Customer data collection is critical to the success of every thriving business. Whether you’re a solopreneur working from a desk in your home office or a multi-national company, collecting data helps you propel your business.
Without the information that you glean from your customers and website visitors, you could not craft smart strategies for growth.
But when a business collects customer data, that adds a burden of responsibility for the collected information. Online fraud is an ever-growing problem, and hackers continuously find new ways to ply their trade.
Thus, data collection is a double-edged sword. You need to collect the data, but you don’t want to risk the safety of your users. Fortunately, you can meet both needs.
Let’s learn how you benefit from collecting data and how to steep data security into your company culture.
3 Primary reasons why you must collect customer data:
1 - To reach new customers
Reaching new customers or website users grows more difficult by the year. Ten years ago, it was “good enough” to have a landing page and let users find you. However, over 1.71 billion (yep, billion) websites now clutter the internet, according to PC Magazine.
Of those websites, only 200 million, a small fraction of the total number, are live sites. The others are parked or abandoned.
Despite the enormous number of inactive websites, you are vying for online attention against a large field of competitors. So, it’s time to sharpen your focus.
The data you collect allows you to learn more about your customers. Thus, you can craft email marketing, social media campaigns, and other digital marketing strategies that will attract more users like them.
Furthermore, you will be able to personalize your targeted marketing, addressing the user by name, segmenting them according to purchase preferences, or even sending them a birthday card. All very nice touches that will set you apart from the herd.
2 - To automate your processes
Many industries, especially those in retail, operate on thin selling margins but make up for that through high volume. Therefore, they must become lean, mean, productive machines to continue on a growth trajectory.
To keep operating costs minimized, customer data is utilized throughout many processes, such as:
- Customer account set up
- Online invoicing
- Collecting payments using credit card data
- Integrating these forms to email marketing campaigns
These online forms collect customer data and put it to work on your behalf, allowing you to tend to more important responsibilities.
3 - To gather feedback and improve user experience (UX)
Part of growing a business is considering what you do well. Unfortunately, you won’t always receive accolades. Smart business owners also strive to identify opportunities for improvement in a bid to gain customer loyalty and build their brands.
That knowledge is very critical. Why?
The cost of customer acquisition varies from industry to industry. But, according to Forbes, the cost of customer acquisition is five times costlier than the price of customer retention.
That’s why so many brands have aggressive customer feedback promotions in place.
Here’s an example. I shopped at a large clothing retailer last weekend. As I waited in line, I heard all the clerks sharing a narrative about completing the survey. Each person explained how the customers could enter their feedback to earn a 20% coupon code by email. They whipped out yellow highlighters and circled the survey URL, and pointed out the QR code they could scan. In fact, these employees did all but tapdance on the counter to excite customers about this online survey form.
This chain is struggling, according to the national news. The chances are that they’re investigating why customers love or don’t love them, predict sales trends, and decide how to keep customers coming back to shop again.
And by collecting this data, perhaps they will get their finger on the pulse of their customers and be able to lift themselves out of a tailspin. It seems like a wise place to start.
How to protect your online form data
Ok, so we all agree now that it’s vital that you collect customer data to help drive business. Now, you might be curious about how to keep online form data safe from the previously mentioned hackers.
Here are five easy ways to preserve data safety.
1 - Make data security part of the company culture
First, start by getting everyone on your team on board. All your efforts at maintaining data integrity are for naught if you do not have your staff along for the ride.
Educate them on the reasons that data collection is an integral part of your business model. Then, explain to them how and why it benefits them to uphold your standards.
Ahem, job security as you grow the business.
Your hard work is wasted if you have a careless employee who causes a data breach. Asking them for commitment to these standards is a reasonable expectation.
One local retail store in my area recently posted a banner near their POS system. The sign stated simply, “We love our customers, and we promise to keep your transactions safe.” Each employee signed the banner with a brightly-colored marker.
Being a writer with EmailMeForm, I was duly impressed.
2 - Restrict access to data
Just because you have online forms working for you, it does not mean that every employee needs access to them.
Classify employees according to job functions, and permit entry only those employees who need to use the information. You probably don’t give out physical keys to your building to every staff member, nor should you grant all-access passes to your online forms.
For example, your bookkeeper must gain access to your payment forms to report sales tax use and tally your earnings. However, your customer service reps do not need these pieces of information.
On the other hand, the customer service team members probably do need inquiry forms to reach out and respond to questions about your goods or services.
Password protected forms enable you to assign work without compromising form security.
3 - Speaking of passwords
And, since I mentioned passwords, set up a strict password policy for all your employees (that includes you!).
Whether you are the sole person or you have dozens of workers at your business, passwords are a weak point for many companies. Without robust password protocols, a data breach or online fraud becomes a greater likelihood.
- Change passwords regularly
- Randomize the passwords
- Don’t use proper names of family members, pets, your hometown
- Use a mix of upper- and lower-case, symbols, and numerals
4 - Choose the most secure form builder (PCI-certified)
When it’s time to build payment forms, user inquiry forms, or any others that contain sensitive customer data, choose the most secure form builder.
Form companies flood the internet. But, know that now all form companies are equal.
Some form builders offer minimal security, but a minimum level of protection is insufficient today. Instead, select a form company that is PCI-certified.
A PCI-certified business is one that has submitted to all the requirements of the Payment Card Industry. Then, they submitted to an independent audit that put them through the paces to show that they exceeded those strict standards.
Bear in mind that PCI-compliant and PCI-certified designations are very different. PCI-compliant form companies attest that they completed meeting all those standards. However, PCI-certified businesses proved themselves to an auditor.
Yes, EmailMeForm is PCI-certified.
5 - Utilize multi-factor authentication
Online forms reveal the most critical, sensitive pieces of customer data. If this falls into the hands of the wrong person, it could spell disaster for your business–and ruin your customer’s credit history.
A feature that can save you from this nightmare scenario is multi-factor authentication. It is a second security challenge that a user must pass before they can retrieve form data.
Why? First of all, it stops hackers in their tracks.
But think beyond hackers. What about a past disgruntled employee who takes a lucky guess at a password? Or, what if you set your password to autofill on your tablet, then lost it at a convention?
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) has got you covered then, too!
Final Words: Store Customer Data in the EmailMeForm Vault
So, those last two solutions might sound somewhat complex. Fortunately, though, we at EmailMeForm offer you the fix to simplify things for you. It’s the Vault, and it’s our way of ensuring that your customer data remains safe and sound.
Vault customers can still access their form data easily, but it’s encrypted and then stored safely within our form manager. When you need to retrieve that data, you will log in using MFA.
Consider Vault a “safe” for your data. Only you or an authorized representative will be able to access your customer data. Consider it Fort Knox.