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Among the professionals who spend their careers managing and optimizing customer data, it isn't a secret just how powerful it is. In today's experience economy, it is the most important ingredient for crafting deeply personalized experiences, delighting customers, and delivering exceptional value.

That said, that undertaking entails significant responsibility: Managing a customer's data is a critical trust point in any business relationship.

Moreover, a seismic change is happening within the wider population, which is also embracing the power of data and becoming more educated on its far-reaching impact. In fact, among the US population, 73% say they are more concerned about their online privacy than they were a few years ago, and just one in five of those in EU businesses do not care about their privacy.

To address this shift, governments around the globe are setting new standards for how businesses can use customer data. From 2018's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and Brazilian General Data Protection Law (LGPD) this year, businesses are racing to meet these standards and re-establish trust.

But that creates a dilemma for businesses: Without collecting customer data, they are fundamentally unable to deliver the hyper-personalized experiences customers want.

The two keys to meeting those competing expectations are offering customers (1) transparency and (2) control of their own personal data. By doing so, you can give customers a better understanding of your data practices and enable them to define their own experiences, which builds trust.

Here's what that can mean for your customer relationships.

A Red Line From Data to Value

There's no better partner to businesses than an informed, empowered, and data-driven customer. Getting involved and invested in their own data means customers can be better resources as companies build exceptional experiences and products.

That said, businesses can no longer offer vague language and promises about what they can offer in exchange for that information.

Most people are still feeling the effects of the one time they gave out their email for "alerts and notifications for upcoming deals" without any indication of whether those deals would actually be relevant to them. They want and need to know, in the clearest terms possible, exactly how their information is being used.

Preferences, communication styles, problems they need solved... businesses can tweak their practices to fit those behaviors and needs. What's missing is the direct line to value in the information-gathering processes—in a way that eliminates jargon and speaks to customers as individuals so that they feel they're actually a part of the process of building better experiences.

Treating Customers as Trusted Individuals

Whether because of CCPA or GDPR, one of the major regulatory changes required of businesses involves the actual channels and methods we use to ask for information. Remember those multipage user agreements that require two law degrees to understand? Under CCPA and GDPR, such practices can now result in a hefty fine.

Giving customers the ability to pick and choose what they sign up for and which brands they engage with is an important sign of respect. That includes the option to opt-out if they've been stuck on an email list for five years. Again, speaking to them as individuals and eliminating jargon makes customers feel they're a part of the process of building better experiences.

Data protection laws are as unique as the regions they cover, but a common goal is to create more transparent relationships with customers. In the case of GDPR, businesses are required to gain explicit consent for the collection and processing of a customer's personally identifiable information. And failure to do so has led to major fines. Google, for example, was fined £44 million in 2019 for "lack of transparency, inadequate information, and lack of valid consent regarding ads personalization."

A major focus of the CCPA, on the other hand, centers on transparency around the sale of a customer's personal data. Under this regulation, businesses are required to provide consumers with the right to opt out of the sale of their personal information to third parties.

So whether it's the "explicit consent" requirement of GDPR or the "right to opt-out" requirement of CCPA, the underlying regulatory trend is clear: giving customers the explicit ability to pick and choose what they sign up for, which brands they engage with, and the specific manner by which they wish to be engaged.

Handing Over the Reins

Another process shifting as a result of new and evolving data regulation is the creation of a centralized, intuitive portal through which customers can manage their own data. Think of it like settings on your phone—turning specific levers on and off depending on the brand they engage with.

There's no faster way to attract regulatory attention than by failing to provide customers with the required data subject access rights. Though those rights vary depending on the specific regulation, the common thread is clear: This is the new standard.

That said, making it a key part of your customers' experiences will show that you're taking their data as seriously as they do.

Resetting the Relationship

Over the past few years, the global conversation around data has evolved significantly. From hackings and data breaches at one end of the spectrum, to truly exceptional data-driven customer relationships at the other, how they handle data is the basis for which companies will succeed and which will fall short.

With the introduction of each new regional regulation, it can often feel as if the center between honoring those standards and meeting the needs of customers is a moving target. But by putting customer needs first and setting the highest possible bar for transparency, as well as giving customers control of their personal data, brands can stay ahead of customer expectations and reframe the brand-customer conversation.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Ben Jackson

Ben Jackson is general manager at SAP Customer Data Cloud. He has 20+ years of sales and sales management experience in the software industry.

LinkedIn: Ben Jackson

Twitter: @cbenjackson