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Protecting your customers and brand in an outsourced environment

Posted January 19, 2023
3D illustration of various symbols conveying online security, including a finger print and a shield

Protecting your company's reputation in an evolving digital world isn't always easy. Between cyberattacks, phishing, fraud and other harmful behaviors, companies have a lot of ground to cover when it comes to preserving their brand.

These concerns are often compounded when working with a customer experience (CX) provider. Not only do you need to ensure that your brand promise is met in an outsourced environment, but also that your customer and company data is protected.

When selecting a customer experience provider, risk mitigation should be a top consideration. The right partner will make sure you're covering every angle to care for the security of both your brand and your customers — at every touchpoint.

What should you look for in an outsourcing provider?

When it comes to customer experience outsourcing, brands typically have two primary concerns: preserving customer data, and keeping all systems that might compromise operations tight as a drum, says Steve Jablonski, vice-president of information security at TELUS International. These concerns are often driven by an idea that outsourcing some aspects of your business means giving up control — but that's not the case when the right checks and balances are in place.

Companies and their outsourcing partners need to set clear parameters about how to proactively prevent harm, and how to respond if it ever occurs. Setting a strong communication foundation in your outsourcing relationship enables your brand to work in concert with your partner to avoid and mitigate risk. With that at the core, here are three additional factors to consider when assessing an outsourcing partner.

Training: Team members are the first line of defense

With both online reputation management and protecting customer data, organizations frequently wonder where to begin. The answer is: start with employees. Team members are often the first line of defense against security breaches and ever-present bad actors. "Think of your CX team as a human firewall," says Jablonski. "You have to prepare your customer care representatives for battle by providing them with comprehensive training."

Rather than taking a one-and-done approach to customer service training, partners should treat it as an ongoing process, every part of which can strengthen and enhance the customer care team. As threats become more sophisticated and ill-intentioned parties find new ways to infiltrate your defenses, it's important that your team's knowledge base has comparably advanced documentation.

That said, it isn't just outsiders that are cause for concern. When assessing a CX outsourcing partner, businesses often want to know what's being done to mitigate insider risk and to keep employees from jeopardizing the system. While it's smart to ask questions related to brand loyalty and engagement, you should also consider whether teams are being sufficiently trained to prevent all manner of attacks and breaches, adds Jablonski.

Outsourcing partners must have processes in place to mitigate risk from internal and external individuals intent on committing a crime and innocent insiders who fall victim to phishing links. Phishing simulations and security awareness training are useful protocols in a world where threats are subtle and ever-changing. Team members should also know what to do if they suspect a colleague is acting nefariously. Training employees to recognize patterns is crucial, Jablonski says, "because you can't always get ahead of the threat."

Technology: Taking advantage of economies of scale

According to recent research conducted by TELUS International and Statista, leaders named data security and compliance as the number one challenge impeding their digital customer experience goals in 2023. The same research found that transparency and data security were considered the most important qualities for an outsourcing provider.

Collaborating with the right digital CX partner can provide brands with access to best-in-class software with the proper security checks. "There needs to be solid due diligence when buying secure software," Jablonski says of outsourcing partners. "Robust patching, internal scans and penetration testing should occur on a regular basis." A good outsourcing partner not only does everything in its power to safeguard your company; it also takes the pressure off brands to identify and invest in the new technologies needed to deliver a secure and scalable CX.

Put security management processes under the microscope

Outsourcing providers should be investing in market intelligence to stay on top of potential threats. Jablonski suggests that the right partner will "leverage paid and public intelligence to stay current. Your provider should always be collecting information and taking action." They should also have a strong network in place for sharing brand and industry information, he adds.

Look for a partner that prioritizes security at all levels and makes a point of obtaining their third-party certifications demonstrating their commitment to protecting brands like yours. Regulatory compliance and certifications like ISO27001 offer a solid foundation for cybersecurity. NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology at the U.S. Department of Commerce, is a good resource for publications, reports and other information about the standardization process, while the NIST 800-53 framework serves as a comprehensive guide to strategies, systems and controls that businesses should employ based on risk, cost and an organization's capabilities. Other options include industry-specific certifications, like HITRUST in the healthcare space.

Regardless of the approach your outsourcing partner opts to take, key controls like multi-factor authentication and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) should be standard. Consider your potential partner's stance on working from home and bring your own device (BYOD) management, too. From data leakage to loss and infection, related policies should be treated with the utmost caution and care.

Above all else, when selecting an outsourcing partner you should aim to find a company that values your brand and customers as much as you do. "Your customers are our customers," says Jablonski of TELUS International's mindset. A quality outsourcing partner should share your commitment to defending against threats, while also working to improve your customer experience.

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