The customer communication challenge

The customer communication management industry has seen a constant evolution over the past 10 years from single-channel to multi-channel to omni-channel and now opti-channel communication. By Mike Wright, CEO, Striata

Multi-channel involves sending customers messages and documents using the channel of their choice e.g. post, landline, mobile, email or online. 

Omni-channel involves being able to service a customer across channels i.e. getting a website visit, starting an online chat, continuing over a call centre and then closing the loop by emailing  a secure document.

Today the ultimate goal in customer communication has moved towards a more granular and personal experience referred to as ‘opti-channel’ – with customers being able to state their preferences for different communication channels and then through big data and behavioral analysis, the organisation is able to send the right message at the right time through the right channel to the right customer (true one-to-one communication).

A large part of this customer service requirement is the ability to access and share a customer’s personal documents securely through whichever channel or device suits them at that time.

Banks, telcos, utilities, insurance companies and retailers have the challenge of creating an opti-channel experience for customers while still ensuring documents are protected from increasingly sophisticated security threats.  These threats exist at various points in the document lifecycle, and should be addressed to reduce the risk of a data security breach.

 Despite the risks, today’s digital age means an organisation is obligated to make these documents available to all of their customer service channels (email, web, mobile apps), and to do so, must store documents in a secure, yet accessible online vault.

 One of the most vulnerable areas is when a confidential document it is stored alongside millions of other customer documents also containing information that is valuable to a criminal. Customer registrations, insurance claims, medical history forms and account statements are all documents that for compliance reasons must be stored for multiple years. Such a document repository containing identity information, financial accounts, even healthcare information, is a tempting ‘honeypot’ target for hackers.

When considering a secure document repository solution, it is critical to make sure it provides multiple layers of protection, beyond network level security (firewalls) and database encryption. Organisations should consider implementing additional security layers that encrypt and protect each individual customer document regardless of where it happens to be – stored in a database, travelling via the Internet, open on an agent’s desktop or saved on a customer’s own computer.

Confidential documents travel via the Internet all the time, but should never be transferred ‘in the clear’. Although a single document sent by email or downloaded from a web portal is not as attractive a target for criminals as a central repository, documents should always be encrypted and password protected while in transit. This not only protects the contents from an attack, but also mitigates a human or system error in which a confidential document is sent to the wrong recipient.

Likewise, providing only encrypted and protected documents will assist consumers with safeguarding their information when it resides on their own devices. An emailed document gets stored automatically on different devices and would be vulnerable if the device was hacked, unless saved in a protected format.

Customer communication is not easy – especially within an always on, always connected world. Consumers now expect everything on a plate, in the cloud and instantly accessible. Marry this requirement with an increased data security risk and organisations have their work cut out for them. 

  • Michael Wright is the CEO of Striata, a digital communications specialist which counts Nedbank, Standard Bank, Absa and other large South African companies amongst its clients.

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