How to communicate digitally without compromising your customer data

Today’s digital-savvy consumers have high expectations of how they should be serviced by their banks, retailers, utilities and other personal service providers. Having evolved from telephone-only 20 years ago, to cross-channel and now reaching for the next level of channel integration; customer service has become a complex, enterprise-wide challenge.

When engaging with an organisation, customers fully expect to carry on a multi-threaded conversation while hopping between devices and channels (from email to instant chat to social media), with the same level of service, an equivalent experience and without losing the conversation history. They think nothing of tweeting a request, moving onto an online chat, continuing on the phone with the call centre and then requesting a copy document to be emailed.

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Consumers do not recognise the complexity of merging legacy communication silos and data repositories; this is for organisations to solve. As is the challenge of achieving true one-to-one communication while protecting the vast amounts of customer data that make it possible.

The ultimate goal in customer communication is the ability to provide a personalised experience, based on stated preferences, engagement history and behavioural data. Once this is achieved, the organisation is able to send the right message at the right time through the right channel to the right customer.

A large part of this customer service requirement is the ability to access and share a customer’s personal documents securely through whichever channel or device suits them at that time.

Accessing or sharing of personal documents is required at various points in the customer journey; it follows that service providers must create the desired experience for customers while still ensuring documents are protected from increasingly sophisticated security threats.

Confidential documents are particularly vulnerable when stored alongside millions of other customer documents also containing information that is valuable to a criminal. Customer registrations, insurance claims, medical history forms and account statements are all documents that for compliance reasons must be stored for multiple years. A document repository containing identity information, financial accounts, even healthcare information, is a tempting ‘honeypot’ target for hackers.

Despite the risks, meeting the expectations of technology-savvy, on-the-move customers means their personal documents must be available through any customer service channel (call center, email, web, mobile apps) at any time.

It is essential to store such documents in a secure, yet accessible online vault which offers multiple layers of protection beyond traditional network security and database encryption. When considering a secure document repository, organisations should look to implement a solution that encrypts and protects each individual customer document regardless of where it happens to be – stored on a server, being emailed from agent to customer or opened via a mobile application or saved on a customer’s own computer.

Contrary to what some may think, ‘The Internet’ is not natively secure, and documents travelling from point to point are not automatically protected. Although a single document sent by email or downloaded from a web portal is not as attractive a target for criminals, documents should always be encrypted and password protected while in transit. This not only protects the personal information inside the document from unauthorised access, but also mitigates a human or system error in which a confidential document is sent to the wrong recipient.

As demanding as today’s digital consumers are; many are not as security aware as they should be. Providing only encrypted and protected documents will assist consumers with safeguarding their information even when it resides on their own devices. An emailed document, for example, gets stored automatically on different devices and would be vulnerable if the device was hacked, unless saved in a protected format.

Servicing today’s digital consumer is not a simple task – especially in the always on, always connected landscape. Consumers now expect everything to be available all the time, however and whenever they want it, with security as a built in factor. Marry this requirement with the ever increasing sophistication of criminals targeting the data inside personal documents; and organisations have to enable safe, omni-channel communication as a top priority.

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