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Companies should treat customer data with precious care

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Business VoIP, contact centers, unified communications and customer relationship management (CRM) systems all allow companies to support their customers to some degree, often through access to customer data, but a new survey revealed that, above all else, consumers want to feel safe with the businesses they use. That is, customers want their data and information to be treated with care and kept private.

Because of advanced CRM systems, salespeople and other agents may have access to customers' past conversations and purchases, allowing them to have a better understanding of who they're working with. This helps provide the best possible client support, but it also leaves the agent with a lot of information about a customer. Not only does a company have access to a customer's email address, phone number and credit card number, but it also knows about past purchases, current addresses and more private information.

Consumer feelings about privacy

LoyaltyOne recently surveyed 2,000 North American respondents about their feelings about companies having access to private information.

The survey revealed that consumers prefer some personal information be kept under wraps. Only 15 percent said they would be comfortable with a company having access to their exact geographic location through smartphone tracking, and only 11 percent said they'd be willing to share Social Security numbers.

Consumers were more comfortable sharing other information.Fifty-nine percent of respondents were willing to share their religious views, while 66 percent said they'd

be OK sharing their sexual orientation.

It's one thing for companies to have some of this information based on past purchases, but it's another for the information to be acted on, according to FastCompany. For example, about 70 percent of survey respondents believed companies should not send out promotions concerning babies just because someone purchased a pregnancy test.

Government develops guidelines for consumer mobile tracking

Paired with consumers' discomfort are government initiatives to try to create new laws against mobile tracking. Because some companies are following consumers without their knowledge or permission, officials are concerned about privacy and want to advocate for consumers, according to AdWeek.

"I believe Americans have a fundamental right to privacy: to know what information is being collected about them and to be able to control whether or not that information is shared with third parties," said Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, in a statement.

Whether or not a company tracks its customers based on location or sends them promotions based on recent purchases, it's important for business executives to consider what will make consumers comfortable. It's one thing for a business to have access to an address, but a consumer can be made uncomfortable if a business reaches out in the wrong way.