This week, Will Lavender explains how good preference centres bridge the relationship between brand and customer.

Couples counselling for brands

A good preference centre experience is a simple way for brands to listen to customers and give them exactly what they want—and to stop doing annoying things.

Will Lavender


Intelligent Systems Design

6 minute read

For brands using customer data respectfully and intelligently, revenue growth is almost a certainty.

With the demise of the third-party cookie, we are in a ‘moment’ where brands can reset their customer relationships. Using high-performance databases—preference centres—customers can update their zero-party and first-party preferences, as well as much more.
In short
  • The demise of third-party cookies is a ‘moment’ to reset relationships.
  • Preference centres connect customers to the heart and mind of a brand.
  • It pays to invest in a good customer preference platform.
First-party data is rich with behavioural data insights and implied interest, whereas zero-party data provides explicit interest and expressed preferences by the customer. This consensual sharing of data builds customer trust and engagement, and is one of the most powerful brand assets a company can have.
In 1995, I was part of a Qantas team that created and built a world-first preference centre for a major brand. It was achieved by bolting an Oracle database to Qantas’s website. Seemingly a simple task, back then it was a breakthrough.

Designed for Qantas’s Frequent Flyers, the preference centre recorded contact preferences, meal and seat preferences, as well as areas of personal interest. Each field the customer updated meant that they would receive a more personalised flying experience.
Within three months, 75% of all silver frequent flyers and higher (Qantas’s best customers) had completed their preferences. This was a strong signal that customers were willing to use an online tool in order to personalise and optimise their flying experience.

Back in 1995, no one paid much attention to this technical leap in customer service. It was hardly surprising really, when the airline had shiny new aircraft and livery, and the original ‘I still call Australia home’ TV commercial, created by Doug Watson and his team from Mojo, was on air.

"Preference centres connect customers to the heart and mind of a brand, yet they can be looked over as unimportant."

Preference centres connect customers to the heart and mind of a brand, yet they can be looked over as unimportant. I’m reminded of that question to Albert Einstein: ‘What is the most powerful thing on Earth?’, to which he answered, ‘compound interest’.

As humans, we harmonise our partnerships; we learn what our partners like, dislike and which of our behaviours are attractive or unattractive. Preference centres are similar, they’re an enhancer, where customers can tune their relationship parameters with a brand.
The foundation of long-term customer relationships is built on a reciprocal value exchange or give-get. The more brands can understand what customers want, the more relevant and appealing they can be. Customers can pick and choose, both at the early on-boarding stages and then, progressively over time.

Often, customers unsubscribe from communication because contact, usually emails or phone calls, come too frequently, or the messages are irrelevant or poorly targeted. A well-designed preference centre can fix these issues and nurture a customer through to more respectful engagement. Albeit important, this is all quite basic preference centre functionality.

Not everyone will be happy to receive every piece of information or every contact a brand makes, yet customers still want to hear from the brand; so offering choice is key.

If a brand has a black-and-white approach with ‘yes or no’ to receive offers or, ‘yes or no’ to communicate marketing, it risks becoming impersonal and unappealing. Once that personal connection is lost, it’s hard to get it back.
How to build a preferential masterpiece

Great preference, or service centres, incorporate accessibility to myriad things like service options, service staff, virtual service bots, purchase libraries, information vaults, customer recognition, upgrade options, etc. They give customers choice with ‘opt-in and out’ and preferred methods of communication for every area of service.

Customers can progressively share more of their personal information when they trust it will be used for their best interests. For example, accurate contact data is fundamental, yet much more can be nurtured within a customer profile—preferred names, partners, life ambitions, goals, household profiles, business profiles.

The challenges of understanding and connecting customer data across multiple touchpoints can still be an obstacle. Brands need to invest in a customer data platform, like Snowflake, that provides a full view of the customer across marketing, product, customer service, sales and other touchpoints.

Right now, it’s opportune for brands to review their strategy and ensure they are in-tune with their customers.
"It’s time for brands to take control of their zero and
first-party data"

This is what our CTO, Clint Bauer, says:

“We need a genuine step change. It’s time for brands to take control of their zero and first-party data and work with customers to create a powerful experience ecosystem that delivers consent-driven contextually relevant experiences across channels and platforms.

“Our Service and Preference Centre solutions enable our clients to build lasting relationships with their customers, enabling them to continually learn more about their customers through consent-driven progressive profiling.”

If you’d like to chat about a better CX, don’t hesitate to contact Will Lavender.

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