Payment Security Is the Key to Creating Positive Customer Experience

The events of the past year and half have impacted the way contact centers operate, with more work-from-home agents than ever before. Simultaneously, with physical stores and businesses closed, customers went digital and increased interactions with contact centers to fulfill payments through a range of channels, such as phone, webchat, email, and SMS.

This shift to a remote call center model, however, has ushered in a number of new challenges and considerations. Security is the top one. With contact centers in highly regulated industries like finance, insurance, and healthcare handling sensitive customer information, failure to address these potential security risks can lead to a diminished customer experience (CX) or a significant data breach. Luckily, there are solutions that can protect organizations and customers seamlessly regardless of agent location and channel, while also delivering an improved customer experience.

While remote and hybrid work models bring a level of flexibility and convenience for contact center agents, they don't come without a host of new security risks. Some of the more pressing issues facing remote service representatives include the following:

  • Data security, including the potential for improper sharing and storage of sensitive payment or credit card information and personal payment information (PII);
  • Unsecured network connections and a significant uptick in ransomware or phishing threats;
  • Increased risk of fraud likely due to unknown external factors like roommates or family members potentially overhearing conversations where sensitive information is shared or openly displayed on screens, print outs, or scribbled notes.

As it is nearly impossible to secure the home environment, this creates a potential recipe for disaster as bad actors can exploit these vulnerabilities. Additionally, with many contact center interactions involving payment transactions, achieving Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance, a mandated requirement of any merchant who takes credit card payments, becomes a challenge. With heightened risk and changes to the contact center in mind, it's time to look at how the customer experience has changed.

The correlation between payment security and a positive CX

A recent Semafone survey found that 40 percent of respondents said they're less likely to trust customer care agents with their personal information knowing the agents could be working remotely. This shows that putting customer data at risk directly impacts brand trust and credibility and, in turn, could lead to a diminished customer experience. But in today's omnichannel world, where customers expect to interact and transact on any channel they choose (whether it be phone, web chat, social media, text/SMS or QR), it's increasingly critical to secure payment capabilities across all channels.

Why? Customers don't want to start a transaction in one channel only to be transferred to another due to disjointed processes. Take, for example, customers using an interactive voice response (IVR), an automated phone system that gathers information by giving choices rather than connecting with an actual agent. When using an IVR, customers might have difficulty keying in their information and often can't troubleshoot. One wrong stroke of the keypad or inaudible word can lead to a frustrated customer trying to connect with a live agent to complete the transaction, which also carries a risk of the call being dropped. Transferring calls during a transaction like this creates a disrupted customer journey and often duplicates efforts, with the customer having to repeat information already shared.

Contact centers and merchants should do their best to stop these roadblocks from happening to begin with and keep customers within the channel of their choice. Prioritizing an omnichannel approach will allow contact centers to provide a secure, frictionless experience across all channels and avoid negative sentiment around the specific transaction.

From a security perspective, it's likely many consumers have never experienced making a secure payment over the phone. This creates real opportunities for companies and merchants to differentiate themselves by adding heightened security measures to payment transactions, and in turn delivering a new and improved experience. Enhancing and improving security also benefits merchants and sellers that accept payments through contact center interactions as it reduces the risks that come with remote transactions. If a breach does occur, aside from potential regulatory fines and costs of remediation, there can be irreversible damage to the company's reputation. A loss of trust from customers can have lasting impact on sales and profitability long after a breach. Luckily, this can be avoided with the right solutions.

How to secure remote contact centers to improve CX

To enable a frictionless customer experience while safeguarding consumers' sensitive data, contact centers need to ensure that they have the proper internal procedures and employee training in place. Looking at internal procedures, contact centers need to consider integrating solutions that enable customers to securely enter their information across any channel. These solutions should feel like a seamless, natural part of the interaction and give customers peace of mind that their security is being prioritized.

Specifically for remote and hybrid call centers, this means eliminating the chance of data entering the business or IT infrastructure in the first place. Using solutions that mask cardholder information means that sensitive data can't be seen, heard, or stored in any part of the business. With these types of solutions, contact centers can easily achieve higher levels of security and PCI DSS compliance as the information can't be stolen or leaked.

As a potential customer is likely aware that the agent with whom they are communicating could be working remotely, it gives them more certainty that their transaction is secure. These solutions also make the agent's job easier since they don't have to physically collect or enter sensitive data. Additionally, business efficiencies are achieved with key metrics improving such as first call resolution, reduced average handling time, and more.

With the right tools and systems in place, the customer experience is more secure and seamless. Customers feel better transacting with agents knowing their information is protected, and the frictionless customer experiences has a direct, positive impact on brand reputation and credibility. Additionally, agents can focus on customers by giving them full confidence in the security of their sensitive information. As the future of contact centers will most certainly have more remote agents in place, these payment security solutions are a strategic, long-term investment to secure their business and ensure an improved and seamless customer journey.

Gary Barnett is CEO of Semafone.