Digital Transformation: How to Keep Customer Information Safe

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As more and more businesses implement digital transformation strategies, the need to keep customer information safe is increasing. Developing a data privacy policy - and sticking to it - can be challenging, but hopefully this guide will help you put the processes in place to protect sensitive information.

According to YouGov, 72 percent of Brits are concerned about organisations accessing their personal data. As technology evolves, criminals are developing their techniques for breaking into businesses’ security systems, so it’s vital entrepreneurs educate themselves and take responsibility for their stored information. 

In the franchise world, it can be tempting for franchisors and franchisees to sidestep the issue of data privacy, assuming the other party will take action. In reality, franchisors must create the infrastructure necessary for everyone in the business network to protect their customers’ information. And franchisees must act in accordance with both the law and the franchisor’s data protection procedures. 

Government data privacy policies 

By law, businesses must take measures to keep customer information safe. If your franchise stores people’s names, addresses, phone numbers, card details or photos, it’s your legal obligation to protect them. If you fail to comply with the law, either accidentally or on purpose, you could be fined up to €20 million or four percent of your annual global revenue, or even given a prison sentence. 

As a business owner storing customer information, you must make sure your data is used fairly and only for necessary purposes. You should only keep it for as long as you need to and always handle it safely. 

Also, it’s your responsibility to tell your customers how you will use their information and whether you’ll share it with third parties. Plus, you must tell customers they have the right to see the information you hold about them and ask you not to use it for certain purposes. They should also know they can request for it to be updated or deleted. 

As part of your data privacy policy, you must inform the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) of your information processing activities. 

How to be GDPR compliant 

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is part of EU law and tells businesses how to safeguard customer information. In order to abide by your legal obligations and reduce the chances of being hit with a large fine or prison sentence, you must complete the following checklist: 

  1. Complete an audit to identify all the customer information you collect and who can access it 
  2. Conduct data protection impact assessments
  3. Write a data processing and privacy policy
  4. Develop a security policy for employees and spread awareness
  5. Develop a procedure to protect customers’ rights if you make decisions about them based on automatic processes
  6. Create a data processing agreement with any third parties processing data on your behalf
  7. Appoint a GDPR compliance officer for your business
  8. If you operate outside of the EU, appoint a representative in one of the EU countries
  9. Always take protection into account when developing new systems, from the start to the end of the process
  10. Make sure your reasons for collecting data are legally justifiable
  11. Encrypt, pseudonymise or anonymise personal data whenever possible
  12. Prepare for data breaches, notifying authorities and those impacted
  13. Make it easy for customers or clients to request, receive, correct, update and delete their data
  14. Make it easy for customers or clients to object to you processing their data or ask you to stop 
  15. Make it easy for customers or clients to access a copy of their personal data in an easily transferable format

Extra ways to keep customer information safe 

Trying to keep customer information safe while running a franchise can seem like a minefield, but the more guidance and advice you can access, the better. Keep reading for a few extra pointers when it comes to mastering your digital transformation strategy. 

These measures may not be legal requirements, but they’ll certainly make your life easier and give you additional peace of mind. 

  • Organise educational sessions for employees to give them clear guidance on how to handle customer information

  • Encrypt data, store it in one place and regularly back it up - if you use cloud-based services, implement strong passwords, and if you download information onto external hard drives, keep them in a cool, dry facility with secure locks

  • Appoint a small number of data security professionals and limit access to information across the rest of your franchise 

  • Regularly research data security regulations and stay up to date with changes to the law

  • Discuss your business policies with others in the franchise to make sure everyone is on the same page

Staying informed when running a franchise

Whether you’re a franchisee or franchisor, you should be regularly carrying out research, not only into your industry, but into current business regulations too. By reading relevant resources and discussing current working practices with other professionals, you can take steps to protect your business for the future. 

If you’d like more information on this topic, take a look at our top tips for upgrading your franchise business’s cyber security processes. Alternatively, read our guide to digital transformation or our run-down of the top cloud-based solutions for various business practices. 

You can also find a selection of our most recent publications here at Point Franchise, or use the search box to scour our site for a topic you’re particularly interested in. 

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If you’re new to the franchising industry, why not kick-start your next professional adventure by browsing investment opportunities? You can see our full catalogue of the current openings in our franchise directory or refine the selection by cost, geographical location or sector from the menu on the left.

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