Telemarketer Rule Is Opportunity Knocking

In 2008, the Federal Trade Commission adopted an amended Telemarketer Sales Rule (TSR), citing consumer protection against unwanted marketing communications. Beginning Sept. 1, automated sales communications can be delivered only to recipients who have provided their "express written consent" to receive them.

Having an existing business relationship will no longer be sufficient approval for organizations to attempt to sell goods or services via an automated, prerecorded message. The amended TSR rule is a game changer that offers organizations a strategic opportunity to impact long-term success by enabling more targeted, effective marketing to improve brand loyalty and create new sales opportunities.

Improving Brand Loyalty Through Customer Communications

Generally, the better and stronger a company's brand impression with its consumers, the more profitable the relationship. Customer communications plays a major role in forming that brand impression. Yet how many organizations really know how each of its customers prefers to be communicated with? And under what circumstances? Would customers want to learn about a special sale via email, voice message, text message, direct mail - or maybe a combination?



For example: A stay-at-home mom receives an email from a favorite retailer about a sale for the upcoming weekend. Unfortunately, in shuttling around four children with filled schedules, she doesn't see the email in time to take advantage of the sale. Both the consumer and the retailer lost out. A phone call to her mobile phone, instead of an email, may have been more successful.

Communications are about getting consumers to act. It is important for companies to ask consumers about their communications preferences directly, while at the same time securing express written consent (i.e. their permission.) Developing a strategy that encompasses consumers' preferences better positions the organization to have a communications "breakthrough" and be acted upon by consenting customers, translating into more market share, revenue and profit.

New Channels Bring New Opportunities

The FTC-mandated changes are occurring at the same time as another seismic shift. Consumers have become far more mobile, and the mobile phone has become a primary communications channel. Today, mobile lines outnumber landlines by almost 100 million in the United States alone, leading to a surge in text message popularity. In 2008, more than 70 billion text messages were delivered monthly in the U.S., more than double the previous year.

Text messaging provides many unique benefits for businesses and their customers. Consumers may be reluctant to have a sensitive business conversation on their mobile phone in public. Emailing is an option, but many companies prohibit personal correspondence during work hours or employees lack privacy. Text messaging is an untapped channel that overcomes these boundaries, enabling discreet communication almost anywhere. It is also:

  • Direct: 160-character limit/message
  • Affordable: A fraction of the cost of traditional methods
  • Immediate: Delivery in seconds; real-time results available
  • Verifiable: Text dialogue automatically saved/archived
  • Complementary: Augments existing contact methods

The Opportunity Is Now

Organizations need to heed the Sept. 1 deadline and create a formal Consumer Communication Preference & Opt-in Program. Companies should ask themselves:

  • Do you have complete and updated contact information for your customers and prospects? How do you keep it updated?
  • Do you understand your consumers' communications preferences and do these vary by the situation? (i.e. Service Reminder vs. Fraud Notification)
  • How do you track and update your consumers' evolving communications preferences? Can your entire organization access this info?
  • What's your organization's plan to address the Sept. 1 TSR changes?

Organizations that act swiftly and with purpose in creating a formal Customer Communication Preference & Opt-In Program will have a head start in building a targeted, qualified list of customers who will welcome their communications. Meeting this deadline will help maximize the percentage of consumers that can be reached legally and cost-effectively.

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