How to Make Your Appointment Booking System GDPR Compliant

Appointment scheduling software is crucial for businesses that offer services of any type to clients. In fact, 94% of customers are more likely to choose a service provider if they offer online booking. To schedule appointments effectively, though, you need personal customer data.
In 2018, the EU implemented the GDPR due to growing concerns about data privacy. 86% of customers care about data privacy, and nearly 50% have changed companies because of it. So, to maintain client trust, you need to make your appointment system GDPR-compliant.


What is the GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is an EU-wide privacy and data security law. It applies to any business that operates inside the EU, including international businesses. The GDPR determines how businesses collect, process, and manage personal data. Personal data includes a person’s name, ID number, location, or physical, social, economic, or cultural identity.

The GDPR aims to balance the rights of individuals and the companies that process their data. Because of this, both customers and businesses are generally in favor of it. For instance, in 2021, 54% of consumers were positive about the GDPR, with only 4% having a negative view. Also, 83% of business owners say privacy laws have had a positive impact on their company.


What are the GDPR’s policies?

Personal data

The GDPR has several policies that detail how to collect and process personal data. Its main principles are:

  • Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency: You should process personal data in a legal, fair, and transparent way.
  • Purpose limitation: You should only collect data for specific and legitimate purposes, and any processing should be in line with those purposes.
  • Data minimisation: You should only collect and process data that are relevant and necessary.
  • Accuracy: You should ensure data are accurate and up-to-date.
  • Storage limitation: You should only keep identifiable data for as long as is necessary for the purposes you collected it for.
  • Integrity and confidentiality: You must secure data against unauthorised processing and accidental loss, damage, or destruction.

The GDPR classes data processing as any action you perform on the data.

Privacy rights

Under the GDPR, the subject of the data has the following data privacy rights:

  • Right to be informed: You must tell customers how and why you collect and process their personal data.
  • Right of access: Customers can ask for a copy of their data and details on its use.
  • Right to rectification: You must rectify or delete inaccurate data.
  • Right to be forgotten: Customers can request that you erase their personal data at any time.
  • Right to restrict processing: In certain cases, customers can restrict the processing of their data. For example, if the data were unlawfully collected.
  • Right to data portability: Customers can send a copy of their data to another organisation without hindrance.
  • Right to object: Customers may object to you processing their data.
  • Rights relating to automated decision-making: Customers can request they are not subject to automated decision-making, including profiling. This excludes certain circumstances (for instance, if they gave consent).

What is an appointment booking system used for?

Put simply, an appointment booking service lets businesses or clients book appointments. This may be online or through an appointment scheduling app. You can customize appointment schedulers based on your business hours and staff availability. They have custom features, plus additional features like after-hours self-scheduling and easy payments.

You can design an appointment scheduling solution yourself, such as with Hadoop ecosystem tools. Or, there’s a range of customisable software options available such as TIMIFY. Either way, you should focus on user-friendly features for a positive customer experience. After all, good customer service should be at the heart of every modern business.

Common appointment booking software features

Appointment booking services come with a range of booking features, such as:

  • 2-way calendar sync: Sync to online calendar apps like Google Calendar to check availability and avoid double-booking. You can sync staff calendars, personal calendars, or even external calendars.
  • Payment options: Use integrated payment processors to collect full or partial payment at the time of booking.
  • Business integrations: Integrate with business applications like your email, CRM, or customer journey management system.
  • Advanced booking features: For instance, regular availability, irregular availability and real-time availability, or booking specific services. This is especially useful for service-based businesses like beauty salons.
  • 2-way client chat: Talk to clients via webchat to book, cancel, or reschedule appointments.
  • Automatic reminders: Automatically send booking reminders like email or SMS message reminders. This can reduce costly no-shows.
  • Powerful reporting features: Use metrics like customer footfall, customer retention, and customer satisfaction to improve your entire business.

How do the GDPR’s policies affect appointment booking systems?

Appointment booking software collects personal data like a customer’s name, email, phone number, address, and postcode. This means you’re subject to GDPR policies around issues like customer consent, data security, and sensitive data.

Role of an appointment booking system

Appointment booking solutions and are responsible for ensuring that the application functions properly. As a result, there is a possibility that the software provider may see the data from you or gain access to this data as part of support requests. 

As a result, it is necessary that the data processing takes place on the basis of a data processing agreement. The software provider is therefore subject to, among other things, the instructions from you under data protection law and acts as a so-called order data processor.  

Legal basis

To process data, you need a legal basis. This can be, for example, the consent of the customer or the respective contractual relationship on which the data processing is based.

Information

In addition, it is necessary to inform the customer about the data processing (privacy policy). Your privacy policy should detail how and why you will process personal data. It should also list you and the appointment booking software provider as data processors. Plus, since cookies collect customer data, you must make your cookie policy clearly visible.



How to ensure customer consent for marketing content

You can only use customer data for marketing if customers opt-in to receive marketing communications. Opt-in should be when customers enter their details at sign-up. You should leave the opt-in box blank by default; otherwise, it isn’t classed as consent. Also, you should detail how you will use their data for marketing in your privacy policy.

Customers should be able to opt-out of marketing at any point. Once they do, you will no longer be able to process their data for marketing, but you can still use it for non-marketing purposes. This also applies to any integrations, like your Bing Ads dashboard or CRM software.

Data security 

Data security is especially important for appointment schedulers since it involves online payments. The GDPR requires you to install appropriate security measures like pseudonymisation and encryption. You should also regularly check the effectiveness of those measures.

If there is a security breach, you must notify the authorities and, if appropriate, your client list. But 68% of businesses say investing in data privacy has reduced security losses. So security features not only ensure you’re GDPR-compliant, but also give you and your customers peace of mind.

Sensitive data 

You may want to use your appointment scheduling tools to collect data about your customers that’s considered sensitive. Sensitive data includes a person’s race, sex, political views, religion, sexual orientation, financial background, physical and mental health. Under the GDPR, you can only collect such data with explicit consent or for medical treatment and diagnosis. 


How to ensure you are GDPR compliant 

To prove your compliance with the GDPR, you should:

  • Ensure you meet at least one of the conditions for data processing, such as customer consent.
  • Keep a record of all data processing activities, including who has access to the data.
  • Ensure your privacy and cookie policies are up-to-date and available to your clients.
  • Protect data at all times through the use of encryption, pseudonyms, or anonymisation.
  • Create security and data privacy policies that your whole team is familiar with.
  • Have a dedicated staff member who’s responsible for GDPR compliance, such as a Data Protection Officer.
  • Make it easy for customers to make rights-based requests, like data deletion.

What are the penalties for not complying with the GDPR?

Failure to follow the GDPR can incur severe financial penalties. Less severe violations can incur a fine of up to Є10 million or 2% of a parent company’s global turnover from the previous financial year. For the most serious violations, fines can be up to Є20 million or 4% of a parent company’s global turnover. Customers can also seek financial compensation.  


Takeaway 

Since the introduction of the GDPR, 90% of business owners say data privacy is essential for their business. Appointment booking systems are increasingly popular, with 60% of customers booking appointments online. 

Since appointment solutions process large quantities of data, you need to ensure you meet GDPR regulations. Otherwise, your business could face costly fines and lose the trust of your clients.

It should be made clear, this article outlines practical tips on how the GDPR impacts your choice of appointment booking software and some general rules you should be aware of. It doesn’t constitute legal advice, and you should always consult your legal team when ensuring your GDPR compliance.

<strong><strong>Pohan Lin </strong></strong><br>
Pohan Lin

Pohan Lin is the Senior Web Marketing and Localizations Manager at Databricks, a global Data and AI provider connecting the features of MLOps in databricks and data warehouses to create lakehouse architecture. With over 18 years of experience in web marketing, online SaaS business, and ecommerce growth. Pohan is passionate about innovation and is dedicated to communicating the significant impact data has in marketing. Pohan Lin also published articles for domains such as SME-News.

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