Many businesses use customer information and data to make important decisions about inventory, staff, product development, and the future of the company. This data is crucial and a valuable asset to the business.

Just like any other valuable asset, customer information is at risk for theft and should be kept protected and secure. Businesses risk their reputation and livelihood if they aren’t careful about preventing customer information leaks and protecting data.

What Is reputation management?

Your company’s reputation is how your brand is perceived by the public. The way you handle customer service, the quality of your products, how you interact with your customers, and other factors contribute to your company’s reputation. You and your employees are responsible for reputation management and ensuring your company is seen as reputable in the eyes of the consumer.

One sure-fire way to ruin your company’s reputation is if your customer information is breached and stolen. Customer information theft has become common for both large and small businesses so consumers are hyper-aware of the potential of a breach. If your business experiences a customer information breach, consumers may lose trust quickly and your reputation could quickly decline.

The value of consumer trust

Consumer trust is invaluable to your company’s reputation, growth, and profitability. Consumers trust your company to handle their data with care and most customers assume you have the best cybersecurity practices in place to ensure their private information is safe. If your customer information is stolen, this trust in your business is instantly broken.

Whether the data breach only compromises your customers’ names and addresses or your customers’ sensitive payment information was compromised, you’re bound to lose the trust of consumers in your brand after a breach. In most cases, you’ll deal with the repercussions of this loss of trust for a long time and you’ll need to work diligently to build it back up.

However, in some cases, this loss of consumer trust in your brand is permanent. No matter how hard you work to build this trust again, the repercussions of stolen customer information may be too great and your company may never experience the solid trust it had with consumers in the past.

Data breaches and cybersecurity

A data breach is one of the biggest cybersecurity threats to your business if you store customer data in any capacity. When a data breach occurs, information, or data that your company stores is accessed and stolen by an unauthorized party. Data breaches can occur at different scales. For example, a data breach may only involve a handful of customers and the unauthorized user may have only stolen these customers’ names and phone numbers.

On a larger scale, an unauthorized user may have gained access to your entire database, stealing all your customers’ information, payment methods you have on file, and Social Security numbers.

How do data breaches happen?

Attackers know that businesses store personal and confidential customer data, so they’re more vulnerable to breaches. There are many ways an unauthorized user can gain access to a business’s customer data, including the following:

  • Social media: Malware and phishing attacks are often deployed through social media platforms. If you unknowingly click on a link or download a suspicious file, you’ll allow an attacker into your database.
  • Cloud storage: If you store data on a cloud that’s not properly protected with the integrated cybersecurity measures, an attacker may gain access and steal the data you’re storing.
  • Outdated backup system: An online backup system with security is crucial to the safety of your customer data. If you’re using an outdated system without security features, an attacker can gain access to this information.
  • Lax security measures: Using simple passwords or not updating your passwords may be the way an attacker gains access to customer data. It’s important to use authentication protocols and strong passwords for your database to ensure unauthorized users can’t get in.

How to prevent data breaches

To prevent data breaches, you’ll need to invest in the security of your customer’s information and your business’s data. There are several strategies you can implement to prevent data breaches, including the following:

  • Utilize a managed services provider (MSP): With robust MSP software, you can scale your data collection to new heights while maintaining security. Your data is stored safely and remotely, yet you have access to it when needed. With the latest MSP software, your customers will feel comfortable providing their information and you’ll know it’s safe yet easily accessible.
  • Use authentication: Your database should be equipped with as many security features as possible. If you can use authentication processes, set them up to ensure only authorized users have access to customer information.
  • Implement remote monitoring and management (RMM) software: RMM software essentially spies on your database at all times. You’ll know when a new user has signed in and you have remote access to manage your customer information. Software updates are automatically handled so you know your data is protected by the latest technologies.
  • Change passwords frequently: Encourage all database users to employ the best password practices and to change these passwords frequently.

Examples of data breaches

Since it affects a multitude of consumers, the media spotlights large companies when they experience data breaches. Capital One has experienced data breaches periodically. One breach in 2019 compromised tens of millions of credit card applications, which included Social Security numbers and bank account information.

The company spent over $600 million in 2018 on security to try and stop these breaches. While Capital One was quick to notify customers of the potential breach and offer credit monitoring services, it may impact their reputation for years to come.

Marriott International exposed 5.2 million customers in a data breach in 2019. Former employees accessed the customer database. Guest information, including names and birthdates, were vulnerable to the attack. While personal information, such as credit card numbers and Social Security numbers, weren’t exposed, the company was still under fire for its lack of security. It emailed affected customers immediately and offered free credit monitoring services.

About 73% of customers claim that transparency is a more important issue than price when choosing a company to do business with. Your customers want to trust you and know that you’re implementing strict cybersecurity practices when dealing with their sensitive information. By ensuring your customer information is safe and preventing data breaches, you can manage your reputation and remain transparent with your customers.

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