Wednesday December 23, 2015
When I moved from the restaurant industry into my own venture as a personal chef, I had a world of business etiquette to learn. Of all the things I was managing (and mismanaging) in the beginning, client confidentiality was one of the last things on my mind. But being trusted to come and work in someone’s private home is a huge privilege, and it quickly became clear that confidentiality was going to be a major concern — as it is for all small businesses that deal with clients’ information.
Client confidentiality is just a given for larger corporations, especially financial institutions, but even in the world of small business, there aren’t many industries where discretion isn’t expected or obliged. The degree to which business owners and entrepreneurs need to worry about client confidentiality varies, but investing some thought into these areas can greatly enhance your client’s experience.
Unless you are a cash-only business, you will need to consider the amount of personal information your client is trusting you with by writing a check or paying with a credit card. If you aren’t a traditional retailer who has tills and a safe, make sure you have a dedicated and secure place to store clients’ cash, checks, or money orders, and make deposits as regularly as possible.
Accepting credit cards is extremely advantageous to cash flow, but it does come with a list of safety considerations. Mobile card scanners are convenient, but they are not nearly as secure as a merchant account from your bank.
If you accept credit cards online, make sure you thoroughly research third party hosting options. You may also want to hire an expert, if you don’t want to become an expert yourself. Lastly, be very careful about who you trust to accept and handle client payments.
It’s common for entrepreneurs to utilize one mobile phone for business and work, but having a dedicated business line is the safest way to go. Landlines are definitely safer than mobile, but if you go this route, don’t use cordless phones because they can be eavesdropped on with nothing more than a simple radio receiver. If your company utilizes headsets, make sure to use encrypted headsets. Unencrypted models are as easy to tune into as cordless phones.
Mobile devices are often more practical than landlines, especially for people who are on the go throughout the work day. If you don’t have much more than a contact list and an email account on your phone, then password protecting it and trying to stay off of any shoddy public networks might be enough.
If your company utilizes mobile devices extensively, implementing a mobile VPN (virtual private network) is the best way to protect your clients’ information. If you discuss extremely sensitive information over the phone, never use a bluetooth device. They are painfully easy to eavesdrop on, and the simple act of enabling bluetooth on your device puts all the information stored on it at risk.
Network technology has streamlined many aspects of running a business, and having a web presence is one of the best ways to expand your brand, but technology comes with its own list of dangers. It’s estimated that websites are being hacked at a rate of 30,000 a day and a breach of this nature can destroy your business.
Online security is perpetually evolving to a host of new threats, but if you don’t have an entire IT department dedicated to staying ahead of the curve, there are still a few basic ways to protect your business’s security.
"There are still a few basic ways to protect your business’s security." [Tweet this]
At the least, you will need good anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a functional firewall. I highly recommend a NGFW (next generation firewall) because they are much less of a hassle. If you utilize a network infrastructure, it’s essential to have an encrypted VPN to protect your network and all of the information exchanged within it.
When it comes to storing and backing up your data, onsite servers are safest because you are completely in control of who has access to them. But, this is not a viable option for all business owners, so if you do store your data in the cloud, definitely go with a secure hosted server.
The last thing to consider is implementing a list of approved software, extensions, and mobile apps for you and your employees. Even things like Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Docs can put your client’s information at risk. It’s essential to provide your employees with all the tools they need to do their jobs, as well as a list of approved and non-approved programs and apps.
For retailers, this is a given, but it’s also important for any location where client information is stored or handled. A security system is the cheapest and easiest way to keep things safe. Just the presence of surveillance cameras lowers the risk of theft and break-ins.
One often unthought of way your clients’ information can be put at risk is everyday office equipment. Anything that prints, copies, or scans stores the data before transmitting it, so you want to make a regular habit of locating and removing this data. When disposing of any information on paper or digital hardware, make sure it is shredded first.
Employees are one of your biggest risks (and assets) when it comes to confidentiality. The most important thing you can do is make sure your employees are well aware of your expectations. Ensure that they are properly trained on how to protect client’s information and why it’s so important.
If your employees handle financial or otherwise sensitive information, background checks or confidentiality agreements might be a good idea. You can generate a customized legal confidentiality agreement here.
In the end, a breach in client confidentiality can cause serious detriment to any business. No one wants to do business with someone they can’t trust, and putting some thought into this aspect of your day-to-day will definitely pay off.