Preference Collection Best Practices
Jeff Jarvis, PossibleNOW | March 11, 2015

For the purposes of this paper, “preference” is defined as a self-reported opinion related to interaction between customer and company on topics such as product interest, channel of choice and frequency of communication.

These preferences are not solely derived by profile data, purchase history or where a customer happens to live; rather, they are expressly stated by the customer themselves. In other words, preference management means giving customers and prospects the ability to conveniently communicate with a company, recording the information in a central location and acting on what they say.

With that in mind, we can further segment preferences into three simple categories:

  • Contact preferences: refer to how, when, and how often the customer wants to communicate with a company. Contact preferences should be defined for both operational and promotional messages. For example, a customer may give permission to be contacted via SMS and email. However, they would prefer to only get SMS messages about urgent issues or opportunities, and request that email is used for monthly statements or weekly sales notices.
  • Product preferences: refer to what the customer is most interested in communicating about. Whether in respect to brands, products, or services, reliable knowledge of what customers are interested in today and in the relatively near future can be invaluable.
  • Personal preferences: refer to the most unique and individual preferences that a customer would share with a company about their wants, needs and desires.

For example: the dates of important events, their significant other’s shoe size, their favorite color, or their preferred travel options.
With a working knowledge of preferences in hand, attention can be turned to the process whereby they are collected. To some, the phrase “preference collection” refers to a passive
or automated process of harvesting readily available customer information and leveraging it for sales and marketing purposes. In many cases, enterprises view web behavior tracking and prior sales data as a form of preference collection. While these activities have value and appropriate application, they are “implied” and don’t represent the best or most effective form of preference collection.

In order to discover and leverage truly powerful preference data, enterprises must view collection as a dialogue and invite customers to actively declare their needs, likes, dislikes and privacy parameters.

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