• May 3, 2023
  • By Owen Robinson, vice president of customer experience strategy, Waterfield Tech

Digital Trust and the Contact Center’s Key Role

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Consumers rightly have high expectations for businesses and organizations to be responsible and trustworthy when it comes to their data privacy practices. Preserving that trust is critical. A person who trusts a company will keep their information safe is more apt to become, and remain, a loyal customer. This is particularly true in today’s environment, when customer interactions are more likely to be conducted across any number of digital channels and platforms.

But the same can be true on the other side of the coin. Break their trust once, and a customers’ loyalty will be immediately put to the test.

In fact, a recent McKinsey survey found that 40 percent of respondents pulled their business from a company after learning the company was not protective of its customers’ data. This rate climbed even higher among frequent online shoppers, B2B purchasers, and Gen Z respondents.

Given this, establishing and maintaining digital trust is not just a competitive advantage. It is a business imperative. There are a number of steps a business can take to establish digital trust with its customers, and it’s no surprise that the contact center plays a critical role in that effort.

Steps for Establishing Digital Trust

Step one: Think about digital trust and incorporate security and data integrity into all parts of a business. Digital trust must be top of mind in all aspects of the business. This may seem obvious, but unfortunately to some businesses it is not. While external factors certainly pose cyber threats, data shows most data breaches are a result of careless employee habits or bad actors within an organization. If organizations are not prioritizing security strategies that address threats from within, breach incidents will happen. And the potential costs both financially and reputationally are significant.

Next up, set measurable goals such as “zero data breaches” or, more realistically, “air-gap data wherever possible to mitigate any potential breach” and create a culture that demands adherence. A top-down culture of security helps ensure digital trust isn’t an afterthought and that every business initiative includes a data integrity goal/metric.

Companies should have a thoughtful data integrity policy with clear language they can share with customers. They must also ensure the vendors with whom they do business are subject to the same robust data security policies. It’s a good idea to conduct due diligence with external parties before partnering with them, including requesting the results of a recent security audit.

Despite best efforts, data breaches can and will happen. Ultimately, it’s how a business responds to a breach that can make or break customer loyalty. Organizations should have a clear communication plan that dictates swift action in identifying and remediating security issues and places a premium on transparency and honesty with customers.

How the Contact Center Can Assist in Establishing and Maintaining Digital Trust

With the availability and advances in contact center technology, there is simply no reason for an employee to ever see a customer’s personally identifiable information (PII). These sensitive personal details (like credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc.) should always be masked. Not doing so presents a significant risk.

Here’s an example of what can happen when the proper technology is not used in the contact center environment. When the pandemic first struck, an insurance company moved its agents to a remote work environment but didn’t have the right solutions in place to secure their customers’ PII. Consequently, the agents would write down a caller’s credit card information (a common practice as agents negotiated multiple applications). Those slips of paper inevitably wound up in the wrong hands, causing an uptick in customers having their credit card details stolen. Had the company invested in a secure interactive voice response (IVR) solution, for example, this could have been avoided.

Every customer experience platform should have integrated security controls that support encryption, masking, etc. Counterintuitively, while some businesses believe that keeping this kind of technology on-premises is most secure, that’s actually not the case. Oftentimes, on-premises security certificates expire, passwords age, and there may not be enough staff to handle the necessary security updates. Cloud-based customer experience platforms are inherently stronger and more secure as they’re constantly updated with the latest security controls whenever a new risk or virus arises. These solutions also provide better mitigation options in the event of a breach.

Beyond the contact center technology solutions themselves, it’s how an organization uses that technology to communicate with customers that can play a key role in trust. For example, some platforms track and capture customer information (including their history with the organization, website visits, etc.) that allow the business to provide hyper-personalized customer experiences. However, there is a line between hyper-personalized and “creepy.” This is where companies need to truly understand their customers’ preferences and ensure they’re communicating with them in a manner that makes them comfortable.

What Role Can Generative AI Play?

Everyone’s excited about the potential role generative AI, like ChatGPT or YouChat (a competitor to ChatGPT), can play in driving business outcomes. However, it is critical that organizations proceed with caution and consider the impact on digital trust, as these solutions are only as good as the underlying data repository from which they draw. Some even take much of their “knowledge” from the internet, which is full of inaccurate information. 

A chatbot, whether it is using generative AI or not, can replicate a conversation millions of times per minute. A poorly designed bot can disseminate incorrect information at an almost unlimited scale and have broad repercussions for a company’s brand. These solutions need to be carefully managed or customer trust can be quickly lost and a brand’s reputation irreparably tarnished.

To meet customers’ data security expectations and maintain their loyalty, organizations must look towards their contact center to establish and enhance digital trust. A modern, technologically enabled contact center has the power to help companies reinforce data privacy, bolster the customer experience, and positively impact the bottom line.

Owen Robinson is vice president of customer experience strategy at Waterfield Tech. Robinson is an experienced business and technical leader with more than 20 years of experience in contact center solutions and workforce engagement.

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