What to Consider Before Building a Preference Center

One of my favorite brands is also a constant frustration for me. I visit their website several times each week but I feel like they have no idea who I am when I log in. Sure, there a lot of times when I want to browse a site anonymously and not be bombarded with irrelevant marketing messages later. But for my go-to brands and sites, I want the company to say, ‘Hi Rob, welcome back, here’s what we have for you today!’


 
Preference Starts with Compliance

Compliance is at the root of preference management. At the very minimum, companies have to comply with regulations around communicating with customers. However, many companies find that a simple opt in or opt out system that meets compliance only results in too many opt outs. Complicating things, compliance regulations are constantly changing and there are penalties if you don’t keep up. Those penalties can cost financially, but can also cost in customers who choose to leave over a bad experience. 

Build vs. Buy 

Many companies come to us after they have tried to build their own preference center. For some, their system worked fine but they want to update it and expand capabilities. Other companies might have gone through a merger or acquisition, or a significant technology overhaul that rendered the old system inadequate for current needs. These customers tend to know what they want but simply don’t have the capacity to build it out internally.

When outsourcing a preference center (the ‘buy’ option), companies need to know from a technology perspective what the data needs to look like and how it should move across the enterprise. For example, do you want to use a contact element, such as an email address, to develop a customer’s profile or do you want a unique identifier such as an account number for everyone?

One option is not necessarily better than the other; it’s more a factor of how the company wants to organize data. Your customers’ behavior patterns may also come into play. For example, a frequent flier for an airline is very likely to remember his account number because he uses it frequently to purchase tickets or check in for a flight. But that same customer may not want to have to remember an account number for an online shopping site; he might prefer to use an email address to log in for those transactions instead.   

Just Ask

Don’t guess what your customers want, just ask, they will tell you. And keep in mind, one size does not fit all. With all the communication touch points we have today (mail, phone, email, mobile, SMS, etc.) customers expect a personal approach and more customized options. They don’t want you simply asking, ‘can I contact you?’ Rather, they want you to ask, ‘what can I contact you about, and how?’ Communicate with customers on their terms, not on what you think they want. Customers like to feel empowered to direct their experience with a company.

I read a study from the American Marketing Association (AMA) that said by 2020 all marketing will be preference based. Preference centers implemented today need to be future proofed to adapt to changes in technology, compliance and customer behavior that doesn’t even exist yet.




 
About the Author: 
Rob Tate is the Director of Enterprise Sales at PossibleNOW.






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