As it appeared in the Daily Nation on July 17th 2018
Lucy Kiruthu

Every so often, I unsubscribe from an emailing list or a mass SMS that I never signed up for. Why should any company add someone to their emailing or mass SMS list without their consent? In some cases, there is no option to unsubscribe or stop the SMSs. Many of us in Kenya have been victims of unwanted and irrelevant emails and unsolicited SMSs. I have no idea for example how Smart E Marketing a digital marketing agency in Sri Lanka got my email address and phone number. Why do they think I am interested in a plastics exhibition? Why should they send me a daily email and SMS? Why should any organization send its customers too many unnecessary SMSs or emails?

Two decades ago, telemarketing was a menace in the US. Majority of the phone calls received on home landlines were not from family or friends, they were from strangers trying to sell a product or a service. As the use of mobile phone spread, the American Consumers had to something about the intrusive callers. The Federal Trade Commission, which protects consumers by preventing anticompetitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices, took the lead. Today, placing unsolicited calls to consumers’ cell phones without their consent is illegal. This has protected the American Consumers. These consumers can add their home or mobile phone numbers for free by visiting donotcall.gov, or calling a toll free number from the phone they want to register. In Kenya Telemarketing has not been a major nuisance but maybe we need to be protected from unwanted SMS and Emails.

It is acceptable when a bank sends an SMS alert regarding system downtime. However, it is not in order for the same bank to send mass SMSs to all its customers regarding a loan product or an education policy they are marketing. It is also not fair that when a customer pays for a service via MPESA that their telephone number automatically goes into a database and promotional SMSs start flowing. That is spamming! Customers need to have the option to sign up for marketing promotions if at all they want to receive them on their mobile phones or via email. Additionally, there has to be an option to unsubscribe or stop the SMSs. However that is not always the case, some companies do not give customers the option to choose what to receive via SMS or email.

Spamming customers is distasteful. Beyond phone calls, email and SMSs, spamming has extended to social media. Today, many companies have moved into internet marketing. Social media platforms have become a major channel for keeping customers informed. It is important for companies to realize that customers want just the right amount of content, when it is too much, it results to an overload, it is repulsive and is equivalent of spamming.

Smart businesses do not spam their customers. They request the customer’s permission before adding their personal information to a database. Secondly, they give customers the option to unsubscribe. Once the customer is in their database, smart companies only send out important messages and they are cautions about the frequency. If you want to keep your customers happy, stop spamming them!

Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy