How to use customer information for marketing and referrals

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How can you manage clients’ information to your benefit?

Organisations often want to use customer information for marketing and to pass it on to third parties with whom they have arrangements such as strategic alliances and referrals. Although it’s not strictly necessary to obtain the customer’s consent to do so, you do need to have notified the customer of how you’ll use or disclose their personal information at or before the time you collect it (or as soon as possible afterwards if it isn’t reasonably practicable to comply).

This notification establishes how you can use the information. This is because you may only use or disclose personal information for:

  • The primary purpose for which you collect it; and
  • Any secondary purpose for which the individual would reasonably expect you to use or disclose it (provided that secondary purpose is related to the primary purpose).
  • The primary purpose will generally be ascertainable from the privacy collection statement that you give when you collect the information. Secondary purposes (e.g. marketing mentioned in that statement) can be treated as purposes for which the customer would ‘reasonably expect’ you to use or disclose their information.

So, if your privacy collection statement says you’ll pass the customer’s contact details on to another professional where you identify the customer needs additional advice outside your expertise, you should be able to pass on those details to make a referral.

Where new referral arrangements or alliances are created after personal information has already been collected, then ensure the information in the privacy collection statement was broad enough to include the new arrangement, otherwise you’ll need consent to pass on customer details.

Direct marketing

Be aware that stricter rules apply to direct marketing. You can’t use or disclose personal information for direct marketing purposes unless:

  • You collected the information from the customer;
  • The customer would reasonably expect you to use or disclose the information for that purpose;
  • You provide a simple way for the customer to easily request not to receive direct marketing communications; and
  • The customer has not made such a request to you.

Practical steps

If you intend to disclose a customer’s personal information, ensure that you notify them of this in your privacy collection statement. In all other cases, seek consent.

By Chris Deeble

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