The pitfalls of permissions

The more you offer your customers in the way of new products, free trials, sample publications etc., the more you want back in return – it’s only fair after all! In return for nice shiny freebies and valuable services, you want to be able to contact them about further offers, or follow up to clinch that sale. What this ultimately means is that, as a business, you gather contact permissions like they’re going out of fashion.

So, how do you manage the challenge of a multiplicity of permissions, often conflicting, for a single customer across multiple databases to avoid data protection indiscretions, maintain your good reputation and use customer preferences effectively?

Shut the door before the horse bolts

Ensuring that you use this information wisely, responsibly and legally is fundamental to the success of your business. While the threat of legal action can do a lot to focus the mind, implementing the checks and balances of who can be contacted “after the fact” is a pressure no one wants. Make sure permissions processes are reviewed frequently, and assign people to the job before data protection rules are broken. It does require work but procrastination is not an option.

Understanding your contact permissions hierarchy

John Smith may be in your members database but may also have records in your conference data, alerts signups, etc., each with conflicting permissions. Working out how these relate to each other and deciding which takes priority is vital. This needs to be clear and understandable to both you and your customer. Does their regularly updated member record take precedence over their alerts registration that hasn’t been updated for 5 years? Taking recent activity into account can be an important tool.

Top level contact permissions

Getting the detail right and understanding how the hierarchy of contact permissions works, means you can confidently establish contactable rules within your customer insight tools to create a ‘top level’ field that makes it easy for staff to make campaign selections at a high level, i.e. “Which customers can I contact for new product sales?” Staff can then react quickly to new campaigns, confident that they are talking to the right customers.

Is permission a property of the person or the email address?

The important thing is to be clear when users sign up to something. Customers need to be aware of the impact one opt-out selection may have on another and, as a business, you need to know how conflicts are resolved. Users need to trust the boxes they are ticking, and understand whether you are recording permissions against the email address they are using at that time, or them as an individual. Ensuring your staff understand the rules is important to any campaign selection.

Control, compliance, mutual understanding and the effective use of gathered contact permissions are all key factors here. Both your staff and customers need to be clear on what those tick boxes mean, how they apply to each person signing up, and how multiple (and often conflicting) choices should work together.