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January 15, 2018updated 19 Jul 2022 12:28pm

How to balance data security & customer service in the contact centre

Your customers are calling for better service.

By Ellie Burns

The adage ‘the customer is king’ may be overused, but it exists for a good reason. Companies are competing on an increasingly-crowded stage for the business – and loyalty – of consumers. Being able to prove that your company truly cares about its engagement with customers is key. This is especially true when it comes to the contact centre, as people continue to seek out a human voice when they communicate with brands, particularly if there is something they aren’t happy about!

Yet, with the ever-present threat of a data breach and instances of insider fraud increasing, ensuring top-notch service is becoming more and more difficult. The threat of fraud is real, and our own research shows that contact centres are vulnerable. You know that you need to protect customer data, but it’s not always easy to do this without compromising on customer experience. There is no excuse for failing to put protection around sensitive customer information; with the numerous data security risks in the contact centre and the danger of agent fraud, you need to act now to boost your defences.

Don’t hang up on a business opportunity

The desire for human contact is still strong. Research from Google has shown that 70 per cent of customers who browse on mobile devices have used the “call me” button to get in contact with a business, while 61 per cent said it was ‘extremely important’ to be able to use the phone to make a purchase. The same study also reported that 57 per cent of consumers said that their main motivation for calling was to speak to a real person.

There are good reasons for this. The contact centre agent on the end of the line is the friendly, informed, human voice of the organisation; they can answer questions, reassure customers and ensure that they get the product or service that they have paid for. Having an agent on hand is also incredibly important when it comes to supporting callers who may have a disability or need extra assistance. Ultimately, the way that a customer’s call is handled can make all the difference to their experience, and can make or break the opportunity for your business to make a sale and expect repeat business.

The threat from within – why it makes sense to be scared about data security

While contact centre agents are a crucial element in providing high quality customer service, they also represent a data security risk. Many have access to sensitive customer details, for example bank account details, dates of birth, credit card numbers, national insurance numbers, social security numbers or medical records. And while most are trustworthy and reliable, it only takes one rogue agent to steal customer information that they find at their fingertips and to use it for fraudulent activity.

A recent global survey of contact centre agents by Semafone showed that more than 30 per cent have access to sensitive information, even when they’re not on the phone with the customer. What’s more concerning is that seven per cent of agents said they had been asked by someone inside their organisation to share customer data, while four per cent had been approached by outsiders. Another nine per cent of agents said that they knew of someone who had unlawfully accessed or shared information such as payment card numbers.

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Don’t let security spoil things for your customers

In an effort to combat threats to customer data, many companies turn to computer systems to handle customer calls, such as automated speech recognition (ASR) or interactive voice response (IVR). These systems can be a useful tool when it comes to handling customer calls out of business hours, but they often fall down when it comes to guaranteeing a smooth, error-free experience for consumers.

For example, regional accents, speech disorders (such as stutters) or even simple differences in how callers refer to things, all create challenges for data collection when using ASR. When trying to process a payment, it can become even more difficult. Callers rarely behave as they should when it comes to reading out card numbers; a four-digit string of numbers like 4004 can be read as almost 10 variations, from ‘four zero zero four’ to ‘four double oh four’. You can see how a customer could become easily frustrated by unrecognised speech, and simply hang up the phone. This is unlikely to leave a good impression of your brand.

Wherever possible, it’s important that contact centre agents are on hand to help guide callers through the process. This comes down to having a data security solution, like dual tone multi-frequency (DTMF) masking technology, that allows customers to type sensitive numerical details directly into their telephone keypad. These numbers can then be tokenised on the data collection screen and the dial tones masked, which keeps the agents from being exposed to the private information. This means that the agent can stay in full voice communication with the customer throughout the entire process, offering assistance when needed and providing a better level of customer service.

Give your customers the best of both worlds

Callers to your contact centre deserve to feel that they are being looked after, both in terms of service but also security. At the end of the day, customers are the cornerstone of your company; so, treat them well and keep them safe.

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