With security breaches threatening confidential and personal information on a daily basis, it is key that you take the time to develop a policy to protect and privatize your customer data. Being a more transparent company that lets customers know exactly how their personal information is being handled can win you loyalty and help grow your business’ reputation.
To identify ways that you can be more transparent with your customers’ data and, ultimately, gain their trust, we asked a panel of entrepreneurs from YEC the following question:
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As major data sharing practices have recently emerged, how should business owners be transparent about the use of their customers’ personal information in order to ensure trust?
Their best answers are below:
1. Follow the GDPR
The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) impacts businesses that handle the data of EU citizens. It’s a sensible set of rules for data security and privacy in the modern world. In a nutshell: tell customers what you want to do with their data, get their permission before you do it and take data security seriously. The general guideline should be to store only the data you really need. – Vik Patel, Future Hosting
2. Take a thoughtful approach
As the Internet of Things expands, and consumer apprehension about how their data is collected and used grows, businesses must enable trust by respecting privacy and taking actions to protect their information. First, any data you collect must be protected from unauthorized access. Also, you must clearly communicate to customers how you collect, use and share personal data, and give them a way to manage their privacy settings. – Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker
3. Focus on the opt-in
I think that the more businesses become uniform in the way that they present opt-in information, the better the consumers will adapt to it. As long as people get used to accepting opt-in information, it will eventually become as accepted and second nature as checking a ‘terms and conditions’ box. – Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now
4. Include a formal statement on all platforms
Formally address how the data is used, shared and protected on your website, as well as social media sites and anywhere else you collect data. Even add a formal statement to your email correspondence to ensure your customers know. – John Rampton, Calendar
6. Let them know when you use their data
Disclosing how customer personal information will be used upfront and then providing prompts of when/how it’s being used or accessed creates more transparency. Businesses should train support staff on how to respond to privacy-related inquiries. Dedicate a section of a FAQ to customer personal information. – Jordan Edelson, Appetizer Mobile LLC
7. Use plain English
It can be extremely difficult to understand the legal jargon included in privacy policies that communicate the use of customers’ personal information. In order to establish a layer of trust and transparency, businesses need to update their policies ‘in plain English’ so customers can easily understand them. – Stephen Ufford, Trulioo
8. Reveal your systems
One way of ensuring trust is through the transparency of your systems. We make sure all of our customers understand all of our deep processes and systems so they know how secure we are. If they are still feeling ‘in the dark’ about the security of their information, we always ask for advice on what would make them feel more comfortable. – Sweta Patel, Silicon Valley Startup Marketing
9. Just be ethical
Ask yourself if you would be upset with a company for selling particular information. If the answer is no, then you need to re-evaluate. Business ethics sometimes seems to be a lost art, but I think the ethical companies tend to win in the long run. – Syed Balkhi, OptinMonster
10. Write an open letter
The current scandal surrounding the use of customers’ private information is an excellent opportunity to engage in a dialogue about the nature of data and online privacy. Writing posts for your customer base is a great way to make them feel included in the conversation and can go a long way toward establishing trust and assuaging any anxiety about their own personal data. Transparency is key. – Bryce Welker, CPA Exam Guy
11. Make your privacy terms available on sign-up
You should always have a clear privacy statement made available on your website, and especially your sign-up forms. This will give customers the option to get their questions answered about how you will use their data and it should (hopefully) alleviate their fears. By not making this information available, it will cause them to question your intentions with their data. – Andy Karuza, FenSens
12. Address the fear
With consumer data serving as a source of gaining competitive advantage, getting customers to trust your business is crucial. A logical way forward is to eliminate the fear factor. Businesses need to let their customers know what they plan to do with the information they collect. In addition, customers are more open to sharing information if they know it will not be passed on to third parties. – Derek Robinson, Top Notch Dezigns
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.