Sales & Marketing

Customer data is gold – but how can companies handle it responsibly?

3 min read

30 January 2014

I am all for online shopping, however recent cases of leaking documents, and even worse, leaking consumer data got me thinking. Who exactly do I share my personal information with?

On one hand I realise that sharing personal information allows the company to tailor content specifically for me which can create a superior shopping experience. But what else is the company doing with my personal information?

Take a look at this graph from EContent Magazine that asks why US Facebook users have not ‘liked’ a company. Granted, it’s from 2011 but I don’t think things have changed much in this area. In fact, if anything, users are more concerned about privacy issues online than they ever have been. The second most popular answer – Don’t want to give any companies access to my profile information – really hits home to me.

In this context it’s important for marketing executives to realise two things when considering what to do with customer data.

First, customer data is gold and it must be used in an intelligent way.

Simply sending raw customer data to your customer service department isn’t enough. Marketing leaders must establish a feedback loop that shares information with each department where appropriate. By segmenting and analysing customer feedback, the customer experience pool becomes a much more powerful tool benefiting the customer and the company.

Second, after multiple government (GCHQ) and corporate scandals (Enron), transparency has gone past being a buzzword. It’s something vendors must take a serious and transparent stance on. 

To alleviate concerns about sharing customer data, companies must be open and honest about how they obtain data and, more importantly, who can view and use that data. It may sound simple but it is too often overlooked. When implementing a customer feedback loop, marketing executives should be sure that customers have the opportunity to easily opt out of sharing their data and that all of the information is treated securely and not shared with any outside sources unless agreed on by the customer.

Aside from the clear fact that transparency on personal data is a moral duty, it’s just good business sense too. If companies can (re)build trust with customers they will develop stronger and more profitable relationships. Customers are likely to feel comfortable allowing a certain amount of flexibility with their data if they feel they are getting good value back.

Ensuring that user data is handled responsibly by implementing the right processes and demonstrating transparency towards customers should be a priority for any company. Do you agree? Let us know in the comments below.

Tim Jenkins is UK director of e-Spirit.

Image source