More and more information today is stored online and in company computers. Not only does this make it easier for customers to place orders and keep track of their transactions, but it also makes it easier for companies to serve customers and to manage orders.
The downside, however, is that these advancements also put customer data at risk. You need only look at headlines over the past year to find several major data breaches in which either the identifying details of customers were released, such as their names and email addresses, or their credit card numbers were hacked.
Whether you’re a small operation or a multinational conglomerate, the reputation and success of your business relies on your ability to keep your customers’ data safe. Just one breach is enough to shake their trust and cause them to take their business elsewhere. Here are a few things you can do to ensure the security of your data:
Find the Right CRM Software
To start, you’ll need customer relations management software that can not only meet your needs in serving your customers but that also has built-in security measures. Your CRM software tracks a fair amount of customer data, including names and contact details. While this data might not lead to identity theft, it is still valuable for spammers who want to sell their own products. A breach of this data could cause a major hassle for your customers.
Make sure you compare CRM software packages to find the software with the right security and the right customer service solutions. You may not even know what you need until you have a better understanding of what’s out there.
Restrict Access to Data
Not everyone in your company needs to have access to all the customer data you have, yet many companies have an open-door policy when it comes to employee access. Unfortunately, this means that many low-level employees have access to sensitive customer data. These are employees who may not have been screened as carefully or who may not have received proper training on handling sensitive data, and that puts customer information at risk.
It is better to limit access to only those employees who need to work with customer data, and then to limit their access only to the specific data they need.
Make Everyone Responsible for Protecting Data
Many companies limit responsibility for data security to their IT team. However, all employees who handle that data should be responsible for its security. Everyone should be trained on how to protect it and how to operate responsibly within the system and online. And everyone should be considered accountable if a breach occurs.
It was reported by Vice.com that 2013 was the worst year for data breaches. Since then, not only big businesses and brands have been careful about how data is being managed, but now customers and everyday people are now more cautious and when and where their data is being used as well.
Working on data from the Open Security Foundation and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the OTA estimated that over 740 million online records were exposed in 2013, the worst year for data breaches in history.
Don’t Store Sensitive Data
You really have no need to store sensitive data like credit card numbers or social security numbers. Storing this information just makes it vulnerable to theft, and the results could be devastating if it ends up in the wrong hands. Make sure your payment and CRM software periodically expunge any sensitive information they store.
Even while keeping your data sensitive at one location, there is still no telling where it might end up down the road. For example, what happens when a business collects your data, then it’s sold to another brand? This is a scenario that was recently discussed on AdAge about A&P and how their business and customer data is being acquired.
Stay Current on Encryption Practices
Staying ahead of hackers is like a game of whack-a-mole. As soon as you come up with a new way to protect your data, they find a way to exploit it and get what they need. That’s why you need to always stay up-to-date with current encryption practices. You can’t rely on your current protection measures forever because hackers will find a way in. The only thing you can do is keep adding layers of protection as new techniques become available.
Ban Use of Employee Devices
Some companies allow employees to use their own laptops or smartphones to access the company network or software. However, this is a big mistake. Employee devices could have all kinds of malware or spyware that can then infect your own network and compromise your data. Create a strict policy prohibiting the use of employee devices to do company business.
Of course, you should also create strict requirements for strong passwords and for regularly changing passwords to create a stronger defense against hackers. Using all these strategies together, you should have a nearly iron-clad defense against data theft, while also keeping your customer’s trust and their data safe. Consult with a data security professional to find specific ways to protect your system.