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It's None of your Business! - Privacy and What it Means to your Customers

By Linda Plater |

What if your client felt that you may not keep their personal information confidential? Would they value your business relationship if you shared or sold information about them?

Companies are beginning to realize that keeping other people's business private is just good business. One of the best ways to build a relationship with your customers is to show that you understand their needs. You know that establishing trust and rapport is important but did you ever consider that respect for confidential information could serve as a competitive advantage?

Royal Bank commissioned a survey, conducted by the Angus Reid Group, to explore Canadians' feelings and concerns around privacy issues. The survey looked at how Canadians feel about divulging personal information, and the level of confidence they have that their personal information is kept confidential.

The findings clearly indicate that privacy issues are of growing concern to the average Canadian.

In fact, eight in ten Canadians believe their personal information should be kept completely confidential, except in special circumstances. Nearly nine in ten are adamantly opposed to companies and organizations selling, trading, or sharing lists containing customer information with other companies.

Delivering on your clients' expectations of privacy may be a way to differentiate yourself in the marketplace, where privacy violations are common. By stating up front how you will, or will not use client information, you may also avoid privacy issues down the road.

According to Graeme Harris, a spokesperson for the Royal Bank, Canadians today are more aware of the value of their personal information. They don't want this information sold.

Forty per cent worry that personal information will be given to someone else, who will then use the information to sell them products and services they don't want.

Thirty-two per cent fear that if they refuse to provide certain information they will be denied the service for which they are applying.

Many Canadians regularly take precautions to ensure that their privacy will be protected.

This suggests that providing a choice for privacy is very important to clients.

Canadians' Top Privacy Concerns:

  • 81 per cent of Canadians surveyed were adamantly opposed to companies and organizations selling, trading or sharing lists containing customer information with other companies. Respondents felt this is unacceptable.

  • A majority of Canadians (80 per cent) believe their personal information should be kept completely confidential except in special circumstances.

  • 7 in 10 Canadians think the companies and organizations they interact with do a good job of keeping their personal information confidential.

  • Two-thirds of Canadians think it is acceptable for companies and organizations to use personal information to advise their customers of other products and services they offer.

  • Canadians believe it is acceptable for companies to analyze personal information on a customer-by-customer basis for internal purposes (59 per cent).

What businesses can do to protect their customers' privacy

Banks and governments have led the way in implementing privacy codes. Many have already shared these privacy practices with their customers.

According to Harris, it is important to put in place privacy practices and corresponding policies that follow guidelines already out there. He says that if companies don't do a good job of protecting their customer's info, they are going to be legislated to do so. Either way, personal information is going to be more and more a higher priced commodity.

Here are the top 5 things that Canadians are already doing to protect their privacy:

  • 61 per cent make sure that when they fill out a form, either a box is checked or it is put in writing that a company can't use the information for any other reason

  • 52 per cent pay with cash instead of credit cards

  • 43 per cent tear up credit card receipts

  • 39 per cent refuse to provide companies with some information

Professionals who communicate to their customers how they guarantee client privacy may fair better in the marketplace than those who do not ensure client confidentiality. After all, wouldn't you feel better if your life insurance agent promised that she wouldn't share your medical information with anyone?

Royal Bank's report suggests that understanding how Canadians view privacy issues could go a long way in furthering business relationships!

Canadian, Eh!

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