The Respect Factor

Showing, and proving, you care about your customers and their data

When GDPR was introduced last May it was seen as a landmark legislation for businesses. It has also signaled a radical change in the way consumers understand their personal data, and their expectations for companies holding it.

Indeed this anniversary month, the ICO has revealed that public complaints around data use has doubled from 21,000 to 41,000. Consumers are more informed about their data rights and even less trusting of companies to securely handle their information. Public suspicion has not been helped by cases of businesses who have handled their data breaches poorly.

Talk to me

TalkTalk recently admitted that it had failed to alert a further 4,500 customers whose details had been stolen during its infamous 2015 data breach. According to the BCC report this information, which included names, addresses and bank details, has potentially been accessible online since 2015.

The impact of the breach on TalkTalk’s customer base has been catastrophic with loses of over 100,000 customers.

Ultimately, customers want respect when it comes to their data. They want to be confident that an organisation has the safeguarding measures in place to secure their information, and that their data is being used responsibly. If a leak occurs, consumers want to be informed as quickly as possible and assured that actions are being taken to limit the damage. Consumers will not hesitate to abandon service providers who fail to do so.

Does your customer come first?

The ICO also revealed that the number of data breaches being reported in the UK has quadrupled to over 14,000 since GDPR was implemented. While the ICO is yet to issue any fines in the UK, It appears that the tougher regulations are encouraging businesses to take their data protection more seriously and disclose any losses.

But are businesses looking out for data breaches for the sake of the consumer, or themselves?

Most likely, the answer is both. Data breaches pose a sizable financial threat, with hefty ICO fines as well as the risk to a company’s reputation and customer base. Fines are understandably a strong incentive for companies to stay alert to security gaps in their networks. Yet interestingly, it seems consumer trust is less of a priority according to a new KPMG survey.

Value your customer relationships

The 2019 Consumer Loss Barometer revealed that, in the event of a breach, 48% of security executives are most concerned about financial loss. Concern around the impact on customer relationships is significantly lower at 31%. Respecting the consumer experience must be of equal priority to businesses as compliance if they hope to rebuild trust and maintain customer loyalty.

Clarity and communication for customers as well as security must be key when it comes to handling personal information. Consumers simply want to know how and why their data is used. Indeed, the report’s survey on financial services customers found that 70% of consumers are not clear about what data is being tracked by mobile banking apps. 60% of those blamed the confusion on terms and conditions which did not make sense despite having read them.

In the current climate, businesses should not underestimate the value of customer trust. Respecting your customers and putting their data perspective at the core, alongside compliance concerns, is essential for maintaining strong customer relationships.

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Stephen Green

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