• June 2, 2021
  • By Kevin Jolliffe, senior vice president, North America, Intradiem

With Contact Centers Going Remote, Data Security Must Be a Priority

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Generally, we think of “evolution” as gradual change occurring over time, like wading into the ocean and adapting slowly to the cold water. But sometimes it’s more like being pushed off a pier and absorbing the transition in a panicked instant.

The same dichotomy applies to the idea of transitioning employees from the office to remote work. There are benefits to be gained, but for businesses dealing with sensitive information, those benefits may be more than offset by potential dangers. Given that half of all corporate data is stored in the cloud and 47 percent of organizations experienced a data breach in 2019, most businesses were taking a “wade in slowly” approach to remote work. That approach abruptly ended when the pandemic pushed them off the pier.

The Pandemic Led to a Remote Work Fire Drill

Like everyone else, contact centers were blindsided by the upheaval brought on by the pandemic. They scrambled to set up their agents (and supervisors) at home to maintain service levels as best they could. Eventually time passed, panic subsided, and “That’s impossible!” gave way to “That wasn’t so bad after all.”

Once companies were up and running with a remote workforce, the need to focus on ensuring the long-term security of company and customer data in remote hands became a top priority. But traditional in-center controls—such as prohibiting mobile phones or writing materials at agent workstations—could not simply be overlaid onto agents’ remote workstations. Even if they could, how could they be enforced?

In any case, the unique vulnerabilities of contact centers meant that the issue needed to be addressed.

Confronting a Real Data Security Threat

Data theft is a real threat to the finance, product development, and human resource departments of large organizations. Contact centers are also conducive environments for fraud and data theft due to factors that are unique to them:

  • Critical mass: Businesses with contact centers tend to be large organizations, with hundreds or even thousands of frontline employees gathering sensitive information directly from customers.
  • Turnover: Contact center agent attrition rates range from 30 to 50 percent, as employees subject to high pressure and modest pay are more likely to leave for better opportunities.
  • Information: Nearly all the information an agent gathers can be monetized, including names, phone numbers, email addresses, social security numbers, credit card numbers, etc.

How can contact centers combat their innate vulnerability, which is now amplified by the shift to a predominantly remote workforce? As is true for so many 21st century business challenges, the solution is technology.

The Role of Intelligent Automation

A growing number of contact centers were already AI-based, integrating intelligent automation into their technology mix before the pandemic, gaining measurable improvements in productivity, cost savings and agent engagement.

It turns out that intelligent automation technology is also perfectly adapted to monitoring remote conditions for data security. Intelligent automation establishes real-time connections between data flows, work processes, agents and supervisors, established thresholds, and actions triggered when those thresholds are crossed.

A cloud-based AI solution can ensure that these challenges are addressed successfully whether interactions take place within the center or at an agent’s home. Intelligent automation enables businesses to keep remote agents connected, engaged, and continuously tuned in to company culture. In addition, many companies are also leveraging intelligent automation’s monitoring and real-time processing capabilities to identify pockets of available time for remote audits via the agent’s web cam.

Through real-time monitoring of caller and agent actions, this capability reinforces remote agent security through its ability to detect unauthorized access to company systems and to ensure that agents are complying with their agreements to maintain a professional work environment even while working at home (e.g., a quiet room with no background noise from barking dogs or crying babies, etc.).

Intelligent automation technology backed by proven use cases can detect real-time and trending fluctuations in call volumes and agent activity, including idle time and excess time in after-call work state. Offline task delivery capabilities can also ensure that remote agent audits are conducted with the required frequency, and attendance status monitoring can detect unauthorized logins and instantly alert supervisors.

Data Security Here, There, and Everywhere

It’s clear that remote work is here to stay for many agents. Hybrid models are also likely to become permanent. The priority for centers moving forward with either partially or wholly remote workforces is twofold: to maintain the high pre-pandemic level of customer service, and to put in place the tools necessary to secure company and customer data now being shared outside company walls.

Intelligent automation is the solution that solves both sides of the challenge. As before, it will continue to boost operational efficiency and agent engagement, underpinning a contact center’s ability to consistently deliver world-class customer experiences. At the same time, the location-agnostic aspect of this technology will also ensure the security of sensitive data no matter where it’s exchanged.  

Kevin Jolliffe is senior vice president, North America, at Intradiem. Jolliffe has more than 20 years of global executive operational experience specializing in workforce planning, outsourcing, remote agent models, and contact center technology. He’s an industry thought leader and innovator who challenges traditional thinking to shape the future of intelligent automation and improve the customer service industry. To learn more, visit https://go.intradiem.com/home_security-and-compliance_mfg.

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