With all of the options in the marketplace today, small businesses must secure customer trust and loyalty to remain competitive. Regardless of the industry, their customers are looking for the best quality, value and service and they will quickly move on if their needs are not met. They also want to know that their personal information, like their credit card numbers and bank account information, is protected when they deal with a small business.
Today, so much of our valuable information resides on computers. It’s how we work. So it is expected that small businesses would be concerned about keeping their customers’ personal and financial information safe. In fact, according to the recent Symantec 2010 SMB Information Protection survey, almost three-quarters of SMBs are somewhat/extremely concerned about the loss of crucial business information. This does not come as a surprise when you consider that 42 percent have actually lost confidential or proprietary electronic information in the past. Customers tend to be very loyal to their favorite business, but compromising their data can damage that relationship permanently.
When a business’ valuable data is lost or stolen, the security industry calls this a breach. And while hackers are responsible for the majority of credit card information being stolen, small businesses must be very careful with how they handle and process their customers’, as well as their own, financial data to achieve customer trust. In fact, according to the same survey, of the small businesses that did lose customer information, 100 percent saw direct financial impact, including lost revenue.
Here are some best practices to give your customers peace of mind that their information is safe in your hands:
Know where the information resides. Today, small businesses’ critical information lives beyond the walls of the office on laptops and mobile devices. To ensure the business is protected, the focus must remain on the information as opposed to the device. Businesses need to look at where their information is being stored and protect those areas accordingly. To do this, it is important to enforce password management for managers and employees. Maintaining strong passwords will help protect the data stored on a laptop if a device is lost or hacked. Encryption technology should also be implemented to prevent unauthorized access to the business network. Helping employees understand this is key – especially since small businesses are becoming increasingly more mobile each year.
Have a plan. Ensuring that your most important company information is backed up is crucial for returning to business as usual after IT disruptions, such as a system failure natural disaster. If an outage leaves your company without access for too long, customers will surely have a damaged perception of your abilities and take their business elsewhere. Backup and recovery is a critical component of complete information protection to keep SMBs’ desktops, servers and applications running smoothly in case of disruption – whether it’s a flood, an earthquake, a virus or a system failure. One outage could mean customer dissatisfaction and costly downtime, which could be catastrophic to a small business business. Being able to give your customers assurance that their information is safe under even the most extreme circumstances will increase your credibility and their confidence in your services.
Keep it clean. One of the most important yet simple steps to protect your important information is implementing comprehensive endpoint protection on your company systems. Businesses must always keep the program up to date, and take action to remove threats caught by the program to ensure that nothing malicious is passed through the business to customers. Incidents where harmful content is exchanged will surely reduce trust in an organization and give customers cause to find a new merchant.
As you can see, it takes just a few simple steps to protect your businesses’ critical information. To businesses, the customer is always number one, and their information should be treated exactly the same.