Data Compliance Guide: How to Handle Customer Information Responsibly

What are the benefits of consumer data, and what are your main responsibilities around collecting and storing it?

A huge amount of data is shared on the internet, which continues to grow by thousands of bytes every day. Whether or not we notice it, it’s one of the most important aspects of the web and helps us push for new developments, along with aiding a general understanding of how businesses, users and customers work.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that for businesses of all kinds, collecting data on your customers is vital to help you improve your strategies and hit targets. But with this universal data gathering comes significant responsibility, and regardless of the sector, every organisation from e-commerce sites to governmental bodies must comply with data protection regulations.

Data comes in all different shapes, forms and sizes, from a user’s location to the ads they click. While you can use the data to your advantage, the responsibilities around handling it sensitively and safely have never been as critical.

This guide will take you through the principal data protection regulations, including how your business can handle the tricky tasks of complying with current laws and meeting customer expectations.

What is Data Protection?

Data protection helps control how and why businesses use personal information.

The 2018 Data Protection Act means users have the right to find out what information a company stores about them, and the business must be able to supply them with this information.

This is the UK’s implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which covers the European Union. GDPR was created to give EU citizens greater control over their data and guarantee secure protection against loss, theft, corruption and misuse.

Although the UK has left the EU, we continue to follow GDPR with the Data Protection Act.

Data compliance aims to target three areas:

  • The type of data that needs to be protected
  • Which processes must be implemented to protect the data
  • The penalties that will be exercised if an organisation isn’t compliant with the processes

Non-compliance with these regulations could cost your business in the form of a penalty or fine, which is why handling customer, client and employee data cautiously and diligently is so important.

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Why Do We Need the Data Protection Act?

People want assurance that their information is stored safely and that their confidentiality is protected. However, if you’ve had a data breach in the past or your site security is lacking, then you’re likely to lose custom. Users can’t be expected to put their trust in a site that doesn’t appear secure.

Therefore, the Data Protection Act was passed to ensure that there are minimum data protection requirements that businesses must meet.

Data protection is necessary mainly for keeping customers and their data safe and securely stored, meaning businesses must take ownership of data collection and protection. This includes only keeping data for a specified length of time, ensuring it’s secure, and responding to Subject Access Requests (SARs). Under SAR regulations, you must provide customers with a copy of the personal data that your business has collected.

If a business experiences a data breach, legal action could be taken by those who have had their personal information leaked. So, you should comply to protect your customers alongside ensuring your business remains safe and reliable.

Key Principles of Data Protection

Every business that handles personal data must follow strict rules; these are the data protection principles.

 

To comply with these, you must ensure the information is:

  • Used fairly, lawfully and transparently
  • Used for specified, explicit purposes
  • Used in a way that is adequate, relevant and limited to only what is necessary
  • Accurate and kept up to date
  • Handled in a way that ensures appropriate security, including protection against unlawful and unauthorised processing, access, loss, destruction or damage

Stronger legal protection exists for more sensitive information such as race, ethnicity, political opinions, religious beliefs, trade union membership, genetic data, biometrics identification, health data and sex life/orientation.

How to Handle Customer Data Correctly

Now that you have a good understanding of data protection and why we need it, we thought we’d go through some of the main ways to handle customer data while complying with regulations.

 

User Access

Under the Act, businesses must give users access to the following:

  • Their data, including being able to change and erase it
  • Data portability (allowing them to get and reuse data for different services)
  • Information about data usage
  • Restricting/stopping the processing of data
  • The right to object to data processing in certain circumstances
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Update CRM Features

You should regularly update your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) features to stay GDPR compliant.

Subscription Management 

For features like email marketing and push notifications that an e-commerce site might use, updating the CRM can improve the customer’s ability to easily opt-in and out.

They should have the option to choose what kind of information they want to receive and to target their content based on their preferences.

 

Consent Management

GDPR requires businesses to have a defined purpose for data collection, which the user must be recorded consenting to.

Bulk updates

Your customer database needs to be regularly updated to ensure data isn’t kept longer than necessary and that it’s processed and handled correctly.

Bulk updates can allow you to change the settings for how all your data is stored, rather than going through your database with a fine-tooth comb looking for errors and inconsistencies. This will save you time and money in your move to streamlined data compliance.

Why is Collecting Customer Data Important?

Collecting data from customers is useful for the growth of any business.

Here are a few reasons why…

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Improves Customer Database

Effectively growing and structuring your company database can be achieved by collecting customer data. By collating IP addresses, email addresses and even phone numbers of the people who have interacted with your brand in some way, you’ll be able to contact them about future offers that meet their needs.

Not only will this improve your lead generation strategy, but it’ll help you gauge the level of interest a customer has for your business based on their reactions to elements of your site.

With an improved consumer database, your business will have all the information needed need to be able to send marketing updates, email newsletters, offers, and any other customer outreach.

Gain a Better Understanding of the Market

Businesses should always be looking for new ways to understand their customers. From defining demographics to identifying how they can improve their customer experience, collecting consumer data can help.

For example, collecting data from reviews about the customer experience is an invaluable resource that can help form a tailored customer journey.

The more a business knows about its customers and what they want, the better it can adapt to fit their needs.

Improves marketing strategies

Digital marketing competition is high between businesses in the same industries but improving your data collection can set you apart.

You should do everything possible to optimise your marketing campaign if your goal is to outrank the competition, increase conversions, and establish a sense of trust between your brand and your market. This means gathering data and using it to inform the way you market your products.

This data will tell you which marketing campaigns and tactics your target audience responds to the most, which can help you create more effective and targeted ads moving forward. You’ll learn more about your average customer, including information such as their preferred social media platforms, the products they’re most interested in and their general purchasing habits.

Data can also help you to get a better insight into how the overall customer path on your website is perceived.

Want to know our top tips for creating a customer journey map? Read our step-by-step guide.

Allow for Better Personalisation

Collecting data will allow you to meet consumer expectations regarding personalised communications and suggestions.

The more awareness you have of what kind of products and services your customers are interested in, the easier it becomes to target them with marketing for products they’re more likely to buy. Ultimately, this means that the customer will be more impressed with their service, and you reduce the potential of losing a sale.

This goes a long way towards improving your ROI, shortening your sales cycle, and expanding your business.

What is the Role of the Customer Service Team in Data Compliance?

The customer service team will deal directly with customers, which means they play a vital role in protecting them. To ensure your team handle personal data sensitively, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Follow the information requirements on quality and language: The information received by customers should be regularly updated, brief, clear, concise, simple to understand, and easily accessible.
  • Provide more information: Customers should be given information on how their data is handled, the legal basis for doing so, the length of time it’ll be stored and where. Customer service agents should be equipped with this information to help with queries, but it should also be provided on the site. The more information that customers can access on a self-service basis the better since this will streamline your customer service.
  • A secure option for opting out: Being as transparent as possible about how you use customer data should always be a priority.
  • Consumers expect privacy: The value of privacy is high for customers, meaning that businesses handling data-gathering best practices will gain an edge over those failing to comply with GDPR. Improving consumer trust can result in higher ROI and better engagement.
  • Customers have the right to be forgotten: A customer’s data should be deleted if they request to leave your database. It should be made clear that by doing so, they will no longer receive targeted marketing, offers or anything else that you can provide using their data since their details will no longer exist in your CRM.

Looking for customer service that speaks to your contacts? Gnatta makes interactions matter, delivering quality exchanges and quicker responses that meet your customers’ expectations. 

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