A network of third-party vendors is essential to the success of a business in today’s global economy. Unfortunately, when organizations overlook the security of the vendors they use, customer data becomes vulnerable—at a time when data breaches are rising and consumer trust is at an all-time low.  

A data breach at a third-party vendor can have the same impact on an organization as a direct attack. For this reason, businesses must have a thorough process that not only eliminates non-compliant vendors, but also finds the best possible fit for the organization’s needs and the security of their customer’s data.  

86% of consumers have a growing concern about data privacy, with 40% of those same consumers say they don’t trust companies to use their data ethically. With such underlying consumer apprehension, it’s more important than ever for companies and third-party vendors to emphasize their data protection to maintain customer loyalty.  

With the right approach—guided by these four tips—finding and keeping a third-party vendor can be equally beneficial for all parties involved.  

Properly vet vendors’ qualifications

In the same way a company would approach hiring for an internal position, it’s important to vet third-party vendors just as thoroughly. Essentially, a vendor is an extension of an organization and should be treated as such to ensure they are a worthy representative of the company.  

Additionally to screening a potential vendor to determine if it shares and practices the same high standards as the company hiring it, businesses should conduct research into the vendor’s security certifications and compliance standards to ensure an equal prioritization of customer privacy. 

Customer data often contains sensitive or personally identifiable information: including a customer’s full name; date of birth; home address; login credentials; credit card information; or similar. How companies and their third-party vendors handle this data is critically important – not just for preserving customers’ privacy but also to ensure compliance with legal security requirements. 

Make the search process cross-departmental

It’s nearly impossible to assume that an outside vendor’s function will affect only one department within a company. Thus, it’s imperative that the vetting process becomes a cross-departmental initiative. Allowing individuals in different departments to weigh in on the selection process could uncover areas of concern or non-negotiable gaps in security before contracts are signed. 

For example, a company looking to implement machine translation tools should involve decision-makers from sales, CX, IT and security to ensure all aspects of the platforms are considered. To silo the vendor selection process into fewer departments of decision-makers potentially leaves the door open for unanswered questions and errors of oversight that could cause security issues later.  

Open the lines of communication

Communication is a critical pillar of any effective business model. Fostering meaningful communication between a company and its third-party vendors is a cornerstone for maintaining a high standard for customer data privacy. Be clear and concise about expectations and standards in the early stages of vendor selection to ensure all parties are on the same page. This function also quickly signals potential partners who don’t align with a company’s vision or standards.  

Conduct cybersecurity check-ins

Once all stakeholders properly evaluate a vendor and expectations have been clearly and appropriately communicated, all parties are aligned. Everyone understands what success looks like with the monitoring of ongoing security risks and KPIs, in regard to if the partnership’s success should continue long after the partner integrates into a company’s strategic plan.  

Scheduling cybersecurity check-ins both internally and with the outside vendor should become commonplace and, frankly, be non-negotiable. A vendor that is aware, willing, and eager to be monitored proves its commitment to providing security services at a high standard. 

Sharing the responsibility of protecting data

As important as it is for a company to protect customer data, it’s equally essential for a hired vendor to invest the time, effort, and resources to be a vested partner that equally values and protects such vital information. Establishing shared goals will ensure a mutually beneficial long-lasting partnership between third-party vendors and the companies that use them.  

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