The customer relationship and its management
It is easier to maintain good customer relations if your company collects and examines data on its customers and customer groups. Comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the other legislation on data protection when you collect and process data. Also take account of the rules on direct marketing. Electronic direct marketing is governed by rules that are in some ways different from those for traditional direct marketing.
According to the GDPR, a company can collect personal data on its customers for legitimate purposes specified by the company. There must be grounds provided in the law for the processing of data.
Personal data is any data that may directly or indirectly relate to a specific person, such as a telephone number, street address or email address. The collection of sensitive data (e.g. on religion) is generally prohibited. Note that, in the case of the personal data of a child under the age of 16, you need the guardian’s consent.
In most cases, customers must give their consent to the processing of their personal data. If you are processing data for a purpose that is different from that for which the data was originally collected, further consent from the customer may be required.
You must tell your customers how and why you are collecting data on them and how the data will be processed. You can, for example, draw up a privacy statement. Show customers the information you have on them also if they ask.
Keep the amount of data you collect to a minimum. Process your customers’ data lawfully and carefully. Protect the data from unauthorised processing. Make sure that it does not get lost.
If your company does not comply with the GDPR, an authority may order you to take corrective measures or it may impose fines. The processing of personal data is overseen by the Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman.
You can outsource the processing of personal data on certain conditions. Before the outsourcing, your company (controller) and the processor must conclude an agreement on the processing of the personal data. Remember that as the controller, your company is always responsible for ensuring that the personal data is processed in accordance with the law even if it was processed by another party acting on behalf of your company.
Think about what data you need and how you will obtain it cheaply. Follow the rules on the collection and use of data, such as the EU GDPR.
You can collect data from official registers (e.g. the Digital and Population Data Services Agency and Statistics Finland) and from trade target group registers. Data is also available with the help of sales promotion campaigns and regular customer initiatives or by asking customers directly. Remember that all the data you collect on customers must be for a specified purpose.
You can divide your customers into groups. The division could be based on, for example, the stage of the customer relationship, buying behaviour or the customer’s value and needs. Apply different marketing strategies to the various customer groups.
Examine the data for your customers and groups. You will find out where your company should allocate its resources. At the same time you can prevent losses: if you notice that your customer is not buying so much any more, you can discover the reason and pay attention to it.
You can also use the data to improve customer loyalty and customer activation. The data will also help you to identify potential customers.
Traditional direct marketing includes promotional material and telephone sales. Your company may use these methods without asking for permission, until the customer no longer allows it. Traditional direct marketing can also be used to target both private individuals and companies.
Electronic direct marketing includes email, text, voice, sound and image messages. You can only send such messages to new consumer customers that have given their consent to such marketing in advance. Customers must give their consent on their own initiative (by ticking a box, for example).
No consent is needed from a company or an existing consumer customer. Existing consumer customers must be offered a chance to refuse the use of their contact information for direct marketing in connection with each direct marketing message. The refusal must be easy and free of charge.
Always tell the customers where you got the information if it was not provided by the customers themselves. The rules apply to both traditional and electronic direct marketing.
Your company may also outsource its direct marketing. It is nevertheless your responsibility to ensure that the marketing exercise and the processing of data are lawful.
Customer relations need to be maintained even after a sale. It is more expensive to acquire new customers than to keep your current ones. Remember, though, that both parties should benefit from the relationship.
When selling to your customers, always provide the information they need for any future communications or follow-up. Tell them, for example, what they should do if there is an error with the bill or something wrong with the product. Deal with any customer complaints appropriately.
Never take your customers for granted. Systematically monitor customer satisfaction, loyalty and profitability.
Remember that the customer relationship is a dialogue. Talk to customers also when they themselves have not been very active.
Continually do what is necessary for your customers to remain satisfied. You could, for example, target your marketing to the various groups in different ways. If you wish, you could also create a regular customer or some other sort of loyalty programme.