GDPR could be the best thing to happen to your customer experience

On 25 May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force across the EU. It is the biggest change to data protection laws in Europe since the 1995 introduction of the European Union (EU) Data Protection Directive.

Since its creation in 1995, the amount of digital information we create, capture and store has vastly increased. Simply, the old regime was no longer fit for purpose. The GDPR aims to strengthen the security and protection of personal data (any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person) in the EU and will replace the Directive and all national data protections laws relating to it with a single set of rules which will be directly enforceable within each EU Member State.

As EU law is likely to be codified into UK law and GDPR will affect any global business dealing with European citizen’s data this means that (despite Brexit looming) UK businesses are busy ensuring they’re both prepared, and will be compliant, in time for the deadline. And it’s not just the threat of high fines up to €20m (£17.5m) or 4% of global, annual turnover that is propelling them forward. This new legislation presents a huge opportunity to elevate customer experience and stand out from the competition.

Here’s how to turn it to your advantage:

Greater transparency

GDPR requires organisations to be more transparent about how they process and use customers’ personal data. Demonstrating clearly to customers that privacy is an absolute priority for your business will be essential going forward.

The requirements for GDPR compliance give businesses a chance to strengthen their position on privacy and the handling of personal data. Increased transparency will, in turn, lead to greater trust and increased customer loyalty, and may even encourage customers to more readily share specific data in exchange for better service.

Improved omnichannel experience

Stricter privacy rules provide an excellent opportunity for companies to break down data silos within their business and improve how they organise and store the customer data they hold. Previously overlooked projects such as these are now receiving board level attention and investment thanks to GDPR.

With better integration of customer data, it becomes easier to build a complete customer view. This will allow you to significantly improve your communications with customers and provide them with a better service. The ability to see real-time marketing, sales and customer service data, all in one place, and never have to ask the same question twice. As the number of online and self-service channels grows, live chat, social media and video chat will not only mean extra channels for customer service professionals to manage, but more channels that will need to be integrated to give one, consolidated customer view.

Right to data portability

GDPR gives customers the right to data portability – to obtain their personal data in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format and reuse it for their own purposes across different services.

Those who wish to switch insurance provider, for example, will be able to transfer their existing data over to their new insurer. This includes personal data supplied by them or data generated about them during the use of a business’s services. New customers can therefore easily take their history with them to their new supplier and this wealth of data can, in turn, be used by that supplier to improve the customer experience they provide and proactively respond to new customer needs.

Ensuring you have the processes in place to support this, and communicating that to customers, will demonstrate that you are putting them first and help to boost their confidence in your business.

Right to be forgotten

While you as a customer service professional would, of course, prefer that your customers remain loyal to you and only you, you will be familiar with the phrase: “if you love somebody, set them free.” In other words, if you really value your customers, do not lock them in or tie them down.

Consumers already have the right to request the deletion of their personal data, but GDPR extends that right to request ‘the right to be forgotten’, which requires organisations to delete their personal data (in certain circumstances) including any data from any other organisation it has passed information about them onto. Out of sight, out of mind, and out of the database.

But rest assured, organisations that do this will be rewarded with genuine customer loyalty, thanks to the improved customer service they are able to offer. Far from being an annoying administrative obligation, in the right hands, GDPR can be a powerful weapon for increasing customer satisfaction. Make sure you’re ready to wield it.

Hasani serves as Zendesk’s General Counsel. Prior to joining Zendesk, Hasani was an attorney at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati where he represented a wide variety of public and emerging technology companies.

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