The do-not-call dilemma

Canada will probably introduce its own do-not-call legislation in the near future, according to marketing executives, but customer relationship management software could help keep companies on the straight and narrow.

“Companies need to be prepared for the inevitability of some legislation

that is going to impact their ability to freely contact people,” says Alexandra Best of Vancouver-based Pivotal Corp.

The senior director of marketing says those in the business-to-business space should escape unscathed, but business-to-consumer companies can expect to alter their marketing practices. With the possible threat of lawsuits and fines, Best says, companies will have to adhere to the core principals of being able to respect wishes and desires about how and when people want to be contacted.

“Any company who wants to do marketing in the right way is going to need to take away from this and begin preparing for the inevitability of having to begin marketing in a different way,” Best says.

Peter Callaghan agrees. The vice-president of sales and marketing for Vancouver-based Maximizer Software Inc. adds financial institutions and the outsourcers making the calls as the most likely casualties. In terms of the scope of any potential legislation he says he would expect it to place public interest first.

“If legislation such as that did truly pass I would think it wouldn’t fall on the side of favouring business,” Callaghan says.

The federal government in the United States introduced do-not-call registry this year, though it has faced legal challenges. More the 50 million phones have been registered.

Potential legal ramifications notwithstanding, both say unwanted approaches, whether by phone, fax or e-mail, are bad for business. Callaghan says his company has serious reservations about buying blind lists. The danger, he says, is contacting people who’ve either asked not to be approached or approaching them more than once.

“It boils down to respecting the contacts you’re trying to make. I’m sure people don’t invest in marketing campaigns to irritate them,” he says.

“I don’t want ones that have been passively collected because, frankly, they don’t do me any good,” echoes Best. “Those people don’t respond — if anything, they may be annoyed.”

Both say a potential solution is CRM software. Callaghan says its software checks customer and prospect contact preferences at the system level to guard against generating lists with incorrect contact information. It would be easy, Best adds, to import a do-not-call list into its system.

“It’s clearly a channel that when you actually reach the right people they do want to buy, and I think that’s an important thing to note. If I was a business that used telemarketing I would actually in a sense be a little bit more excited about this (do-not-call lists),” Best says.

Despite the functionality available in CRM systems, Best says many companies are not capitalizing on their investment. She says much of the data in the system is flat, consisting of elementary details like name, phone number and area code, even though they have collected much richer information about the individuals.

Be cautious, however, when gathering the information.

“Let people know very clearly how you might use that information and give them the opportunity to say ‘No, I don’t give my consent,’ and then you’re definitely preparing yourself for the future,” Best says.

Comment: [email protected]

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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