How businesses can safeguard customer data

03 February 2023 3 min. read

As companies respond to a rising number of cyber-attacks, UK data analytics consultancy Dufrain has shared some key tips for safeguarding customer data. According to the firm’s Associate Director of Data Strategy, Tim Bowes, the challenge also provides businesses with an opportunity to boost their operational efficiency.

Bowes continued, “Data Privacy Day is a valuable chance for businesses to reflect upon the current state of data governance in their organisation, while acting as a prompt to identify any opportunities for improvement. In general, the more transparent a business is on the usage of consumer data, the more likely its customers will be to trust that business and opt-in to share their information.”

In relation to this point, Bowes has outlined three central ways with Dufrain, which can help companies do that. But first and foremost, it starts with building trust.

Tim Bowes, Associate Director, Dufrain.

Listen to customers

Consumers are mainly concerned about what and how data is collected and stored – illustrating this, roughly half of consumers are not happy to share personal details for use by third parties and partners. This means that while 66% of consumers also want ads to be personalised – something that companies can only offer if more data is shared – companies need to assuage their fears to make the most of the opportunity. Doing so need not be overly complicated though; and can simply hinge on listening to customers. For example, if a customer has specified that they only want to receive contact via SMS, adhering to that simple request will help to build trust – while ensuring regulatory compliance

“Making data privacy a priority is the only way businesses can truly turn customer data into profitable insights that drive growth and innovation,” Bowes explained. “Firms can build trust by taking customer preferences seriously, and listening to what consumers want, in line with regulation such as the EU GDPR. Safeguarding customer data ultimately means responding appropriately to a customer’s marketing preferences and ensuring all data is stored in accordance with GDPR.”

Strong data management

Companies which are willing to make the most of a customer’s data, but fail to protect it, can face severe consequences. A GDPR breach can inflict lasting damage to a company’s reputation, undermining consumer trust and deterring potential customers from keeping their personal data with the company. Companies can help avoid this by ensuring they leverage good storage practices. These can minimise the risk of data leaks or GDPR breaches, as well as enabling firms to appropriately access and harness data to inform the design of new products and expand into new markets.

“Businesses can take advantage of vast amounts of data while offering privacy in several ways,” Bowes added. “If the consumer has clearly opted in and stated their marketing preferences, then organisations can use that customer data as long as they are complying with data protection regulations. Companies also should ensure they collect and store data in a safe and compliant way.”

Harness trust for customer loyalty 

“When customers trust an organisation, they are more likely to opt-in to share personal data,” concluded Bowes. “It is not good enough for organisations to hide messaging regarding how customer data is going to be stored and used within the small print of terms and conditions. Clear messaging and labelling must be presented to customers at the earliest opportunity.”

Central to this is that the purpose of the data collection is made clear, helping customers to feel reassured that the service provider will only use the information in a limited way that’s aligned with their preferences. For the best results, which could see trust build brand loyalty – increasingly hard to come by in the modern market –  organisations should use bite-sized snippets of clear communication regularly, helping customers more likely to feel comfortable and willing to share more. To that end, recent surveys Dufrain pointed to have shown customers are more likely to share their data if they feel that the data will be used for something they consider beneficial, such as improving their health outcomes.