Businesses must handle customer data correctly

Data and analytics are the secret weapons of the modern marketer, giving them insights into the habits, behaviour and preferences of customers and helping them direct their strategies. Yet along with the many advantages of these digital tools comes some serious risks – namely, the risk to customer information. In order to maximise the benefits of data, it's essential that professionals in marketing jobs understand how to handle this information and protect the privacy of their customers.

Marketers need to establish a trusting relationship with customers.Marketers need to establish a trusting relationship with customers.

Australians worry about what happens to their data

According to a 2016 survey from KPMG, close to 25 per cent of Australian consumers have serious concerns about what businesses are doing with their personal information. Some of the biggest worries include companies being aware of their location, having apps access their personal information, and organisations selling their personal data to third-party businesses. 

At a time when people's lives are more online than ever, worries such as these are completely understandable, however this suspicion also creates big problems for well-intentioned companies. For marketers to utilise customer data successfully, they need to be able to establish a relationship of trust between the business and its customers. If a betrayal of trust does occur, the damage to a business' image and reputation can be irreparable, so it's vital to get it right.

It's important for businesses to be transparent about the way they are using customers' data.

Building brand image by building trust

KPMG Australia Forensic Partner Gary Gill explains that transparency is one of the most important aspects of handling customer data well. People want to know exactly what a company is going to do with their data and feel secure that it won't be shared without their permission.

"They also need to demonstrate strong cyber security systems," he said. "Failure to imbed privacy into the DNA of their business strategy could ultimately lead to the extinction of a business given how closely consumers and regulators alike are paying attention to how organisations collect, store and use personal data."

With Australia adopting new legislation around the notification of data breaches, it's important that businesses are aware of the requirements and fulfilling their obligation under the revised Privacy Act to report any breaches that occur.

Cybersecurity news site Dark Reading recommends several other strategies for handling customer data well. Marketing professionals should be wary when it comes to third parties and always diligently apply security best practices. In addition, give customers control over their own data by allowing them to easily review and change the information they're making available.   

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