Start Collecting!

and become more effective in managing your business relationships.

by Heather Maloney, 23rd May, 2006.

Are you collecting the email address and mobile phone number of all your customers, in a thorough and professional manner? What exactly does that mean? Why do I want to do that?

Firstly, the How. Iíve mentioned thoroughly and professionally as two characteristics of your method of collection. Here I am referring to four areas of concern:

  1. Privacy Act (including safe storage)
  2. SPAM Act
  3. Ease of storage leading to ease of use
  4. Complete details, every time.

Privacy Act

Many countries around the world have implemented privacy legislation or guidelines to help protect the right to privacy of the individual. You should make yourself familiar with your local laws. However, as a general rule, if you openly disclose to your customers what you are collecting information for, gain their consent to such purpose(s) without bundling those purposes into an all or nothing proposition, store the information securely, and have a method for advising a customer exactly what information you have stored about them on request, you will be covered.

SPAM Act

SPAM is likewise now the subject of legislation in many countries, and usually applies to any electronic communication eg. email, fax and SMS. Again you should make yourself familiar with your local laws. However generally speaking, SPAM legislation requires that you only send electronic communications to people who have consented to receiving such communications (which may be implied by your business dealings with such persons), and provide each person with a legitimate means of being removed from further communications.

Ease of Storage / Use

Collecting email addresses, mobile phone numbers and the like is useless if it is too hard for you to actually use this information to keep in contact with your customers. Therefore it is imperative that you have a method of storing the information, and easily retrieving it, along with other associated information such as the customerís name and history with you, and any other useful information such as next appointment due date. In most cases, this sort of information will be stored in a database or one or more software applications being used by your business.

Complete Details Every Time

You need to implement business processes into your day to day operations to ensure that all the information is collected. Make sure you do this without upsetting your customers Ė rather, go about the data collection as a means of providing better service to your customers. Changes in business process can be difficult for staff to adhere to, so you may need to provide rewards for your staff to achieve the data collection. You should monitor the rate at which the information is being collected (e.g. track monthly the number of customers stored without email address and mobile phone number) and publish the results to bring it to the attention of your staff.

Now to the Why! Collecting the email address and mobile phone number of all your customers will give you greater opportunities to stay in touch, in an informative and helpful way, in this electronic day and age. Keeping in touch in an appropriate manner will help improve customer retention and increase repeat business.

Communicating electronically has the following benefits:

  1. Easy and cheap, especially compared to printed material delivered through the regular post.
  2. Quick and timely delivery. This is particularly important for time sensitive information such as appointment reminders.
  3. Non-invasive. Receiving a phone call or a knock on the door is much more of an interruption than receiving an email message or SMS that you can read and act on when you have the time and are ready to respond to the communication. Obviously, overly frequent or unsolicited electronic communications can be equally as invasive and annoying, hence the advent of SPAM legislation.

Some ideas for utilising you collection of information for keeping in touch with your customers:

  • Regular newsletter explaining some facet of your business or product that may be of interest to the customer, as well as providing value to help that customer.
  • New product launches. Existing customers already know of the quality and usefulness of your products, so why not tell them about your new products as they are launched?
  • Reminders Ė appointments, service/maintenance reminders. This helps you to get a higher rate of return business, ensures that your appointment book is not full of dead appointments, and also provides a service to your customers.
  • Special deals. Your customers will enjoy receiving discount offers, as long as you donít bombard them with discounts everyday. I recently ordered printed return address labels online, and for 2 weeks after that, I received at least one email per day from that company with some other discount. It drove me mad. I will still buy from them due to their good service, but you donít want to sour the relationship!
  • Just keeping in touch regarding the important events in your business.

There is much more to consider when it comes to utilising electronic means to keep in touch with your customers, but the first step is to start collecting!

Contact Point can help you to navigate through all the steps involved in collecting and utilising your customer information to keep in touch with your customers.