Customer data has long been a sensitive issue. Given recent stories in the news about companies mishandling data, it’s no wonder that consumer confidence has been impacted. A Pew Research Center study found that 64% of Americans had personally experienced a data breach, and nearly half of all Americans do not trust the federal government or social media sites to protect their data. With the recent enactment of GDPR, the European Union is further putting pressure on companies to protect customers’ personal information and be more transparent about how it is used. In addition to following new privacy laws, here are five general tips your brand should follow when handling customer data.

Communicate your data privacy policy

Customers need to understand exactly how their data will be used. Using clear and simple language builds their trust in your company and can help you avoid any issues or sanctions at a later time. In addition, it’s important to keep your customers updated about their privacy rights. For example, customer newsletters and marketing communications should make references to your data privacy policy.

Allow customers to opt-out

Whenever your brand uses data for marketing purposes, always give customers the right to opt-out. Even if your customers have given you permission to use their data, they need to feel empowered to make decisions regarding its use. For example, allow them to unsubscribe to email communications or request less frequent notifications.

Take measures to protect customer data

Your company can take many measures to protect customer data. Consider limiting data access to just the employees who have direct customer contact. Another way to build customer confidence is by collecting the minimum data your company needs. In this manner, customers will not feel that you are asking for too much personal information, and your company will not be overwhelmed by excessive data that can not be used efficiently.

Provide secure experiences

Encryption technologies are essential to protecting sensitive information. Be sure to protect passwords, credit card numbers, and other important data, and make sure customers know that you are using such technologies. When they make a purchase, for example, indicate that the process is secure and post an icon that represents the technology you are using. In addition, make sure that employees never exchange sensitive information over social media platforms. Conversations should be moved toa private channel whenever a customer needs to discuss a specific case or make a purchase.

Use data to give customers better experiences

You may be collecting customer data to grow your business, but are you also improving the customer experience? Brand growth is only possible when you give your customers what they really want. For example, use data to recommend more relevant products on customers’ preferred channels, offer better service across all touchpoints, and provide a more seamless experience when customers navigate your website. Respecting data privacy laws wins customer confidence, and using data to create better experiences wins loyalty. As your company navigates the sometimes complex rules of data management, remember that the ultimate goal is to use data to provide secure and seamless experiences that win customer trust.