Guest post by Cassie Phillips, SecureThoughts.com
There’s absolutely nothing worse than losing customer trust. Once your business is viewed as untrustworthy or insecure, you might find it very difficult to bring in new people. In a world where virtually everything ultimately amounts to data, having customers who aren’t willing to share theirs with you can be utterly crippling.
But why do customers come to that decision? What exactly is it that makes them decide you’re not worth sharing information with versus the competition? There are surely many different reasons, but here are a few for you to take into consideration when making choices that dictate how your business operates.
- Selling Customer Data
While the practice is widespread and makes some companies, such as Google, a lot of money, it still isn’t appreciated by most customers. Unless you’re offering a service that people absolutely can’t do without, selling data can land you in a heap of trouble. It’s a fast way to kill trust, as it shows you only value customers for what they’re worth in dollars.
If you absolutely must sell information about your customers, make sure they know about it before you do. Ensure some form of license agreement, contract or other form of document is displayed for them to agree with before using your services. Mortgage lenders trade their customers regularly, but they make absolutely certain you know about it before striking a deal with them.
- Poor Security
When a company experiences a data breach, it doesn’t just lose time and money recovering that information. It loses public trust. When Sony was hacked, my account was on the compromised list, and I certainly wasn’t happy about it. They ended up having to offer free products to customers as a result of a lawsuit, but their biggest loss was in customers who refused to use their services again.
To avoid problems with security, make sure your employees and systems are up to date on the latest threats. Employees with access to internal systems could be a serious threat to your business if they aren’t educated properly on dealing with phishing emails and scams that can steal their login credentials.
Security software should be installed on any device that is associated with your company in any way. That means keeping anti-virus software updated and registered on everyone’s PC, phone and tablet. If you’re a larger business, you’ll want paid services, but smaller businesses can get by on free licenses.
Should your business rely heavily on the Internet, consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your connection. VPNs connect to remove servers and change your IP address so that websites and snoops identify the VPN rather than your device. The encryption prevents information from being stolen and used.
Company passwords should be changed regularly and checked for strength. Strong passwords will contain at least eight characters with some combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers.
- Bad Customer Service
There are certain companies that are almost legendary for their poor customer service. Whether that means never getting past a machine on the phone or getting stuck with someone who exclusively reads a script online, frustrating encounters can leave customers with a poor taste for your company.
Always be certain that your customer care is taking the time to help customers in need. Sometimes the cost may be a bit higher, but it really pays to have service available most of the day and with people who can speak clearly. It helps to hire native speakers for the languages your company supports, as they will have the easiest time addressing problems.
While subcontracting claims and support can seem tempting, avoid the urge to take the easy way out. Handling things internally can offer a much more consistent experience for your customers, and it will be considerably easier to fix problems if they are with your own employees.
There are times when you’ll need your customer’s information for purely business reasons. That may mean running credit cards, performing credit checks, shipping items or even for government requirements. Regardless of the reason, if the purpose isn’t properly explained to the customer, they may feel you’re reaching a bit too deep.
In the same way it seems strange to see apps ask for unnecessary permissions, the same is true for your business. When customers don’t understand why you need their data, they may be apt to turn you away. You’ll need to be able to properly articulate what you’re using their information for should you be asked. Never leave room for an answer such as “we can’t say” or “we don’t know.” Those answers are huge turnoffs for savvy customers.
Consider your target audience as well. Using legal jargon won’t help send your message clearly to regular people, nor will using any form of internal company lingo. Keep your answers simple and try to better understand the type of knowledge your customers will have. They probably already checked if their cable box was plugged in.
- Unprofessional Home Page
First impressions are everything. Because of technology, many customers will be looking at your business through your website or social media accounts. Even if they’ve seen an ad on TV or heard about your company by word of mouth, they’re still likely to first visit one of your pages before buying anything.
A huge sin here is having a home page that depicts your business in an unprofessional way. Having too many ads or popups, for instance, is an immediate sign of a low class business. Most users understand websites will have ads, but there is definitely a point of “too much.” Links that go to irrelevant pages and publicly visible comments that are disparaging can also make customers leave before they even have a chance to establish a relationship.
Aim for a professional presentation that captures the character of your company. When someone visits your page, they should know what you’re about almost immediately. A confusing layout can end the magic before you have a chance to close the deal.
All of these things culminate in establishing your company’s reputation with the public. If potential customers believe your business is untrustworthy, you can be sure they will look for someone else to give their data and money to. Questionable looking websites and dubious looking transactions will make some people turn and run.
Be honest with your customers as much as possible. They don’t need to know the intimate inner workings of your company, but if you get caught fibbing about something, such as their credit card information, it could land your business in a lawsuit. Use data for honest purposes, and only trade that information if you’ve received explicit consent.
Do you have any tips to share about customer data? What exactly do you think makes a client feel comfortable surrendering their valuable information? Tell us a little about it below.
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