Call Center Week 2016 Preview: Text Messaging
As we draw closer to Call Center Week (June 27-July 1, at the Mirage in Las Vegas), CRMXchange continues its series of conversations with sponsors who are providing innovative customer experience applications to the community. In this installment, we explore how a highly popular communication channel that has been underserved as a vehicle for customer interactions is rapidly emerging as a powerful new tool to reduce call volume and increase CSAT for businesses of all types in discussions with messaging specialists Webtext and Instaply.
Let’s start with a few statistics. Of all the uses of mobile phones, text messaging is the most important. Making a call comes in at a distant number six, according to a study by taxi app Hailo. Texting is the most frequently used channel of communication, with 97% of Americans using it at least once a day, according to a Pew Research Center report. Text messages have a 98% open rate, while email has only a 20% open rate.
On average, Americans exchange twice as many texts as they do calls, according to data from Nielsen. As far back as 2012, a study found that texting was the highest rated channel for customer satisfaction, earning 90 out of 100 while voice calls earned 77 out of 100. SMS text chat can transform a $6-$20 call to a chat that costs pennies per session.
It is necessary for contact centers to place greater emphasis on communicating with their customers via text. According to Michael Cahill, Commercial Director of Webtext, which provides a global messaging platform for contact centers, the most significant obstacle had been regulation. “Short code messaging (SMS) was overseen by a government agency with highly restrictive rules. It took up to three months to implement a solution and any updates took as long as six to eight weeks.” But all of that has changed since carriers have been allowed to text enable toll free numbers and give organizations the ability to send MMS pictures.
Cahill cites a Dimension Data survey which notes that in 2016, 47% of contact centers are now considering implementing text messaging as opposed to the 1.5% now actively using it. To enable companies to handle customers in their preferred channel, Webtext recently expanded its message offering to also support Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Twitter as additional channels beyond traditional SMS.
Chris Gillen, Senior VP of Global Sales and Service for white label TaaS (Text as a Service) provider Instaply, believes that within two years, most companies will be offering texting as a means of interacting with customers.
“Texting is a universal method of communication that has been largely ignored by businesses,” he said. While Gillen credits companies such as Twilio and Tropo for creating APIs that make it possible for contact centers to text enable their customers. TaaS takes it to the next level, making it easier to adopt and implement, more scalable, and device agnostic. In addition, it’s TCPA compliant and enables organizations to manage workflow and transfer conversations to SMEs (subject matter experts).
What advantages will text-friendly businesses experience? “It enables a tremendous amount of flexibility and efficiency,” said Gillen, a former Toys ‘R Us executive who was introduced to Instaply at a conference. He immediately fell in love with the technology and ultimately came aboard full time. “Texting is age agnostic, used by baby boomers and millennials – who are famously averse to calling. Unlike chat, the customer doesn’t demand an immediate response—we believe companies have a 15-minute window to get back to people by text. In addition, it means that agents will no longer be tied to one channel. We envision multi-skilled agents with tablets having the ability to sit on a couch and respond via tablet.”
Webtext, which is fully integrated with every available Avaya and Cisco contact center platform, sees healthcare as the current largest use case. “Many medical professionals already use text to notify patients of upcoming appointments and insurance agencies can send billing reminders. But having the ability to send pictures changes everything. Customers can send a picture to the help desk enabling the rep to better assist them.”
Webtext also offers the companies the capability of having text messages come through on landlines without having to change their existing voice service. “The messages come in over a different network,” said Cahill. The company has been providing text solutions in Europe for the past five or six years and has only focused on the USA for the past two; exceptional domestic growth has been experienced in that timeframe. Their customer base includes the full spectrum of businesses: biotech, cable TV, consumer appliances, education, entertainment, finance, government agencies, hospitality, insurance, manufacturing, public utilities, publishing, retail, retirement systems, social services, security, technology, telecom, transportation and more.
Instaply has also been doing business in the US and Europe and plans to expand their services to South America during summer 2016 and China in 2017. “It’s still for the most part an amazingly untapped market,” said Gillen. “We’re actively engaged in educating both businesses and consumers about the potential advantages.”