The Best Way to Serve Customers? Take Care of Their Data


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Customer service kiosks, contact channels, portals, and other means of connecting to your business’ clients have become commonplace. They’re excellent tools for establishing and maintaining positive consumer relationships, but it’s also important to keep customers’ data safe. Information like credit card numbers, addresses, social security numbers, and other sensitive items need to be properly managed. Additionally, your company should be able to spell out exactly how these protections work – or you’ll likely lose trust in your brand.

Data Security and Customer Service: The Stats

The majority of customers don’t believe businesses adequately safeguard data. According to an Econsultancy post, 80 percent of customers believe data privacy no longer exists, while 87 percent don’t trust companies to take care of their data. In many ways, current business practices designed to engage customers and improve consumer relations are at fault for these statistics.

Why Businesses Gather Data

Consumers are aware of the importance of sharing personal information. Anyone who shops online needs to enter bank account or credit card numbers; anyone who goes to a doctor’s office needs to hand over insurance information; and anyone who calls a customer service phone line has heard this statement: “We may record your call for training purposes.”

Data mining is an extraordinarily useful tool. Search engines and social networks use this tactic to customize consumer advertising experiences, and major ecommerce and subscription sites like Amazon and Netflix gather data to recommend content to users. So while data doesn’t feel safe, consumer data is important for businesses to offer the best possible experience to their clients.

Striking the Optimal Balance

To gain trust and simultaneously offer a customized, consumer-driven service to customers, there are a number of steps businesses can take. The following tips will help your company and your consumers stay safe from data breaches.Encrypt your data. This is by far the foremost thing you can do to protect any sensitive information. According to a blog post from CENTRI, a leading provider of data security, firewalls are simply not enough; proper encryption is akin to using an “invisibility cloak,” which will keep data safe from breaches that come from both outside and inside your system.

  • Follow the Safeguards Rule. Although it’s written for financial institutions, the Federal Trade Commission’s Safeguards Rule is widely applicable to any business that handles personal consumer information. The rule boils down to continuously implementing, updating, testing, and maintaining safety policies. When employees are made fully aware of confidentiality rules, they will know how to comply – and their activity around data will be much easier to monitor.

  • Store only the most necessary data. According to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), sensitive data should not be recorded – even if it’s encrypted – unless there is a business justification for doing so.

  • Be transparent with customers. Your clients need to know what to do. If, for example, your website allows users to create an account, ensure any generated password follows specific rules in order to keep consumers safe. Warn consumers about the dangers they might face by failing to protect their own sensitive data. Additionally, to help customers feel at ease about providing personal information, tell them precisely what you’re doing to safeguard company data on any webpage that uses a submission form.

  • Make your services valuable. Customers are much more willing to provide information to businesses when they know they’ll have a good ROI. The above Econsultancy post provides another statistic: 49 percent of consumers are willing to allow their data to be tracked if they know they’ll receive relevant offers and deals in exchange.

While a number of rules and standards have been put in place to protect consumer data, it’s up to your business to balance these guidelines while also providing customers with the best possible experience. Ultimately, by being transparent about how and why your customers’ sensitive data is stored, processed, and handled, you’ll gain trust and respect in your brand.

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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