There’s no question that companies need to be able to quickly answer customer support requests. One study from HubSpot showed that 90% of customers rated an immediate response (where “immediate” is defined as less than ten minutes) as important or very important.

Live chat is a strong tool for meeting these high expectations as it allows employees to easily monitor and engage customers with just a few clicks. Moreover, live chat provides employees with all the data they need to deliver a faster, more thoughtful and personalized experience.

However, to fully take advantage of live chat, customer-oriented businesses need to consider the emerging emphasis on privacy and security online. With customers around the world becoming more aware of how their personal data is used, focusing on online safety is a must.

According to the Pew Research Center, 81% of Americans say the risks associated with data collection outweigh the benefits. Trust is key to building customer loyalty, and companies’ success depends on delivering a customer experience that is efficient and secure.

Fortunately, customer-facing organizations can leverage live chat for this purpose. In this article, I’ll explore how to achieve the balance between live chat security and privacy.

The difference between live chat security and privacy

It is important that companies understand the difference between security and privacy. Though these buzzwords are often used interchangeably, they refer to different ways of handling data. While privacy is a customers’ right to control their information, security describes how that information is protected from potential breaches and with whom it is shared. In the search for a live chat provider, businesses should note this distinction.

Not all customer service software solutions maintain the same compliance standards when it comes to security and privacy. On top of considering product performance when evaluating a live chat solution, businesses should be aware of potential vendors’ protocols and certifications.

For example, a live chat tool may be private, meaning the vendor doesn’t share data with third parties. However, the live chat might not be secure, because it’s vulnerable to cyberattacks. The optimal chat solution prioritizes both security and privacy for the safest customer experience.

Meeting local security standards

When researching providers, companies should consider the privacy regulations in their location, as they vary geographically and are constantly evolving. For instance, in the U.S. there is a wave of comprehensive privacy laws with the purpose of empowering consumers to protect their privacy and require companies to be responsible custodians of data. Similarly, in Canada, the PIPEDA fair information principles give individuals control over how their personal information is handled by businesses.

Beyond privacy regulations, companies should be aware of vendors’ separate security standards. Commitment to stringent standards signals that a vendor has expertise when it comes to security. One to look for is SOC2 Type II compliance, a certification that means a vendor implements the most comprehensive security procedures to ensure customer data remains confidential.

an image showing a person analysing live chat privacy

Some best practices to require of your vendor are two-factor authentication for customer identity:

1. chat encryption

2. use of tier 1 data centres to store data safely away from unauthorized parties

In addition, companies need to be aware of policies within their specific industry. If you’re a healthcare provider, for example, your live chat needs to be HIPAA compliant so that all electronic personal health information (ePHI) is kept secure during and after the conversation.

Protecting personal data with these live chat policies

Once a company chooses the best live chat vendor for their needs, it’s crucial that they establish internal policies to protect personal data in every communication.

  • Keep customers informed. Customers are not always aware of the best data safety protocols. They may willingly share sensitive information such as personally identifiable information (PII) over live chat, not realizing this could be a security risk. This puts the company and the customer in a compromised position. To avoid this, keep customers informed of important safety and privacy protocols from the start. Make it clear that they should only share sensitive information through secure forms in the chat rather than the chat itself so the information does not get stored in the company’s database. Being proactive with these best practices will increase trust with customers and prevent any mishaps.
  • Implement credit card and PII masking. If a customer does overshare sensitive information, masking capabilities protect companies from liability. The ideal live chat system will recognize that a credit card number has been entered into the chat and automatically mask the digits to keep them private. This allows secure payment processing that meet industry standards or PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliancy. Further, the chat platform should also conceal other types of sensitive information like social security numbers.
  • Require certain employee restrictions. As employees continue to work remotely, companies need to implement security robust infrastructure. Mandating complex passwords is one line of defense against hackers. When employees set up their live chat accounts, require passwords to meet rules for number and type of characters. Additionally, require IP restrictions so that employees can only access the chat on their corporate device, limiting the number of access points and potential breaches.
  • Properly train employees. Of course, all of this information should be shared with employees regularly to keep them informed of company expectations and what meeting those looks like. The best live chat technology is only as valuable as the employees who know how to use it to its fullest. Invest the time into educating employees to ensure they don’t jeopardize company data and are making the most of the live chat tool.

Live chat security is a partnership

Many factors must be considered when choosing a live chat vendor, from product performance to security and privacy. In the end, the vendor and the client join in a partnership to create positive customer experiences. Together, they can ensure customer data is safely communicated and stored while providing exceptional service.

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