The Personalized Service And Data Security Dilemma

Customers want to have the utmost confidence that you are protecting their data and treating it with the respect it deserves… even as you continue to gather more of it.”

Marije Gould, Verint
Marije Gould, Vice President of Marketing EMEA, Verint

As digital engagement with consumers increases, contact center managers and other customer experience (CX) professionals face a tough challenge: How do you continue to offer your customers the personalized services they have come to expect, while also helping to ensure their privacy and data security?

A recent study puts the dilemma in sharp relief. Opinium Research LLC—in collaboration with Verint and IDC—surveyed more than 24,000 consumers across 12 countries and found that most of them (89%) feel it’s vital that they know how secure their personal information is. Eighty-six percent said they want to know if their data will be passed on to third parties for marketing purposes.

Despite this overwhelming desire for privacy, the study had another interesting finding: 80% of consumers said the “personal touch” is important. They like it when service is tailored to them and their interests.

The Best of Both Worlds

The study quantified what most of us understand intuitively—customers want the best of both worlds when it comes to personalized service and airtight privacy and security. In fact, the desire for personalized service just keeps growing.

Only a year before the 2016 study mentioned here, Verint found in another consumer survey that 52% said they wanted personalized content and services. The remaining percentage felt the “creep factor,” the sense that their privacy was being intruded upon, was just too high. They didn’t like the idea of a company having more personal data about them beyond the recording and encryption of a telephone conversation. Going from 52% in 2016 to 80% in 2017—that’s a big difference in customer attitudes toward personalized service in just a year’s time.

It’s an indication that the stakes are higher today for companies whose reputation for service depends on their knowledge of customers’ needs, purchase history and preferences. Competition is fierce. However, this research serves as a reminder to companies that their reputation also depends on trust and transparency. Customers want to have the utmost confidence that you are protecting their data and treating it with the respect it deserves… even as you continue to gather more of it.

How do you manage this dichotomy?


Based on the survey results, it appears that most consumers haven’t made the connection between personalized services and privacy/data security—at least not in a detailed way. This presents CX professionals with a great opportunity to lead consumers to that understanding. As an extension of your voice of the customer strategy, an online portal can let customers know how you’re using their data and give them a choice to opt in or out.

Smart executive teams will likely support such an effort. Another Verint business survey across 1,019 organizations in 12 countries found 94% agree that it is important to inform customers that their data is secure, and 96% understand the need to tell customers if their data will be passed on to third parties. An online portal goes a step further.

Sure, a few customers might request that you erase every bit of data you have about them, but if they have a good relationship with you, it is more likely they will provide more details about their preferences—information that helps you serve them better. By offering your customers the option to choose when, how and what they want to receive from you (e.g., in the form of an online portal or postcall survey), you’re giving them the choice to receive a more personalized service. Using the data wisely helps to tailor an even more personal marketing approach, providing them with offers that are truly relevant and presented to them in the channel or channels of their choice. Make it clear that customers can choose whether their data is used for certain practices—passed along to third parties, for example—and let them decide whether to participate. It’s another way to have a conversation with them that they will probably appreciate. In this way, an online preference center can be a win/win for all concerned.


In May 2018, the European Union’s General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) takes effect for any organization that retains personal information, especially businesses that store or handle data in multiple countries. Not only does GDPR broaden the scope of what qualifies as personal and sensitive information, but it also requires companies to give customers full insight into the data it possesses upon request—whether banking details, personal data, records of visits to the company website, recorded phone calls, etc. If customers ask you to erase the data about them, you’re required to do it. Companies are also required to disclose how the data is being used. Stiff penalties will be levied for data breaches; fines up to €20M or up to 4% of the annual worldwide turnover, whichever is greater, can be imposed when data breaches occur.

The legislation goes hand in hand with consumer expectations about data security and whether companies are responding seriously to those expectations. It’s well-known in Europe that citizens place a premium on their right to privacy, so it’s no surprise that the GDPR is as comprehensive as it is.

Though GDPR was enacted in Europe, its impact will be felt worldwide. The new privacy model applies to any enterprise in the world that engages with the European market in offering goods or services and must process the personal data drawn from those transactions, or who have European staff. All companies processing EU personal information will have until May 25, 2018, to comply with the reform. Even if U.S. companies don’t have a presence in Europe, GDPR is expected to increase the focus on data security and privacy practices by companies everywhere, and shine the spotlight on noncompliant practices. All the more reason for companies to reach out to customers now to build trust in their data security and privacy practices, and to have a dialogue about how personal data is being used, and why.


Data breaches are constantly in the news—a nightmare for any company. Data breaches go beyond just credit cards and Social Security numbers. The mobile apps that are so popular today—and in use by many contact centers as another way to interact with their customers—can track location and movement of customers, and online shopping, website visits and social media interactions are a Rorschach test of individual customer behavior and preferences.

The bottom line: It pays to acknowledge this complexity and be sure you have the tools in place to manage it. Above all, organizations must be open and honest with how they collect and use their customers’ data or risk breaking their trust. Adding new, more secure and faster authentication processes, such as biometrics to enhance fraud detection, and added layers of security through encryption of all data, can help. Educating customers about their personal data will also help to build trust.

The Customer Digital Tipping Point Study

The 2016 Opinium research was commissioned by Verint from June-July 2016 and covered a wide range of consumer preferences regarding which channels and methods of contact matter most to consumers today.

The study produced a wealth of interesting—and sometimes surprising—findings.

Despite the growing preference by many consumers for digital interactions with companies, the survey found that four out of five customers want human customer service interactions to remain a part of customer service. The phone emerged as a still popular way to contact organizations and service providers, and the more complex the service request, the more likely consumers are to prefer human interaction to digital channels.

The responses regarding the personalized service/data security dilemma are interesting. When it comes to liking personalized service, 77% of millennials in the survey said they do, compared with 74% of baby boomers and 81% of the Greatest Generation. Concerns about data security increased along with the age of the survey respondents. Eighty-six percent of millennials said it was important to know how secure their personal information is, while 94% of baby boomers and 99% of the Greatest Generation agreed with the statement. Even though millennials might not have much in common with the other generations, it’s fair to assume that their concerns about security will follow the pattern represented here as they enter their later years.

A Wake-up Call for Us All

Companies today are interacting with customers across multiple channels to listen to the voice of the customer, collect customer data and understand the customer journey. The data they gather along the way is incredibly valuable and will lead to greater success if used correctly, if treated with respect and protected with the highest standard of security solutions. If not, the risk is great.

Smart companies will leverage the current environment as another opportunity to build relationships and trust with consumers. Be open with your customers about how you are using their data. Ask their preferences, and respond positively to any requests they make. Most likely, they will appreciate your candor and stay with you for more of the personalized services they have come to expect.

Marije Gould is Vice President of Marketing in EMEA for Verint.

– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline,

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