Jo Geraghty


Losing more than just data

Date added: 30th May 2014
Category: Customer Experience

Laptops stolen, bags left on a train, discs lost in the post….the myriad ways in which confidential customer and business information can be lost or stolen are as nothing when the possibility of cyber theft comes into play.  But whilst some organisations might argue that the physical theft of data is down to the carelessness of one individual, there is no escaping the fact that when company data is breached the fault can be laid squarely at the door of the culture of the company itself.

Actually, regardless of who loses out in the blame game, even the theft of physical data from laptop or disk is also symptomatic of company failings.  Had the organisation genuinely cared for the confidential nature of its data and engaged its employees in that belief then laptops, data sticks and the like would not be travelling around the world with gay abandon.

Regardless of previous high profile cases, irrespective of consumer and press backlash, it seems as though organisations are still leaving themselves open to data theft.  The latest cyber attack on eBay is perhaps the most breathtaking so far with data in respect of up to 145 million customers potentially having been stolen but whether the data relates to one individual or one million individuals is only a matter of scale; the underlying culture is the same in both cases.

When organisations talk about customer care, about creating a great customer experience, how deep does that belief run?  Is customer care about frontline staff being taught to wish the customers ‘a nice day’?  Is customer care perhaps about rearranging work duties so that call handlers can ‘take ownership’ of a customer query?  Is customer care about consulting with customers on whether a particular product would look better in blue or in red?

To be quite honest, all that is just froth on the top of the organisation.  True customer care comes from a belief that every person and every process within the organisation is only there for and because of customers.  True customer care informs the behaviours of every single individual; whether they be customer facing or so far back office that they never see a customer from one end of their career to the other.  True customer care is not just about seeking to create an exceptional experience for customers it is also about respect for the person and privacy of those customers.

Those organisations which truly embrace customer care don’t just gain loyal customers in return, they also gain trust.  And that trust is worth far more to the long term stability of the organisation than any passing ‘customer care’ programme.  When your customer trusts you, they will turn to you first in every instance.  When your customer trusts you, they will follow you through every business iteration; and when you branch out into new offerings, your trusting customers will follow.

Short of actively publishing customer data yourself, allowing data to be lost or stolen is one of the most fundamental ways to show customers that they can’t trust you.  When you lose data, it costs you far more than any fine which may be imposed by the information commissioner.  It loses trust.  Yes we know that hackers can be immensely resourceful in their search for data, but that doesn’t excuse organisations from not taking every step they can to protect the information with which they have been entrusted.  Yes we know that customers don’t help themselves by using the same password on multiple sites but that doesn’t mean that organisations should allow customers to use simple, easy to hack, passwords on unencrypted open systems.

The choice is simple.  Do we want to build a trusting and loyal customer base by embedding customer care in every business process or are we prepared for our business to haemorrhage existing and potential customers?  As the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, says on his blog:

Responsible companies have got to act to keep their customer information safe, and if they don’t, they’ll find they’re not just in trouble with the Information Commissioner, but they’re in trouble with customers too.”

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