“The more sources you have coming into a stream of customer data, the more likely you are to get some pollution. If everybody just pollutes a little bit, it adds up to a whole lot in the end. Ideally, you want to stop it or catch it at its source.” – Aaron Zornes
We spoke about the involvement of each person in an organization, CEO included, in making customer service top class. Delivering such service is what keeps customers happy enough to become loyal and remain profitable. It is the job of a company to know everything about customers to understand the customer’s preferences, likes, dislikes, and even the things they do in their spare time. Such understanding is what takes service from good to great. The good news is that with so many channels, tools, and technological wonders, there are huge amounts of customer data available to customers, which they can use to deliver personalized service and more customized products. The bad news is that sometimes companies fail in maintaining a balance between customer service and data protection, causing severe damage to the customers and the reputation of the company.
Balancing customer service and data protection is no mean task. This means that customer expectations include data security and even minor lapses can turn happy customers to the route of litigations and slamming the good name of a company. There is a need to balance customer service and data protection – customers not only expect that their data will be protected, but they also want customized products and personalized service – possible only when companies have access to information about them. Companies have to make customers feel welcome and wanted, while ensuring also that their privacy and confidential data remains intact.
What steps does your company take in striking a balance between customer service and data protection? It is the job of a company to first offer value, relevance, and control to customers, before customers begin to trust them enough to provide their confidential information. It is the onus of the company to reassure customers through various methods that their private information would be managed well and kept confidential, and yet customers would get individualized experiences. It is imperative for companies to use and manage customer data in the way that they deem appropriate and know what the company is using the information to achieve. The company must set clear expectations with its customers and build trust by staying true to its promises and commitments.
In order to protect its business, reputation, and customers, it is essential for a company to take certain initiatives to ensure a balance between customer service and data protection. All policies surrounding customer data must be written down, transparent, and accessible to both employees and customers. There must be a reason provided to customers for every bit of information they collect about customers. The collected data must be stored in a centralized and secure location in the company, and each piece of information must be verified and updated regularly. Accurate customer records are essential to ensure that customers receive messages, information, and products that would suit their needs and expectations at any time. Customer service staff and all the employees with access to customer data must receive regular training and coaching on how to balance customer service and data protection. In addition, data on customers who leave the company for whatever reason must remain in the system for a limited and specified time period, which must be clearly defined.
Other aspects of striking a balance between customer service and data protection are that clear and individualized communication must go out to each customer letting them know what their data and information will be used for and the means through which the data will be collected. In addition, the company should provide ways for customers to be able to review the data to ensure accuracy and inform the company of any changes to their situation. Most importantly, a company must desist from overwhelming customers with requests for information, and ask only for as much as would be required to gain some understanding of the customer. Rather, the company should focus on using the data they have to provide good service and lasting customer experiences, such that customers begin to trust and would be more willing to part with information.
Everyone has access to technology and therefore customers expect that since companies have access to their information as well, they would use both the information and technology to understand them and protect their privacy. It is here that some companies fail at balancing the intricacies of customer service and data protection – harming their business and years of reputation. Given that data protection is a serious demand from customers now, businesses now understand that there is long-term value and benefit in doing so – and is a major aspect of top class customer service, rather than just legal or compliance. Companies that recognize data protection as part of customer service are more likely to gain the trust of customers, long term, and a lot sooner than companies that see it merely as a marketing tactic. Maintaining the balance between customer service and data protection is a safe and robust investment in the success of the business.
We know that the backbone of any business is its employees. It becomes imperative therefore, that each person in the company understands their responsibility in maintaining the balance between customer service and data protection. This is especially true of those employees that have unrestricted and total access to all kinds of customer information. A company should be able to trust its employees to keep customer data safe and provide them with care and empathy. Disgruntled and stressed out employees, can pose a serious risk to a business – and it is usually reasons that emanate from their workplace that makes employees unhappy. Such employees could, out of sheer frustration and annoyance, breach the security and provide shoddy service to customers. They may be fired or penalized, but the fact is that they would have done enough damage to last a lifetime. It is therefore, critical for any company to keep its employees happy and coach them on the importance of compliance and preserving customer happiness.
Striking a balance between customer service and data protection, is about a complete understanding of which factors contribute towards making data sensitive and to know which information they need to protect and for what reasons. Companies must have robust monitoring systems in place in order to keep track of information and receive immediate ‘advice’ if any information goes missing or has been misused. Such monitoring would help a company to remove any deficiencies and ‘weaknesses’ of the system before they pose a bigger risk.
Many companies today use third parties for various jobs, which in turn could compromise the balance between customer service and data protection. It would be necessary to make proper background checks, collect references, and ensure that the third party is trustworthy enough to be entrusted with even small amounts of data. Building trust and a well-documented relationship with such outsourced companies is essential for any company – the more the company can train and educate the third parties on the risks of data leaks, the better it would be able to care for its customers.
Outstanding customer service is the need of the hour – and a very critical and major part of this kind of service is data protection. Companies that successfully maintain the balance between customer service and data protection, are the ones that would gain customer favour and become the preferred partners for an increasing number of customers.