Setting out your stall
Explaining what you expect of your customers and what they should expect of you is just good business, plain and simple
The impending arrival of GDPR has everyone in a fluster. I can understand why – the fear of the unknown is palpable, and I’m receiving a lot of calls about data protection. We all want clear, decisive instructions on what to do, but I’m afraid that, in this instance, it’s going to require a bit of thought from each of us to adapt the rules for our own business. Last month, I provided some general guidance on how I think you can prepare. As the interpretation of the changes evolves, even long after the 25th May, we will learn a lot more about how it applies to us, and we’ll need to adapt the way we do things accordingly. But there are fundamentals we can put in place now, and this month we’re going to look at ‘Terms & Conditions’ and the important role they play; not only in complying with GDPR, but in helping you to protect your students, your income and your peace of mind.
Roll Up, Roll Up
One of the fundamentals of GDPR is that we should be clear and transparent about the data we collect, why we’re collecting it, where we’ll put it, who will have access to it and what we will do with it. We also need to explain how the customer can access their data, update it and ultimately request that we delete or anonymise it if they wish. While ‘clear’ and ‘transparent’ are often used interchangeably, they are not in this case. If you are describing your service in a complicated way, or not describing it at all, then you are falling foul of this key requirement, and that’s no good for you or your customers.
Clear – it is vital that we use plain and understandable English so that there’s no ambiguity or potential for misunderstanding. Terms and conditions are usually onerous and full of ‘legalese’, but when it comes to personal data and GDPR compliance, is must be clear and simple. So let’s make all of our T&Cs clear and friendly, even if it means explaining what we mean more than once. While you may want them to sound authoritative and sophisticated, this just encourages your customers not to read them, leading to consternation and trouble for you down the road if you need to enforce them.
Transparent – in GDPR terms, we must process all user data for a specific purpose that is agreed by the customer; the services we deliver must align with the services we describe. So avoid any irresolvable misunderstandings that can lead to unnecessary disputes.
Top Products, Best Prices
As well as maintaining a clear and friendly approach to the language you use, being concise and organised is also really important. Some believe that a huge list of terms makes you look more impressive and professional as a business, but the old adage ‘less is more’ is far more effective, accessible and shows you have nothing to hide. Both you and your customers want to feel confident, protected and, in the end, this will help you legally and will only strengthen your reputation. You have a responsibility to your customers, who are spending a lot of money and may be as young as 17, so do them, and yourself a favour, and keep it simple and certain.
New and Second Hand
I recommend doing some research online when it comes to content. Entering ‘driving instructor terms and conditions’ returns a plethora of examples that you can use. It’s unnecessary to spend thousands on solicitors’ fees when you can use existing examples to help you put your own terms together. Yes, it’s important to make them your own, in a style that utilises what I’ve said above – convert whatever you read into concise terms that are clear and friendly. Begin by incorporating an ‘acceptance of terms’ clause, explaining that by signing them, they agree to abide by your terms and conditions which are enforceable by law. Next, consider all the aspects of running your business that you’d like customers to understand, including what happens when either party is late or cancels a lesson, how and when you accept payment, what happens in the event of an accident during a lesson etc. If you created a list of all the things that have or may happen to you, what would be on it? Ensure you add a section on GDPR, and explaining that in order to provide your service, you need to collect, retain and process their personal details, including their name, address, email, telephone number, date of birth and driving licence number. Set out how and where you will store their data, and that it is available for them to see and amend on request. Incidentally, storing personal data in a secure cloud-based system is far more compliant and simpler to use than paper. Confirm that their data will not be shared with any third party unless they have provided explicit consent to do so, and that they may withdraw this consent at any time. They should have to tick a box to confirm they understand and accept any consent you’re asking them to provide. If you are registering with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), explain that you have done so, citing their web address. Ask your new students to read, understand and return a signed copy of your Terms and Conditions before you begin working with them, so that everyone is clear from the first moment. Start on the right footing and you can rest assured that everyone knows where they stand.
The notion of creating or updating your T&Cs may seem daunting. It’s not exciting, but it’s a business necessity that will provide you with professional confidence and reassurance, and once completed, you’ll have the satisfaction of a job well done.
Dan hill – https://www.mydrivetime.co.uk/