Best Practices for Collecting Customer Data Securely to Enhance Compliance

In the midst of high-profile data breaches, modern customers are concerned about the security of their personal data. This is becoming a challenge for digital marketers since they rely on data analytics to better understand and serve customers.

Therefore, proper data collection is essential to ensure your organization avoids data breach incidents and the loss of customer trust. Your business can overcome the challenges by following data collection best practices. This is especially true for e-commerce platforms, where personal and financial data is shared around the clock. For companies who are established in monitoring customer data such as shopping cart KPIs, and sign-up conversions, it’s even more important to consider compliance and a legal requirement in most countries.

The legal grounds of consent guide all marketing-based data collection and processing activities. The consent you are collecting should denote the processing goals stipulated in your privacy policy to ensure the consent is binding. The ideal practice is to collect consent using checkboxes for purposes related to the privacy policy.

For instance, if you intend to use the data to send personalized messages or share with social media providers to display personalized ads, it’s essential to have two different checkboxes. Typically, the granularity of consent depends on how you formulate privacy policies for your business. While it’s common to separate consents for sending messages and personalizing the content, some organizations tend to send a single aggregated consent.

Whenever companies gather data on the grounds of consent, regulations require keeping some metadata to track the specific privacy policy in use. Therefore, businesses should adopt a protocol that enables the tagging of each agreement with the appropriate policy notice. Besides ensuring compliance, this approach facilitates the actionability of individual customer data for a certain period without purging the entire database.

2. Minimize Data and Only Collect What You Need

Any data collected for purposes not fully justified by a legitimate contract performance should be based on a specific consent. Otherwise, customer data should be minimized according to the data minimization principles.

In most cases, about 60%-73% of the data collected by businesses is often unused. Therefore, you should be more selective about the specific data you are collecting to save resources and prevent system overload. You can achieve this by clearly identifying the issues you intend to address and determining the types of customer data you need. If you’ll be collecting contact details through web forms or collecting feedback via customer surveys, it’s essential to have a comprehensive application plan.

3. Ensure Your Team Understands Personal Data

While this issue seems basic, there is a significant misunderstanding and disconnect among various businesses, making it vital to define personal information clearly. In a highly-connected digital world, people leave chunks of data trails about their personal lives on the internet, and malicious entities can use the data to monitor their activities.

Personally, identifiable information includes emails, IDs, contact information, and any data that can be used to identify an individual, including profile pictures, posts, and IP addresses. A good information security posture can’t be developed without adequate employee education.

Most businesses tend to spend a considerable portion of their cybersecurity budget on fire-wall technologies and legal teams. While these aspects are essential, the increasing number of data breaches indicates that employees can be the weak link in your security strategy. Regardless of how much money you spend on technology features, the efforts may be futile if you don’t address the security gaps in your company.

Therefore, educating your staff on all aspects of data security and compliance is critical. Implementing data protection policies and resolving customer privacy issues is almost impossible when your team doesn’t have sufficient education.

4. Be Transparent and Give Your Customers Incentives

Transparency is a growing concern among modern customers; at least 60% of customers feel they can make better decisions if businesses are more transparent about privacy policies. Ideally, you should ensure your privacy policies and data collection are visible. At the same time, provide an opt-in where customers can share information and describe the reasons behind your data collection efforts.

Studies show that 57% of customers are ready to give you their personal data when you offer personalized incentives. As such, you can gather valuable data by giving your customers a compelling reason. Most importantly, it’s best to collect data at various points along the customer journey, including website visits, purchases, and customer support.

5. Keep Customer Data Clean in a Central Storage

When business and customer data is disjointed, your sales, marketing, and customer service employees are forced to use tools or resources that may not be effective. On the other hand, you can centralize business workflows by eliminating silos and consolidating data into a unified system. Typically, a unified source of information helps your team provide seamless customer service.

A unified data storage system facilitates accurate analytics and more opportunities to leverage real-time data when responding to customer needs and making informed business decisions. But this can only happen when you have clean and accurate data. Typically, inaccurate or outdated can compromise customer confidence and lead to business losses. You can ensure optimum data quality by using automatic validation tools to perform regular reviews and deleting unnecessary data like duplicates and inactive contact information.

6. Use Secure Webforms

People often submit personal information through web forms because they trust you to secure the data. Therefore, it’s your responsibility as a reputable organization to ensure the data is not vulnerable. Regardless of the type of data you’re collecting via web forms, it’s vital to observe the aspects of secure data collection.

Authentication uses SAML, CAS, and LDAP to protect your web forms against unauthorized access. Similarly, encryption protocols protect the submitted data to ensure that only people with the decryption key can read the data. Typically, any data sent via the HTTPS is encrypted with the TLS protocol that provides three protection layers. In addition, it’s best to ensure your review web forms branding is consistent with your organization to avoid suspicion among customers.

The Bottom Line

Cybersecurity is a crucial aspect for modern customers, especially when it comes to personal data. Collecting and using customer data securely can seem like an insurmountable task. But when you do it ethically, you gain invaluable insights to improve your business. Make sure you inform your customers about the types of data you collect and the purpose for collecting the information.

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