I hit two milestones with MicroAutomation recently. First, I celebrated five years of working with an incredible team of call center experts. Second, my work email crossed the 1,000-mark on “junk” mail! (Hooray!) So, on a Saturday afternoon not too long ago, I decided to celebrate this inbox milestone.
I had the pleasure of watching my three daughters at an all-day dance competition, and thought I would go through my email subscriptions to update my preferences between dances. The goal seemed simple at first, as most do. I would just remove myself from email lists that no longer added value and change the delivery of the remaining to either my Twitter account or mobile phone number for texting.
By the end of the day, however, I did not know with whom I was more frustrated. Those rigged judges that did not give my girls the perfect scores they so rightfully deserved, or the fact that not a single company – NOT ONE – support my preferred methods of communication.
I am just shocked at how easy companies made it for me to abandon our relationship.
Email Is So 1990s
I consider myself a power user of Microsoft Outlook and believed I effectively route all recreational email to my junk folder. Here’s screenshot for your viewing pleasure with the exact total of junk emails hitting 1,123:
Outside of the occasional “trustworthy” prince of a nonexistent kingdom who needed my help in fleeing oppression – and only wanted to keep $100,000 of a secret $20 million slush fund – most of the emails contained useful information:
Credit card statement notifications to tell me I owe them money;
Airlines telling me I have enough points to qualify for an upgrade or a free magazine subscription;
Call center industry associations that send whitepapers, webinars and other relevant content; or
Partners that send the occasional updates on products and news about their company.
Eventually I decided I wanted to send my airline, banking and all of those other annoying bill notifications to my mobile phone. That way I might actually pay attention to the amount of money that my four kids take out of the “Chad ATM” on a monthly basis.
Humor aside, I already receive notifications from Verizon Fios and AT&T – and no, AT&T, this still does not excuse how hard it is to do business with your company. I wanted to send all the business notifications to my Twitter account, as I use that for business communication with some partners and customers.
I was shocked to find that not a single company supported sending the information via text to my mobile number or a private message to my Twitter account. My first thought was to edit a prior blog and change the “top 3” to the “top 4” and place “customer preferences” at the top of the list.
Here is a sampling of the website pages when I attempted to unsubscribe from email and change the subscription to texting or Tweets:
I decided to do a little research and called four companies, asking why I could not receive communication via Twitter, Facebook or even a text message. While it took some time on hold and research by call center agents, the answer from each company summed up:
“The system that is used to send notifications only supports emails today.”
5 Essential Considerations
As we’ve talked about before, mobile matters, especially where customer preferences are concerned. So if you run a business, and you’re committing any of the customer notification sins I’ve referenced above, here are five things you need to consider:
1: Do not assume “unsubscribe” means “do not contact me”
You need to adjust your “unsubscribe” or “opt-out” strategy, because what modern consumers want (or don’t want) from you is rarely so black and white. So don’t assume that everyone wants to stop receiving all information, reminders or marketing offers from you – they just might be tired of the 1,000 daily emails that go unread.
2: Your notifications need to support email, text, social communication channels
You need to have the ability to create your content once, then have it distributed effectively across all methods of communications. Because today’s increasingly mobile culture demands that kind of versatility for communication. For example, your content in an email might have a subject line, along with a body comprised of four to five sentences. However, on a Tweet you need to have the title only due to character limitations, along with a disposable web application to display the actual content.
We’re talking about the same information, just delivered appropriately for each channel.
3: Update your “preferences” page to include all supported channels
I recommend you change your preference page to guide a person to change the delivery from email to phone, mobile, text, social, etc. You will still need to allow the opt out option, but as you see in the images above, do not make that the only item on the page. Providing options increases retention because, as I mentioned above, you shouldn’t assume people want to opt-out of your communications entirely. But if that’s the only option they have available to them, that’s exactly what they may end up doing.
4: Make use of “disposable” mobile apps
If you trust research, it points to mobile as the destination of choice. Sending a text, tweet or message via Facebook opens up endless opportunities to use a web link that uses a disposable mobile app.
5: Monitor the effectiveness of each channel
Once you start to support more channels, analytics can drive measurable improvements to your key metrics. For instance, if you find out that email averages a 15 percent click rate but your texting averages a 30 percent click rate, why not start guiding people to using your text communication?
One of the biggest lessons I learned that day actually came later. When I stopped receiving hundreds of emails on a daily basis, my inbox did indeed heave a sigh of relief, but now several companies no longer send me information when I actually want to receive it.
So let my experience be a wake-up call to those of you who still cling to those “all-or-nothing” email communication strategies. Consumers have already changed how they interact with the companies they do business with, and it’s your job to keep up with them, if you don’t want them to leave you behind.