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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Touchpoint Amnesia: Where Oh Where Have My Preferences Gone?

My work with preference centers has made me acutely aware of businesses who manage my preferences well and those who don’t.
During a recent trip to Dallas, I received an email from the airline inviting me to check-in for my return flight…return being the operative word. I flew this same airline from Atlanta to Dallas just two days earlier. At that time, I checked-in via my mobile device. Although I appreciated the reminder email, clicking the link to begin the check-in process began a ridiculous journey through a very poorly managed preference center.

Even though the airline had issued me a ticket, which required inputting my name, address, email, mobile number and date of birth and then re-entering some of this same information a second time when checking-in for the first leg of my flight, it appeared they had no idea who I was. Now remember, I was responding to an email from them, requesting I check-in. This request was obviously not random, yet that’s exactly how it felt.
To check in I was required to enter my confirmation number. Since it wasn’t contained in the reminder email, I had to go back through my inbox to find the original number assigned to me at the time of purchase. After entering the number and the airport I was departing from, a message popped up in red saying they “had no record of this passenger.” Hello? You approached me, remember? After clicking a few more links, difficult on a mobile device, I eventually came to a screen where entering my name in combination with the confirmation number brought up my information. Whew! Now all I needed was to tell them how to deliver my boarding pass. I chose mobile.Tada! Not so fast…

You need my mobile number? But, you sent my previous boarding pass through this channel AND you have all of my contact information because you required me to submit it when the ticket was purchased.

The problem:
Unfortunately, too many companies have not updated their sites to keep up with the way customers want to interact. Customers don’t want to enter a password or other personal information multiple times as a transaction progresses. We want our information to be captured and secure, but we don’t want to break into Fort Knox to get it.

Customization is key:
The sites that are most user friendly allow the user to dictate his or her own experience. They give you the option to choose your login method, be it by a distinct user name, an email address or maybe an account number.

Then take it a step further. If you’re an online retailer, let me save an address book in my profile to make it easier when purchasing items for friends and family. I’m more likely to make repeat purchases if you’ve made it easier for me than another site.

But not too custom:
We all get it; there are people out there with malicious intent who may try to steal our personal data. Therefore, it’s important to keep our data secure and protected by a unique password. But there is also a pain threshold for consumers that companies can breach by making it too complicated.

The solution:
Successful companies stay that way because they keep their products and services up to date and are able to adapt to changing customer demands. The same holds true with preference centers. They should be flexible enough to keep pace with changing technology and changes in how customers want to interact.

About the Author: 
Darci Bullard is the Project Coordinator for PossibleNOW's Preference Management Consulting group.

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