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Brands making hack jobs of hack jobs: cyberattacks don’t need to destroy customer trust

Lyndall Spooner, founder and CEO of Australian strategic research and consulting agency, Fifth Dimension and leading authority on matters of brand trust, believes the latest round of customer data breaches have exposed the inadequacies of brands in understanding how to deal with cyberattacks and the required levels of customer engagement and communication to support customers through the crisis.

“If you make a hack job of a hack job you risk destroying any remaining sense of customer loyalty, trust and confidence in the brand,” Spooner said.

“While most people expect to be hacked at some point in their life but hope they won’t be, they at least expect affected brands to respond by managing the customer experience in a timely, diligent, thorough and professional way.

“Cyberattacks are on the rise with thousands occurring every year. Optus might be top of mind for many people right now, but it was the 51st company to experience a major data breach in Australia in 2022.

“While companies can be ever vigilant to secure their data, they cannot guarantee a data breach will never happen. If the Department of Defence and the Australian Federal Police can be hacked, we should all be careful of throwing stones. There have already been another six major data breaches since the Optus hack and no doubt more to come before the end of the year.”

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According to Spooner, when people see that a data breach has occurred, they immediately look to the company and its response to gauge how well prepared it was for the devastating event.

“Responding in a time of need is a true test of a company’s character and capability. If the response is deemed not good enough and receives strong criticism from media, government, or customers, it generates a second wave of negativity that can be even more destructive to the company’s reputation than the data breach itself,” Spooner added.

“A recent survey of people impacted by the Optus cyberattack shows many believe Optus managed the issue and its communication with them poorly.  Respondents who also state that they intend to leave Optus, say they would have considered staying with Optus as a customer if the business responded to the data breach in a more transparent and effective manner.”

Spooner emphasised that times of crisis are the times for brands to shine.

“It is possible for brands to retain customers and even grow brand trust in the face of a hacking crisis provided two things are made clear,” Spooner explained.

  1. The business is not negligent in the protection of customer data; and
  2. The business acts swiftly and implements a crisis management plan that centres on open, honest, timely clear communication and decisive action.
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