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16th of January 2018

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Royal Mail research reveals UK firms lack data quality for GDPR

Almost one-third of UK organisations lack the data quality enforcement processes required for the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), according to research from Royal Mail Data Services. 

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The use and management of customer data, the company’s fourth annual survey of UK businesses’ data practices, has revealed that nearly three out of 10 organisations are concerned about not being compliant with the GDPR – a 242% increase from the 2016 survey.

And more than half said they were unsure whether their third-party data sources would comply with the permissioning guidelines of the new regulation.

The survey was carried out online in May and July 2017 among 281 customers of Royal Mail and members of the DataIQ networking community.

Jim Conning, managing director of Royal Mail Data Services, said that, as a consequence, organisations will probably turn less to third parties and instead focus on making better use of data that they already have in house.

“We are seeing far more focus on keeping existing customers, in contrast with previous years,” he said. “Last year, keeping existing customers had dropped to 11% from 33% in 2014, but it has now climbed back up to 16.4%. That suggests to me that people are finally looking at their customer base and asking ‘how can we better engage?’ This might be driven by third-party being harder to find because it is explicitly opted in. There will be a more limited pool of third-party data.”

One in five respondents to the survey said poor-quality data (22.9%) is holding them back, or that their organisational cultures do not value the importance of maintaining good-quality data (20.6%).

Conning added: “The problem of poor-quality customer data has blighted business for many years, and as the GDPR deadline approaches, those companies that lack effective data management processes will not only continue to suffer an unnecessary hit to the bottom line, but also potentially risk non-compliance with tightened data regulations.

“It still comes as a surprise that a large proportion of organisations today have no formal processes or solutions in place to either cleanse or enhance customer data on a continuous basis. Yet data quality is of paramount importance to support customer acquisition and retention activities. Rather than regard the enforcement of the GDPR as an unwanted regulatory headache, companies should view it as a spur to action to improve and enhance data quality in order to provide a truly customer-focused marketing experience.”

Conning told Computer Weekly: “People are more and more aware about data. Telling customers how we used their data to make their lives better, less frustrating – most consumers are fine with that, if it’s appropriate, if it is a value exchange.

“We have, as organisations, treated [customer] data as if it is ours, but we are the holders of the data for the individual. I always say: treat it as if it were your mother’s. You are dealing with people, not a bunch of numbers. That is a culture thing, not a legislative thing.”

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