Once Bitten, 91 Percent Shy

Most U.S. adults would not return to a business where their personal information was stolen

As retailers and those in the services sectors know, customer loyalty has its limits. One of those limits -- apparently for just about everybody -- is the mismanagement of personal data security.

According to a recent telephone survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Cintas Corp., 91 percent of U.S. adults would not return to a business if their personal information was stolen. From hotels to hospitals, the research provides insight into what types of businesses consumers would most likely stop patronizing if their confidential information such as Social Security number or credit card number were compromised.

“Data breaches not only impact customers, but can potentially cost businesses millions of dollars and take a significant toll on public trust,” says Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “This research confirms that poor document management practices can significantly damage a business’s reputation and discourage onceloyal customers from ever returning. It could also discourage potential customers from ever entering.”

The survey, conducted Sept. 23-26, 2010, among 1,013 adults ages 18 and older, reveals the percentage of the population who would take their business elsewhere, according to particular industries. Hotels, retail stores and restaurants top the list of establishments patrons would most likely avoid. Findings include:

  • 77 percent would not return to a hotel at which they’ve stayed.
  • 76 percent would not return to a retail store at which they’ve shopped.
  • 76 percent would not return to a restaurant at which they’ve dined.
  • 74 percent would change banks.
  • 74 percent would switch insurance companies.
  • 74 percent would go to a different drug store or pharmacy.
  • 73 percent would get a new lawyer.
  • 70 percent would switch airline carriers.

“Secure document management solutions are essential to protecting private business, employee and customer information,” says Jamie Samide, director of marketing for emerging businesses at Cintas, a Cincinnati-based company best known for its nationwide work uniform programs. “By partnering with a document management provider, companies can implement a customized, secure solution that will help ensure all information continuously remains safe and confidential.”

Shred of Evidence
According to the 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report released by Javelin Strategy and Research, more than 11 million people became victims of identity theft in 2009 alone, and that number has since grown. “Shredding of confidential documents is more important than ever right now,” Samide says.

He notes that identity theft can and does happen any number of ways -- whether from someone hacking into a system, diving into a dumpster, or stealing a computer -- but he adds that “one of the easiest ways to protect against it is destroying physical paper, because that still is the highest form of theft.”

Cintas got into the business of preventing such theft only about a decade ago, when it started offering a document- shredding service to its customers who already were receiving the company’s uniform deliveries and other services.

With its large fleet of trucks routinely making stops at clients’ premises, Cintas found it could efficiently fill that niche, doing the shredding that companies either were not doing well or did not want to do at all.

Then, seven years ago, Cintas added document storage to its list of offerings, physically and securely housing files businesses did not want shredded. Two years later, the company added the final piece of its document-management triad when it began offering document imaging -- a process involving scanning and uploading of documents into a Cintas-created system that keeps them until needed.

Samide says Cintas’s evolution continues to involve the security and protection of confidential information. In addition to destroying physical documents, it now offers hard-drive destruction as a service -- still a form of shredding, but on a much more hardcore level. “If you think about it, computers, smartphones, scanners, printers, copiers -- all these devices can have hard drives that retain records. So when the time comes for it, we’ll destroy those, and we’re just getting into that business,” he says.

Cloudy with a Chance
Cintas’s latest venture, though, is entrenched in cloud technology through an emerging service it calls DVX, or Digital Vault Exchange, an offering Samide describes as “almost like putting a seatbelt on in a car. You hope you don’t get into an accident, but when you do, you’re glad you were wearing your seatbelt. That’s sort of what this is.”

The service enables businesses to schedule the saving of their data at regular intervals -- every 30 minutes, every day or every 48 hours -- on Cintas servers in the cloud.

“God forbid something happens to your building -- whether it’s a flood or earthquake or somebody pulling the plug out at the wrong time -- but if it did and you had had that foresight, you’re going to go back to work the next day and still have access to your files,” Samide says.

Job: Security
As Cintas continues to expand its services in the document management market, the company has an increasingly vested interest in educating its customers about the importance of data protection, which Samide says had everything to do with commissioning the telephone survey.

“We really are striving to be the most secure company in the business,” he says. “Part of the rationale behind the survey was to highlight to our customers all the things that could happen to them if their customers’ information got stolen -- to have them think a little differently about the consequences.

“At the end of the day, we want to view ourselves as a company that our customers trust to do these things for them, to help them become more efficient with their data and more secure with their information.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2011 issue of Security Today.

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