6 Best Practices for Protecting Customer Data in 2020

How well you protect customer data can directly impact your reputation and limit your organization’s progress. If people perceive that you fall short of safeguarding their information adequately, they’ll resist giving it to you. 

Some may even take their business elsewhere rather than continuing to support you. Here are six data privacy and protection best practices to follow in 2020 and beyond. 

1. Consider Using Two-Factor Authentication for Enhanced Protection

Two-factor authentication (2FA) can significantly cut down on successful breaches associated with compromised passwords. That’s because a person needs a long-term password and a temporary piece of information to access an account. Many companies require a client to type in a password and a numerical code sent to their smartphones, for example. 

A February 2020 study showed that only 25% of IT security professionals had no plans to implement 2FA for customers. Codes sent by text message were the most popular 2FA method selected by organizations, with 41% using it now or planning to soon. 

Relying on 2FA when customers want to access their data you keep or to give an extra layer of protection to employees who work with customer information could prove a smart decision. That’s especially true since there are several 2FA options to consider. Companies can pick the ones that provide tight security without unnecessary friction. 

2. Invest in a CRM Tool to Centralize Your Data Storage Approach

A crucial part of effective data security involves understanding where the information resides. After learning those specifics, you can determine how to move forward with the security requirements for each storage location or type of data residing there. 

Using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool could be an excellent step in the right direction. Suppose your company still primarily depends on physical records and keeps client details in various places instead of one main location. In that case, a CRM can overcome those challenges, help you achieve better data security, and improve your overall workflow.

nimble crm

For example, Nimble is a CRM that brings together data from more than 160 apps into one platform. You can also use it through a web browser, Android and iOS apps, or products like Microsoft Word and Excel. Besides helping you capitalize on connections with customers, a CRM can go a long way in supporting your data privacy goals. 

3. Ensure Your Cybersecurity Strategy Covers Customer Data

A comprehensive approach to cybersecurity can and should cover a multitude of areas. It may address how to train employees to spot phishing attempts and which access control measures to use for remote workers. Endpoint protection measures and data backup plans also factor into many cybersecurity plans for today’s businesses. Those topics are crucial to address, but you should also explore how cybersecurity safeguards customer information. 

Getting the advice of a third party is an excellent way to protect customer data through better cybersecurity. The professionals you hire will probably spot several vulnerabilities you previously missed or did not think of at all. Knowing where the weak points exist is the first step toward fixing them and preventing future issues. 

Encrypting the customer data collected by your organization is another wise choice. That approach makes it more difficult for hackers to use the information once they obtain it. 

4. Familiarize Yourself With Data Protection Regulations

Knowing the specifics of applicable data protection regulations is also essential for maintaining excellent data security and privacy. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is one you’ve probably heard about and may need to follow. Abiding by the GDPR is mandatory for any company doing business with people in the European Union. 

Even if you primarily operate elsewhere but have a small number of customers in the European Union, the GDPR applies. It requires making requests to collect and use customer data using plain language that everyday people understand. People also have the right to formally request that you delete their data. Since the GDPR also includes specifics about storage, it could help people’s information safe. 

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is also worth knowing about, especially since many businesses likely have customers in that state. It’s similar to the GDPR in that it provides specifics that tell people what information companies collect and how they use it. Even if these data protection regulations do not apply to your business, learning about what they require can provide a useful framework to follow. 

5. Create a Data Privacy Culture Throughout the Company

Your company’s employees should ideally understand and believe that keeping customer data safe is everyone’s responsibility. Although you may find it useful to appoint a person as your primary data protection officer, emphasize that each worker plays an essential role in safeguarding information. Achieving executive-level buy-in is also advantageous because it makes it easier to implement your data culture from the top down.

Include best practices for handling information during a person’s onboarding, as well as refresher training sessions occurring during the rest of their time at the company. Discuss how they should not share passwords with others, even if the reason for doing so is to help a colleague. Teach employees that their responsibility to protect data extends to working remotely as well as from company offices. 

protecting customer data

Data privacy also means not collecting more information than necessary. Keeping it from those unauthorized to see it becomes more straightforward if your company only has the precise information needed to aid functionality and operations. Limiting the information requested from customers may also make them feel more comfortable about providing it. 

6. Investigate Competitors’ Policies for Protecting Data

It’s increasingly common for companies to have dedicated sections on their websites that detail how they keep customer information safe. A quick Google search for the phrase “How we protect your data” is a good starting point for exploring what other businesses mention.

You’ll likely notice that such sections dive into topics such as data at rest, information in transit, how long companies keep it and what protections exist on the servers that hold the content. Looking at those policies can help shape what your company does and show you how your enterprise could stand out by going above and beyond what other brands in your industry do. 

Once you iron out your business’s intention for putting data privacy and protection into practice, consider making them publicly accessible through your website, too. You’ll then demonstrate to customers that keeping information safe is at the forefront of how you operate and not just an afterthought. 

Treat Data Privacy as an Ongoing Goal

These six best practices are excellent starting points as you determine the most effective ways to respect the privacy associated with your customers’ details. As you bring these tips into your organization, remember to see data protection and privacy as moving targets. There will always be improvements to make, even when you’re already doing many of the right things.