5 Tips for Managing Customer Opt-In Data
Consumers spent the summer cocooning at home, and even with restrictions completely or partially lifted in some areas, buying patterns have changed. Purchasing and customer outreach is taking place through digital channels, and safety-conscious people are looking for touchless delivery experiences and communication. This magnifies the effects of privacy legislation enacted to keep consumers safe online.
That’s because communicating with customers via text—an increasingly popular channel—is only allowed when customers provide consent by opting in to receive messages. You need them to do so now more than ever, which means you also need to become very adept at managing opt-ins, and not just at obvious customer data collection points like rewards programs but across your business.
Most policies on online privacy management, cookie permission, the right to be forgotten, etc., don’t address how to manage opt-ins and opt-outs. But here are five tips to help you control this vital data so you can not only comply with regulations but expand opportunities to start and continue conversations with your customers and prospects.
1. Ask permission to have conversations at every opportunity. It’s a best practice to ask permission for an ongoing dialogue with customers every time you can, including during interactions online, via a digital channel, through a call center, and at every point along the customer journey. You need to ask for the privilege to start those conversations instead of just waiting for them to happen.
To do that, you need to find a way to capture consent (opt-in) at every point, and your opt-in form should ask not only to continue the conversation the customer reached out to have but to text or email them again in another context. Keep in mind that text is the preferred channel for many consumers, who now use that platform to communicate with everyone, including brands.
2. Unify all consent data, including an opt-in timestamp. It’s a good idea to aggregate all opt-ins from every source—and include a timestamp of when the customer selected to opt-in. This can be done easily using a platform on top of your existing systems using cloud solutions and APIs.
Keep in mind that APIs aren’t always transmitting real-time data, so there could be a lag between when the customer opted in and when the notification is uploaded. That’s why it’s important to capture the timestamp to record when the customer gave you permission to engage them via text and/or other channels, not just when the data arrived in the system.
3. Be prepared to handle opt-ins and opt-outs. As a consumer, you’ve probably opted in for brand communication to get a benefit—a coupon for an oil change, a free bag of chips at the sub shop, etc.—and maybe you just as quickly opted out.
This is common behavior, so be prepared for consumers to opt-in, opt-out, and opt-in again. Make it easy for them to rejoin the conversation. Build an easy change of opt-in status into your data management strategy so customers can come and go at will.
4. Be mindful of individual vs. household records. Recognize that your database may be built on an individual customer record or a household record. It’s important to understand and respect the fact that you can only have one opt-in permission on file for one person in a household record.
So a mobile phone number could be on record for two people, but for the purposes of opt-in consent, the number can only belong to one. The way you operate your customer database will be influenced by how your customer records are structured.
5. Support customer opt-out at every point where you collect opt-ins. To continue the conversation with customers, you need to be able to collect opt-ins across your business—from call centers to points of sale to delivery vendors, etc.
But it’s just as crucial to be able to support opt-outs across the business, too. Make sure your call centers, chat windows, automated text messages, etc., support opt-in and opt-out options so you can always respect the customer’s choices.
The pandemic disrupted the way people purchase goods and services and how they reach out to brands. It’s been an adjustment for everyone, but doing business and communicating with customers on digital channels is also a great opportunity for your company to get all of your opt-in data consolidated and get ready to communicate with customers on their terms.
The good news is that you don’t need to rework your entire system to capture opt-ins and opt-outs during customer interactions. With the power of the cloud and APIs, it’s easy to start—and continue—a conversation with the most important person in your business: the customer.
Tara Kelly (@tktechnow) is the founder, president, and CEO of SPLICE Software. A serial innovator and published author, Kelly is passionate about technology’s potential to change lives for the better. She has consistently channeled that belief into developing technologies that enhance operations, enable better service delivery, and improve the customer experience.