The modern business landscape thrives on two things: data and the trust of the consumer. Making sure that critical data, both yours and your clients’, is adequately protected should be the cornerstone of trust between a business and its pool of clients. That trust is among the main lifebloods of growth and ultimate success. However, acquiring and maintaining that trust is not actually a walk in the park.
Especially within the currently oversaturated market and a seemingly volatile climate in terms of information safety.
Although most users are not too reluctant to share their personal data with a company or a brand they trust, there’s always an underlying layer of concern regarding where their information could end up and for what purposes. Think Google, Facebook, and other digital behemoths who seem to have little respect towards the privacy of their users, as long as they can make a profit off of the information we are providing them on a daily basis.
This is precisely why each and every organization that deals with their own clients should pay close attention to securing the right customer privacy levels, and in so doing, make sure their client pool doesn’t lose trust in them.
Why Is the Customer Privacy Issue on the Rise?
Needless to say, customer privacy and trust have been the fulcrum of almost each and every business even before the digital era. But now it seems that the convoluted ecosystem of various communication channels has put even more significance to privacy and protection of client-based information.
This new environment interconnects the consumers among themselves in a much more granular way, as well as with their brands of choice, making each and every aspect of a company’s business model more transparent. Not only are users spending more time online and inevitably sharing tons of information with various platforms and businesses, but they are also conducting thorough research about online services and products, and therefore getting direct data on a company’s reputation, the quality of their service/product, etc.
This type of interconnectedness allows the user to quickly find out whether your business is trustworthy, but it also makes way for numerous other parties to collect their data and use it for their own profit. It is a very complicated ecosystem of nodes and dataflows, especially when you consider how much personal data is being sent into the aether each second via social media networks, which is somewhat inevitable and is considered an intrinsic component of using social networks.
This is exactly why these consumers seek high privacy levels with other types of businesses whose products and/or services they are utilizing. If most of them already accepted the fact that their data is being used by various social networks, it is important for them to know that they can at least rely on your business when it comes to consumer privacy.
It is strange that today data privacy is deemed as a commodity, not a right. And is up to you to meet their highest expectations regarding this matter.
Consumer Privacy and The Reputation of Your Business
Not only are your clients in a dire need of high privacy and data protection levels, but your company can also benefit from them. Every user is conscious of the exposure of their personal data every time they navigate your website, purchase your products, use your app, or use the services you provide. A huge part of your business’ reputation is how you value and handle customer privacy.
As this type of data is being exchanged on a daily basis via numerous platforms – email, instant messaging apps, team collaboration platforms, SaaS products, web stores, etc – the standards have become pretty high against the potential exposure of personal information. Gone are the days when you could simply cover these issues via your terms and conditions page and be done with it.
Everyday interaction and dataflows require a much more detailed and granular approach to personal data safety and breach mitigation. For example, during the first six months of 2018, over 4.5 billion data records have been directly exposed to data breaches. This number is quite staggering, and even though the number of successful cyber attacks seems to be decreasing according to the stats from Statista (which is a great sign of companies investing more in data security), there are still those who play with fire (and their own reputation) by not taking adequate measures in terms of securing the data that belongs to their own customers.
Regardless of the industry, you operate in or the size of your organization, taking proper care of these issues can literally make or break your business. Even high-profile brands (like Uber, Yahoo, Target) are capable of suffering enormous losses due to cyber-attacks and consumer data breaches.
Good Reputation Brings Revenue
As we already mentioned, the modern business landscape is highly competitive. Proper customer privacy, aside from typical risk management benefits, accounts for providing added value in terms of competitive edge on the market. This makes high-tier consumer privacy and data security a must for the companies that look for organic growth and successful brand build strategies. A good reputation enables you to widen your client pool and drive more revenue.
When you take into account that over 60% of consumers think that privacy practices directly impact a company’s trustworthiness, with 9 out of 10 wishing there were more businesses they could trust with their data, it is safe to say that consumer privacy is among the main cornerstones of your reputation among both existing and potential clients.
How to Assure Top-Tier Customer Privacy for Your Business
The environment regarding laws, rules, and regulations in terms of data privacy is complicated and prone to frequent changes. It can vary depending on the industry your business operates in and/or the geolocation of your company.
Here are several basic steps you can take toward assuring high levels of customer data protection.
Take a Proactive Approach to Information Security
Over the last several years, governments around the globe have been fairly active in terms of new regulation roll-outs, especially regarding the ways customer information is tracked, collected, stored, and utilized. Back in 2018, Europe’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) has stirred the pot quite a bit, providing an option to EU-based consumers to retract their data from companies that collected it.
Additionally, numerous Security Breach Notification Laws (or Data Breach Notification Laws) are also somewhat new within the modern business landscape. They “require individuals or entities affected by a data breach, unauthorized access to data, to notify their customers and other parties about the breach, as well as take specific steps to remedy the situation based on the state legislature.” This is perfectly logical and expected as these data and personal information breaches can cause significant harm to a user as an individual.
All these legal and regulatory requirements, both old and new, shed new light on the ways organizations are dealing with consumer-based information, whether they are handling it according to laws and regulations, or if they are mishandling it to the extent that it is harmful to both the user and the reputation of the business. This is why taking a proactive approach to data protection, both granular and on the infrastructure level, is of utmost importance to modern organizations and these policies are to be implemented in a diligent manner.
Perform a Detailed Information Privacy Audit
Once you’ve adopted the proactive security-first mindset and approach, it is time to conduct thorough research on estimating the current condition of your systems, applications, infrastructure, and communication channels. When you have all the necessary knowledge, you should perform a detailed audit of where your data security is at this particular moment. Which aspects of it are at satisfactory levels, but – more importantly – where it falls short.
Be sure to figure out all the gaps and come up with a legitimate and effective strategy for bridging those data protection gaps as soon as possible.
Optimize Data Collection and Retention
Think about what type of data your organization needs on a daily basis, which information it is actually collecting and handling if that data is being properly stored and secured, and what data can be archived due to its outmodedness (but subsequently retrievable for potential legal issues). Consider using data archiving and come up with your own email retention policy that would optimize the volume of data your company is using, storing, and archiving. Not only does collecting and keeping more data than you actually need for daily workflows increase your risk of it being lost or stolen, but it also bumps up your monthly costs.
Be Cognizant of the Entities You’re Doing Business With & Their Own Reputation
Having a protection system that will keep you safe from hackers is a logical security measure, but certain organizations tend to overlook how important (and potentially hazardous) their collaborators could be. Make sure that the third-party entities you are sharing private customer information with are legitimate organizations that will not misuse this data.
After all, it is up to you to keep it safe by dealing with trustworthy partners and vendors. It is also recommended that you verify each third-party entity so you and your clients are always on the safe side. Beware of new vendors that crop up on the market every now and then offering unrealistically low prices paired with top-tier service, as these can very easily be frauds. So, be sure to perform a thorough background check on these vendors before even considering doing business with them.
Make Sure Your Brand is Protected
Your data security response plan should have an effective communications strategy in order not to have an inconsistent, weak and untimely reaction to potential cyber attacks. This type of inconsistency often leads to increased risks of data exposure and theft. Additionally, be sure to come up with a good strategy for communication with stakeholders.
These measures will help you automate the disaster recovery and response process, reducing the need for real-time decision-making once the actual crisis hits.
Summary: Run Tests Regularly
Much like it is the case with almost any IT-based procedure, running regular tests to gain insight into the actual condition of your systems is of critical importance. Practice makes perfect, so it is wise to run simulations in order to determine weak points and gaps within your customer privacy and data security processes. These tests will also help your teams better prepare for the “this is not a drill” scenario.