Customer relationship management (CRM) is an aspect that every business wishes to master. However, mastering CRM means having streamlined processes, improving customer experience, and becoming a proactive problem solver.
CRM platform helps manage customer interactions at multiple touchpoints. In recent years, many CRM innovations have made customer behavioral analysis and strategic planning efficient.
For example, integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) in CRM systems has made personalized communications and marketing campaigns more efficient. According to Forbes, 65% of B2B marketers use Ai-powered virtual agents to automate customer communications.
Similarly, the Internet of Things (IoT)-CRM is a popular trend due to its enhanced insights into user behavior. However, IoT devices can be vulnerable to cyberattacks leading to threats to CRM systems.
Apart from the IoT-based vulnerabilities, there are many threats to CRM cyber security. Several internal and external bad actors can cause data theft. Integration of third-party services can also expose your CRM systems to cyber-attacks.
Therefore, here is a comprehensive guide to securing CRM systems for your business. Let us start with what is CRM first!
- What is CRM?
- Why do you need a CRM system?
- How to secure your CRM data and protect it from data breaches?
What is CRM?
Customer Relationship Management or CRM is a set of processes, strategies, and technologies used to analyze and manage customer interactions Businesses use CRM software to improve customer relationships and retention and increase ROI. As a business, your customers seek an enhanced experience with multiple interaction touchpoints.
For example, if you are an e-commerce brand, your customer will visit the website to search, compare and purchase products. There are multiple user interactions, from searching the website to making a purchase and after-sales service. Improving experience at each interaction requires data analysis and specific strategies.
A CRM helps businesses with data on customer behavior, interaction quality, and service gaps. So you can fine-tune your marketing, sales, and customer service strategies accordingly.
Why do you need a CRM system?
CRM systems are software applications that businesses use to manage customer relationships. It also enables organizations to make the CRM process efficient. There are multiple steps in the CRM process customer outreach, acquisition, conversion, retention, and loyalty.
Choosing the right CRM system is crucial for better customer outreach. It helps identify the target audience, segment customers, and strategize personalized campaigns. Further, CRM systems make customer acquisition through advanced marketing efforts.
CRM systems will power your acquisition process through personalized data. You can create targeted newsletters, social media campaigns, and podcasts using this data. Similarly, it can also help convert leads to sales through AI-based personalization.
The CX trends report by Zendesk shows that 75% of customer expects evolved AI communications. So, using AI-based CRM is critical to your campaigns for better conversions. Further, using AI also helps businesses improve customer retention through deeper personalization.
Lastly, choosing the right CRM system also enables better customer loyalty. Advanced CRM systems can improve customer loyalty by enhancing conversational experiences. The entire process of CRM needs tons of data, which is why securing information is crucial.
There are many data regulations and standards that you need to follow as a business, like GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS. So, you need a secure CRM system to ensure data protection and better compliance.
How to secure your CRM data and protect it from data breaches?
CRM cyber security needs an elaborate strategy that involves securing the data across storage, processing, and analysis. Here are some of the best practices you can follow to improve data security in CRM systems are
#1. Ensure infrastructure security
Whether you have a CRM system on premise or cloud-based, securing the infrastructure becomes crucial. However, the kind of strategies and technologies you use for securing data differs.
For example, if you have an on premise CRM system, you must secure the IT infrastructure hosting data. It can include physical devices like laptops or employees’ devices, servers, and databases. Here are some ways to secure the IT infrastructure of the on premise CRM system,
- Have reputed anti-virus software on the employee devices
- Use encryptions to secure the communication between your servers and employee devices
- Install a VPN to add a layer of security
- Enforce data access authorization through high-security keys or secure physical devices.
However, you need regular security audits and risk assessments to determine cyber threats on CRM systems. Also, the IT infrastructure security policies need fine-tuning based on new threats.
#2. Use secure connection protocols
Customers interact with your business online, mainly through the website, making its security critical. Using secure connection protocols like Hypertext transfer protocol, secure (HTTPS) is a key CRM security best practice.
You can establish the HTTPS protocols by installing an SSL certificate. Secure Socket Layer or SSL is a public key encryption system that helps establish a secure connection between your website and the user’s device.
How to get an SSL certificate?
Getting an SSL certificate for your business requires submission of the Certificate Signing Request (CSR). It contains essential details of your business. A certificate authority (CA) verifies the details to issue the digital certificate. You can install the issued SSL certificate on your website to ensure secure user interactions.
Many types of SSL certificates that you can use as per specific use cases. For example, you can use a wildcard SSL certificate if you have multiple subdomains for your website, like sales, human resources, and customer support. It helps you secure multiple subdomains using a single wildcard certificate.
Similarly, you can use extended validation (EV) SSL certificates if your business is enterprise-grade. EV certificate requires extended vetting of the business information, which means higher customer trust and better CRM.
#3. Choose the right CRM provider for your business.
Choosing the right CRM system provider is crucial because switching to another service can be costly and risky. So, what are the critical aspects of a CRM service provider to choose the right one?
Here is a checklist to follow,
- Check for CRM vendors with an excellent security background
- Compare different vendors on comparison platforms like G2, Capterra, and others
- Look for vendors that provide unlimited secure access to your CRM data
- Check if the vendor has a code signing certificate installed on the software
- Verify whether the IT infrastructure and backend of the CRM software are secure.
Choosing the right vendor is also crucial for compliance with data regulations and standards like ISO 27001. You must also check a CRM vendor’s security procedures, policies, and data management approaches. Such information will be available on their official websites.
#4. Create a backup of your CRM data.
Data backups are crucial to improving CRM cyber security because they enable organizations to keep their systems up and running despite cyberattacks. Multiple types of data backups that you can set up for your CRM.
- Full backups where you make a copy of every single data. It is a tedious process and takes more time. However, full backups are best to ensure higher availability.
- Differential backups where you store only a copy of the data changed or added since the last backup. Setting up a differential backup is faster than a full backup.
- Incremental backups are similar to differential backup, but it continuously stores any changes in the data from the last backup.
You can use backup software or choose a CRM service provider with backup features. However, you need to determine which type of backup works best for your CRM.
#5. Use a cloud-based CRM system.
A cloud-based CRM system can benefit your data security because it has many features. For example, a cloud-based CRM system has pre-built identification and access management (IAM) features. Therefore, you can specify data access within the organization and ensure better security.
Similarly, cloud-based CRM systems help ensure higher availability with automatic backups, vulnerability scanning, and firewalls.
#6. Scan your CRM system for vulnerabilities.
A vital CRM security best practice to follow is vulnerability scanning. A CRM software application has source code that can have vulnerabilities. It can break the application when exposed to cyber attackers. Therefore, here are some tips to follow for CRM vulnerability scanning,
- Plan your scanning strategy: Before you scan CRM systems for vulnerabilities, planning the scope, approach, and requirements is crucial. Your plan must include what assets, software, servers, and networks you want to scan. Also, plan for the frequency of scanning and what tools to use.
- Choose a trusted vulnerability scanner: Vulnerability scanning with a trusted tool ensures that your CRM system is secure from all modern threats. It helps you check whether there is outdated software, operating systems without security patches, configuration issues, and more. OWASP ZAP4, Nmap4, Nessus4, and Qualys4 are scanners for your CRM systems.
- Run your scans frequently and analyze- Decide sensitive information and identify critical touchpoints in a CRM system that can be vulnerable to attacks. Prioritize scanning of such touchpoints and analyze them.
- Fix issues fast: Once you run the scans frequently and analyze them, quickly fix them. You can update the CRM system with security updates to fix vulnerabilities.
- Monitor CRM systems: After adding security updates, monitor the system for known and unknown vulnerabilities through event logging. Therefore, if there is a suspicious event or malicious attack, you can prevent it.
When you scale the business, the number of customers increases. Therefore, you need a CRM system to help manage massive user interactions. At the same time, you also need to plan for CRM cyber security because customers lose trust in your brand if the information is not secure.
Here we have discussed some of the best practices for data security in CRM systems. However, which CRM security best practices to choose for your business depends on the specific requirements of your business.