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Data Privacy Matters to Your Customers — Show Them It's a Priority For You, Too. Here's How. Your business can help reassure customers and earn their loyalty by treating all incoming data as valuable.

By Mike Szczesny

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Consumers are not holding back when defending their data privacy rights. The increasing demand for greater digital mindfulness and brand protection presents an opportunity for your business.

The only way to reap benefits is by investing in measures to gain and maintain the public's trust. A 2023 Deloitte survey found that "67% of smartphone users worry about data security and privacy on their phones, and 62% of smart home users worry about the same on their smart home devices — up 13 and 10 percentage points, respectively, from 2022."

These numbers indicate that most consumers are aware that their digital lives could be hacked and are actively anxious about the possibility.

Understanding this, your business can help reassure customers and earn their loyalty by treating all incoming data as valuable. This will enable you to position your company competitively and stay at the forefront of data privacy regulations. Here are a few data privacy best practices to consider.

Related: Why Data Privacy Is the Key to Building Consumer Trust in Marketing

1. Establish internal data privacy governance rules and processes

In addition to understanding the data privacy regulations that apply to your organization and sector, it is important to establish internal rules and processes. Having a set of guidelines ensures you take all necessary measures to protect your data from attacks. However, not all hacks and breaches originate from external sources. They come from internal sources such as employees, vendors and others who access your systems.

According to a 2023 Insider Threat Report, nearly three-quarters of companies reported having internal data vulnerabilities. Your team's role is to identify vulnerability gaps and address them. For example, you might want to explore ways to provide restricted access to specific employees. Does every employee need access to all customer data? Probably not.

Enhancing data visibility across your organization can reduce the risk of an insider hack. Plus, implementing strict measures is something you can highlight on your website to demonstrate to potential leads and customers that you are going the extra mile to safeguard the personal information they provide.

2. Close remote work-related data privacy loopholes

Companies of all sizes have started to adopt remote and hybrid working. However, they have not necessarily aligned their data privacy practices with their work-from-anywhere arrangements for employees. The result? Many well-intentioned remote workers are putting their companies' data at risk.

When working on a device outside of your network, they may unintentionally expose data in numerous ways. For example, they may use public, unsecured WiFi or download private files onto a personal device. These everyday activities may seem inconsequential, but they open the door to cybercriminals. A Malwarebytes Labs report suggests that approximately 20% of all data breaches can be attributed to lax remote data privacy governance rules.

This doesn't mean you should bring everyone back into the office. It simply means that you must pay special attention to the risks of having a remote or partially remote workforce. Some best practices that have worked for other companies include purchasing remote equipment for all remote workers, setting up a secure VPN for access to your systems and providing ongoing training in data privacy best practices. You may even want to consider presenting a quarterly award plaque and accompanying stipend to a remote team member who consistently follows the guidelines to emphasize your commitment to compliance and to reward those who adhere to the rules.

Related: Redefining Customer Engagement in a World Where Data Privacy Reigns

3. Develop a data breach response plan

The last thing a leader wants is to experience a data breach event that impacts their customers. However, it's much worse if you have an event and are unsure what to do during the critical first few hours and days. Consequently, you'll want to collaborate with your marketing, PR and IT teams to develop a comprehensive data breach response plan. The plan will serve as a roadmap to ensure you respond quickly, responsibly and confidently after a data breach.

Your crisis management plan should include a strategy for announcing your data breach. Before making any announcements, ensure all vulnerabilities are closed and your data is secure. Then, speak with the authorities. It's crucial to adhere to all the necessary rules and expectations before sending out any notification letters to customers whose data may have been exposed to malicious actors.

As of 2021, Venture Beat reported that approximately two-thirds of small businesses had not created any formal incident response document. Having a plan in place gives your company a fighting chance to appear professional and responsible in the event of a data threat. You'll avoid the helpless feeling of "what do we do now?" and have a better chance of retaining customers.

Even if your company is in the startup phase, you cannot be too careful with your data. Consumers trust you when they provide their information. Ensure you do all you can to prevent it from being exposed.

Mike Szczesny

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Owner and vice president of EDCO Awards & Specialties

Mike Szczesny is the owner and vice president of EDCO Awards & Specialties, a dedicated supplier of employee recognition products, a unique award plaque and recognition gifts, branded merchandise and athletic awards.

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