Private data is now a very public issue. For the first time in history, people recognise that businesses store their information and they want to know how – and why. They want to know why websites need their email address so badly, and they understand that private photos can be hacked.
Privacy and security are legitimate concerns for everyone who hands over information about themselves. But some businesses don’t share that opinion. Or, if the business understands the value of data, it has yet to do anything about protecting it.
Your business may have all kinds of excuses for this. Your CEO may think that data management is too expensive, or that workflows are too ingrained to be changed. You might think your business is too small to be hacked, or too big to be affected by a breach.
But no matter how many excuses you have, your customers are getting smarter. They know the value of data, and they want to trust you to understand it too.
Data silos contain all kinds of data; some that could identify a person, and some that cannot. The diversity of these data sets is staggering. Names, addresses and telephone numbers are fairly standard, but as our use of mobile devices evolves, millions of other records are being stored alongside contact records.
A company like Google or Facebook also holds our location information, the details of our closest friends, and an algorithm that can pick out our facial features. The wearable devices we carry around are counting the steps we take and snapping photos of the world around us.
At the same time, our digital environment is constantly generating and saving data. The equipment we use at home, and at work, is generating reams of data about itself and its users. The Internet of Things is the next logical stage in our digital evolution, where the machines around us can constantly report their status back to their peers. And all of this data has value.
Data, whether big or small, presents huge opportunities for businesses and marketers. Yet there is a weak link in the chain: poor data management.
Data needs to be held securely, and quality must be maintained to prevent error, misuse and waste. But according to a Telegraph report, half of British consumers believe that their personal data could be compromised and used for malicious purposes.
Media attention has placed a spotlight on data and highlights just how dependent businesses are on it. Far from being an asset, or an abstract, it is now a personal matter. 59 per cent of users surveyed said that they had experienced a problem relating to data protection; a huge number, when we strive so hard to comply with the law.
The Telegraph report highlights the consequences of letting data quality slip. It demonstrates how savvy customers feel about their data and the businesses that hold and use it. Many have simply lost their trust, and they are taking their privacy into their own hands by deliberately forcing the data to be inaccurate. One-third of those surveyed said that they had introduced fake information into their own records to protect their privacy. (53 per cent simply avoid giving any accurate data at all.)
Data owners are effectively scrambling their personal details, just in case the worst happens and another party misuses a database. These customers are protecting themselves against faulty data management and irresponsible businesses, because they know there are businesses out there that don’t take their data seriously enough.
Will your business be the one they can actually trust?
The Cost of Lost Confidence
If out of date data could be considered wasteful, then data that has been intentionally obfuscated is positively useless.
If your customers are typing in inaccurate ages, hiding their locations or deliberately misspelling their address, there is absolutely no way that their data can be used for accurate reporting or profitable outcomes. In many cases, no amount of data cleansing can correct those intentional errors; they are simply a wasted opportunity for the business.
The survey we’ve mentioned also highlighted the fact that users recognise the value of their own data, even if the business does not. Some valued their information at more than €10,000, while many understood that a single record was worth more than €1,000. From loyalty campaigns to market segmentation, businesses must also know just how critical accurate data is to their future profitability.
Finally, consider this: respondents valued data integrity as highly as the quality of the business’ products and services. That proves that data management, quality and security are already part of the buying decision for many users. Data management and data quality are effectively an extra dimension to brand reputation, and we will all pay more attention to this over the coming months and years.
If your business does not yet have a data quality plan in place, it’s not too late to begin the journey.
Your chief data officer should be tasked with aligning business objectives with the effective management of data; that means making sure your customers must have confidence in what you’re doing.
Marketing teams need access to quality data – not deliberately mangled records, or incomplete personal profiles. And the IT department should be storing clean, deduplicated data in a secure fashion, rather than being forced to archive messy, dirty databases full of records that should have been purged.
By caring about their data, your customers are asking you to care, too. They are asking you to place a value on data as an asset, and they are demanding that their own personal data is protected. If you focus on caring for their data, your brand reputation will be protected, and your customers are more likely to stay loyal to your business as it grows.