Contact a rep

Customer Experience and the Security Paradox

Published: Jun 29, 2017
Author: Cary Cusumano

I did it — finally. After weeks of reading, watching videos, and engaging in debates (mostly with myself), I have taken the plunge into the world of crypto currency — digital money. 

Okay, truth be told, it’s more of a dip than a plunge. I haven’t actually conducted any transactions with digital coins, but I did create wallets for Bitcoin, Etherium and Dash — the currency I believe can take digital money mainstream.

But just as in life, it’s not the destination — getting the wallets — but the journey that’s most interesting. This was an outcome of reading about “blockchain” on social media and in the news. What intrigued me about this technology is the way security is infused in the very fabric of the platform. Every stakeholder in the blockchain maintains a copy of the ledger. No one can make a change to their copy without everyone else knowing and being able to invalidate that change. Paradoxically, the security of the data isn’t provided by secrecy, as we typically understand security, but by making the information widely known.

I do love a good paradox — which is why I also find myself captivated by the paradox of customer experience and security. Customers want greater security of their data but at the same time they expect a more personalized experience.

Customers concerns about sharing

Customer experience (CX) professionals have long recognized that the “moments that matter” on a customer’s journey are those that are effective, effortless and, personal. And how do you make the experience personal? Knowledge. But knowledge requires data, and therein lies the problem. The personal data that describes our behaviors, our preferences, our values is just that: personal. We guard this information carefully because, collectively, it describes who we are — our identity. We not only avoid voluntary disclosure of our information, but we regard those who collect and keep this information as invaders of our privacy.

Our concerns about the privacy of our data are heightened whenever we read about another data breach. And these concerns are well founded, because cybercriminals don’t just want your money, they want your identity. Verizon’s 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report says, “personal information is found to be the desired data more often than banking information.”

What becomes of CX if our customers tighten the clamps on their data?

One of the fundamentals of information security is access. It should be easy for me to access my data but very hard for those entities I don’t authorize to do so. Our efforts to achieve this began with setting a password that’s easy for us to remember but hard for others to guess. Problem is, our passwords often proved easy for people to guess (admit it: you’ve had “password” as your password at some point). So we were told to create long complex passwords with numbers and symbols — and to change them every month. But how many of us have become frustrated trying to set a password that’s actually accepted? Now it’s two-factor authentication: a much more secure solution but yet another layer of complexity to hinder the customer experience. Our data’s harder for cybercriminals to breach, but it’s also harder for us to access.

Security and CX: personalized

Thankfully, as personal recognition technologies evolve, we can stop sacrificing security for great CX and vice versa. Paradoxically, it’s those things that are most descriptive of who we are that can provide the strongest security. My fingerprint is uniquely mine, as is my voice. And I can’t forget them. Biometric technology is now maturing to a level where you are your own security. Can you imagine boarding an airplane using your face as a boarding pass? Stop imagining — JetBlue is trialing it right now.

How can you reach the right balance of great CX and secure data? Don’t sacrifice one for the other. Your customers need to understand the benefits of a personalized experience while trusting your business to handle their data properly. Reward them with targeted offers and discounts aligned with their past spending behavior. Be transparent with your data policy and spell out the specific benefit to them for sharing personal information. Customers are likely to be more defensive and less cooperative from the start if they are part of a scheme they haven’t chosen to be in. No paradoxes here — just the great experience that’s a natural result of letting the customer lead their journey.


A 2016 CX Impact Award winner from the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), Cary Cusumano is a Customer Experience and Design Thinking practitioner in Verizon Enterprise Solutions. He is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.