Enhance Customers' Experience By Inviting Them to Share Their Preferences

Preference management solutions are a relatively new category of applications that allow customers/members or prospects to tell a company how to interact with them. The concept is simple—invite the people your company or organization interacts with to tell you how they want to be contacted. But it gets better, as preference management solutions are designed to allow people to indicate their first contact choice and also how to reach them if the first approach is not successful. In some applications, people can specify their preferences for every hour of the day. The solutions vary, but the concept is the same.

Besides being a great approach to service, as you give your customers control over their relationship with your organization, 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. The challenge is that these solutions are not so easy to implement, and there are many decisions that companies have to make. For starters, companies must select a preference management solution, and there are not that many options. There are a few stand-alone solutions, and others that 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 customer relationship management applications. While there are a few out-of-the-box integrations to these types of solutions, they are still highly limited. This means that the integration effort and cost are the responsibility of the end-user organization, which many companies do not find appealing.

If an organization is willing to take on the integration effort, the next challenge is to figure 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, preference management solutions need to be an integral component of many systems and processes for them to be effective. While all this sounds daunting, which it is, it's still a good idea to invest in a preference management solution.

How to Get Started

Implementing a preference management system is not going to 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 a mainframe-based environment. This is one of the places where many companies get stuck. They want preference management but are not willing (or possibly don't have the budget) to make the major system and infrastructure changes that are necessary in order to incorporate this new breed of 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 site, 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.