Make Choice Your Calling Card

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Letting the customer have control over interactions—that's the goal of preference management, a relatively new category of application that is gathering steam. The concept is simple: invite the people your organization contacts to tell you how (and when) they prefer to be reached, whether by phone, email, Facebook, etc. Even better, these solutions let customers choose another method if the first approach is unsuccessful, and some let people select a preference for each hour of the day.

Besides being a great approach to service—most people like to feel in control—preference management solutions resolve the need for explicit authorization to comply with mobile phone regulatory requirements, as people who share their contact preferences are clearly authorizing an organization to contact them.

WHY COMPANIES ARE NOT IMPLEMENTING PREFERENCE MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS

The concept behind these solutions is wonderful, with benefits for both companies and their customers and prospects. But there are obstacles. For one thing, these solutions are not so easy to implement. Companies must select a preference management solution, and the options are limited. A few stand-alone solutions exist, but others are sold as a component or module of a larger suite. For example, it's logical for preference management to be a module in an outbound solution. It also makes sense for preference management capabilities to be tied to Web sites and CRM applications. There are a few out-of-the-box integrations for these types of solutions, but they're still highly limited. This means that the integration effort and cost will be the responsibility of the end-user organization, which many companies do not find appealing.

Then, should an organization be willing to take on the integration effort, there's the challenge of figuring out how to effectively incorporate customers' preferences into all of the workflows. Clearly, preference management should be used to drive proactive customer care initiatives, also referred to as outbound dialing and outbound notification. But preference management should also be associated with social outreach, Web site activities, and the more traditional sales and service initiatives that are tied to the CRM environment.

In other words, to be truly effective, preference management solutions need to be an integral component of many different systems and processes. While all this sounds daunting—and it is—it remains a good idea to invest in such a solution.

HOW TO GET STARTED

As noted above, implementing a preference management system will not be easy, particularly if you have a well-established servicing infrastructure, which is often a polite way of saying a highly dated and possibly even mainframe-based environment. This is one area where many companies get stuck. They want preference management but are unwilling (or possibly lack the budget) to make the types of system and infrastructure changes necessary to incorporate the solution throughout the enterprise.

Therefore, DMG suggests a different approach. While it would be wonderful for an organization and its customers to apply preference management to all customer-facing activities from the get-go, it might be more practical to start with one process or business function, such as traditional outbound activities, Web sites, or social programs. Once preference management gets going in one environment and begins to realize benefits for customers and the brand, it’s likely that more resources and support will become available to roll it out to additional functions and environments. While this approach may take a little longer, it improves the chances for success—and reduces the risk.

Donna Fluss (donnafluss@dmgconsult.com) is founder and principal of DMG Consulting, a provider of contact center and analytics research, marketing analysis, and consulting.

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