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Zero in on customers without making them feel exploited

Consider implementing data masking or MDM technology to secure your customer data.

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“The more data you have about a customer, the more privacy that customer has to lose.”

We’ve come a long way from keeping hard copies of data, such as mailing addresses and payment histories. Marketers now use data warehouses to store high-quality, business-critical data about customers.

In an effort to have a 360-degree customer view, organizations have amassed a wealth of personal data. Promotions can be personalized and customized for upsell or to entice hesitant consumers. The more data you have about a customer, the more privacy that customer has to lose. And you can count on losing their trust should their privacy become compromised as a result of your insufficient policies.

Consumers reward trusted brands

Customers are not thrilled that companies have gathered this trove of information about them. In fact, they are worried. According to a survey by global customer experience management company SDL1, 62 percent of the 4,000-plus respondents in the US, UK, and Australia worry that their personal information is being used for marketing purposes. Despite their concerns, 79 percent of respondents said they are more likely to provide information to a trusted brand.

“In establishing that trust,” reads the report, “brands must help consumers understand what they are receiving in exchange for their personal information.” For example, nearly half of the respondents would give up personal information for a loyalty program.

Security is your responsibility

While it is probably easy to recognize the powerful role of clean and accurate customer data, leveraging this information can create significant challenges. For one, organizations tend to collect data from multiple sources and systems.

In fact, according to a report from global consulting firm Protiviti, more companies are relying on large databases for business intelligence than ever before2. These databases are a combination of third-party and in-house data 54 percent of the time. Of the companies that use third-party information, nearly a third of them cannot say for certain that the acquired data has all the proper contracts and policies in place, including a breach notification process.

The report emphasizes that regardless of which third party or vendor supplies your data, “it is your organization’s responsibility, under virtually all privacy laws, to secure this data.”

Providing protection

The good news is that there are ways for organizations to leverage data for a better customer experience while ensuring privacy and security:

An MDM platform: Ensure the right information gets only to the right employees and departments. An MDM platform can also master the duplicate data in on-premise systems and cloud applications to make sure the picture of the customer is as accurate and up-to-date as possible.

Data governance: Define clear rules for handling data throughout the enterprise. Data governance makes it clear who is responsible for the quality and security of each piece of data.

Dynamic data masking: Mask sensitive fields from personnel who may need to work with the data but aren’t authorized to view personally identifiable information. This selective, policy-based shielding of production data uses real-time rules to keep data secure without locking it down.

In the end, a robust customer database can help a sales team surpass its quotas and enable marketers to craft highly targeted campaigns. But such feats can easily backfire if an organization fails to properly secure its consumer data against ill-intentioned hackers and unwitting employees.

True, we have come a long way since the days of paper records. But when it comes to safeguarding consumers’ precious personal information, many organizations still have a long way to go.

Read the “2013 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Masking Technology” report to learn more about innovative and scalable data masking solutions.

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