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Protecting Customer Privacy at Amica

The implementation of sound masking technology has enhanced the privacy of meetings and client phone conversations.

Insurers have recently been exploring new measures to protect customer data stored online, but little is said about maintaining that same level of privacy in the office. When Amica noticed that spoken conversations were causing distractions and privacy concerns, they addressed the problem with a tech solution.

The P&C insurer noticed a problem after an office renovation left supervisors without full floor-to-ceiling walls. As a result, they could hear the conversations of customer service representatives in the open-office area surrounding them, and the reps could overhear private chats in the management office.

Amica’s facility management team attempted to solve the problem with sound-abatement treatments, but none provided the results they wanted. The team then consulted Ron Rivet, Amica’s network operations manager, who holds responsibility for its branches’ cabling and infrastructure. After extensive research, he chose to collaborate with Cambridge Sound Management, which offers products that reduce distractions while protecting speech privacy.

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Rivet found his solution in sound masking, which is the process of adding low-level background sound to a desired environment. Cambridge's Qt system is designed to reduce the intelligibility of conversations by emitting a noise on the same spectrum of human speech. To the untrained ear, the system sounds like white noise or can be programmed to play music.  

The system resembles small speakers, about 2 to 2.5 inches in length. For every 100 square feet of office space, there is one speaker. Amica kicked off its implementation of the Cambridge solution during a renovation in its Northern California office. The feedback from employees was largely positive.

“All indications from the folks in the branch were that it worked well,” said Rivet of the solution. “From that point forward, given the positive feedback, we decided to roll out the Cambridge sound system to every [office] that was either renovated or relocated.”

Amica employees have found the system especially useful for claims calls, which are sensitive in terms of dealing with customer privacy. Now, the only people who hear these phone conversations are the customer services reps on the line, in addition to managers who are purposefully listening in.

As it looks toward 2015, Amica is strengthening its focus on customer privacy initiatives. It plans to implement more strategies to better protect customer data in order to meet compliance standards as new regulations are released.

Kelly Sheridan is Associate Editor at Dark Reading. She started her career in business tech journalism at Insurance & Technology and most recently reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft and business IT. Sheridan earned her BA at Villanova University. View Full Bio

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Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
12/18/2014 | 12:19:13 PM
The danger of overhearing
I'm sure there are plenty of offices where employees can easily overhear sensitive information. Good to see that Amica was proactive about addressing the problem with sound masking. Much easier to implement a few small speakers than re-design an entire office!
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