Building trust into your customer data strategy
In the rapidly changing regulatory environment around customer data privacy and security, it’s easy to get so caught up in specifics that you miss the big picture opportunity to build trust with your customers.
Fundamentally, every box you check with your data: consent, collection, storage, use, sharing, and more is reflective of your respect for your customer. After all, how you treat their data tells customers a lot about how you’ll treat them.
To take a customer-centric view of your data privacy compliance policies and procedures, we recommend a series of concrete steps applicable to any business or organization that deals with customer data in any form. While not exhaustive, this list forms a solid foundation for building trust in your data strategy.
Know where you’re vulnerable
One reason businesses are uniquely susceptible to data breaches and privacy omissions is the ubiquity of customer data across business units. While different departments may source, store, and use data in different ways, its presence demands compliance.
The best way to get a handle on the issue is to create a data map. This unified view of the information you have, where it’s stored, and how it flows within your organization is not only helpful from a security and privacy compliance perspective, but it can also be a helpful resource for the business.
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When it comes to collecting customer data, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Using your data map, think through your customer data requirements, and only plan to collect, process, and store what you really need to meet your goals.
Many organizations find it helpful to spell out this less-is-more approach to data collection in a formal policy, and then make it part of their data culture and training.
Pro Tip: Having written policies around customer data collection, use, storage, transmission, and sharing is important, but not sufficient. Building policies into your corporate culture takes focused planning and effort, but it pays off in compliance.
Understand the current landscape
Depending on your industry, location, and customer base, your company may be subject to different privacy laws, regulations, and requirements. Some common standards include GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA. Your legal team probably already has a good handle on which of these apply in your current context, but do your security, IT, data, and business units have complete understanding of those implications? Consider cross-referencing relevant requirements to your data map to be sure your organization is fully compliant.
Build an agile data privacy program
What if your company is not currently subject to those regulations? As you build your data privacy program, it may be wise to look into today’s privacy standards as a near-future view. Legislatures and courts continue to support customer privacy, and policy changes at Apple, Google, and other large tech and search companies forecast trends to greater restrictions on customer data collection and use.
Using current standards to anticipate future changes makes sense. Keeping your data privacy program agile and flexible not only ensures that you’ll stay ahead of costly changes in the future, but also builds customer trust — a valuable goal regardless of external factors.
Establish a security and governance framework
Depending on your industry, this may be a formal, full-time responsibility for an individual, team, or an entire department. Or you might opt for clear policies and procedures shared across business units. In any case, your customer data security and governance framework should include, at minimum:
- What types of customer data are collected
- How customer data is protected, during transmission, in use, and at rest
- What standards you follow for data security, quality, access, and retention
- Which protection measures you use when data is transferred, stored, or used, such as data masking, tokenization, format-preserving encryption, or keys
Improve the user’s experience
We commonly think of user experience on digital properties in terms of how a website or landing page looks and functions. But how you interact with your customers about their data is also part of their experience of your brand. Commit to clarity: rather than burying consent information in lengthy legalese, be up-front, clear, and simple in how your structure and format your consent management and opt-in features.
As you think about the ways your customers experience your privacy program, some topics to consider clarifying include:
- How individuals can consent to (or opt out of) your company collecting and processing their data
- Why customers might want to share their data — that is, what they get out of the exchange in terms of improved experience, personalized discounts, and the like
- How you’ll establish that a user is over 16 or over 18, if your industry or topic requires that distinction
- How a customer can request to have their data deleted, and how your organization will comply
Put the customer first
Data privacy protections show no sign of slowing down, but companies with strong customer data strategies don’t need to worry. Whatever the future holds, building a customer-first approach to collecting, storing, and using data pays off in terms of strengthened relationships across the buyer’s journey and throughout the customer lifecycle.
Not sure how to get started? We can help. Our team of digital, data, and technology experts partners with you to get your customer data strategy going — or back on track.