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Getting to know customers has never been so easy

16th Jan 2020
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With a technological landscape carved with customer data trails, businesses can gather a more sophisticated understanding of customer needs and behaviours, meaning that getting to know the customer is easier than ever. With the surplus amount of customer information now available, how can businesses best utilise this knowledge?

This Get to Know Your Customers Day, My Customer spoke to seven industry experts about the relationship between customer, data, and security. 

The value of understanding your customers

Jon Lucas, Co-Director at Hyve Managed Hosting questions:

“How many businesses can honestly say that they really know and understand their customers? And by ‘really understanding’, we’re not talking about an annual customer survey or the occasional check-in – genuinely knowing your customers is about being able to anticipate their needs, solve their problems and help them to succeed. Obvious? Perhaps, but for just about every business, taking it seriously comes down to a conscious choice about how important customers are.

“Ultimately, any organisation of any size that wants to live by a strong customer service philosophy needs to make a commitment – both financially and culturally – to go the ‘extra mile’. The alternative would be a business that just ‘survives’ despite customer churn, thinks that winning new business is cheaper and easier than keeping customers really happy, and where reputation is ‘nice to have’, rather than a daily imperative.”

Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO at Content Guru comments:

“The subscription economy is booming. Whether it’s movies, music, groceries or even razors, consumers are increasingly turning their back on traditional ‘one time’ purchases in favour of forming long term relationships with trusted brands. As such, it is absolutely critical that all organisations understand how to nurture happy long term relationships with their customers. The demand for ‘as-a-service’ offerings across all sectors is clear, and now the key differentiator for businesses is not just understanding how to reach the right customer, but how to implement a consistent, successful and tailored journey across their entire customer base.

“Organisations at the forefront of today’s subscription economy rely on sophisticated customer engagement technology, such as AI-driven Natural Language Processing, to ensure they can meet changing customer demands as quickly, smoothly and effectively as possible. Increasingly delivered through the cloud, the importance of these contact centre technologies only grows as customers not only expect an attentive and efficient long-term relationship, but one that can take place seamlessly across every channel.”

COO of Node4, Tom Needs furthers this point, stating: 

“For any organisation it’s important to always validate the customer service part of the equation, but this is especially the case from a managed service provider (MSP) perspective. With the MSP market continuing to grow, it’s vital that MSPs keep pace with changing customer needs and preferences, pairing them with the best technology to champion the type of exceptional service that ensures a customer’s business stays successful.

“One way of doing this is to own the service level agreements (SLAs) and end-to-end infrastructure, because this gives partners and customers control, visibility, and better service levels. However, the most fundamental element is the customer relationship – knowledge of unique needs and preferences comes with constant engagement. If an MSP can act on that knowledge to deliver a better service that works in line with the objectives of the customer, can anticipate their future needs AND do a first-class job should something go wrong, satisfaction is going to remain high.”

Protect your customers via their data

Tulin Green, Senior Director of EMEA Marketing at Commvault reflects:

“In this digital era, customers of nearly every business will interact with them online in some way, creating a data trail. Strong data management is therefore integral to the operation of any business, especially with the increase of technologies that utilise personal customer data to provide personalised experiences online. After all, the business that connects with potential customers best will stand out from the competition.

“However, the increase in customer data being collected and stored also comes with an increased risk. Companies that fail to prioritise data privacy and protection for their business assets – including customer data – will risk not only severe damage to bottom line profits, but to their brand reputation and customer loyalty too. To avoid this fate, businesses should prioritise their ability to securely manage all data, and ensure that comprehensive recovery measures are in place. In the instance that security measures fail, being able to resolve the issue and get data protection back in place quickly is crucial.”

Jan van Vliet, VP and GM EMEA at Digital Guardian, echoes this point, stating:

“While living in an increasingly networked world has its advantages, it also leaves organisations vulnerable to exploitation by malware, inadvertent employee actions and malicious attacks. For security analysts, spotting security incidents arising from within their company, which is arguably their own customer base, is particularly tricky because the attacker may have legitimate access.

“If the credentials being input are valid, the same alarms are not raised as when an unauthorised user attempts entry from the outside. Deploying data-aware cybersecurity solutions removes the risks around the insider threat because even if an adversary has legitimate access to data, they are prevented from copying, moving or deleting it. What’s important when it comes to insiders, in whatever guise, is to be able to detect malicious or suspicious activity and produce real-time, priority alerts that analysts know must be addressed immediately.”

Staying secure

Anurag Kahol, CTO at Bitglass, comments:

“Mobility. Flexibility. Accessibility. These are some of the most important words that underpin the requirements of today’s workforce. Failure to provide a working environment that supports these requirements can mean the difference between attracting and retaining staff – or being left on the proverbial shelf. The mobile security challenges have been exacerbated in recent years by the rapid uptake of BYOD. These unmanaged or employee-owned devices require access to corporate data, but this increases the risk of sensitive data being leaked, especially if a device is lost or stolen. A further vulnerability is that BYOD devices represent a potential entry point for introducing viruses and malware to the rest of a corporate network.

“When it comes to knowing their customers – in other words, their employer’s workforce – IT teams must address a real dilemma – how to strike a balance between the security needs of corporate data and how employees want to use corporate data. Developments in cloud-based security tools have given rise to a new set of mobile security solutions that means encryption of sensitive data can be extended to whichever popular cloud apps their customers are using – be that G Suite, Office 365, Slack or Salesforce, which means that data is secure regardless of what application a user is accessing via their personal device.”

Nir Polak, CEO at Exabeam concludes:

“Securing the network is fundamental to protecting the business and a variety of tools exist to understand traffic flow over a network and to analyse security impacts from that flow. However, despite the capabilities of these tools, attacks and breaches continue to happen. It is time to expand the definition of network profiling to include the riskiest asset on the network: the user.

“Advances in data science, combined with computing power and applied to data already collected within most organisations, can connect the dots and provide a useful profile of network user activity. While data science – i.e. Machine Learning – has become an overused buzzword, in practice it can provide very useful answers in certain applications. For example, Machine Learning can discover the connections between seemingly unrelated bits of identities, to create a map of all of a user’s activities, even when the identity components are not explicitly linked.

“Other techniques can create baselines of normal behaviour for every user on the network, making it easier to understand whether each user is acting normally or not. Still other techniques can build better asset models, including which machines are likely ‘executive assets’ and at higher risk of attack. Profiling individual users enables an organisation to understand in great depth and with deep context exactly who is on the network; what they are doing; whether they should be doing it; and what it means to an organisation’s risk and security posture.”

Whilst companies need to remain mindful to protect customer information, complex records of customer data map the way for businesses to really get to know their customers. And by putting this knowledge to best use, businesses can therefore provide the products and services that customers are looking for sooner rather than later.

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