Today’s customers want to get in touch with businesses fast, and live chat is a strong tool for meeting that expectation. Not only does live chat let agents monitor and engage website and app visitors with ease, but it also allows them to obtain crucial information like order details and shopping pain points that agents can then use to deliver a more thoughtful and personalized customer experience.
However, customers around the world are also becoming more aware of—and more concerned about—how their personal data is used online, with one data breach or misuse of their information enough to ruin their relationship with a brand. According to the Pew Research Center, an overwhelming 81% of Americans say that the potential risks they face because of data collection by companies outweigh the benefits. Consumers will not be loyal to brands they can’t trust, which means modern businesses’ success depends on delivering a customer experience that’s as secure as it is seamless.
So how can your company be sure its live chat solution isn’t putting customers’ information in harm’s way—and losing their business by consequence? Here’s how to navigate the balance between security and exceptional customer experience.
Make Sure Your Live Chat Provider Adheres to Security and Privacy Regulations
As live chat grows in popularity, businesses have more vendors to choose from. However, not all SaaS solutions are created the same—nor do they hold themselves to the same compliance standards. Product performance is important, but before you pick just any live chat provider, you’ll need to do your research into each one’s security and privacy certifications so that you’re not leaving you or your customers vulnerable to any threats.
It’s important as you’re shopping solutions that you first understand the differences between security and privacy. These buzzwords are often used interchangeably in conversations around data collection, but they refer to different ways a business could possibly handle data. Privacy is a customer’s right to have control over their personal information and how it’s used, whereas security refers to how that personal information is then protected from unauthorized sources by the organization they shared it with.
A live chat tool may be private, meaning it won’t actively exchange user data with outside parties, but not secure—meaning hackers have openings to breach the system and take that data anyway. The ideal solution will prioritize both security and privacy so that there are no openings for unwanted or even malicious activity to occur.
The ideal solution will prioritize both security and privacy so that there are no openings for unwanted or even malicious activity to occur.
Privacy standards tend to vary geographically, so confirm the regulations for your unique area. For example, California introduced the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in 2020, requiring companies doing business within the state to grant residents greater privacy rights and consumer protection.
Security standards are entirely separate. Look for a solution that’s committed to stringent security standards, such as one that is SOC2 Type II compliant. This certification signifies that the vendor implements the most comprehensive security procedures to ensure the integrity, confidentiality and privacy of customers’ data. Vendors achieve this level of security through encrypting data as it’s entered into the chat (as well as into forums like post-chat surveys or the website’s browser), two-factor authentication to confirm customers’ identities, and tier 1 data centers to ensure data is then stored out of reach from unauthorized parties. If you’re a healthcare provider, it’s also essential your live chat solution is HIPAA compliant. A HIPAA-compliant platform will encrypt all live chat data to ensure that all electronic personal health information (ePHI) is kept secure during and after the conversation.
Advise Agents on How to Operate Securely
As remote work becomes more attractive as a long-term way of work, companies need a security infrastructure in place that does not undercut business integrity and momentum. But how can organizations extend the compliance protocols they’ve established in the office to their agents working at home?
- Prioritize security and privacy trainings. Investing in technology that meets heightened security expectations is only half the puzzle—IT leaders also need to take time to educate employees on how to use that technology correctly and compliantly. Even if you employ the most trustworthy, reliable workers, you should still take measures to ensure they don’t jeopardize company data. Operating securely starts with adequate employee training on the regulations the company—and therefore its agents—need to adhere to, and what meeting those regulations looks like in action.
- Mandate complex passwords. Passwords are an often-overlooked aspect of data security, and yet they are a crucial line of defense against attackers. When agents set up accounts through the live chat software, require them to meet complexity requirements for passwords, such as rules for the numbers of characters and character type requirements.
- Restrict IP access to devices. IP restrictions will give only corporate devices access to the agent console, blocking hackers from getting into your company’s databases from their own devices. Limiting the number of IPs also allows management to set up connected audit logs, which hold agents accountable for all actions performed within the application.
Don’t Forget Safeguards on the Customer Side
Today’s customers are worried about security and won’t engage with companies they aren’t confident will safely handle their personal data. That being said, customers also aren’t always sure of the best data safety protocols themselves, or how to identify a non-secure live chat platform when they come across one. As a result, some customers may unhesitatingly share sensitive information such as personally identifiable information (PII) or credit card details via live chat, not realizing that they are creating a security risk. This oversharing can place the company in a compromised position because the agent might not be authorized to handle sensitive information, and the transcript or recording of the conversation might not automatically be stored in a secure location.
To avoid any missteps, make a habit of the following best practices.
Implement credit card and PII masking
A live chat system with masking capabilities protects companies from liability for this oversharing. If you’re processing payments online, see that your live chat meets the payment industry’s standard—PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliancy—for securely handling branded credit cards from the major card companies (e.g., Discover and Visa). By recognizing that a credit card number has been entered into the chat, the system can automatically mask the digits to keep them private. More than credit card numbers, though, you’ll want a platform that recognizes and conceals other types of sensitive information, like a social security number, to ensure that you are not exposing customers’ data at any point.
Make your company’s safety and privacy protocols clear from the start
To avoid customer oversharing in the first place, make it clear to customers that they should only enter sensitive information through secure forms in the chat window versus in the chat itself. This way, the information isn’t stored in your organization’s database and agents can only access it through the visitor’s session. Being proactively explicit in how your organization handles data not only prevents any mishaps from occurring, but it also puts customers at ease that your business is a trustworthy one.
Choose Your Solution Wisely
Live chat makes it much easier for businesses to create a good customer experience. However, before you rush to adopt a solution, make sure you’re confident in its commitment to security and privacy. The consequences of a cyberattack can be resounding; beyond harming your business when it happens, it can break your customers’ trust and keep them from doing business with you in the future. Customers will soon forget how impressively your live chat platform performed for them if they learn it then exposed them and their personal data to malicious players—so choose your solution wisely.