The Harsh new Rules of Customer Service

May 1, 20198min

Happy customers are returning customers; they are the ones that will leave positive reviews on social media websites and lift a company’s reputation.

There is no doubt about it, King Customer is ruling the roost and needs to be courted. But the game has changed – it’s 2019 and customers are aware of their privacy rights, newly reinforced by GDPR, and also of the ever-growing danger posed by hackers. Let’s look at the most important factors that have changed the face of customer service forever.

Word on the virtual-street

Brands need to understand that today’s consumers can exert an unprecedented amount of power by voicing their opinions and (dis)satisfaction via numerous communication channels. From email and phone to social media and live chat, customer engagement is at an all-time high.

However, the challenges have also increased. Complaints and less favourable reviews on sites like Trustpilot and Facebook can spell big trouble for businesses. An unhappy customer who might once have complained to the customer service desk can now tell the whole of the internet about it, and as H&M, Pret a Manger, and SnapChat can testify, negative publicity can have a terrible effect on reputation, which frequently translates to a downward direction for revenue and share prices.

It’s personal

Another sure-fire way to tarnish brand reputation is by mismanaging customers’ personal information. In 2017, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data were created each day, and the pace is only accelerating – by 2025 worldwide data is expected to grow 61% to 175 zettabytes. The potential of ‘big data’ to improve our lives by identifying health trends, predicting our lifespans, and selling us things we want to buy, is undeniable.

Considering this, it is no surprise that businesses are holding more data on their customers before. In fact, customer information is the backbone of a range of business processes. However, we need to consider why we are keeping all this data – for marketing? Or just in case? While these might have been acceptable reasons previously, under the rules of the GDPR, they no longer are.

Regulating the service

Regulations offer a great deal of protection to brands as they eliminate any ‘grey areas’. 2018 was a big year for privacy with the EU GDPR coming into force and over in the United States, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA ) was signed to come into effect in 2020. There is a lot to think about for companies taking card payments already, especially in terms of Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance. For those in the financial services sector, additional regulations by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) come into play.

Protecting customers

The 2018 Cyber Security Breaches Survey found that 43% of UK businesses were a victim of a cybersecurity breach in the last 12 months, while Action Fraud reported that victims of cyber fraud lost £34.6 million between April and September 2018, an increase of 24 percent compared with the previous six months. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for a business to ramp up their cyber security to be a match for the modern fraudster. Otherwise, their customers might fall victim to so-called ‘carding’ – the theft and resale of credit and debit cards.

One report revealed that Russian hackers were offering a six-week programme for $945, teaching aspiring cybercriminals how to find legitimate credit card data for sale and hacking into PayPal accounts. The damage caused to consumers by having their credit card details stolen was £4.6bn from British internet users and  £130bn worldwide, and we don’t need to guess what that does for the customer satisfaction rating.

But it doesn’t have to get this far – businesses can take a variety of steps to avoid a data breach, including self-contained native apps to increase purchase safety, endpoint protection, anti-spyware, and antivirus software. Artificial intelligence is also bad news for cybercriminals and is getting more sophisticated all the time. AI solutions can monitor and respond to cyber-attacks in real time, enabling IT security professionals to detect threats they couldn’t before and improving their overall effectiveness.

Smiling was yesterday

While smiling is still part of the job, it is no longer enough to keep demanding customers happy. Instead, 21st Century customer service is about taking responsibility for the safety of valuable customer data. Businesses have to acknowledge that today’s customers are aware of their privacy rights, therefore data collection and storage transparency are vital to build and maintain brand loyalty. Thanks to regulations, clear responsibilities are assigned to companies, enabling them to meet customer’s demand for privacy and protection. 


Gary E. Barnett

Gary E. Barnett

Gary E. Barnett is the CEO of Semafone.

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