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Responding to data in 2017: Customer care, regulations and quality issues

Rebecca Hennessy 6 minute read Data regulations

*As featured on IT Pro Portal*

If you saw my recent Global Data Management Research highlights post you’ll be aware that there are some pressing issues that organisations are up against in 2017.  I was delighted therefore to have the opportunity to explore some of these issues further in a feature article on IT Pro Portal.  You can see this below or visit the site to read it along with a wealth of other data-related market perspectives.

As consumers become more sophisticated in their appreciation of data, the need to achieve a single customer view (SCV) will become even more pressing.

The rapid adoption and development of technological innovation means that we now live in a world built on data. Providing data as part of an interaction with brands has become so familiar to us that our awareness of this data exchange has grown greatly. These exchanges have become ingrained in our behaviours and as a result, data is everywhere. Organisations of all shapes and sizes are in possession of more customer information than ever before. With this comes greater responsibility and an onus on businesses to have effective processes in place to manage their data.

Consumer attitudes to the use of data are maturing as they appreciate its value - and vulnerability - if not handled appropriately. With changing regulation, the financial cost of getting data management wrong is growing, but so too is the impact it can have on consumer trust.

Data quality matters

Our recent Global Data Management Research– identified that 72 per cent of businesses agree data quality issues impact consumer trust and perception. Most organisations now recognise the positive contribution data makes to revenues, servicing customers and maintaining relationships with them. Without steps in the right direction, companies could find themselves without this business-critical asset. Interestingly, 76 per cent of businesses believe that to be transparent with data practises, an effective data management process needs to be in place.

As consumers become more sophisticated in their appreciation of data, the need to achieve a single customer view (SCV) will become even more pressing. Organisations are working hard to recognise and track their customers, regardless of time, location, or the device they’re using. However, this is not new and progress is slow. In fact, 81 per cent of respondents still report challenges in achieving a SCV, so it comes as no surprise to learn that two thirds (64 per cent) of organisations agree that inaccurate data is undermining their ability to provide an excellent customer experience.

Data quality is a fundamental step towards achieving a more joined up customer experience and ultimately a SCV. This accurate view is critical in enabling businesses to be more transparent with data processes and avoid negative implications associated with poor data quality. However, many organisations still rate their ability to meet current regulation as ‘lagging’, so there is clearly still a lot to do. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) around the corner in May 2018, there is no time to waste.

Management, maturity and regulation

More than half of respondents (52 per cent) claim that the impact of not trusting their data has increased the risk of non-compliance and ability to meet regulations. Despite this, most businesses (56 per cent) don’t fully trust their data to make business decisions.

Even with sharpened awareness from consumers and businesses, this latest research identified that organisations’ data management maturity may not be evolving at the same pace. With 48 per cent of businesses still working towards meeting current data regulations let alone impending ones. Even across the top tiers of data management maturity, only 39 per cent on businesses consider themselves to have a ‘proactive’ strategy to meet current data regulation expectations, and just 13 per cent considered it to be at the top level – ‘optimised and governed’.

A real catalyst for action will be the imminent regulatory change with the introduction of the GDPR and particularly its eye-watering fines. Where data management projects haven’t had focus in the past GDPR should give organisations a firm push in the right direction. In fact, with the May 2018 deadline on the horizon, many businesses will need to move fast and decisively. So how should businesses prepare their data management strategy to meet these challenges in 2017?

One important factor will be leadership, and in fact one in three businesses plan to hire a Data Protection Officer during 2017. Additionally, 37 per cent plan to recruit other ‘data champion’ and ‘data steward’ roles. The DPO must be a senior figure who fully understands and appreciates the organisation’s uses of data from a business standpoint, and should be aware of the core issues that the company faces overall. Though it is possible to outsource all manner of data-related roles, even entire teams, the DPO is likely to be too important and closely tied to the smooth running of the businesses to be left to an external supplier given the potential fines.

One thing which the GDPR requires is that the DPO should report directly to the CEO, providing them with direct insight into the business’ data health. Therefore, having this role in-house is likely to be important.

2017 – 2018, the growing-up of data

Over the coming months businesses will need to look for guidance and support. The need to get it right will be focused by regulatory pressure, but the benefit will go way beyond.

Newly introduced senior data roles will likely drive key changes for businesses to meet regulatory practises and increase value and trust with consumers. These roles should provide the overall direction, but ultimately data must be everyone’s responsibility. Businesses must empower people to safeguard data and make it accessible by adopting easy to use and business friendly technology. Importantly, though, they should embed processes, especially around data quality, to meet growing complex consumer expectation and regulation. What is clear is that data quality and management are no longer a nice to have - they are operationally critical.

There has undoubtedly been some progress since last year’s research, but it’s still a journey. The main difference is that journey now has a deadline (May 2018 for GDPR compliance) and a monetary value associated with it (up to 4 per cent of a business’s global annual turnover). These factors should spur businesses into action and significantly accelerate progress.

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