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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Design and Functionality of Collection Interfaces

A five-part series that discusses preference collection best practices

The conversational model of preference collection demands convenient, timely, branded experiences that seamlessly align with the customer's priorities in a given interaction. For example, a customer completing an online product warranty is unlikely to be willing or interested to spend additional time predicting future purchases or stating marketing preferences related to new products.

Their priority during the warranty process relates to the product already purchased and the sellers ability to support that product through its lifecycle. Leveraging that opportunity to secure product support preferences is a natural extension of the interaction initiated by the customer and valuable in it's own right.

With this principle in mind, the design and functionality of collection interfaces require customer-centric decision-making.
  1. Define the value. What's in it for me? Unless a customer is convinced that you can deliver relevant, timely information that’s important to them, they are unlikely to stay in the conversation. Reciprocity of value begins with the company - make a clear statement of value and customers will respond positively.   
  2. Provide communication options that suit customers' needs. Using a "one-size-fits-all" marketing approach weakens the value proposition and suggests the entire relationship will be inflexible and advanced only on the company's terms. Make it easy for customers to select channels and frequency of communication that works for them.
  3. Invite customers to join a conversation, not a monologue. Establish feedback patterns that make it clear the company wants to listen and gear the experience around a customer's evolving needs. Understanding how to talk back is just as critical as the decision to engage at all. 
  4. Clearly state how the company will use a customer's information. Explain why the customer data is being collected and how it will be used. This initiates a cycle of reinforced trust and customers are more than willing to reward companies that make and keep promises about value, privacy and relevance.   
  5. Establish a clear path to opting out. Customers are far more likely to start a relationship if they own the ability to end it someday. It's a key component to building trust and must be clear with the initial invitation. 
  6. Offer the ability to "opt-in" through a thoughtful, branded experience. If a customer is attracted to a brand or company, reward them with an opt-in experience that owns that brand as fully and completely as the products and services they are seeking. All too often, opt-in screens and messages represent un-branded interruptions that feel cheap, careless and disconnected. 
  7. Don't bombard customers with communication requests. Ask early but not over and over. Respect a customer's awareness of the initial offer and make it good enough to earn their careful consideration. Nagging and prompting for communication through various channels suggests the relationship you're asking for will be equally annoying. 
  8. Keep it simple. Ask only for key data points that will clearly aid in delivering a better experience for the customer. Lengthy forms and fields that don't seem to relate to the task at hand are aggravating and create suspicion about how the company plans to use the information. 
  9. Ask at the right time. In other words, position opt-in requests to coincide with positive brand interactions. If the customer is engaging with a brand to resolve a complaint, make sure it's addressed to their satisfaction before asking to elevate the relationship. 
  10. Listen and learn. Companies with active social media listening tools can spot organic opportunities for an opt-in and react quickly to capture them. A compliment on Twitter represents a wonderful starting point for a more engaged relationship - be prepared to act on it!    

Jeff Jarvis, Vice President of Professional Services at PossibleNOW

Jeff has an extensive background in domestic and international business environments helping companies drive business growth, develop high-performance sales and service organizations and implement process best practices.

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