How CRM Software Can Help You Comply with the GDPR

October 16, 2019 KJ Dearie

A wave of data privacy laws are sweeping the globe and putting the pressure on businesses everywhere to comply – or face the consequences. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) takes place January 2020. Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) has been in effect since 2000. But the mother of all user rights laws is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which established the new world order 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

According to a 2019 survey by Ovem, less than 1/2 of respondents said they are fully compliant with GDPR and 1 in 5 said they believe that full compliance is impossible to measure. 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. So what?

Well, having all your contact information in an accessible, centralized location is a critical feature of your GDPR compliance game plan. 

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 you don't have a single source of truth. Companies that neglect to use CRM software will often find that their data is strewn about in different systems, storage, and files – and used by different departments – making universal changed a nightmare, and privacy violations a real 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 track and hold  accompanying information that is critical for GDPR compliance – legitimate interest. 

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

Many companies live in fear of #1 - User Consent. In fact, we've talked to some countries who have stopped all email outreach to the European Union entirely. 

But take a look at #2: Legitimate Interests. In addition to giving consent by opting in, marketers are permitted to process personal data where they have a “legitimate interest” in doing so that is not overridden by a person’s fundamental rights or interests. 

In fact, the GDPR states specifically: "The processing of personal data for direct marketing purposes may be regarded as carried out for a legitimate interest.”

A word about "legitimate interest": We're not talking spam. We don't mean mass-emailing all 19,638 records in your CRM to tell them about your new product feature. Legitimate interest can only be achieved if you're able to segment your contacts to the degree that any email marketing message would be personalized and highly relevant. With accurate and detailed data and specific goals, you can adhere to the law of the land in the European Union without fear.

#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 organizational 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. 

About the Author

KJ Dearie

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

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