Trust is the currency of every relationship, including those you have with your customers. Establishing it early is key for closing sales, while maintaining it over time lets you build loyalty.
Among a host of other factors, ensuring your customer’s privacy is crucial for trust. Just because people often agree to privacy policies without reading them doesn’t mean they don’t care about privacy.
Without trust, relationships deteriorate when they hit a rocky patch. Imagine that, god forbid, your company faced a data breach. Customers who trust you to make things right will continue to do business with you.
Don’t wait for disaster to strike. The smart move is to proactively address your customer’s privacy concerns. Here’s how to do it:
1. Conduct a privacy audit.
In order to allay your customers’ privacy concerns, you need to assess your company’s current protocols. If not, the security promises you make will be viewed as empty. Your ultimate goal is to protect your customers, not merely to convince them that they are protected.
Start with storage: Where do you house customer data? Who has access to that system? Is its software updated and patched properly?
But storage is just the start. Think about transference. Beware of:
- Third-party programs that take liberties with your customer’s data
- A lack of encryption software
- Insecure information exchanges between employees
- Printouts tossed in the trash before being shredded
2. Make privacy policies accessible.
No matter how strong your privacy policies, they won’t generate trust unless your customers can access them. Post them on your website, print them out for new customers, or do both.
Making the information accessible means breaking it down in ways every customer can understand. To promote accessibility:
- Don’t put privacy information in legalese.
- Use summaries, headers, and highlights to make your policy skimmable.
- Include a contact number for comments and questions.
- Offer policies in multiple languages, especially those common among your customer base.
These steps cater to “privacy actives,” who make up about a third of your customer base. Deeply engaged with privacy matters, these people will switch companies if they feel their privacy concerns aren’t addressed.
3. Go above and beyond with tips.
Beyond featuring your privacy procedures on your website, give customers tips on protecting themselves. This demonstrates an investment in their lives beyond what they can do for you.
Realize this also benefits your company. Customers who are more careful with their own data won’t do things that create liabilities for your company, like send sensitive data to you insecurely.
What privacy content should you be creating? Everything from changing passwords frequently to tweaking privacy settings on social media is fair game. Point them to data security blogs they may be interested in.
4. Welcome criticisms and suggestions.
Despite your best efforts, there will always be a customer who insists on stricter privacy controls. Maybe you institute 128-bit SSL encryption — but a customer asks for 256-bit, the type many banks use.
Invite these conversations. Not only might you get some easy-to-implement suggestions, but actually addressing them shows you care about your customers’ feedback.
What if you can’t implement a certain security measure? Be transparent about it. Explain why you don’t think it’s needed, or why it simply isn’t cost-effective. Suggest workable alternatives, such as exchanging information in person rather than by email.
5. Provide avenues to opt out.
You never want to make your customers uncomfortable. If they don’t want their data shared with a certain partner, give them that choice. Let them say “no” by submitting a written opt-out to parts of your policy they object to.
Remind customers, however, that certain types of data collection are critical for your service. For example, you can’t send text-based appointment reminders to customers if they aren’t willing to give you their cell phone number.
Balancing privacy and convenience often means making trade-offs. Work with your customers to decide what they’re comfortable with. Allow them to change their minds with written notice, especially after you change how you store or use their data.
Everyone wins when you store customer data securely. You’re able to improve your marketing game, send reminders, and offer promotions your customers want. Your customers, in turn, don’t have to fill out the same form every time they step into your place of business.
The keyword is “securely.” If you don’t keep your customers’ data under lock and key, you risk losing loyal customers and even facing legal liabilities. Don’t take the risk. Safeguard their privacy, and make sure they see you doing it.