They say knowledge is power and data is a type of knowledge that is no exception.
In a post we wrote back in May, we explored how data helps you keep in time with your customers, ensuring you’re dancing to the same beat. Having handy info on clients- their contact information and details about them such as their age, profession, location and other demographics- helps with your direct marketing and not least with gaining feedback for product/service improvement.
Access to stats on your current customers’ buying behaviours can help you forecast sales, outline budgets and know how to improve and deliver an all-round first-class customer service when your data is dancing to the same tune as your customers.
Data has unlimited potential for small and big businesses alike to tap into but, to quote a well-known superhero tagline, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Owning data or using data of any sort- whether that be photos, stats, financial details, passwords and personal contact information or any other form of facts- needs to be done in an ethical manner.
The responsibility to treat data with sensitivity and with the highest security is so great that leading business and data expert, Bernard Marr, wrote earlier this year that: “The EU will soon be able to fine companies 5% of global turnover” in incidents where a business incorrectly handles data ownership and security.
So as an early Christmas present we’ve put together 4 steps you should take to keep clients smiling when it comes to handling their data…
1) Walk the Ownership Walk: Data is one of the most valuable assets at your business’ disposal. That’s right your business…your asset. It’s always best practice to own the data your business depends on to carry out routine tasks. Easy if it’s your own in-house data but not so plain sailing it it’s data owned by an outside source.
What if said third party pulled the rug from underneath your business feet and refuses you access for whatever reason or begins charging you more for the data that your business heavily relies on to provide its services out of the blue? This is worst case scenario but if it does happen, and you’re not the direct owner of the information, it’s a good idea to have your business covered by ensuring you can always have access to the data.
2) Talk the Security Talk (and back it up): Data is about your clients and a business is only as good as its people- its team and its clients. You want to do what’s right by your clients and that means protecting their personal data. Where you can, use data that can’t be linked to people’s identity. Where this isn’t possible security must be a priority. Here’s how to make security number 1:
- Have reliable software ready to flag up security breaches and leaks and combat them while the data is being attacked. Nowadays this is more effective than taking preventive measures, which can’t guarantee breaches are dealt with.
- Train your team so they never let slip sensitive details, especially information on clients.
- Enlist the help of data encryption to ensure only people with access to a designed password or ‘key’ can get hold of the data.
- Given that data can be complex, we’d recommend seeking professional help when it comes to data that is.
- Using the Cloud to store data may sound a bit weak and wimpy but it’s actually, more often than not, a modern and sensible option. Why? Because storing data in more than one place gives you that extra peace of mind.
3) Be Prepared: Not just a handy motto for Scouts, but good advice to heed. This is especially given the case that any EU citizen, by law, has the right to be forgotten, meaning you should delete all records you have of the client in question if they ask you do to so. If your business strategy is centred on customer data, it’s always ideal to have a Plan B (and C).
4) Eat Ethics for Breakfast: Openness, honesty and clarity are the recipe for the perfect ethical handling of data. Be upfront and clear about the fact that your business is using client data, what the said data is, what you are using it for and who you share it with.
Offer a simple way for clients to chose not to have their data used. (No, that doesn’t mean burying an ‘opt out’ in a jargon-filled essay of an agreement titled ‘Waffle.’) Clients will value the freedom to choose.
Clients allowing your business to harness their data is a gift, a privilege so it can be worthwhile to offer them something in return. Special access to free practical tips and advice via blog posts and email newsletters are a good example.
Making clients feel valued and truly backing that value up with integrity and transparency should be every business’ top priority.
How do you and your team keep clients’ information and data safe? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!