Increase Customer Engagement by Delivering Text-Generation Customer Service
If you’re like
the overwhelming majority of Americans, 24 hours seldom go by without texting.
According to a study on U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015 by Pew Internet, texting is the most widely and
frequently used app -- including making voice calls -- on a smartphone, with
97% of Americans of all ages employing SMS at least once a day. And whether
they use their thumbs or their forefingers, USA
Today says that the average adult spends a total of 23 hours a week texting.
the blizzard of texts has been largely of a personal nature, with a few
flurries of business activity. But over the past few years, there have been numerous
signs indicating that this proportion may now be changing. One statistic that
organizations can’t help notice is the Mobile Marketing Watch analysis which reveals that text
messages have a 98% open rate, while email has only a 20% open rate. Ninety
percent of texts are opened within three minutes of receiving them. A 2014 ICMI
study acknowledged that 79% of companies believed that customers wanted
text/SMS support. Even earlier, a 2012 CFI study on the Contact Center Satisfaction Index noted that text messages earned
90 out of 100 points while voice calls earned 77 out of 100.
Businesses now have an
expanded capability to engage their customers via intelligent, two-way
messaging on mobile devices, but until recently have not chosen to do so. But with call deflection a top
priority focus, a 2016 Dimension Data survey noted that 47% of contact centers
were considering implementing text messaging as opposed to the 1.5% which had
been actively using it. A recent Execs in the Know poll
after a webcast on the topic had it even higher, with 64% of respondents saying
they were thinking about launching text as a service channel and in a separate
poll, 79% considering options for using it.
The public is amenable as well. An eWeek
study revealed that 52% of consumers would be likely to exchange
text with a live customer service agent and that the same number would actually
prefer it to their existing channel of communication. Three quarters of
respondents said they would rather be served by text messages that on social
Innovative SMS applications have the capability to help
companies move beyond the noise and get their customers to take notice. Solutions
combining the convenient, easy-to-use nature of text messaging with
next-generation capabilities can generate dynamic customer experiences.
Yet, while adapting SMS customer service might seem like it
ought to be a no-brainer, many companies are still just in the “thinking about it”
stage. What has held back the tide…and what factors are moving it forward?
Until recently one of the most
significant obstacles 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
Other issues companies feel they need to resolve include:
- Creating a level of trust that would enable customers to be comfortable sharing their carefully guarded mobile numbers and getting their permission to send text messages
- Coordination of text messages. Should employees be able to send them from their own devices or only through central messaging services or specially adapted landlines that companies can use without having to change their voice service?
- Should there be one number (easy for consumers to use) or should numbers be assigned to individual representatives (easier for businesses to track efficiency)?
- Recognizing the boundaries between using SMS to send marketing messages— which have the potential to turn off customers if not personalized— as opposed to employing it to provide valued one-to-one customer support.
But while there are legitimate cautions, they are far
outweighed by the potential advantages. "Providing a SMS/messaging channel
that allows your customers to use a preferred, mobile, customer service
channel, to communicate with your business, is something that every business
should be considering," said Don Voogd, Director of Business Development,
North America, for white label TaaS (Text as a Service) provider Instaply.
“Unlike calls or live chat, the asynchronous nature of SMS/messaging allows
both the customer and the agent to engage in efficient, low-effort
communication, since neither party has any direct attachment to the other.
Customers can text in their question, put their phone right back in their
pocket, and refocus on whatever is that they were previously doing, without
waiting (on hold, or in front of a live chat screen) for an agent's response.
In its essence, this channel gives customers back more of their most precious
resource, their time.”
Recent progress of this burgeoning messaging channel can be
credited to companies like Twilio and Tropo. But Instaply believes that
offering TaaS takes SMS to the next level. “Everyone knows how to text, yet not
everyone understands how to text their customers,” noted Voogd. “By providing a
simple UI, that's easy to train/onboard, and the ability to transfer and
collaborate on text conversations, both internally (via desktop, or tablet) and
externally (via a simple mobile application), the company’s TaaS allows
businesses to begin their path to full utilization of the growing SMS/messaging
Texting service can involve more
than just SMS. “Surveys show more than 75% of the public would rather text or
use a mobile app than call a contact center,” said Michael Cahill, Commercial
Director of messaging solution provider WEBTEXT.
“Our turnkey contact center APIs can be quickly deployed in any Cisco or Avaya contact
center platform to allow an organization to support whatever messaging channel
their customers are using, be it SMS, MMS, Facebook Messenger or Twitter messaging. We're seeing more and more organizations using
messaging for the first time since, in some cases, it's become the only way for
an organization to reach their customers."
What types of businesses are currently providing customer
service via these channels? Webtext’s client roster includes a full range of
verticals: 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.
SMS is already widely in use as a customer communication
tool in healthcare with physicians and dentists of all specialties using it as
a key tool to confirm appointments. Financial institutions send texts to inform
customers about upcoming payments due or acknowledging those that have been received
as well as for trade confirmations. Hotel and travel companies confirm
reservations, and airlines text travelers about flight changes or delays.
Alexa Lemzy, Customer Support Specialist with UK-based
business SMS provider TextMagic
noted one other important advantage. “Texting also gives the customer a record
of the conversation,” she said. “During live calls, the recorded conversations
are only available to the agents.” The company offers Application-to-Person
messaging (A2P) which provides a secure, reliable way to reach almost any
person on the planet.”
In the spring of 2016,
voice, language and virtual assistant (VA) specialist Nuance announced Nina for Messaging, which gave enterprises the
capability to engage their customers via intelligent, two-way messaging on
mobile devices. The solution uses the company’s natural language understanding
(NLU) and conversational technologies to enable customer service via
conversational messaging interfaces within native mobile apps, through text
messaging and in other messaging applications.
for Messaging allows organizations to design one VA and deliver conversational,
automated customer service via SMS, in-app messaging and through leading global
messaging platforms,” said Robert Weideman, executive vice president and
general manager, Enterprise Division, Nuance Communications.
customer service software provider Zendesk also recently added SMS to its list
of capabilities, introducing Text, a new feature of Zendesk Talk. Inbound texts from customers automatically create tickets
in the Zendesk Support ticketing system. Agents can easily respond to customer
texts as they would any other channel, use triggers to automate text alerts, or
even send customers proactive notifications. “The rise of on-demand services
and an increasingly mobile customer base makes this channel important for
businesses,” said Ryan Nichols, general manager of Zendesk Talk. “SMS lets
businesses connect with their customers wherever they are in an extremely
personal fashion. Companies find it particularly valuable in applications such
as on-demand services where email is no longer fast enough (when a delivery
is coming in, or a limo is about to
While SMS is mostly a solution used by enterprises, companies
such as EZ Texting, Slick Text, Trumpia and TextMagic are introducing programs
for small and medium sized businesses. Instaply’s Voogd believes that “Within
the next two years, companies that do not offer texting as a means of
interacting with customers will be considered behind the curve.”