10 Pieces of Data You Should Know About Every Customer

Updated: April 30, 2009

Tracking information about businesses is often less treacherous than tracking that of consumers. Collecting consumer data is considerably more personal and therefore more dangerous if the information should fall into the wrong hands . "This practice of personal-data collection opens up huge corporate risk since this is practically the data recipe for identity theft ," warned David McNab, president of Objective Business Services Inc. , a boutique consulting firm based in Markham, Ontario.


"I strongly disagree with using identifiers of that nature. In fact, use of the equivalent of the U.S. Social Security number in Canada by anyone other than the government for any purpose carries a fine of $500 per number per use — statutory penalty," he added.

That said, and assuming you are well-versed in all applicable privacy laws and well-armed against data thieves and hackers, what data should you collect to maximize sales and leverage contacts with consumers?

It depends upon whether you deal with consumers one-on-one or interact with them solely through a contact center . More face time with customers translates to a need for more personal contact. "I would add to data collected on customers their favorite wine, chocolate and flower — you may want to celebrate a milestone or make an apology," said Cary Sue Lavan, vice president and banking-center manager at Midwest Bank in Chicago.

Refer Madness

Make sure to stay updated on customers' wants so that you can refer them to other companies. Lavan advised tracking "a customer's wish list, including items or services you do not provide" so that you are able to offer names of companies providing those wish items. A willingness to refer keeps customers relying on you for information and solidifies relationships at every opportunity. If you routinely make referrals, you are strengthening relationships on both ends — with the customer who needed information and with the company that received new business from your referral.

Obviously, if your only communication with a customer is through a contact center, then company policy will dictate response more than the clients' personal taste in flowers.

Must-Have Data

Beyond minor tweaks to match the data to your style of contact, here are 10 pieces of information you should have about every customer:

  1. Name, including any nicknames
  2. Complete business information, such as company or employer's name; address including ZIP code; and numbers (landline number including extensions or direct number, fax number and cell-phone number)
  3. Email addresses
  4. Preferred means of contact
  5. Customers' purchase history, including shipping addresses, to help determine which purchases were gifts and which were personal
  6. Gender and birth dates to help you acknowledge birthdays and tailor offerings
  7. Source, to track from where the customer came
  8. Anniversary with spouse, company or start of business with your company
  9. Names of spouse (or significant other), children and favored pets; favorite hobby, sports team and organizations they belong to including online groups like LinkedIn and Facebook
  10. A list of known wants to help match your offerings to a specific desire

Cancel the Credit Card

As for credit-card information, skip it. There is no guarantee the customer will use the same card on the next purchase and it is simply too risky for your organization to keep it on file. The same applies for any information that aids identity thieves such as place of birth, Social Security number, mother's maiden name and additional numbers from credit cards or checking accounts.

"Caution should be a watchword — ensure you are compliant with both the letter and spirit of all relevant law and customer agreements when using customer data ... you only need to mess this up once to be out of business," advised McNab.

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