Customer Privacy: Why It’s More Important Than Ever

Gaining and maintaining the trust of your consumers is crucial if you ever want to grow your business. And that’s a tough sell, especially these days, where it seems information is being bought and traded and sold left and right.

Most individuals will share their personal information with you if they trust your company, but to lose that trust can bring everything down upon you. Customer privacy has always been important, but now, more than ever. It’s something that has the potential to impact your brand, disrupt the customer experience, and potentially damage your reputation.

Why Is Consumer Privacy Such a Big Issue?

Consumers are more connected these days. They’re spending more time online and sharing more information than before. They’re researching, taking advantage of online services, and purchasing items online through computers, phones, and tablets. This information is collected by their mobile operators, internet providers, device manufacturers, and apps they use for either their own purposes or to sell to other businesses.

Consumers are also well-connected socially, sharing their trials and triumphs along with pictures and locations all over Facebook and Instagram. While they’re happy to share minor details, more personal information is kept a little closer to the chest. They’re concerned about businesses collecting and selling personal information without permission.

It’s generally accepted that privacy matters to everyone, though to what degree, extent and why may vary. Why privacy matters to a person could be grouped into several different categories, or reasons: privacy is a right, it is an entitlement, it is an expectation, and it is a commodity.

Personal information that is misused, mishandled, or inadequately protected can result in identity theft, financial fraud, and other problems that can cost a fortune to repair.

What Does Privacy Have to Do With You?

What does that mean for you? Your consumers are thinking about their privacy every time they visit your website, use your app, or make a purchase through you. And it’s still your reputation on the line, even if you’re using a hosted webstore, separate email marketing provider, or a hosted website. Each of these deals with customer information differently.

Each time information is exchanged, it’s potentially exposed. It’s not just enough anymore to put out a few paragraphs murmuring about privacy in your terms and conditions page. It’s embedded into your everyday interactions with your customers.

A recent series of high-profile data breaches have brought shortcomings of data protection to light. They signify what can happen when corporations fail to protect consumer data from internet hacking. The offending companies came to include Equifax, Yahoo, Target, Uber, and Home Depot.

But these breaches aren’t just problems to plague moguls like Facebook and Google. Many smaller companies have also lost customer trust or have been sued over privacy mishaps in recent years. They’re likely to face even more problems as digital data files grow in not only size, but importance to modern business.

A Competitive Advantage

While basic risk management may seem like the obvious answer as to why protecting your customers’ privacy is so important, it’s a little more complex than that. Maintaining impeccable privacy and security could put you at a competitive advantage over your competition. Done right, privacy could be a cornerstone of building your brand and corporate reputation.

Protecting user privacy can enable you to drive more revenue and gain more customers. A little more than ⅔ of consumers believe that privacy practices are related to a company’s trustworthiness, only outranked by a company’s dependability and pricing practices by a small margin.

Companies seen as the most trustworthy by consumers tended to have very specific privacy practices in place, like a way for customers to file complaints or get help resolving privacy issues, and a privacy policy that is easy to understand and limits the sharing of personal information.

Protecting Customer Information

A company that collects, processes, or controls personal information should understand the reasons privacy matters to the subjects whose data they collect and use. They have the ability to design more effective privacy practices and policies attuned to the needs of their data subjects. These may include creating customer privacy profiles for use in product design and testing.

Privacy is an expectation. People value privacy as something they expect to receive, even if laws haven’t yet caught up with the practices of the times. In the age of new technologies like drones and biometric identifiers, and practices like marketing strategies, people are aware that the laws governing these uses are behind the times, yet they still have the expectation that their privacy will be protected.

People believe that third parties, like companies and government entities, should recognize that their expectation of privacy trumps those of third parties’ desire to access and use their personal information.

Steps you can take to help to safeguard your customers, and therefore your business, include:

  1. Conduct a data privacy audit.
    Figure out what data your business needs, what data it’s actually collecting, and how it’s being stored and secured.
  2. Minimize data collection and retention.  
    If you don’t have it, you can’t lose it. Gathering more data than you absolutely need can increase your risk of it being lost or stolen by hackers.
  3. Secure the data you do keep.
    Do absolutely everything in your power to be sure you’re able to maintain your customers trust.