How companies should treat personal customer information

After I read the news about Edward Snowden leaking classified documents about the U.S. National Security Agency’s classified surveillance program, I shifted over to an e-commerce site to order some merchandise. Snowden’s actions got me thinking about who I share information with and what the vendor does with that information. On the one hand I realize that sharing personal information allows the company to tailor content specifically for me which does make shopping easier. But what else is the company doing with my personal information?

Take a look at this graph that I saw in EContent Magazine. Granted, it’s from 2011 but I don't think tings have changed much in that area. Notice that the second most popular answer – “Don’t want to give any companies access to my profile information” – really hits home to me.

In this context it's important for marketing executives to realize two things when considering what to do with customer data.

First, customer data is gold and it must be used in an intelligent way.

Simply sending raw customer data to your customer service department isn’t enough. Marketing leaders must establish a feedback loop that shares information with each department where appropriate. By segmenting and analyzing customer feedback, the customer experience pool becomes a much more powerful tool benefiting the customer and the company.

Second, after multiple government (IRS) and corporate scandals (Enron), transparency has become quite the buzzword.

To alleviate concerns about sharing customer data, companies must be open and honest about how they obtain data and, more importantly, who can view and use that data. It may sound simple but is often overlooked—when implementing a customer feedback loop, marketing executives should be sure that customers have the opportunity to easily opt out of sharing their data and that all of the information is treated securely and not shared with any outside sources unless agreed on by the customer.

If companies can (re)build trust with customers they will get more information which helps them doing buisiness but also benefits the customers.