By Mandy Pattenden, Marketing Communications Director

In recent years, the retail industry has become one of the most targeted industries for cybercriminals looking to steal sensitive consumer information, particularly payment card data. Many well know retailers, including Target, Home Depot and others have been the victims of data breaches that exposed the personal information of millions of consumers. These breaches can have dire repercussions, including huge fines, legal fees, damage to their brand reputation and lost sales as customers stay away out for fear that the retailer is not keeping their personal information safe. Target, for example, recently agreed to pay an $18.5 million (USD) settlement for its 2013 data breach, and it’s estimated that a 2014 data breach at Home Depot will cost that retailer more than $179 million (USD) once all legal fees and remediation costs are taken into account.

In an effort to prevent cyberattacks and data breaches, retailers throughout the industry have been adopting new technologies. One example is the move to EMV-enabled chip cards. But, while chip card technology has been successful in deterring fraud at the point of sale, it has had the unintended consequence of causing criminals to turn to channels where card-not-present (CNP) transactions take place, such as the contact centre. Often deemed the “low-hanging fruit” by fraudsters, contact centres are seeing an increase in fraudulent activity, including those that operate in the retail industry. In fact, research shows retail call centre fraud nearly doubled last year.

One of the biggest challenges for retail contact centres is how to strengthen security and prevent data breaches, without compromising on customer experience. While some have implemented technologies like interactive voice recognition (IVR) systems that help shield payment card data and other sensitive personal information, those systems are known to frustrate customers and increase average handling time (AHT).

A better approach is to use dual tone multi-frequency (DTMF) masking to obscure payment card numbers from both the contact centre agent on the line and the call recordings. DTMF masking solutions replace the touch tones of the telephone keypad with flat tones as the customer enters their data. While it effectively conceals the card information from agents, they are still able to remain on the line, speaking with the customer to help with any issues that may arise. There is no need to transfer customers or place them on hold to collect payments. Furthermore, card data can be relayed directly to the payment service provider so it never enters the contact centre’s infrastructure.

While the threats of cyberattacks and fraud remain, the good news for retailers is they do not have to sacrifice the customer experience for strong data security — even within the area that has long been considered their weakest link, the contact centre.

To learn more about data security in retail contact centres, read the latest insights from Semafone CEO Tim Critchley in Retail IT Insights and Retail Customer Experience. To learn more about DTMF masking and how it helps protect sensitive data, download the solution brief here.

Can Retailers Strengthen Data Security Without Sacrificing Customer Service?

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