Any company taking, storing and processing customer information is risking their reputation and the customer’s financial wellbeing every day. One data breach can undo many years of reputation-enhancement and consumer confidence. And now, even when there isn’t an acute problem, many consumers fear one may be on the horizon.
Notes Forbes’ Shep Hyken: “Are you worried about fraud? Concerned about giving out your credit card number or Social Security number over the phone—or to an AI (Artificial Intelligence)-fueled bot?…more than nine in 10 (92%) consumers in the U.S. are concerned about fraud increasing in their daily activities. They are afraid to share information with customer service reps as well as ‘secured’ websites. Fraud is eroding the customer experience!”
This issue is not likely to improve anytime soon. Hyken adds: “Companies need to make their customers feel comfortable, confident and safe, but according to the report, they aren’t. Eighty-six percent of consumers think that the companies they do business with could do more to protect them from fraud. Add in that 28% of Americans don’t believe that brands are doing enough to manage their personal information securely, and you have a big trust problem.”
As to steps brands can take to protect customer information and build confidence, Hyken suggests: “Keep up-to-date with the latest and greatest systems to thwart the cyberthieves…Encrypt! Encrypted data has a lower risk of being stolen…Inform customers what you are doing to protect them…Insure your customers in case a breach does occur. There are identity and cyber-crime insurance companies that will protect your customers if their data is stolen from you.”
Hyken also offers some tips for customers. It would behoove companies to educate customers, in itself one way to build confidence and trust. Tips include creating a two-step login requiring a second layer in the form of a code sent to log in; password-protecting and freezing credit (which can be unfrozen when applying for a loan or credit card); being wary about hackers with free wifi hotspots; and changing passwords frequently.
Hyken summarizes the challenge and opportunity: “Trust and confidence are a big part of the customer experience. You want your customers to feel comfortable and confident about doing business with you. You want them to not worry about anything other than buying what they need and want from you. The moment the customer has doubts, you risk the sale, repeat business and goodwill that comes from positive word-of-mouth.”
Fraud protection is an area where companies need to be both diligent and communicative. Having the best protocols in place to prevent problems is only half the battle. People need to know it.
In this realm, it’s incredibly important to communicate only what can be substantiated. Making unsupportable claims to “falsely” reassure people is, unfortunately, often tempting. As with increasing transparency in other areas, making performance match promises is the only way to go.
In this era of fake news and fast communication, company reputation is more vulnerable than ever to one negative headline or storyline. Strong customer service ratings over a substantial period of time can limit the damage, showing a pattern of competence and caring that supersedes isolated hits to a reputation. Building and maintaining a positive customer service image is one critical key to business success in the 2020s.
Do you have customer service snafus or stellar experiences to share? If so, feel free to comment on this post or email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Lusky is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience.