Customers and clients aren’t just looking for a stellar service when connecting with your business. They want to know that, every step of the way, their information is protected and that you have the tools to address their privacy concerns. More than that, they want the assurance that should things go south, your business has a plan in place to minimize the fallout.
Following a strict customer information security policy and building a solid strategy for dealing with privacy threats is crucial for maintaining customer trust and a long-lasting relationship on either side of a deal or transaction. Take a look below at some helpful tips and key concerns to tackle when constructing information security safeguards for your business.
Proper Document Disposal
Simply crumpling up and tossing away documents containing customer information is almost the same as handing a data thief the papers yourself. Always use disposal options and tools that either totally destroy the document, deconstruct it, or block out vital information.
A paper shredder is a common disposal tool that should be used to dispose of documents like financial statements, purchase order copies, and paper copies of email correspondence. You may also outsource this task by taking any documents with sensitive customer information to a document shredding location, such as a bank or UPS store. A professional paper shredding service is another great disposal option for companies with a large number of important documents to get rid of.
Consider using identity protection tools in the workplace to further promote an environment that’s conscious of customer information security. A trash can shredder allows employees to quickly destroy necessary documents at their desks, reducing privacy slip-ups and encouraging thoughtful, consistent document disposal.
Best Data Protection Practices
You need to implement proper data protection practices throughout your business to serve your clients well — and then communicate with them about it. Clients value transparency, and allowing them the discretion of choosing which data to share and letting them know exactly how the data will be used is an easy way to quell any looming privacy concerns.
This also means keeping employees abreast of what data is being collected by your company so they can address customer concerns and bolster information protection standards in your business. Routinely update both employees and customers of your intention to update or reduce data collection efforts.
Data encryption and proper data storage is an unmissable security step for all businesses. Sensitive data should be regularly backed up to a secure digital location and protected with 256-key bit length encryption to shield important information from hackers and scammers.
Another easy, ethical method for upholding data security is by requesting only the data you need from your customers. Often, businesses will ask for much more data than necessary, which can reduce client confidence and trust. Instead, only ask for the data points you need to provide an efficient service.
Here are a few more essential data protection practices to consider:
- Use multi-factor authentication.
- Offer easily digestible user agreement infographics.
- Be transparent about data protection audits and security risk assessments.
- Have a clear disaster recovery plan in place.
- Implement interactive, monthly cybersecurity training.
Though businesses can take steps to assure customers that all privacy concerns will be addressed properly, there are also laws in place to ensure this happens. The Gramm-Leach-Blilely Act (GLBA), passed in 1999, requires financial institutions to give clients information about how the data that customers provide is used. This law has three essential rules to follow: the Financial Privacy Rule, the Safeguards Rule, and the Pretexting Provisions. Here are some key parts of these tenets to keep in mind:
- Safeguard Rule: Have security officers in place to manage and conduct risk assessments and security policies.
- Pretexting Provisions: Offer multi-factor authentication for all parties and make sure all employees undergo sufficient security training.
Even if your business isn’t in the financial sector, this guidance can help inform your internal best practices (and if your business is in the financial sector, you’ll need to follow these rules to stay compliant. You’ll want to build out a GLBA compliance checklist to ensure that your organization adheres to all of these rules when handling sensitive customer information. Items on the checklist should include regular employee training and the creation of response plans to deal with any data breaches that occur.
By keeping things simple, sharing data protection methods with clients, and providing easily digestible information protection modules for employees, you can greatly reduce any potential for negative impacts that customer information threats pose to your business.
Identity Theft Prevention
One of the main concerns clients have when handing over their personal information is the risk of identity theft. Because your customers are taking steps to prevent identity theft, your business needs to do the same. You can pay attention to what your customers are doing to stay safe — including only visiting known websites, being cautious about opening emails from unfamiliar sources, and not sharing too much information or data online — and try to follow similar best practices. You and your employees also need to be on the lookout for phishing and pharming scams, as well as other kinds of cyberattacks.
Further, give clients gentle reminders to report suspicious activity they may notice, such as unfamiliar bank account charges, a rapidly decreasing credit score, or calls from debt collectors about accounts they’ve never heard of. Encourage them to be wary of the information they share with websites.
Though these warnings can make many businesses feel like they are instilling fear in their clients’ heads, they show your customers that you genuinely care and are interested in protecting their information as much as you can. Doing so may even help you maintain a stronger, longer-term relationship with your customers.
By Indiana Lee, BOSS contributor