The Art of the Alert

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One of the things that business people are most enthralled with these days is the simple ability to send an alert to just about anybody at any time using any medium.

Unfortunately, just because something can be done doesn't always make it a good idea. While sending an alert that a person's flight has been canceled, along with some suggestions for booking a new one, is a very good idea, pinging people multiple times a day about special offers and reminders to do something, whether it's pay a bill or watch a webinar, is downright annoying. In fact, by sending too many alerts, it's quite probable that a business is going to induce a customer to do the opposite.

The more sophisticated businesses that have adopted alerts as a standard way to interact with their customers are starting to adopt platforms from companies such as Varolii that help them optimize the use of these messages. For instance, they can now keep track of whether a particular customer responds more frequently to a phone call or a text message. These systems can keep track of multiple channels -- phone calls, e-mails, text messages to the same customer, etc., -- to make sure a business can use these modes of communication in concert with each other. It can also then feed all this information back into the call center so that when the customer does get back in touch, the agent has a good idea how many messages that person received and why.

All too often, companies are just copying what political campaigns do with alert technology -- they just send out a chain of "robo-alerts" without any particular aim other than to reach as many people as possible. While a politician can get away with that because the constituent knows the election eventually will be over, a business needs to be more circumspect in its approach, especially given all the efforts to outlaw this kind of marketing. Otherwise, it risks alienating the customer simply because it discovered a new, effective marketing tool, but failed to appreciate the nuance of using it.