How CRM Software Can Help You Comply with the GDPR

September 25, 2018 KJ Dearie

A new wave of data privacy laws are sweeping the globe and putting the pressure on businesses everywhere to comply – or face the consequences. Leading this new world order of user rights is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect on May 25th, 2018. 

Although the regulation is based in the European Union (EU), any company that collects, sells, or buys the data of EU citizens is subject to comply with the stringent guidelines of the GDPR

A recent study conducted by TrustArc revealed that 80% of companies subject to comply with the GDPR had yet to do so. One of the likely factors holding back businesses from meeting the mark with GDPR compliance is the overwhelming breadth of duties and practices necessitated by the regulation. 

Companies aren't quite sure where to begin, or how to go about tackling the many guidelines laid out by the GDPR. 

What many don’t realize is that they may already have a tool for GDPR compliance in their back pocket. If leveraged properly, certain CRM software can help you meet the requirements of the GDPR, along with other incoming privacy laws and data-handling best practices. 

But how? 

Here are three of the biggest ways CRM software can help you comply with the GDPR: 

#1: Organize user data for easy access

If you manage your contacts and user data through CRM software, you already have a huge asset when it comes to GDPR compliance – centralized customer information

One of the fundamental jobs of CRM systems is to house the droves of customer data that businesses have to deal with. According to Salesforce:

 “With CRM, you can store customer and prospect contact information, accounts, leads, and sales opportunities in one central location.”

This may seem like an obvious function of CRM software. And you’re probably at the point of asking, “So what?”

While it may not come off as anything special, having all your contact information in an accessible, centralized location is a critical feature of your GDPR compliance gameplan. 

According to GDPR Articles 15, 16, and 17, users now have the right to request to access, edit, transfer, and delete the information that a business stores about them.  

Users can exercise these rights through forms called Data Subject Access Requests (DSAR). If a user submits a DSAR, you have only 30 days to respond and take the requested action in order to be compliant with the GDPR. 

Complying with this requirement of the GDPR can be a major headache if your user data is not well organized. Companies that neglect to use CRM software will often find that their data is strewn about in different systems, storage, and files – making easy recovery a nightmare, and data loss a dangerous possibility. 

This is when it comes in handy to have that users’ data easily accessible in a CRM system. 

#2: Manage consent 

Not only can your CRM software compile and store your user data in one location, but it can also store a piece of accompanying information that is critical for GDPR compliance – user consent. 

According to Article 6 of the GDPR, businesses who collect and process data must do so under one of 6 legal bases:

1. User Consent

2. Legitimate Interests

3. Contractual Necessity

4. Vital Interest of the User

5. Legal Obligation

6. Public Interest

The most common basis – and safest when it comes to processing data lawfully – that businesses cite using is consent

Not only is this a popular and safe basis on which to process data by company choice, but it is also the only basis on which you can process data if that data is “sensitive” as defined by the GDPR – meaning it regards a person’s race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, medical background, genetic background, or trade union membership. 

The long and short of it is, if you collect user data, it’s likely that you’ll need to get consent first in order to stay compliant with the GDPR

Luckily, CRM software – namely contact and conversation CRM – is largely used to track customer interactions and comes with consent-tracking functionality built in. 

For example, you probably send newsletters, product updates, or offers to customers, right? 

To do so requires you to collect, at minimum, email addresses, names, and maybe even ages. In these cases, the GDPR mandates you get consent to collect this information, and you record the exact circumstances under which that consent was given, including:

- Who consented? 

- When was consent given? 

- What exactly did that user consent to? 

Keeping track of these details is an essential aspect of complying with the GDPR. In order to ensure your business is protected in the event that you are accused of a GDPR violation, you will need to provide the granular details of the user’s consent. 

CRM systems that cater to consent-tracking will store the details of those consents in a convenient dashboard, allowing you to access the all-important specifics if need be.  

Furthermore, many of these CRM solutions come with consent tool capabilities, like customizable opt-in checkboxes and sign-up forms, that make obtaining consents even easier. 

Here are just a few of the CRM providers whose software automatically tracks email marketing consent, checking one more item off your GDPR compliance task list:



-Microsoft Dynamics 365



-Sales Cloud by SalesForce

#3: Maintain data security 

When it comes to CRM solutions, you’ve probably heard the term “cloud-based” tossed around more and more frequently. 

And when it comes to the GDPR, you’ve inevitably heard the phrase “data security” peppered into the conversation. 

So what do the two have in common? 

As it turns out, the growing trend toward cloud-based CRM – CRM software that is hosted by the cloud and can be accessed through the internet – is largely due to its inherent security features. 

In fact, a 2018 study conducted by RightScale found that concerns about security fell to only 25% for companies that adopted a cloud-based CRM system. 

Outlining the benefits that cloud-based CRM software provides to small businesses, Zarema Plaksij from SuperOffice notes that:

“Information security levels at Cloud servicing companies are much higher than those provided by an average local IT room. Providers of Cloud CRM also offer advanced automatized back-up policies and have clear data recovery plans if a breach happens.”

Meeting security standards and maintaining data breach protocols – as cloud-based CRM does – are two critical elements of GDPR compliance. 

GDPR article 32 states that:

“The controller and the processor shall implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk...”

Furthermore, GDPR articles 33 – 35 detail measures that should be taken regarding data breaches. As cloud-based CRM software have data breach plans and recovery procedures built in, utilizing such systems can ease your own data-breach protection burden.  

The GDPR – along with other recent privacy measures – are putting the onus on businesses to keep the data they collect safe at all costs. 

By using a cloud-based CRM solution, you’re making an effort to protect your users’ data – and protect yourself from the excruciating penalties of the GDPR.


While GDPR compliance is on the top of most companies’ to-do lists right now, keep in mind that the EU regulation is only the precedent in a new era of data rights and practice standards. 

Shortly after the GDPR came into effect, the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA) was passed – a US-based law drawing inspiration from the GDPR. 

In fact, the compliance aspects mentioned above – data access, user consent, and data security – all overlap with provisions in the CCPA. 

All of this to say that data privacy rules and regulations are on the rise, with no slowdown in sight. Cities, states, countries, and entire economic areas are passing laws that are lighting fires under businesses worldwide to change their data-handling strategies and make compliance a top priority. 

While doing this can often be difficult and overwhelming, there are ways to ease the burden. CRM software is, no doubt, one of those ways. 

Now that you know a few of the ways that CRM can be leveraged in order to meet the requirements of the GDPR, you have one more tool in your belt, and one less worry when it comes to complying with the GDPR.

Please note: The content of this blog is to show how your CRM can potentially be used to comply with GDPR regulations; it is for information purposes only. We do not make any specific promise about the accuracy of the content, and we are not responsible for your non-compliance with the GDPR requirements. It is your responsibility to read carefully the GDPR requirements themselves and determine whether you comply with them.  

Featured Image Source: Personal data protection, sensitive personal data, and GDPR concepts by Jirsak Shutterstock

About the Author

KJ Dearie

KJ Dearie is a product specialist and privacy consultant for Termly. She works to keep small business owners and digital professionals updated and compliant with ever-changing privacy regulations and policies.

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