How to handle customer data effectively and responsibly

The safe handling of customer data is a prerequisite for all businesses in the age of GDPR. Read our guide on how to get it right.

22 April 2020

With GDPR legislation now fully enforceable, there’s a lot to consider when collecting, processing and analysing customer data. Businesses of all sizes must take stock of their data management strategy if they’re to avoid penalties and retain consumer trust.

Here, we provide a complete guide on how to handle customer data safely and responsibly, with best practice advice and tips on some of the best data management platforms for efficient data handling.

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Why is responsible customer data management so important?

Since GDPR legislation was ratified by the European Parliament in 2016, the ways in which businesses handle customer data have come under scrutiny like never before. With the prospect of a heavy fine for organisations which flout GDPR guidelines, the safety of customer data has never been more important.

When the GDPR ruling was first introduced, EU lawmakers granted businesses a two-year window in which to secure their data management systems to bring them in line with the new regulations. As of 25 May 2018, however, organisations risk heavy fines for noncompliance, with a sliding scale of financial penalties depending on a business’ size, turnover and the severity of the infraction.

And it isn’t just monetary penalties which make responsible data management so critical. A business risks tarnishing its reputation and losing consumer trust through improper data handling – something which could prove more damaging in the long term than even a financial penalty.

For these reasons and others besides, responsible management of customer data is crucial for all businesses, be it a multinational or SME. The next part of our guide highlights some of the strategies that organisations can implement to ensure the steadfast management of customer data.

Best practice advice for handling customer data

Collecting, processing, analysing and handling customer data can feel like spinning plates – with much to consider to ensure you don’t fall foul of GDPR compliance measures. As a means of helping your business handle its consumer data safely and responsibly, here we offer our essential best practice tips on handling customer data.

 

Conduct a privacy audit

The first step in safeguarding customer data is to perform a privacy audit. This is a process of finding out what data is currently collected, how it’s stored and what’s it’s used for.

In the days before GDPR, businesses were free to collect as much data as they wanted from customers and site visitors. And, often, organisations would collect data without realising it, with third-party channels pulling data left, right and centre.

This type of data collection is no longer permissible, and is something that, by now, all businesses should have got a handle on. By conducting a privacy audit, you can ensure that the data you’re collecting from your customers is necessary, and is being used and handled responsibly.

 

Minimise data collection

While data is a critical component of remarketing and expanding your customer base, GDPR makes it clear that businesses should only collect data that’s absolutely necessary. That means it’s crucial that your business doesn’t pull data it doesn’t need.

A good way to think about customer data is: what you don’t have can’t hurt you. For all the information you gather about customers, the higher the likelihood that you’ll ultimately fall foul of GDPR guidelines, and risk being stung by a hefty financial penalty.

Think carefully about the type of data you process from customers, and how critical it is to the long-term success of your business. Prioritise data sets by their value and look to remove parameters which collect unneeded information; streamlining data collection in such a way helps to mitigate the risk of improper data management.

Publish a clear privacy policy

Customers understand that their data is valuable to businesses, and have grown more savvy about how their information is used and processed for monetary gain. They want to see that an organisation is going to handle their information safely and responsibly, and a privacy policy is an excellent way of clarifying your stance as a data controller.

Since GDPR came into effect, it’s now a legal requirement for all commercial website owners to post a privacy policy. This is a legally binding agreement between you and your customers, so make sure it’s unique to your business and fully details how you intend to collect, analyse and use customer information.

Drawing up a privacy policy may sound complicated, but there are tools that can help. Policymaker, for example, lets you develop a tailored privacy policy for your site, handling any and all legalese which you may otherwise struggle to draw up yourself.

 

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Which platforms can aid efficient customer data management?

To guarantee the safety and security of customer data, firms big and small must look to bolster their data management provision with dedicated platforms and software. Given the penalties associated with GDPR noncompliance, any outlay required to reinforce data safety will be worth the added peace of mind of knowing that you’re doing the utmost to protect your customer data.

Software tasked with securing customer data falls under the umbrella category of Data Management Platforms, or DMPs. These tools help secure key customer data, like mobile identifiers, personal information and cookie IDs, housing them securely whilst allowing for ease of access.

Business people analysing data

What’s more, aside from security, there are other benefits to using DMPs – which we explore below:

  • An extra level of security and peace of mind – investing in a dedicated DMP provides consistent and reliable security provision, so you know your data is protected in line with GDPR protocol.
  • Unifies data for marketing opportunities – with data in one place, this provides your business and teams with a great overview of your customer base, facilitating lookalike remarketing and audience extension.
  • Discover groups within data sets – a DMP isn’t just about efficient data security and management; it allows you to spot groups and behavioural patterns within the data, which can be siloed and broken down to assist marketing efforts and create long-term strategies for attracting more valued customers.

Given the benefits of adopting a DMP to help consumer data, you may be wondering which platforms are worth your time. Below, we take a look at three data management platforms, discussing their benefits and functionality.

  1. Cloudera

Among the most comprehensive DMPs available, Cloudera provides a range of functions to simplify data management and allow for in-depth data exploration and discovery. As well as high-spec data security, diagnostics and monitoring, you can easily define data sets across multiple channels, giving you greater control of how customer data can be used.

  1. Lotame

Lotame facilitates industry-leading data security and management, allowing you to securely index customer data sourced from multiple channels, including email, social and mobile. As well as secure storage and data handling, Lotame allows for greater engagement with data sets, with a range of optimisation functions that provide a granular view of customer data that can aid marketing efforts.

  1. Salesforce DMP

Salesforce may be better known as a CRM provider, but their in-built DMP is a reliable data management solution, too. The great thing about the Salesforce DMP is that it utilises the same machine learning technology as the CRM platform, so you can quickly segment data and make insightful discoveries across multiple channels. It also bolsters security and allows for seamless data handling, so you needn’t fear retaining GDPR compliance.

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