Mastering the balance between exceptional Customer Experience and data protection legislation isn’t easy, and many businesses are unintentionally teetering on the edge.

Ironically, in a bid to meet customer needs with hassle-free digital services, some companies have missed the regulation mark with 200,000 reported GDPR breaches and fines totalling €55.9 million, so far. Walking the line between compliance and delivering great customer experience takes skill – brands must identify and stick to the perfect middle pathway; starting with a clear understanding of the factors that can send them off course. 

Top-heavy convenience impedes privacy

Efficient services are vital in the digital age; customers want experiences to be fast, simple, and streamlined. In fact, 26 percent will abandon online checkouts if processes are too complex. But companies focusing solely on convenience are putting themselves at risk of not only breaching regulation but also losing the trust of their customers.

While convenience matters, it shouldn’t surpass compliance and choice. A recent investigation by brand comparison site Which?, found a number of potential regulation breaches in e-receipts. By providing opted-in paperless proof of purchase, brands sought to improve customer experience, providing an instant buying record that enables easier returns or exchanges. However, the inclusion of unwanted marketing messaging in the emailed receipts, for which retailers had not received consent, meant many were breaking the rules of GDPR law and seemingly ignoring customer preferences.

Impenetrable defences dissuade customers

Following laws such as the GDPR is non-negotiable if firms want to avoid sizeable fines and reputational damage. The companies that embrace regulations will reap the rewards by demonstrating their dedication to protecting consumers’ data and will have a much greater chance of building lasting confidence and relationships: 84 percent of consumers cite good data security as a central factor in spending decisions. However, the introduction of safety measures and privacy protection can sometimes become obstructive itself.

As noted by Jeff Bell, Forbes Technology Council member and CEO of LegalShield, “excessive regulation leading to poor customer service” is high on the list of potential unintended GDPR consequences. For example, trying to mitigate all consent issues by installing a different opt-in widget for every single cookie is more likely to leave consumers feeling exasperated than empowered. Not to mention causing disruption to their journey that could result in negative brand perception.

And it almost goes without saying that extreme action such as blocking EU site visitors is a one-way ticket to loss of audience; the Chicago Tribune, for instance, has blocked all European readers from seeing its content since the GDPR arrived, an approach that can be seen used across a variety of US publishers and ecommerce sites.

Usability is the key lesson here. Companies must aim to build robust data defences that effectively mitigate privacy risks, without making it impossible for customers to get through.

Equilibrium: the answer to the ultimate Customer Experience

The value of CX is self-evident; amid increasingly tough competition and rising acquisition costs, success belongs to those who forge the deepest personal connections. But recognition of the most critical element remains limited: maintaining a consistently even balance. If businesses want to create memorable journeys and impactful interactions that fuel positive results, they need to provide the right blend of speed, simplicity, and data security.

Of course, the ideal mix varies for each brand. Among the best examples of current leaders is IKEA; despite famously poking fun at the GDPR, the company still sent out opt-in emails to ensure sustained contact with existing customers, and continuously uses data well. Drawing on fully consented membership insights, it highlights genuinely relevant discounts and provides unexpected yet impactful bonuses, such as in-store café freebies.

What every organisation must remember is that while convenience might attract customers, measured compliance is what makes them stay. So, there should always be two core components in place: clear and efficient data options that are easy to use, and holistic insight management. Only by unifying the information customers share can companies gain the full 360-degree view needed to define each individual’s ideal experience and deliver it.

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