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How to Keep Customer Data Secure and GDPR Compliant with Digital Mailroom

If you still rely on a physical mailroom for your inbound customer communications, you are making it harder to protect your customer data while risking non-compliance with GDPR.

In this article, we’ll show you how adopting a digital mailroom solution with robust data management prevents data breaches, data losses, and financially punitive GDPR penalties. At the same time, it will improve your customer experience management, and boost customer retention.

One common misconception around digital mailroom is that it simply involves digitising your inbound communications management. While that’s certainly part of it, a digital mailroom solution introduces so much more, including systems and processes that protect your customer data and help you stay GDPR compliant.

So, before we begin, for an introduction to what digital mailroom is, how it works and the full benefits, read our Digital Mailroom Explainer here.

How GDPR affects your business

The General Data Protection Regulation governs the use of personal data when a data controller (the organisations that collect individuals’ data), a processor (the organisations that process it, such as service providers, CRMs and other cloud service providers) or a data subject (the individual) are in the EU. The UK has retained an identical regulation still called GDPR.

The purpose of GDPR compliance is to protect the data and privacy of individuals. To be compliant, data controllers and processors are required to implement systems and processes that safeguard it from breaches and mishandling.

GDPR gives customers various rights to access and manage the data that companies hold on them, and those companies need to have systems in place for those requests to be fulfilled within certain time limits. For example, subject access requests (where customers must be provided with all the data you hold on them) must be processed within one month.


Key Customer Rights Under GDPR

Right to restrict processing

With this, companies cannot touch a customer’s data for any purpose, not even to delete it. A restriction is usually temporary, and happens when a customer challenges the accuracy of their data, when they claim it has been gathered unlawfully, or when you no longer need their data but they want to prevent it being deleted while they defend a legal claim.

Right to rectification

Similar to the right to restrict, but this gives the customer the right to alter their data if it is inaccurate or incomplete.

Right to erasure

Also known as the “right to be forgotten”. Customers can request deletion of all or parts of their data at any time.

Right of access

Customers can make a subject access request to get a copy of the data you hold on them, as well as metadata including who else has access to it.

Right to data portability

Customers can request that you transfer the data you hold to another company or data controller.

See the full list of GDPR rights here.

As you can imagine, processing these kinds of requests is much faster with a digital archive.


The risks of poor GDPR compliance

There are major risks with non-compliance. It can directly damage your finances from fines – under GDPR, data protection authorities are able to fine companies up to 4% of their annual revenue.

It also indirectly hits your business performance by harming your reputation in the market and weakening your customer retention.

A customer’s trust in a brand can be lost overnight if it mishandles their data. A survey by Adobe in 2021 found that 71% of customers were concerned about how brands use their data while the same survey found that only 6% of company executives believed customers worried about it.

If customers are telling us that security and compliance are important to them, the businesses that make this a priority are investing in a powerful differentiator.

Compliance doesn’t just benefit the individual. While GDPR is intended to protect customers' rights to access and manage their data, its guidelines also help companies design secure IT systems that will help their business performance in the long run.

The risks of a physical mailroom

A physical mailroom requires well-managed document storage, which can be expensive, often isn’t GDPR compliant, or is located offsite in a warehouse. In terms of security and compliance, this has risks.

GDPR states that you must deliver a customer’s data within one month if they ask for it. If your physical mailroom is slow to react, you could be risking both a fine and damage to your reputation.

It’s easy to lose track or damage physical documents, which is why digital mailroom solutions come with an audit trail, so your staff can see the full history of a document, from the moment it’s received to who it’s assigned to, to all actions taken and archiving. It’s near impossible to manipulate this audit history.

The risks of leaving physical records lying around are why most digital mailroom vendors will provide back scanning and archiving for all legacy files you have in storage, securely destroying the physical copies, many of which often need specialist disposal capabilities.

We've found that organisations are holding hundreds if not thousands of boxes of customer documents in offsite storage, all at risk of not complying with GDPR. We help with situations just like this, digitising and organising documents for secure and compliant access, speeding up processes while freeing up space and removing storage costs.

The risks of relying on email

Many people think that adopting a digital mailroom just means switching from paper to email. While scanning documents and distributing them by email is the easiest way to move from physical mail to digital, this way of working will still leave you exposed to mishandling or theft of customer data.

Hacking is a growth industry, already valued at $6 trillion in 2021. If it was a country it would be the third largest economy in the world.

With remote and hybrid working increasing, and colleagues relying on email more and more to have distributed access to sensitive documents, it’s easier to accidentally leak customer data while attachments are easier to hack.

The risks involved in “scanning to email” can be avoided with a digital mailroom solution that includes a secure portal for viewing restricted documents. A good vendor will provide options to disable downloads and edits, as well as offering full transparency on metadata and document lifecycle management.

Eliminating the risks with a digital mailroom solution

A digital mailroom solution digitally distributes incoming communications in a far more secure way than email or physical mail, quickly and cheaply.

A good digital mailroom solution should come with security enhancing features such as:

  • Logged-in state – all actions are trackable
  • Restrictions on permissions – only the assigned individuals and teams can take the appropriate actions
  • Automated retention periods – you can set data to auto-delete when it reaches the end of a time limit. E.g. six years for financial statements.

A digital mailroom not only eliminates the unintended consequences of forwarding unsecure emails, it brings oversight to the entire process of sorting and distributing incoming communications.

Learn more about how digital mailroom solutions can help you save time, money and improve the customer experience.