Agent providing cyber security support

Why customer service is pivotal when handling data breaches

Written by: Troy Moritz, Chief Security Officer, TELUS International

The ultimate goal for every business is to never have a security incident or data breach. But what if, in spite of your best efforts and intentions, your company becomes the target of a cyber attack?

Defending your company against cybercrime hinges on a thoughtful, comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that filters down throughout the arteries of your business. By hiring and training the right people, adopting risk management processes and ensuring the technology you employ remains manageable, you can spot vulnerabilities and keep sensitive data safe.

But there are times when preventative efforts are not enough, and a breach may indeed occur. Thankfully, there are measures you can take to minimize the damage and create a better experience for your customers in the future, and they all begin with your customer service strategy and your frontline support team. Their efforts, especially in times of crisis, are pivotal to restoring the integrity of your brand and implementing effective cybersecurity measures moving forward.

Maintain customer loyalty

Customer loyalty is something no company wants to put at risk. According to a global survey conducted by digital security company Gemalto, close to 65 percent of consumers report that they are unlikely to continue to do business with a brand if their financial or personal data has been stolen through the company. What’s more, almost half of those surveyed said they would consider taking legal action in such a scenario.

One of the biggest challenges when dealing with a cyber attack, therefore, is addressing the situation in a way that enables brands to retain their customers’ trust. In a recent study of customer service interactions, researchers found that when the goal is to build loyalty, “prompt and personal customer service does indeed pay off.”

With no time for missteps or delays, partnering with a trusted customer service provider focused on compliance, accurate reporting and safeguarding your customer base, can help brands soften consumers’ overall negative perceptions.

Mitigating reputation damage

In the event of a data breach, it isn’t just customer satisfaction and loyalty that you’ll be working hard to preserve. The odds are that your company’s reputation will also be in peril.

After Equifax’s data breach last year, its Buzz score — a measure of brand perception — dropped from zero to -33 in the first 10 days after the attack was revealed, according to reports. Ebay experienced a similar drop after its data breach in 2014.

There are also significant expenses associated with data breaches. The Ponemon Institute puts the global average cost to companies at $3.86 million, an increase of 6.4 percent over 2017. The cost of a tarnished brand and the ensuing loss of customers can oftentimes be even more difficult to recoup than dollars.

After a breach, enterprises should endeavor to send a consistent message about the nature of the attack and their procedure for dealing with it across all their channels and platforms. The information you provide to customers about your plan to help protect their identities and repair vulnerabilities should be delivered by human agents who are fully prepared to answer customers’ questions and address every one of their concerns. Your contact center team’s ability to de-escalate anxiety and assuage your customers’ fears will be crucial to your reputation preservation efforts.

To prevent future breaches that could further endanger your brand, compartmentalization is key. By limiting employee access to information and segregating communication between systems, you can reduce the potential scope and gravity of a cyber attack. This way, should there be a “next time,” you may lose a pinky versus a whole limb.

When built right, a compartmentalized cybersecurity solution can also diminish the reputational risk for brands. You’ll be able to respond more effectively and precisely, because you’ll know exactly where your system broke down — for example, the hacker may have compromised your web servers, but wasn’t able to understand the financial transactions therein because of additional layers of protection. With a compartmentalized approach, you’ll also have a better sense of how to present and manage the breach publicly.

Nowadays, data breaches are commonplace and strong cybersecurity strategies are indispensable. In order to remain competitive in this new age, companies must address the crucial role customer service teams play in protecting their brand and retaining customers.

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