Here's why data security matters if contact centers go remote. (Img by Alex Kotliarsky/Unsplash)

Here’s why data security matters if contact centers go remote

Here’s why data security matters if contact centers go remote

  • With so many risk factors, contact centers must stay a step ahead of fraudsters, regardless of how many security controls they already have in place.
  • Contact centers hold a wealth of sensitive information and data breaches can pose significant security risks to your customers too.

If one were to think about contact centers two years ago, it’d typically be of a huge building where agents sit next to each other attending to customers, while being glued to a headset and a desktop. Then came the pandemic in 2020 that has led us to anticipate the future of the contact center industry, and if anything, it’s going to be remote. 

However, with the world getting accustomed to the new normal, the contact center industry has seen interesting trends while accommodating to new challenges and newer solutions. This trend is likely to continue as organizations grow more comfortable with work-from-home environments and realize the benefits of moving to all-remote contact centers, including reduced absenteeism and improved service levels.

In fact, contact centers are no strangers to remote work. According to a study by Nemertes Research, 59% of contact centers around the world let at least some of their staff work from a home office pre-Covid-19. That figure now rose to 74.1% as coronavirus lockdowns forced companies to close offices and transition into virtual contact centers. Once authorities lift these restrictions, 70.7% of businesses are likely to continue allowing agents to work from home in some capacity.

Confronting data security threats in a contact center

Undeniably, data theft is a real threat to the finance, product development, and human resource departments of large organizations. One study by IBM suggests that the average cost of a data breach is US$3.92 million, and that number is on the rise.

Also, given how a contact center contains a wealth of sensitive information including names, phone numbers, and personal identity details reside on personal computers and corporate servers, data breaches can pose significant security risks to its customers too. 

While the vast majority of call center employees will never steal this data, it only takes one bad apple to trigger an international scandal. To name one of many examples, in 2015, a Citibank call center employee in the Philippines sold the data of 30 clients to a crime syndicate in Australia, allowing the syndicate to acquire fraudulent credit cards and bank loans, and costing Citibank clients over a million dollars.

Unfortunately, the at-home agent model comes with such potential security headaches. Call center managers can minimize security problems by combining a strong and defensive security posture, common-sense security policies, and effective supervision. The cost savings and morale bonus gained by hiring remote agents shouldn’t be undone by a costly data breach.

Maintaining the data security of a remote contact center

From a technology perspective, it’s all about locking down endpoints. According to a report by Smart Customer Service, tactics include using a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), which allows you to host desktop environments on a centralized server and securely deploy the virtual desktops to employees.

If this is not an option, virtual private networks (VPNs) can provide data security by encrypting data being sent over a network, making it unreadable.

Employers should also ensure employees store all data in the cloud rather than locally. It is also best to require employees to use hard-wired connections instead of Wi-Fi, which creates the risk of roamers looking to hijack a connection.

Hard-wired internet access also ties employees to their home office space, which ensures they aren’t going to a coffee shop to handle sensitive customer information in a public place and/or working off an unsecured connection.

Another step is by restricting network access to hours of operation only, which mitigates the risk of bad actors accessing networks during off-hours.

Finally, the classic two-factor authentication ensures the person logging into a computer or network is the correct user.