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The 5 most dangerous myths about enterprise preference management

As Christmas approaches, millions of parents across the country will perpetuate and participate in the Santa Claus myth. It’s harmless and fun and inevitably wears off as children eventually come to realize how preposterous it is. My daughter is well past the age of believing in Santa and I fondly recall her excitement over his annual visit.

Some myths are not nearly so harmless. As the leader of PossibleNOW’s preference management consulting services group, I’m tasked with helping clients implement the technology they need to collect, maintain and understand their customer data. Implementation often begins with education and the debunking of cherished myths.

On it’s most basic level, preference management comes down to listening to prospects and customers. Seems simple, right? In reality, it’s a complex challenge for many companies – especially those with multiple business units, departments, communication channels and databases. Uncertain of how to solve it, many enterprises plod forward with half-measures and band-aids born from myths.

Here are the top five preference management myths held by many CMOs and CTOs leading enterprise businesses:

1. “We already have a form on our website that solved that problem.”

Form-based preference centers for single channels such as email can be deployed quickly and inexpensively. For small companies that only use one communication channel, a single preference center – often located on the website it serves – may be adequate.

For enterprises with multiple customer touchpoints, the solution must:

  • Deploy across the enterprise to address all channels and customer touchpoints.
  • Present a holistic picture of the customer by aggregating preference information in a single source of truth.
  • Make data usable so marketers can communicate to customers how, when, and where they want to be communicated with.
  • Provide reporting on customer behavior to measure the health of your customer database.

Put simply, a form-based preference center is just not enough.

2. “Our preference center is one-size-fits-all.”

In reality, each preference collection point must be optimized for its unique situation. Effective collection of preferences often relies on recognizing where the interaction is taking place. In other words, a 22-question form will perform miserably on a mobile device, while a three-question cycle at the conclusion of a successful product support interaction may not be deep enough. An enterprise preference management system must recognize and take into account the distinction between each channel in order to deliver effective engagement intelligence.

3. “It’s up to each of our business units to collect and manage its own preference data.”

Truly effective and compliant preference management relies on a single repository of preference data, as well as intelligent distribution to everyone within the enterprise. It must take into account separation by time zones, languages, interaction categories and more.

One of the biggest difficulties facing most enterprises is the centralization of preference data and integration with marketing databases, CRM systems and third-party vendors. More often than not, legacy infrastructure segregates information by department, product, region, and more. Moreover, non-compatible technology between units can further cloud the issue, leading some to simply default to a fragmented approach.  All of these things stand in the way of gaining a single view of the customer.

4. “Our preference is data is stored just like everything else on our servers.”

In addition to building a technology infrastructure for preference management and knocking down the siloes that stand in its way, enterprises must have the ability to collect, manage and archive privacy choices according to state, federal and industry regulations. Regulatory requirements are changing in real time, and at an accelerating pace, so it is essential to have an infrastructure and processes in place to stay current and compliant. The only way to assure compliance is by centralizing control and management.

5. “The IT department can handle it internally.”

Here’s an all-too familiar scenario: senior leadership recognizes the need for better, more efficient customer engagement and understands that a sophisticated preference management system is a necessary prerequisite to achieving that goal. Preference management is listed as a priority and handed to IT for a feasibility and cost study. The study debunks the preceding four myths and returns with a gloomy report that it is prohibitively expensive, requires an unreasonable timetable or is deemed impossible given the enterprise’s current infrastructure. Discouraged by the result, senior leadership shelves the initiative, only to return to it during the next budget/planning cycle. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Taken together, these myths can delay or even defeat an earnest attempt to listen to and learn from prospects and customers. The good news is that preference management technology and consulting expertise has changed the landscape for enterprises and brought successful implementation within reach. The key is an active recognition of the challenges that come with large-scale preference management and a willingness to consider a holistic approach to addressing the problem.

Interested in learning more? Download the whitepaper here.

Eric V. Holtzclaw is Chief Strategist, Vice-President and General Manager, Preference Management Consulting at PossibleNOW

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