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7 ways to collect customer data that keep you compliant

Organizations can collect customer data through cookies and sales transactions, but they must be transparent and ensure they follow government regulations for data privacy.

Making decisions based on customer feedback can help CX teams efficiently understand market trends and pain points to alleviate that can improve customers' experiences.

One challenge in customer data collection, however, is ensuring the methods and types of data collected don't go against government mandated compliance and regulatory requirements. The most widely known is the European Union's GDPR, yet the U.S. has several state-level regulations, including CCPA in California, Virginia's Consumer Data Protection Act and the Colorado Privacy Act.

While these regulations can hinder customer data collection, organizations can still glean thoughtful insights if they are transparent with users. Learn about seven ways to collect customer data that keep both businesses and customers safe and within compliance laws.

1. Customer surveys

Perhaps the best way to stay compliant is to conduct no-obligation surveys throughout the customer journey. Plenty of customers are willing to share their opinions on purchase decisions, product and service fulfillment procedures and other feedback that CX teams can combine with other surveys. Then, teams can analyze the data to better plan their marketing strategies and sales tactics, and to streamline problematic processes.

2. Transactional data

Data collected from sales at the point of sale is known as transactional data, which can include transaction dates, times, locations, products or services purchased, purchase history and payment methods.

Then, CX teams can use this data to determine the following:

  • Success or failure of a particular marketing campaign.
  • Shopping trends.
  • Potential campaigns that might be successful in the future.
  • The likelihood of a customer returning.

To remain compliant when collecting transactional data, CX teams should only collect information that doesn't contain personal details about the customer. Instead, brands should focus on the transactions themselves, which provide sufficient information for business decision-making without risking data theft or loss.

A chart listing various ways to collect customer data.
Many forms of data collection previously unknown to customers -- such as cookies and website visits -- now require brands to disclose the practice to remain compliant.

3. Web tracking

Organizations that conduct business over websites can collect and analyze data using a number of tracking tools. Understanding how customers interact with a website can highlight what customers want, so CX teams can refine the website layout, content and purchasing methods to better attract prospects and cut down on cart abandonment rates.

Businesses should be careful about what data they collect from global websites and ensure they adhere to various regulations, like GDPR and CCPA. In many cases, websites that track information must disclose this fact to customers before they can collect data. Most commonly, brands disclose a cookie tracking policy on their website that requires customers to accept the terms in advance.

4. Opt-in digital newsletters and blogs

Many organizations stay in the minds of customers because they offer digital newsletters and walled blog content that use an opt-in, opt-out process. These methods benefit both businesses and customers, as they offer useful information, discounts and other incentives to customers while providing a wealth of user data for the business.

In many cases, customers are willing to provide their information if the content or discounts entice them. From a business perspective, the newsletters, blogs and other related incentives are worth the time and money spent to engage a loyal customer base.

5. Social media

Social media can help brands engage and interact with existing and prospective customers. Popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer businesses built-in analytics tools and often provide a near-real-time view of customer sentiment and an audience's continuously evolving interests.

Alternatively, CX teams can extract the data, place it into third-party tools and combine it with other forms of collected information for deeper inspection. When teams extract data from social media platforms, they must understand the business is responsible for keeping it safe and removing personal information that may lead to noncompliance.

6. CRM data

Most organizations rely on CRM tools to help track interactions with current or future customers. CX teams must take great care to protect CRM databases, as they contain customers' personal information, including names, email addresses and phone numbers. These systems also store descriptive, qualitative and quantitative data, which helps visualize and quantify customer behavior and lifetime value estimates.

The key to compliance is to require customers' consent prior to data collection.

7. Chatbots

As long as users grant consent and an organization's reasons for collecting the data are transparent, chatbots can help businesses focus on the types of questions, concerns and problems that customers may experience.

Whether a user requests specific information about a product or has questions or complaints regarding a pre- and post-sale experience, CX teams can use these data points to get either a high-level or granular view of what the customer wants.

Consent, transparency are key

The key to compliance is to require customers' consent prior to data collection. Once they give their consent, organizations must let them know about the uses of the data in accordance with various government regulations.

Digital tools and AI-backed services can help in this regard, as they can organize, deduplicate and remove personal information that could potentially be lost or stolen.

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