What NOT to Do When Your E Commerce Customer Data is HackedSo, today I was reading an article at Internet Retailer about the recent hacking of the Zappos.com website and resulting loss of some key pieces of customer data.

(Want to check out the article? You can read it here.)

Identity theft is never easy or fun, regardless of whether the hacker gains access to a large ecommerce site database, steals your purse or uses one of those card readers to snag your number while you wait for your bill at a restaurant.

While the Zappo’s hacker does not appear to have snagged credit card numbers, the exposure of critical identifying information is unsettling for Zappo’s customers, to say the least. For me, the kicker of the article was Zappo’s choice to announce the security breach via email and then shut off its telephones.

On one hand, I get it. This stuff happens and no company is infallible. I also understand that a security breach exposing personal identifying information is likely to incite a riot and the phones at Zappo’s were likely to ring off the hook as each unlucky customer opened his or her email and found the worrisome email. I understand that no ecommerce company is adequately equipped to answer the deluge of customer phone calls in a timely manner after an event like this.

On the other hand, what I don’t understand is their choice to turn off their phone support in lieu of email. I question that move solely based on the company’s reputation for flawless customer service. I can only wonder how many loyal customers of Zappos.com were enraged and disappointed when they got a recording asking them to email the company after reading the notification email.

As we say in Minnesota, “Uff da.”

The Take Away

If you are going to do business on the Internet, expect the unexpected. Servers crash and hackers happen. The goal is not to drive yourself nuts trying to outthink every possible disaster scenario, but to have a clear contingency plan for any that you could reasonably expect to happen over the life of the site. Then, make sure that your contingency plan reflects your corporate values to your customers. Customers understand that technology fails and mistakes are made—what they don’t understand is customer service that flies in the face of your ecommerce brand.

To learn more about how to maximize the success of your ecommerce initiative, download the white paper, B2B Ecommerce Success – Seven Questions to Consider When Beginning an Ecommerce Initiative.