The way people communicate with one another is rapidly changing. We are spending more time online or sending text messages than talking on the phone. In fact, if you’re out in public and take a look around, you’re bound to see someone texting within 10 feet of you.
If your company is one of the many now opting to provide tech support through text, you may be anxious about implementing this new technology. There is good news, however. First of all, integrating text is likely way more simple and straightforward than you think (as you can read about here). Secondly, the benefits of switching to text-based tech support vastly outweigh the risk of lagging behind in an outdated voice-only system. Here are a few that come to mind.
Customer service managers and executives will have even more responsibility in the near future…whether they like it or not. Tasked with managing a company’s primary point of contact, they must stay one step ahead of communication trends. In today’s world of multiplying channels and customer channel affinity, offering customers different ways of communicating can be a confusing and daunting task. Customers want a seamless, omni-channel experience—one that is consistent and does not force them to commit to only one line of communication.
Immediately reduce your call center cost by 25% and increase customer satisfaction by 65%
According to a recent Forrester and Oracle report, the cost of the average phone call is increasing each year, up to $6 – 20 per call in 2012. While automated IVR solutions can significantly lower that cost, 93% of them actually decrease customer satisfaction. Thus it is no surprise that many businesses are forsaking the billion-dollar “phone only” strategy and looking to other channels to help solve customer service needs. Forester reports that the last three years has seen a 12% rise in web self-service, a 24% rise in web chat usage and a 25% increase in community-driven customer support. Pivot strategies are becoming the key to seeing ROI from customer service investments, as many organizations have begun guiding customers to different channels based on the complexity and urgency of their needs.
With so many channels gaining ground in the customer service field, it is surprising how often text messaging is overlooked. According to Pew Research, text messaging is the most common function currently performed on phones, outranking even voice calls. Another study shows that young adults not only prefer text messaging over voice, they would also prefer to text message companies to resolve simple customer service issues. Despite this, many companies are slow to see the solution “texting a company” can offer.
Here’s a common scenario: a customer needs to reset her password or check on her account, but she’s in line at a crowded restaurant or walking along a busy street. The robot IVR can’t understand her verbal commands with all the background noise, and she doesn’t want to search for and download an app just for this rare situation. With text messaging, voice recognition and app dependency becomes unnecessary, allowing the customer to easily resolve her issue either via automation or by connecting her texts to a web chat session with a live agent.
Solutions like OneReach.com make it easy and cost-effective to address customer issues just like that. The text messaging channel allows for automated interactions, providing some of the same self-service solutions that IVR systems, web sites and mobile apps provide, as well as one-on-one support with a customer support representative. Many solutions also allow for integrations with existing systems, such as hooking live text-to-chat into established agent chat tools or pulling customer data from the company’s records for self-service issues.
Innovative organizations are already seeing the value in “texting” customer support. Companies like Comcast will begin piloting text messaging solutions this year, expecting to see a significant decrease in cost for their customer service sessions. Others have found that adding a menu option to their IVR for switching a voice call to text (“press * to continue this call in SMS”) has improved conversion rates by as much as 25%. Those customers that continue on to a text-to-chat interaction help bring the cost for the company down to $1-4 per session.
Companies looking to improve their service options in the following year need to consider seriously the benefits of adding text messaging as a channel. Customers are asking for it, and solutions are available to integrate it easily into a company’s established infrastructure. Not only do early-adopters differentiate themselves in a saturated market, but they maximize the ROI of their customer service investment. Text messaging is poised to explode as the channel of choice between customers and businesses. Companies shouldn’t overlook it, as their competitors won’t.
Recently, OneReach Health was lucky enough to talk with Paul Spiegleman, author of Patients Come Second. We discussed how practices can become far more efficient, increase their online ratings and improve employee culture.
Q – Healthcare is relatively a high-tech space as it relates to technology the doctors and hospitals use for surgery, but it seems like technology is not always a focus as it relates to the administration or back office of a practice or hospital. Can you give us your thoughts on this paradigm?
A – Yes, I think the way you described it is true. Two days ago I got my physical and my doctor was complaining on how he had to enter the information into his electronic medical record, which he is being forced to use. It’s clear that there is a lot of technology available, and with the changes in healthcare, this is going to be a very innovative period. Getting to utilization and compliance with an old school method of doing business is going to take quite a while in order to get acceptance.
Q – Is that going to require a culture change to be able to get to a new and innovative space for practices, and if so, how do you see that happening, especially with an aging population?
A – I think this does mean a culture and attitude change from the practitioners. They all realize the world of medicine and healthcare delivery is changing and that it is driven by economics so whether they like it or not, they will have to get used to a new way of doing things, not only to thrive within their practice but to survive. Those changes will ultimately be positive and will result in a better experience for patients and more cost efficient healthcare delivery system.
Q – Are you talking about innovation from how the office is being run or the medical practice in general?
A – I think it’s everything. It’s a new world all around. People are fast moving and highly connected; information flows where it has never flown before. Patients can go online and conduct transactions or tell us how they feel; they can rate us, or tell other people [about their experiences] via social media. Physicians need to get on board with social media as it’s not going away; and if anything they need to embrace it. The easiest way to create a positive message is by providing patients with a positive experience.
Q – What is more important for doctors in regard to social media and rankings…embracing the channel or using the data proactively to control outcomes?
A – We have entered a world in healthcare of choice, where patients no longer are doing what their physicians said just because they said it. They are making more decisions on their own health and they do it with information. So as more information becomes available, patients are going to do the extra work to find top ranked physicians. We will see this trend increase particularly as the younger generation starts accessing the healthcare system.
Q – Do you think technology is going to start separating the medical practices or do you think it will have much of an impact in the near future?
A – I think overtime, it will, but I do think that it will still take time for practitioner to get in the game. I have known physicians who have had to go out of business because they couldn’t keep up with the administrative hassles. Automating those hassles through technology in ways that make it efficient and lets them focus on providing great patient care is a very positive approach. If that leads to more efficient care, everybody wins. As technology changes, culture will need to change as well. To be successful, practices will need to look at ways they can empower their employees to be a part of the revolution, which will help in the adoption. As people start seeing the connection between culture, productivity, patient experience and financial results; I believe things will change. The more information the better and the quicker we can get to that data, the better decision consumers will make.
Q – OneReach Health is focused on trying to help practices care about personal touch, patient engagement/loyalty and level of service. Even though we provide a great solution that practices care about, there still is a bit of a fear factor to embrace new and innovative technology. As it relates to culture and empowering the employee, is there anything you would recommend that would help create more efficiency and effectiveness?
A – I think the most important thing is changing the conversation and talking about purpose. In healthcare, we say are we making people healthy and providing care, but it’s bigger than that. Your technology solutions are obviously geared around solving their challenges but from a very basic point, employees want job security. If they feel technology is a threat to that, they will push back on it. This means having people who are open to change and sometimes this means changing people who aren’t. Part of culture change is making sure you have the right people on the team. In most cases I have found if you provide a higher purpose to why the business exists and they are being included in choosing and vetting the technology and sharing success with it, people are usually willing to come along for the ride…it just takes time.
Q – One of the stats we quote in Pew Research is 55% of the population between ages 18-29 prefer texting to any other method of communication, which isn’t the aging population visiting hospitals, but are those visiting doctors’ offices. Do you think innovation around text messaging can start enhancing human interaction as it relates to healthcare?
A – Oh yes, I think texting is huge! I think texting is the next level of innovation. I don’t like to call anybody. When my dentist finally went to texting that confirms my appointment and lets me just respond to that, I love it. If I get a voicemail asking me to call back, I can’t stand it. I think of course, the younger generation is more used to technology, but the older generation is still texting and using their phones. Texting just makes life so convenient and I believe is really the next frontier.
Q –OneReach Health provides practices with the technology allowing patients to text directly with their doctors or front desk. In our experience, patients are already for this. What do you think the timing is before texting with businesses becomes mainstream?
A – Texting in the next few years will get bigger and bigger. But within 5 to 10 years we will really see many of the newer technologies used in a way that the majority of the audience uses them. Will it get to 100%? Never. Will it get to 50%? Maybe.
Q – With the new healthcare legislation coming through, many are concerned that all of the concentration will be on compliance, which could stifle innovation. What is your opinion on that concern?
A – It is something to worry about just because there is so much unknown about the Affordable Care Act and what it’s going to mean for healthcare providers. My sense in talking to doctors is they are lost and trying to figure it all out as they are going to have to comply. There is the physician’s version of the HCAPS, where they are going to see money out of their pocket if they don’t have high satisfaction. So they are being forced to look at things that will change their practice and will have to adapt to this changing world.
Q – Do you think giving the public the ability to choose the doctor they want is going to be a game changer in the industry; instead of the doctor being mandated by the insurance companies as it has been in the past?
A – Yes, that’s changing already. The statistics are 65%-70% of patients are willing to go somewhere other than where their doctor tells them. So it’s not blind faith anymore. The consumer is going to be in a much better position to make choices. I can tell you lots of stories, but if I don’t have a positive experience, I am not going back. I know there are plenty of people down the street that are just as qualified. Practices will need to be more focused on patient experience. Currently, many practitioners don’t have a sense of what it really means to build a relationship from the moment they meet someone. And that’s going to have to change. There are dollars at stake now and I think that’s really good for the industry.
The International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) conducted a poll showing that 79% of companies believe customers want SMS/text support.
Text messaging is probably the most exciting new low- tech innovation hitting call centers this year. Many experts and business managers are recognizing the potential power in SMS as a channel for communicating with customers.
However, with great power comes great responsibility. Text messaging is a relatively noise-free channel, and both the carriers and customers would like to keep it that way. While companies are certainly excited to text their customers, they must do so with caution, either expanding an existing relationship with them or responding to customer invitation.
An often-overlooked means to expanding these customer relationships is how it could be integrated with other channels. A recent study showed that following a sales call with a text message could increase conversion rates by more than 40%. The Restaurant Association of America uses text messaging as an alternative to being on hold and consequently has seen up to 70% conversion rates to the channel.
1stBank recently added a button in their mobile app that allows the user to text them. Moving a conversation from a mobile app to a text message interaction adds unlimited functionality to an application without the need for development. Those text conversations can then be mined to help determine a company’s mobile product roadmap, as the most common tasks performed in SMS can be turned into features for the app.
Providing customers with control over which channel they prefer is an easy way to boost their satisfaction right from the start. Moving from voice to text can be a delightful experience as long as the caller doesn’t feel forced to do so. Moving from web chat to text messaging is one of the smoothest transitions and is often welcome when an online interaction becomes one that needs to be taken on the road. Some interactions are more appropriate for voice while texting is more convenient for others. Platforms like OneReach.com make it easy for a company to add channel choice to their IVR, providing automation and routing to live agents regardless of the customer’s preference.
However, any use of a new channel means the company should strive to operate within a customer’s expectations for it, otherwise the channel will fail, losing the company its investment in it. While a customer may begrudgingly expect to be on hold if he or she calls a business, that same customer expects a quick and timely response if SMS is used. This is because texting is still largely reserved for personal communication with friends and family.
1stBank’s mobile app is a perfect example. While the “Send Us a Text” button is an innovative idea, their real world implementation makes it almost useless. Customers do not expect to wait for 20 minutes to an hour for a response about a bank’s location or hours. A business like 1stBank may not want to staff a 24-hour SMS Call Center just for a mobile app button, but they cannot afford for their customers to outright dismiss its use either.
This is where automation makes the most sense. An ITR (Interactive Text Response), like OneReach.com provides, could answer simple questions about locations and hours while routing complex inquiries to an agent. At the very least, the ITR could make the customer aware that no agents are available to text with.
Many companies silo text customer service agents from voice agents. Although dedicated tasks can be an efficient way to run a call center, providing customers with multi-channel experiences can result in higher channel conversion rates, as well as better customer satisfaction scores. There is no perfect channel that serves all needs, but a multi-channel support center has the right tools to cover most of them. With a little care to a customer’s expectations about each channel, any company has the opportunity to delight customers with great experiences that they will talk about to others.
It may be hard to believe, but as of this year, there are more cell phones in the world than people. That means more texting, more calling, and more web browsing than ever before. Phones are no longer just being used to call; they’re being used for everything. With the world is becoming increasingly digital, it’s important for all phone users, including call centers, to adapt to technological change if they want to stay in the game. Here are four reasons why text should get their attention:
It’s what the customer wants. The desire is there: over 80% of people want to text companies but don’t have the means to do so. This disconnect between customers and businesses is only compounded by the fact that over 40% of business professionals don’t want to use text within their company, preferring a more formal type of communication. That’s where OneReach steps in–we help the customer get in touch with you through the method they want, leading to an all-around better experience for everyone.
People will answer. Mobile phone users check their phones every 6.5 minutes, so if there’s a message waiting, you probably won’t have to wait long to hear back. In fact, response time to a text is incredibly fast–97% of texts are read within three minutes after they are sent. You can formulate a quick response without missing their message altogether (I’m looking at you, phone calls). Additionally, 37% of cell phone users never check their voicemail, so if you leave them a message, you’re basically yelling into the abyss.
Landlines are disappearing. It’s long been the MO of call centers to get in touch with the customer via their home phone, but it’s a service less and less Americans are maintaining each year. Over a quarter of U.S. households have gotten rid of their home phones in the past 15 years, while mobile phone ownership has continued to climb. Another interesting fact: 34% of cell phone users are “mobile only,” meaning they don’t own any other computer or telephone. If you want to phone home, there’s now a greater chance it’s a cell phone.
Texting is more popular than calling. Surprise, surprise: texting was the top cell phone activity in 2013, trumping web surfing, app usage, and yes, calls. Calls aren’t obsolete, but over 80% of Americans use their phones to text; to respond to that, one of our company’s unique features is the ability to switch from voice to text with voice automated prompts, something you won’t find anywhere else.
Cell phones are everywhere. 90% of Americans own cell phones–just to put that in perspective, that’s over 280 MILLION people. That figure is even bigger among the younger generation–97% of people between 18 and 49 own cell phones. We’re connected on a greater scale than ever before, and it’s time for us to take advantage of that. The future is here.
Text messages are no longer just cute little abbreviations; they’re a valuable tool for your company. Embrace text and show the customer some luv <3. (Alright, so maybe they’re still cute too).