GLOBAL: British Airways has acted quickly to shut down concerns about a data breach affecting 380,000 customers, even as a new study warns that the security of their personal data is a major concern for consumers around the world.

Alex Cruz, the airline’s CEO, told the BBC on Friday that hackers had carried out a “sophisticated, malicious criminal attack” on the company’s website and promised that anyone affected would be compensated. Newspapers adverts on Friday apologised for the breach.

The response was praised as “textbook” by Alex Goldup, associate director at The PR Office: swift action, a visible CEO, a clear and effective script.

Be that as it may, the incident serves to highlight the findings of a recent survey by Salesforce Research, which analysed survey responses from 6,723 individuals from around the world for its Trends in Customer Trust report.

Not only did 59% of respondents believe their personal information was vulnerable to a security breach, 54% didn’t believe that companies have their best interests in mind in how they use such data.

Businesses are facing a crisis of customer trust, the study said – “and this is a big problem as trust is a key factor driving customer engagement and loyalty”.

Salesforce Research reported that 95% of customers are more likely to be loyal to a company they trust while 92% are more likely to purchase additional products and services from trusted businesses. Furthermore, 93% are more likely to recommend a company they trusted.

Transparency is crucial in building trust, the report said. It is not enough for businesses to simply say “we value the security and privacy of our customers’ data”; they need to show how they are doing that – and to explain how such data facilitates the sort of personalised experiences consumers demand.

In the case of British Airways, personal and financial details of customers making bookings between certain dates were compromised, and the UK Information Commissioner’s Office is now investigating the breach.

Sourced from BBC, PR Week, Salesforce Research; additional content by WARC staff