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In today’s data-driven world, customer’s private information is collected and used to make key decisions that affect a company’s products and the overall way the company grows and evolves. Data collection also provides the most accurate feedback a company can use.

However, as a company collecting and using personal data, you have a responsibility to protect your customer’s privacy. In the wake of the many data hacks, customers are becoming increasingly more aware of how their data is collected and used and want to feel secure about their information. Here is what you can do to give your customers peace of mind.

Make your privacy policy clear and easy to read

You want your customers to share their personal data with you, but they also need to trust you’re not going to misuse their information. One of the biggest fears customers have is that their personal information, such as name, telephone number, and address will be shared with other segments or companies or worse yet, sold to generate new sales leads. Misleading your customers on how your company plans to use their private information violates that trust and can damage a company’s reputation. Companies need a privacy policy that is clear and informs customers exactly how the company intends the use their private data and then, you have to abide by those policies.

Keep your systems updated

Hackers and other people who exploit personal information are always seeking new ways to gain your customer’s sensitive information. Once they find a weakness, they act quickly. Software, application, and systems engineers are always improving their products and the working to protect your customers. However, if you do not run their updates, critical and routine, you put your customers at risk. Many companies put off updating until later times when business activity may be slower because the process may slow down business operations. However, a temporary slowdown, which may have a minimal effect on business costs are far better than the consequences and financial cost of a data breach.

Test for vulnerabilities

While your systems need critical and routine updates, you should also look for vulnerabilities in your systems and software. Many times, companies hire ethical hackers or codebreakers whose jobs are to search for ways to exploit the company’s systems and gain access to their customer’s data. These tasks help reveal your company’s weakness so you can address them before the real hackers exploit them.

Encrypt your customer’s data

Encrypting your customer’s sensitive information may seem pretty obvious, but many companies are still falling short when it comes to protecting their customer’s information. Maintaining detailed information, like social security or account information on company servers without encryption is enticing to hackers. Your customers deserve to have their sensitive information protected.

Storing versus verification

Data encryption is an important part of protecting your customers data but your company should also consider what it can and should store versus what it can verify. Maintaining your customer’s names, telephone numbers, and addresses are important but capturing their credit card account numbers is less important. Of course, you need to verify these for any online payment but once the transaction has been verified and approved, the credit account data if no longer necessary. Maintaining such information may later compromise your customer or be a motivation for a data breach.

Limit data accessibility

Between remote working and the increased number of new devices and operating systems employees can use, IT departments struggle with maintaining security within their infrastructure. Companies, while implementing virtual private networks (VPN), or virtualizing cloud services with high security, must also educate their employees on the correct way to manage sensitive customer data. Additionally, limiting customer data to a need-to-know basis also helps prevent data leakage and reduce the risk of security breaches.

Develop a disaster recovery plan

No one likes to think their company will suffer a data breach and no matter how diligent your company is with its security, it is always a possibility. From cyber attacks that disrupt services to intentional data breaches and unintentional data spills by employees, sometimes, disasters happen. Having a disaster recovery plan in place and being able to quickly and efficiently reroute business operations helps maintain business continuity and gives your customers, employees, and stakeholders peace of mind and confidence in your business operations.

No one likes to consider the possibility of a breach of security and losing their customer’s private information, but it is an important reality all companies must consider and prepare for, should it happen. There are several factors involved in securing your customer’s information as highlighted above. It is paramount for companies to build a safe environment for their customer’s data.