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Protecting Customer Privacy

Big data – it’s critical for knowing and targeting your customers and improving their overall experience with your company. But big data comes with responsibilities. Nothing will break down the relationship you’ve built with your customers faster than a mismanagement or breach of the same data that you used to provide them with a personalized experience with your company. Just as leveraging big data is critical to the success of your company, so is protecting it. So how do you do both?

Foundation of Customer Relationships

Trust is the foundation of any good relationship, and that holds true for your relationship with your customers. Customers will only work with you if they can trust you. It is in your best interest to help customers understand how you store and use the data you collect and who has access to it. Showing a clear respect for your customers’ data and their privacy, as well as making visible and clearly articulated efforts to protect it, will establish a strong foundation for building a trusting relationship with your customers. Knowing they can trust their data with your company will keep them engaged and allow you to continue collecting valuable data to improve your services.

Data Policies & Practices

Communicating your data policies with your customers is an important step in building trust with them. Whether your company manages its own data or stores it through a cloud or other third-party provider, it is ultimately still your responsibility to protect that data and share with your customers how it’s protected. But before you can share all of this information with your customers, you need to have a clear handle on it yourself. Conducting an audit of your information security system and practices will help you identify and address weak points in your system and enable you to establish a clear plan and company policy for securely using and storing customer data.

In addition to an internal company policy, you want to have a clear privacy policy that you share with your customers that explains your data usage, storage, retention, and security practices. This policy should avoid legal jargon so that it is easy for the average customer to understand. Additionally, it should be easily accessible and readable on different platforms (e.g., computer, tablet, smartphone). Depending on your client base, you might consider having the privacy policy available in multiple languages. After reading your privacy policy, customers should always have the opportunity to easily opt out of sharing their data. The opt-out option should be clearly visible and located in an easily accessible and logical section of your company’s website or app. Customers shouldn’t have to scour your website to find out how to opt-out.

Be Transparent

To foster trust with your customers, transparency is key. The average individual is aware of the security threats that come with big data (though that doesn’t diminish your responsibility to protect your customers’ data against these threats). However, most customers also want the inherent benefits that come with big data like personalized services and loyalty rewards. Developing a strategy for communicating with your customers how you use their data as well as the value and benefits it brings them will encourage them to continue sharing their data. This demonstrates transparency and provides a sense of accountability if you violate their data and trust.

Customers want to know their privacy will not be violated and that security measures are in place to protect their information. Regular reassurances of this will help engender their trust in your company. Make it a habit to disclose what data you gather and how you use it. When customers see that you are open about how you’re using their information and committed to keeping it safe, they will be more apt to share their data. This will allow you to further hone your predictive models and respond to customer needs.