ICMI is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Call it a sixth sense. Customers are savvy about security.

First, a story:

It’s a typical Sunday afternoon, and Jane is headed to the grocery store to pick up a few items for the week. She completes her shopping and heads to the checkout lane where she meets the clerk, Nathan, who is eager to help her with her grocery purchase.

After the usual questions asking if she found everything ok, Nathan provides Jane with her total shopping bill. He then asks if it will be cash or card and she says, “debit card, please.”

Nathan hits a button and says, “Okay, go ahead and read that card number out loud to me while I type it in on my register.” Jane is a little discomforted by this idea, after all, her credit card number is rather personal information. However, without another option (and she really needs to get the groceries home to make dinner) she carefully, and quietly reads the card number to Nathan. As the line of customers is building behind her, Nathan decides to read the card number back to her to make sure he has entered it correctly. The line of people behind Jane all lean in a little closer and turn their ear as this critical sequence of numbers is read aloud.

Grocery Store

The transaction continues and Jane becomes even more uneasy as she is asked to give the expiration dates, the billing zip code and the 3 digit code on the back of the card. All of her sensitive information is now “out there” and the people in line behind her as well as Nathan all have an opportunity to lift her number. As consumers, we never know where or when a fraudster might try and use our data.

Jane receives her receipt, heads to the car and loads up her groceries. When she gets home, she decides to put an alert on her card, because of her concern after the payment experience in the grocery store.

Now this story is highly unlikely in today’s world. In fact, credit card processing at the grocery store, or other retail stores, has advanced to a point where the card never leaves the customers hand, and all information is confirmed on a keypad that only the customer can see. Yet the scenario provided above happens hundreds of thousands of times in call centers everyday.

But the story illustrates something that consumer research has proven—customers are savvy about security and uncomfortable about verbally sharing sensitive information over the phone.

In a recent study commissioned by The Summit Group, more than 1000 people were surveyed asking about their comfort level when engaging in credit card transactions over the phone. The results confirmed something we had always thought, which is consumers are savvy about security.

Nearly 70 percent of consumers stated they are somewhat or very uncomfortable giving their credit card information over the phone. Yet, most will continue the transaction and verbally share sensitive information. And that comfort level decreases significantly if the call center is located outside of the United States.

And rightly so. In a recent article published by The CNP (Card Not Present) Report, security professionals identified their own company's employees as their biggest security threat, but most feel their organizations are not taking adequate steps to address the problem, according to recent research. The survey, conducted by Experian Data Breach Resolution and the Ponemon Institute found 55 percent of respondents said their company had experienced a "security incident" that originated with a negligent or malicious employee. Sixty percent of companies said their employees are not knowledgeable about how they contribute to their organization's security and only 35 percent reported that senior management makes employee security awareness a priority.

Technology solutions exist that are easy to implement into current systems. SecureCall from KomBea is one of those technologies. Very simply, when a call center utilizes this software, customers enter sensitive information via their phone keypad and the agent will see dots on their screen and hear monotones as the information is entered. Credit card numbers are sent directly for processing and notification is given to the call center agent once the charge is approved. It is the call center equivalent of swiping your own credit card when shopping in a retail store. The customer maintains control of their information and the clerk or call center agent never sees or hears it, eliminating the temptation for fraud.

Call center operators and merchants would be wise to implement an alternative like SecureCall, as many consumers will opt for other ways to make their purchases. With better security protocols, people may feel more comfortable engaging in transactions which results in more buyers and more revenue. Additionally, for current customers, having an alternative will increase customer satisfaction and likely would result in increased spending amongst these customers.

KomBea Corporation is based in Salt lake City, Utah and specializes in software solutions for call center operations allowing them to be more efficient, secure and profitable.  KomBea is leading the industry with three products: SecureCall; ProtoCall; and ExactCall; and each can be customized for call centers of any size. Customers include H&R Block, U.S. Auto Parts, and numerous call center outsourcers, among others.  More information is available at www.KomBea.com.