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Customer buy-in key to PoPI

As PoPI draws nearer, many businesses are asking themselves what this means for their data analytics strategies. JODY BLAKE outlines why customer buy-in is important and how to get it.

We’ve all heard that knowledge is power, and data analytics are the embodiment of this idea. However, in South Africa, going forward, companies will be careful how they use data about customers. This is all because of the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act, which will force companies to capture, store, use and distribute a person’s personal information in compliance with the conditions for lawful processing as set out in POPI – and which in some instances mean that companies will need express consent.

There are a few simple measures businesses can keep in mind when determining whether their customer analytics practices are on the right side of the law. First, they need to identify whether the data they are collecting on customers is personal. Data is personal if it can identify an individual and could include the following: customer’s contact details, demographic, historical and biometric information, opinions and personal correspondence.

If companies are collecting any personal information in terms of PoPI, they generally need to inform customers that they are doing so, the activity that will be carried out off the back of the data, such as targeted marketing, and for what intention they will be using their data. This is usually done in the T&Cs. Companies then need to store data for only as long as they need to carry out the aforementioned activities.

Seems simple enough – until you have to convince sceptical customers that you won’t be selling off their phone numbers to spammers at the first opportunity. There are serious legal consequences to use personal information in a non-compliant manner – also when collecting and using for data analytics purposes: non-compliant companies face not only reputational damage and customer loss but civil claims and fines that could potentially cost them millions of rands or result in jail time.

Scary stuff. So how do you get that ever elusive customer buy-in? There are two important actions to take.

The first is to make customers aware of what exactly is in it for them. All too often, people talk about the benefits of customer analytics to the companies. We need to shift the discourse towards the customers themselves, by pointing out the ways in which they benefit. Don’t frame it as “Analytics enables targeted marketing” but rather “If we understand you, the customer, better, we can deliver products and services that are more relevant to you and your interests.” This means emphasising things like customer loyalty programmes, personalised product offerings and more streamlined customer service experiences.

Secondly, it is vitally important that companies make customers fully aware of their data collection and processing purposes. By making clear that data is collected in a way that does not compromise customer privacy, and by telling the customer what his data will be used for, companies will also be able to take the sting out of the danger that their personal information is being sold off to third-party companies.

By engaging in marketing endeavours focused principally on consumer education, all sides benefit. Consumers can rest easy in the knowledge that they’re being treated better by companies and businesses can enjoy the myriad benefits of data analytics. Knowledge, it seems, is just as powerful when it comes to getting the customers on your side as it is in keeping them there.

* Jody Blake is Ctrlroom’s Wi-Fire executive

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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