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Gaining Customer Trust – Part II: Why Security Matters

Why Security Matters
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As we were thinking through the long list of factors that could build or harm customer trust, one immediately came to the top of our heads. It’s a biggie — security and the breaches that have increasingly been in the news lately.

Security is fresh in our minds since we recently published a white paper on the topic of security in payment processing. It is also a core business value of ours. In researching the white paper, we confirmed for ourselves a lot about what good security looks like and what happens when it’s not up to par. What I found very eye-opening was how many companies, including financial services companies, have an almost blasé view of security.

You would reason that if indeed security is such a huge deal they would treat it as such, right? But they don’t! Our research showed most look at security as an afterthought or a cost center for which the goal is to minimize cost by implementing the minimum measures required to be compliant in their industries. Heck, many don’t even do that, as we have learned from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) who have recently released reports on their investigations into a number of high profile data breaches in financial service industry.

In last week’s post, I mentioned how customers evaluate their business relationships in the same way as they do their personal relationships. Customers are humans who will trust others if they feel they are being treated properly and genuinely. So a company that places security on the back burner and puts their customers’ personal information at risk will not be looked on too fondly. It’s analogous to their friend leaving them alone in a dark alley in a dangerous part of town! When you think of it this way, security really does go to the core of customer trust as they are violating your most personal information and could cause some financial ruin. And when you factor in the reputation and financial losses that go hand-in-hand with a security breach – both to consumers as well as businesses – it is a topic corporations will be wise to pay attention to.

So how should corporations approach security to assure customers they are looking out for their best interests? At a high level, there are a few things:

1. Make security part of your business strategy.

Security and data breaches are on the rise and it is simply no longer good enough to do the minimum. Security should be looked at from an enterprise perspective and treated as a strategic imperative and not as an IT issue that can be solved by purchasing better technology. Good security technology is important, of course, but at the end of the day, it is only as good as the people who implement & manage it and the processes around it. Companies need a critical mass supporting their security strategy, a strong process tradition and more due diligence on their partners to ensure they have the same in place.

2. Create a culture of being security conscious.

Everyone in the company needs to understand that security is mission critical and can make or break the business. Most top executives and finance departments very likely look at security as a cost – a necessary evil. And other business departments probably don’t even think much about it at all beyond those annual online refresher trainings. To implement a solid security strategy, everyone – from the CEO down – needs to understand the stakes involved and make a commitment to securing customer data. And again, there needs to be stringent processes to assure it’s happening as planned.

3. Engage customers in their own security.

Customers will help businesses in this endeavor. Even if it means going through one more step here or an extra verification there, research has shown that customers will support it without rebelling if it’s implemented intelligently. For businesses that want to strengthen trust with their customers, this is also a great way to demonstrate your commitment to their security. The best security is there are no breaches ever. But, if something should happen, even is suspected, it’s well worth sending customers a text alert when a suspicious transaction or action is observed. Something as simple as this makes a service more secure while also showing customers you are looking out for them. Think of it as a way to build customer loyalty.

Tune in next week as we continue our exploration of customer trust and how you can build it through better service availability and reliability.

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