Don’t Ignore Customer Preferences

As a privacy and deliverability professional, I’m often critical of how companies use my information. As you read this, please think and be cognitive about how important this topic should be for you and your brand when dealing with anyone’s personal information, their choice of how you can use it, the multiple communications paths, and of those that represent you at any one time in your overall marketing strategy.

Recently, one of my favorite hotel chains began to send unsolicited postal mail to my home for a golf resort I have never been to nor will go to. Yes, I said postal mail…as in old paper-based marketing. Why tell you about this? Well, I’m not into golf (sorry gents who are), nor do I want to fly to a desert mirage location per the resort brochure.

As with email, I’m a bit controlling about the types of marketing I get by postal mail. Why? Because it clogs up my home postal mailbox, I’ve been told time and time again it kills trees, and well…I am in the email business, so why not hit me there? And most importantly because I told the hotel chain years ago I would prefer email over postal and only to receive non-resort (hotel) information when I created my preferences. I don’t go to the chain’s resorts as I usually stay in one of its hotels for business – a very specific profile.

Is this hotel chain ignoring me because I’m not a frequent member? No, I am actually quite high up in its membership. Maybe my preferences got erased or mysteriously changed like Facebook typically does with its members? Nope, they seem to be all still be checked off correctly. Maybe the postal preferences don’t exist anymore? Nope, they are still there and opted out. I began to ask myself what happened?

I contacted the big hotel chain via Twitter where I got a response that the company was sorry for the inconvenience and it would adjust my preferences for me to stop postal mail, but, again, I already knew that my preferences were set correctly – requesting no postal mail. I again, via Twitter, explained all of this to the hotel, but all I got back was another apology and an explanation that the hotels and resorts sometimes run their own marketing campaigns and don’t run it through the main marketing channels or plans on the corporate side. Sort of an odd response. Why would hotels, or any other brand for that matter, not pay attention to what their associated properties or people representing them were sending out using their brand and logo? When you look at franchise guidelines, there are usually strict rules about having to follow their branding and marketing policies.

What I gained from this experience is the knowledge that today there are still some brands that don’t have a true understanding of the need to follow customer preferences. This would seem to be the case with this hotel.

All in all, this did bring up one thought for you as a marketer. What are you doing to adhere to you customers’ wants and needs? Are you just giving them a false sense of choice when it comes to the preference centers you “offer” them? I seem to have a false sense now with the hotel chain because it didn’t matter to it that I made a choice and it didn’t require its properties to check out those preferences. The hotel chain allowed anyone to ignore the choices I made and from the response, didn’t really care. Please ensure you listen to your customers and adhere to their choices no matter if you control all of your own marketing or if you allow subsidiaries or others to use your branding and logos to their hearts’ content. You need to create policies and processes in your marketing that require anyone using your brand to check the consumer’s preferences first before ever sending anything out whether it is email or postal. Listen to your customers as an industry best practice. If you choose to ignore that, we could possibly have requirements set forth by our governments that will include fineable scenarios and possibly stronger restrictions on your practices.

This column was originally published on August 3, 2011 on ClickZ.

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