download it again if, after a time, they hear your practices have improved, but as a business you should drive for continuity. Address the issue immediately or you’ll lose valuable real estate on customer screens.

Always Encrypt

If you’re responsible for an app that transmits any sort of information, it’s important to make sure that data is fully protected, and that means encryption. Some might think this is too far for the casual app – of course you should encrypt your Gmail app so that private messages and files are protected, but what about when the stakes are lower? Is it really necessary?

In short, yes, encryption matters. Unlike many other obscure security practices, customers understand and have a lot of faith in encryption. They know it’s used for medical and financial records and other confidential information. Even iMessage offers encryption.

Consider for a moment the number of prominent health tracking apps available today. Though not regulated by HIPAA, these apps still contain private information, and in the case of at least one app, Glow, people were easily able to access other users’ information. We wouldn’t condone such a release of information by doctors, even if accidental, and users want apps held to the same standard.

Beware of Borrowers

Customers who regularly use branded apps, are known to download associated tools meant to enhance their experience, but often these secondary apps are the most dangerous – they may even be drawing on personal information stored by the first, legitimate app. This was the concern during the recent crackdown on Pokémon Go related apps – Niantic needed to protect their API to protect their customers.

If you have an app that’s attracting borrowers or copycats, make sure to examine how these other apps work. While there are ways to design related programs that don’t include reverse engineering the API, this tends to be a less common approach.

Call on Common Courtesy

Even in the wake of security shortfalls, most customers believe that app owners do the right thing because they believe in business ethics. Customers want to believe you won’t sell their purchase information from apps or loyalty cards, compromise their email accounts, or release their passwords or phone number. If these things happen, they’re disappointed, but customers really do hope you’ll fix the issue – they want to come back.

Security is about common courtesy, of doing right by your customers so they’ll be loyal to you. The app may be a new, informal way of providing service, but customers carry the same expectations. It’s up to you as a business to rise to the occasion. 

Larry Alton
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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