Permission-based marketing helps firms deal with do not call list

In less that two weeks Canada’s national Do Not Call List (DNCL) finally goes live to give consumers across the country some measure of relief from pesky telemarketing calls that have been interrupting dinners for several decades now.

With the activation of new telemarketing restrictions on Sept. 30, analysts say, companies should employ permission-based marketing techniques to retain valuable customers and avoid running afoul of the law.

The national DNCL was established by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) following the passage of a bill in 2005 calling for the creation of a system to protect consumer privacy by restricting unsolicited marketing calls. The CRTC awarded Bell Canada the rights to mange the list.

Basically, companies who persist on calling consumers who have their names on the DNCL will be placed under investigation if a complaint is filed against them. Fines of $1,500 for individuals and up to $15, 000 for corporations can be imposed against violators.

“The bigger liability of course, is the negative publicity and the potential of losing customers,” says Tim Richardson, professor of e-commerce and international business at the Seneca College and University of Toronto.

To avert any legal complications, Richardson said, companies should make a comprehensive list of their customers, a detailed account of how these individuals wish to be reached (e-mail, telephone, direct mail or a combination of modes) and then obtain the customer’s permission to be contacted.

“By proactively pursuing permission-based marketing, many companies will be able to retain their customers base and preserve consumer privacy as well,” said Richardson.

Richardson provided the following guidelines:

Obtain customer permission – Ask customers if they would like to be contacted for marketing purposes by you company. Be specific on what services or products you will be calling about.

Verify contact points – Determine what is the preferred means of contact and what telephone number or time of the day the customer would like to be reached. Ask if there are other means of communication that they prefer.

Be clear about the customer’s rights – Be very clear in explaining to the customer about their privacy rights and privileges as far as negotiating with your company is concerned. Make sure your company Website or other company literature, contain these pertinent information in the most accessible and easy to understand manner.

Explain to customers how they can access the DNCL – Make it easy for customers to get on the DNCL if they want to be on it. Better yet, make it known to customers the consequences your business and its agents face if found in violation of the law.

Businesses must also synchronize its customer prospect lists with the opt-out list from the government and any DNCL from consumer groups, according to another technology analyst.

Recent developments have paved the way for consumer generated DNCL such as the iOptOut initiative, according to Andy Woyzbun, lead analyst for Info-Tech Research Group.

IOptOut was launched by led by Michael Geist, Internet lawyer and University of Ottawa research chair in response to exemptions of certain organizations and branches of companies from the DNCL. Political parties, candidates, registered charities, surveys, pollsters, general circulation newspapers and companies with whom the customer has an existing business relationship are exempted. The list spearheaded by Geist, allows consumers to register their desire not to be contacted by DNCL-exempt groups.

“The CRTC recently ruled that organization need to honour the iOptOut list or other customer requests not to be contacted,” said the analyst for the London, Ont-based research firm said.

Companies need to obtain regular updates “at least every 31 days” of the government DNCL list as well as their own list, Woyzbun said.

Automated data consolidation and analytic tools will help organizations sort out customer preferences and distribute DNCLs across the organization, according to Suresh Nair, director of strategy for Canada at Pitney Bowes Group 1 Software.

“Consumer initiatives such as iOptOut and the Red Dot Campaign, have bubbled up out to the enterprise level. Companies risk possible complications and negative PR should they fail to react to these developments accordingly,” said Nair.

He said tools, such as Pitney Bowe’s Customer Data Quality Platform, enable companies to organize disparate customer data and delivery pertinent information sets to various groups across the enterprise.

The product allows companies to “cleanse, match and consolidate data into a single comprehensive customer record,” he said.

With the CDQ, organizations can avoid data duplication or the failure to capture pertinent information which usually results from manual compilation of information, Nair said.

At this point, however, companies should be focusing more on how to use automation to enhance productivity gained from what remains of the “prospect list,” said Woyzbun of Info-Tech.

“Organization should be looking at the situation as an opportunity to use analytic tools to craft more targeted marketing campaigns for aimed at customers who remain on their list of prospects.”

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