Securing Your Communications Data

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Securing Your Communications Data

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Today’s marketing challenge: you must include sensitive customer data to be relevant without ever compromising the data – a serious undertaking. At a time when ever more value is migrating online, business communication strategies are requiring more open and interconnected technology environments with their marketing partners. This means all that sensitive client data is being passed among several marketing providers in order to create, produce and distribute your messages through multiple channels. As communications become more personalized, so grows the danger of having customer information fall into the wrong hands through a data breach.

To have the most value, a company’s messages must contain the right amount of relevant, personalized information. If you don’t keep your customers informed on happenings, offers and updates as they relate to their individual accounts, they’re likely to move elsewhere (via other company’s marketing messages). If your message is full of extra information that is not important to the recipient, you’re missing the mark. You’re throwing money away. You have to be relevant.

Information sharing is at an all time high: from the amount of information being shared on a daily basis; to the speed at which that data is passed from source to source; as well as the amount of sensitive information contained within. To compete, your message must be fast and accurate  and personalized to get through overcrowded markets where differentiation is difficult. Oh, and you’d better deliver those messages via multiple electronic channels, giving consumers a choice of document receipt method that suits their preference. What does all this add up to? You are more likely than ever before to have a data security breach when working with under-qualified marketing providers such as agencies, printers, email provider, and mail houses.

The common perception for a data security breach is a cyber attack – a professional hacker breaking into a database and stealing sensitive information. However, data breaches occur in ways that would seem harmless but in reality can cause great damage (and significant monetary fines). It is crucial that companies continually practice strict adherence to and keep pace with the challenging and ever-changing regulatory compliance.  With that in mind, here are 5 best practices to consider that every office should follow when dealing with sensitive customer information in their customer communications management.

1. Define sensitive data: The various categories such as HIPAA , PHI, PCI, and PII, pretty much wrap this one up, however it’s important for everyone in your office to understand how to handle different pieces of customer information and always be mindful of their surroundings when dealing with sensitive information.
 
2. Define the risk. As with most investments and business decisions, you will calculate the risk and the reward. The reward for being able to use sensitive data in your communications is loyal, happy customers and the ability to defend against your competition. The risks can be severe. According to the Ponemon Institute’s latest study, the average organizational cost of a data breach was $5.5 million.

3. Make the security investment. Every business needs to save money for long-term sustainability. But when it comes to your ability to retain and attract customers, don’t go cheap. Think big! Investing in an industrial-strength marketing infrastructure will save you money (e.g. open information technology, encryption, secured ftp, document automation systems, and composition software/workflow in service oriented architecture). Such programs allow you securely pass highly-sensitive data to generate the same personalized message through multiple channels such as print, email, or online presentment – thus leveraging your investment. Here’s 6 more ways to be cost effective in your customer communications.

4. Do the homework to find a ‘secured’ partner. Companies face significant challenges to implementing these sophisticated requirements while trying to lower their costs. Market leading companies regularly outsource their customer communications management to providers that have implemented proven techniques, processes, and information technology to design, manage and optimize the entire end-to-end process. However, many existing marketing providers say they can handle highly sensitive communications even though they haven’t made the required significant investments. Do careful due diligence. It’s your reputation. 

5. Test, test, test. Whatever system, program or marketing partner you use. Make sure to test thoroughly using security questionnaires and checklists, certified data security professionals, and formal audits performed by third party auditors. With such significant risks (and rewards) on the line, a single data security breach could be catastrophic – not only to your bottom line but your brand as well.

Nothing is more important than keeping your customer data safe and secure. By making sure your employees are following best practices in general, you can lower your risk of incurring a data breach. Here are a few more practices that every office should follow.

Secure all customer information. This doesn’t mean locking it up in a “secure” room. Performing routine tasks such as talking on the phone when others might be able hear or exchanging emails on an unprotected server and without encryption can open your customer information to being compromised. Being mindful of what you are you doing when dealing with customer information will go a long way towards keeping it safe.
 
Dispose wisely. One of the most common ways that people have their identities stolen is by someone digging out an old statement out of the garbage. If there is ever any doubt, be safe and shred it.

Give information on a need to know basis. The more people who are aware of sensitive customer information the higher the probability is that a data breach could take place. Laptops get stolen, emails get hacked and cell phones get lost; the fewer the number of people who handle sensitive information, the lower your chances for disaster.
 
“Password” is not a password: Passwords are becoming weaker as computers and software get faster. Did you know that with free downloadable software anyone can crack a 6-character password in 30 minutes!  Set rules about password construction and make sure they’re disabled after five failed attempts to thwart brute force cracking attempts. 

 

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