Why data hygiene is more important now than ever before

BDaily recently published our article on the importance of data hygiene. You can read it below.

It is an understatement to say that these are devastating times for the thousands of people across the UK, and indeed the world, that have lost loved ones to Covid-19. Sadly as each day passes more and more people feel the effects of this deadly virus. For those of us that have not suffered a loss it is hard to make sense of the numbers that are being reported; what is not hard however is remembering that behind the stats are individual people who had families, friends and loved ones. The last thing these people need is an insensitive reminder of their bereavement.

Unfortunately, however, this is what is exactly what could happen. Increasingly organisations are being asked by the government to protect their vulnerable customers during lock down. For instance for utilities keeping people on supply, making sure they have warm homes and don’t face additional financial or other stresses about their energy supply has been classified by the government as essential. The same for Internet providers in terms of keeping people connected and for financial services the recognition that customers are experiencing fast changing financial circumstances. For many companies this means communicating with customers. But this comes with a number of issues. The first is determining who to contact and the second, how to contact them. There are a number of criteria for vulnerability (which aren’t mutually exclusive) which include age, financial status, physical and mental health, education and connectivity. The latter refers to digital literacy or access to the Internet. If customers are not online they cannot use self-service processes and therefore could require additional resource or need to be contacted in another way, for instance via the mail.

Another very concerning the issue is that unfortunately the very people that companies are being asked to contact are those that are most affected by coronavirus, particularly the over 70s and those with underlying health problems. As a result there is sadly a high possibility that some of these customers will have passed away over the past few weeks. It is therefore critical that companies that are communications with their customers are screening their data against deceased suppression files, more regularly than they might usually, in order to identify any customers that have died. Identifying deceased customers means that brands will be protecting the newly bereaved from receiving potentially distressing communications from organisations in the name of the person that has died, serving as a very painful reminder of their loss at an already very difficult time.

No organisation of course sets out to do this on purpose, but with unprecedented numbers of deaths being registered on a daily basis the potential for this to happen has risen significantly. It is therefore critical, now more than ever, that data hygiene becomes a priority. For example instead of screening customer data on a monthly basis, doing it more regularly, such as every week or on a campaign by campaign basis.

Not only will an increased focus on customer data protect the bereaved from added distress, it will also demonstrate greater responsibility and commitment to best practice and data regulation.