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The hacking, spying and customer care conundrum

  • Posted by Alex Leslie
  • September 20, 2013 10:15 AM BST
Operators are investing millions to understand what their customers do online but 86 percent of internet users ‘have taken steps to remove or mask their digital footprints’ - what does that tell you?

The major thrust of operator investment over the next few years will be in real-time technology. They will use this to tighten up their financial controls, reduce bill shock, then to enhance the customer experience in a variety of ways.

The major thrust of Government agencies over the next few years is to monitor everything that happens online in order to reduce, as effectively as they can, the threat of terrorism – digital and otherwise. Oh, and credit card transactions.

The major thrust of hackers over the next few years is to disrupt the latter – actually everything grown up online. This will have a massive knock-on effect on the customer. It will put the question of a ‘trusted online experience’ into doubt. When hacking attacks are Government sponsored, as the Belgacom attack seems to be, the problem gets even worse.

Hackers will drive Government agencies to increase the controls they place on what we do online. So powerful is their mandate that, according to some leading publications, they are prepared to compromise their own rules to allow them to intercept traffic from apparently very secure servers. They do this by leading and basically writing the security protocols (even though they just sit on the committees) or by persuading online players to leave a ‘back door’ open so they can climb in.

Not surprisingly, 86 percent of internet users ‘have taken steps to remove or mask their digital footprints’ according to major US research house Pew, and over 20 percent of internet users have been compromised online.

We have a situation where customers want to be anonymous and not publicise what they do online. Operators are investing millions to understand what these same customers do online so that they can serve them better. And the Government agencies are not even demanding, but watching what customers are doing online. We are at a dangerous tipping point in the digital world.

If customers are frightened of ‘Big Brother’ watching them, then they will retreat as best they can from being seen. There are solutions out there that allow you to get online without the NSA being able to monitor you. These solutions will doubtless be hacked and stopped by the NSA in short order, if they have not already. A cynic might even wonder whether such encryption work arounds are simply another form of PRISM.

Given this critical conundrum, the question is ‘what can operators do in the face of an avalanche of publicity about the NSA and others which is seriously damaging the trust that operators need to build with their customers in order to protect their massive investments?’

The only thing that operators can do is work on building trusted relationships with their customers. This has to be done with finesse and a light touch. In fact, the best way to build trust with the customer is to allow customers to build trust with them.

Until recently the industry was slowly allowing customers to ‘care’ for themselves. Now, there are solid examples emerging of operators implementingreal time self-service solutionsand seeing a massive uptake in how customers engage with them. Research is underway to build a solid case for ‘self service’ rather than simple ‘care’ and it could just be the solution that operators need to protect their investment in real time technology.

Whether real time self service is the solution or part of it, unless operators move fast to separate what they are doing with what Government agencies are doing, then the next Pew report into how many people want to be anonymous online might well make bleak reading indeed.

Reprinted courtesy of BillingViews.