With so much cynicism about the use (and misuse) of customer data these days, it's especially important for businesses to have a clearly written privacy policy -- and to live up to it.

Yet despite such cynicism, customers will still give you information -- if you give them the right incentive.

Once you have customers' data, you need to analyze it so that you can serve them better. Many companies have harnessed technology to do just that.

Collecting Data

The Survey Says
Want to know what consumers think? Put down the comment cards and poll them online instead.
Pumping Your Visitors for Information
When you solicit feedback from your online customers, be sure not to take up too much of their time.

Protecting Privacy

Posting a Privacy Policy Statement on Your Site
Display your privacy policy prominently. Tell people why you're collecting information, what they get in return, who will have access to the information, and how people can opt out of the arrangement.
Control Your Need to Know
Many businesses collect more customer data than they'll ever use. So why not cut your costs while protecting customers' privacy? Only solicit the data you need.

Harnessing Technology

Pulling in Profits
New RSS software makes it easier to gather intelligence on clients and competitors.
Build a Customer Database that Works
Be clear about what you want your database to accomplish and let the design spring from that purpose.
Case Study: Targeted Marketing
A Midwestern clothing store used its customer data to target its direct mail marketing -- and customers responded.
Every Click They Make
Analyze your Web log files to see how customers use your site. Or start an online bulletin board, where customers can talk about what's on their minds.
Drowning in Customer Data
Traditional retailers and online "e-tailers" are missing critical sales and profits because they cannot efficiently navigate a sea of customer information to balance their supply and demand. A look at what can be done.