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Striking a balance between customer experience, security and privacy

Feb 27, 20185 mins
Access ControlData and Information SecurityIdentity Management Solutions

Everyone is a consumer with Consumer Identity and Access Management (CIAM).

vulnerable balance egg risk breach security
Credit: Thinkstock

Competitive forces and market dynamics in many industries have led more organizations to focus on digital transformation projects to modernize their applications. A key driver for these projects is improving customer experience. To be successful, organizations must provide a stellar experience at each juncture of the customer journey to gain a competitive advantage.

Customers always have a choice to leave for a competitor if their experience isn’t up to expectations. To optimize the customer experience, organizations must rely on data analysis to identify customer patterns, trends and behavior to identify, attract and retain customers.

The power of consumer choice

In competitive markets, consumers can easily switch to a competitor’s offering if they are frustrated with or unable to navigate through the buying process. So many kinds of obstacles may derail the consumer, such as:

  • Too many steps in the registration process
  • Preferences are not saved across login sessions
  • Forcing multiple login steps across different product lines or services
  • Mobile and desktop browser experiences are completely different, leading to confusion
  • Presenting upsell or cross-sell choices that are irrelevant to the current online experience

Of course, a positive or negative customer experience is considerably based on the design and flow of the application – mobile or desktop browser. In addition, profile data and usage patterns are key inputs into application behavior which can be based on an individual’s data or aggregated data patterns.

However, meaningful data analysis requires access to personal and confidential customer information, potentially leaving organizations at risk of mishandling that data, and exposing it via a breach or unauthorized access. Customers care deeply about the security and privacy of their personal data and organizations who fail to protect this sensitive data will lose customers, revenue and may even face regulatory fines. High-profile data breaches continue to expose massive amounts of consumer data. And with the impact from 2017 breaches like Equifax and Uber, there is both awareness and rising public concern over data privacy – and where security was an afterthought, it’s now taking center stage.

Consumer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) to the rescue

The consequences of a data breach are immediate to a company’s reputation, share value and customer loyalty. Most organizations implement an Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution for employees to protect themselves against insider threats, but these are less effective for managing customer identities. IAM solutions often lack the functions that balance the trifecta of customer convenience, security and privacy; they’re simply too limited to handle the scale, performance and often complex customer-centric needs. However, progressive Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) solutions strike that balance of protecting customer information while enhancing the customer experience, without sacrificing one for the other.

CIAM allows organizations to securely capture and manage customer identity profile data while also controlling customer access to applications and services. A CIAM solution provides a multitude of features like customer registration, self-service account management, consent and preference management, single sign-on (SSO) and multi-factor authentication (MFA). These features deliver a flawless customer experience while minimizing the chance of a security breach. Here’s how:

Improve the customer experience

The goal is to make everything simpler for the customer. Forcing customers to provide their credentials over and over for each application can get annoying, and sometimes the customer will just leave the application altogether. And now it’s more than only web applications that require user credentials, there are also mobile applications, IoT, partner applications and many other channels. With CIAM, customs can use a single sign-on (SSO) from one application to another, reducing user frustration. For example, customers are much more likely to use certain applications if they offer Google or Facebook authentication instead of their own. This delivers a more seamless customer experience as customers can quickly sign into websites with one SSO.

Secure customer data

Businesses need to make sure only authorized users attempt any given action (e.g., transferring money from checking to savings). Often, security is viewed as an inhibitor and a hurdle to business, but it actually can be a key differentiator over your competitors. CIAM solutions manage the customer’s preferences and other important metadata that can be leveraged by Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) systems to enforce security policies on PII and other regulated data.

Ensure data privacy

With CIAM, knowing what data is being held and shared and for what purpose, becomes fundamental. The constant stream of data breaches is beginning to raise consumer awareness about who is tracking their data, where it is stored/aggregated and who it is being shared with. In Europe, the GDPR legislation enumerates specific requirements for customer data collection, retention, use and so on. CIAM systems can be a key component to manage this preference data.

CIAM encompasses all these capabilities to assist organizations to deliver the right balance between a seamless customer experience with security and privacy. CIAM is essential to help organizations turn their customer relationships into a true competitive advantage.


Gerry Gebel is the vice president of business development at Axiomatics. He is responsible for sales, customer support, marketing, and business development for the Americas region. In addition, he contributes to product strategy and manages partner relationships.

Before joining Axiomatics, Gerry was vice president and service director for Burton Group’s identity management practice. He covered topics such as authorization, federation, identity and access governance, user provisioning and other identify management (IAM) topics. In 2007, he facilitated the first ever XACML interoperability demonstration at the Catalyst conference.

In addition, Gerry has nearly 15 years' experience in the financial services industry including architecture development, engineering, integration, and support of Internet, distributed, and mainframe systems.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Gerry Gebel and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.