Protecting customer data should always be a top priority for businesses. But doing so is increasingly extending beyond moral responsibility and taking on the form of legal requirement. As you’ve surely heard, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect May 25. This set of regulations, which replaces the Data Protection Act 1998, legislates online data rights for any organization that sells products or services to European Union (EU) customers.
Complying with these new rules might seem daunting (and even unnecessary) for U.S.-based small businesses, particularly since there’s still a lot of confusion regarding the specifics of these new rules and requirements. But if you can understand these five keys to customer data protection, it will go a long way toward helping your business achieve compliance.
Understand that if you have any customers in the EU, you must follow the rules
It’s no secret that exported goods and services are big business. Nearly 60 percent of U.S.-based small or midsized businesses have sold merchandise outside the country, according to a recent study released by the National Small Business Association. While many of those exports were headed for China or Canada, a significant portion of exported goods were received by EU countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom (Yes, the UK is still part of the EU) and customers in this sovereign state are protected by new GDPR rules for at least another full year.
Even if a business’s physical presence is in the U.S., it must comply with the new GDPR rules, so long as it’s doing business in the EU. Simply put, if you’re making sales or providing services to EU members, you must be GDPR compliant.
Familiarize yourself with GDPR’s definition of personal data
If you find the new data laws perplexing, you’re not alone. About one-third of surveyed businesses owners said they were confused by the GDPR. In order to comply with rules, you must first understand them—and that starts with GDPR’s definition of personal data.
Personal data protection is a key component to the legislation and one that’s crucial to fully comprehend. The GDPR broadly defines personal data as any information that can directly or indirectly identify a person. The lengthy list of personal data identifiers ranges from a person’s name and address to their workplace and appearance. Essentially, the definition includes any information that would directly identify a specific individual, or information that could indirectly pinpoint a person through a combination of data.
Much of the information you’ve recorded about individuals in your CRM is likely considered personal under GDPR. With this in mind, it’s critical to keep your CRM’s data secure, and ensure it’s managed in a compliant fashion.
Data usage and storage compliance
The right CRM can work wonders when it comes to complying with GDPR’s data usage and storage rules. As you probably know, new data protection principles require personal data to be used fairly, legally and transparently. It must also be collected for specific purposes—and used for only for those specified purposes. Data must be deleted when it’s no longer being used for its initial, intended purpose.
It might sound overwhelming, but complying with this new set of usage and storage compliance is perfectly manageable. A CRM can help small businesses track how users are logging and using information on file. It can also limit access for users to ensure they only have access to information that’s relevant to their specific roles.
Better still, small business-focused CRMs allow users to store and clearly display individual data preferences, and keeps tabs on when each file was recorded or edited. This helps small businesses to eliminate redundant data, and work with the most relevant files, all the while remaining GDPR compliant.
Of course, all the new requirements set forth by the GDPR would be meaningless without an effective accountability strategy. That’s why the GDPR has set a number of measures in place to ensure businesses demonstrate compliance.
Though the list of accountability requirements is lengthy, the right CRM can make it manageable. For instance, a CRM can help document compliance by securing data, offering built-in storage, and making files easily accessible. Though a CRM can’t address all the accountability requirements, it can certainly ease the burden for small businesses struggling to keep pace with the GDPR’s demands.
Getting the right CRM can help
Meeting the GDPR’s online data requirements can be challenging—particularly for small business with limited resources.
The right CRM can simplify the process in a multitude of ways. After all, the CRM and GDPR worlds are already intertwined. Both strive to prioritize customer needs, treat online data respectfully, and effectively manage customer information. A good CRM can simplify the GDPR compliance process by helping users track and edit data, log customer preferences and stay abreast of a customer’s changing needs or privacy preferences.
Proper customer data protection is essential to business success in 2018. By centering your GDPR plan around the right CRM, you can save yourself a lot of headaches and handwringing and position your small business to safeguard its most important asset—it’s customer base.
Lindsay Boullin is GM of Swiftpage International.