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Texting

Sharing the Love: Amy Krouse Rosenthal and the Emerging Connection between Author and Reader

By | Automation, Bots, Customer Satisfaction, Texting | No Comments

Throughout much of history, authors have maintained a distance from readers, their experiences separated by both time and place. As novelist Paolo Coelho noted, writing is “a solitary experience.” The work of the author was often created in isolation—seemingly forged in the rarified air of their literary mountain before being handed down to the waiting masses.

Now, not so much.

Modern writers are encouraged to engage with their readers and, thanks to technology, have numerous possible channels to choose from. This makes the modern author more a reachable human, and less a remote mystic.

This may seem grievous to the lone wolf author who would prefer to remain isolated and mysterious. But the reality in our connected world is that readers expect a level of access to authors, and success in the literary world depends on it. In his editorial piece “The Aloof Author Is Dead, Long Live the Writer,” David DiSalvo of Forbes Magazine writes:

Technology has riddled the barriers between authors and readers full of holes. Ignoring the multiple ways readers can interface with writers isn’t an option — but more to the point, why would anyone want to ignore them? In the new economy, writers must build brands for themselves and maintain them over time. Every mode of interaction with readers offers opportunities to strengthen the brand.

As novelist and blogger Kate Pullinger described in her article “Connecting Readers to Writers: the only possible future of publishing,” “(T)he only important question left, really, is how to connect writers to readers. Any publisher who isn’t addressing this directly and urgently will be in trouble soon.”

While blogs and eBooks have begun providing a somewhat interactive experience, printed literature has remained in the same static place it has for centuries. After all, how can the ancient medium of paper provide a modern interactive experience?

Enter author Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

Amy is bending the world of print media towards truer interactivity by partnering with OneReach to use text-based audience participation. Written in a wry, memoir style, her new book Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal invites readers to actively join in the discussion.

At the beginning of the book, readers are encouraged to text “Hello” to a Chicago number (the author’s hometown). A cheery greeting comes back from the author, which sets up a relationship of sorts between author and reader.

At various intervals in the book, Amy prompts the reader to engage by using text inputs to the previously used number. Information either flows from the reader to the author (such as self-portraits and photos) or from the author to the reader (such as audio files of a poet reading his work). All of these inputs are then posted on the author’s website.

This unique immersive experience was done very intentionally. Amy Krouse Rosenthal says “the text-messaging aspect of the book, at the end of the day, is about connecting with people.” This human need for connection is well-documented and has even been recently called “as fundamental as our need for food and water” by neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman.

We are only just beginning to see this connection between author and reader. What OneReach has done is create an interactive and immersive experience that has been lacking up until now. Future writers may be able to construct an entirely new way of providing details or even compel an interaction with their story lines. The possibilities are limited only by the author’s imagination. Consider these:

• Choose Your Own Adventure books. Remember those? Also known as “gamebooks,” they used to let the reader choose different endings and options as they progressed through the pages of the book. How cool would it be to adapt that in a more technologically immersive way? A reader could text their choices and receive instructions for the next step in the story.

• Interactive mysteries. Readers would need to solve part of the mystery before getting a text with the next clue. This would make them almost a character in the story as they help to solve the crime.

• Immersive talk tracks. Imagine going on the Boston walking tour and getting texts showing images of what you’re looking at, but from the colonial period. Bot technology could also be used so you could ask questions about what you’re seeing and get a real-time answer.

• Scavenger hunts. Thanks to the proliferation of activities like Pokemon Go and geocaching, scavenging has never been more popular. Authors can include location-specific or theme-specific clues and readers can respond with the correct answer or upload an image of the item.

• Personalized books. When I was a child, one of my favorite books was a personalized one, where my own name had been included in the storyline. Admittedly, it was done with old technology, and looked like someone had just clumsily fed the template through a typewriter. That didn’t matter to me. I loved the idea that I was part of the story, and felt so very important! Using texts, an author could now give prompts for names, details, and image uploads, essentially having the reader build the story as they go. At the end, readers could even get a digital or printed copy of the story they created.

These are just a few ideas, limited only by the imagination of writers now and in the future. As culture changes, so must the authors and publishing companies operating within it. Although really, no matter how much technology changes, people are—as always—still just earnestly searching for connection. And a writer like Amy Krouse Rosenthal gives them just that.

Try it for yourself and let us know what you think!

 

Image courtesy of www.whoisamy.com, taken by Brooke Hummer

Why Your Mobile Strategy Isn’t Complete Without Text Messaging

By | Mobile, Texting | No Comments

mobile strategy

In today’s world, customer service is no longer restricted to a simple phone call. A recent report from Dimension Data found that digital interactions account for 35% of all contact center interactions.

In fact, customers are so vested in the idea of emerging channels that contact centers have ranked it their number one priority. As digital use climbs, nearly 75% of contact centers predict an increase in non-voice interactions within two years. Over 40% expect a decrease in voice traffic in that same time period.

Some of this digital dominance can be attributed to smartphones, which have exploded in popularity over the past few years.According to Pew Research, over 64% of American adults now own a smartphone, up from 35% in 2011. But it’s not just limited to the U.S.—one in five people across the globe own a smartphone.

Global smartphone users typically spend 2 hours and 30 minutes a day on their phone, trumping tablets, computers and even television for the most time spent in front of a screen. Smartphones are also dominating the connected device market, and are predicted to surpass 1.7 billion units in global sales by 2017.

And customers are certainly app happy—there are 224 million active app users in the U.S, a little over 70% of the population. And over85% of time spent on a smartphone is spent in apps.

But let’s break this down a little bit.

Why Your Mobile Strategy Can’t Rely on Apps Alone

Of the 85% of time spent in apps, 32% of this is games and 18% is Facebook. The rest of the time is broken up between news, productivity, and other apps (see below). And while it’s true that 91% of top brands have an app, unless you’re a big hitter like Facebook or Amazon, you’re going to have a hard time getting a customer’s attention.

Part of this is because 42% of all app time spent on smartphones takes place within an individual’s most-used app, and 75% of time is spent in their top 4 apps. For the average person, those are most likely going to be social networking apps and games. Think about it–what are the most commonly used apps on your phone?

In addition, apps aren’t exactly a high-earning channel for companies. Gartner predicted that 93% of mobile apps will be free by 2016, and for those apps that do generate revenue Apple and Google also take a 30% cut. Granted, most enterprise apps are free for existing customers, but creating these apps can be a time-consuming process that cost an average of $270,000 to develop and deploy Creating apps for different platforms (iOS, Android, even Blackberry) and deploying regular updates can significantly increase costs.

For companies that do develop an app, there’s no guarantee that customers will use them. Four out of five customers spend most of their time in their top five apps, meaning a service app may be overlooked altogether. Customers may have 30-40 apps installed on their phone, but Google research found customers only use about 12 of those apps within a 30-day period.

And apps aren’t always guaranteed to work—according to Pew Research, over 50% of consumers have experienced a problem with a mobile app. But, perhaps the most worrisome fact for businesses is that 79% of consumers will only retry an app once or twice before abandoning it. Despite the fact that every day over 50 million mobile apps are downloaded, 95% are abandoned within a month.

The good news is that you don’t have to rely on an app to provide great customer service or self-service.

Why Texting Needs to Be Part of Your Mobile Strategy

A recent study by Pew Research found that text messaging is “the most widely-used smartphone feature.” Not only do 97% of American smartphone owners use text messaging, but they use it more frequently than any other channel. On a global scale, 90% of people text at least once a day, sending over 11 billion texts daily. With usage like this, why haven’t more businesses picked it up?

To their credit, some businesses have. Over 37% of contact centers offer SMS, with 23% planning to add it in the coming year.

Your company can begin adopting text messaging using these following steps:

    1. Guide agents on proper use.
    2. Integrate it with other channels.
    3. Decide between long codes and short codes.
    4. Find a balance between automation and live agents.
    5. Identify text support targets.
    6. Create text support discovery mechanisms.
    7. Identify what success looks like.
    8. Recognize customer problems.
    9. Have a customer experience plan.
    10. Create a text support rollout plan.

Companies that have adopted texting have received an overwhelmingly positive response from customers. Customers shipping packages with UPS or FedEx can opt-in to receive automated texts that track their shipment and medical organizations can send patients reminders about when they should take their medication. Contact centers can send customers personalized texts based on service history and past interactions, increasing customer satisfaction.

Conclusion

Apps are a highly-used communication channel, but for most businesses, the upfront cost and predominant use of gaming/social apps don’t justify the investment. That’s why texting is such an essential part of your mobile strategy–it can do almost anything apps can do. It’s fast, it can be professional but personal, it’s easy to use, it’s in real-time, it picks up where you left off, it connects to the Internet, etc. There are some situations where an app will work better, and that’s okay. But before you move ahead with a mobile app, ask yourself one question:

Can I use text for that?

To learn more about why texting is an essential part of your mobile strategy, download the whitepaper here.

Image from Pixshark. Edited. Labeled for reuse with modification.

How to Write Automated Texts That Sound Human

By | Automation, Best Practices, Texting | No Comments

This post is co-written with Leslie O’Flahavan of E-WRITE.

If your customers have opted-in to receive texts from your company, they probably realize that some of your texts are going to be automated. They understand that sometimes texts from your company were sent by an automated system and that you don’t actually have a human employee, chained to a desk, hand-typing each appointment confirmation or loyalty program welcome message!

However, even if your texts to customers are automated, they shouldn’t sound mechanical. Here are ten tips to help you write automated texts that sound human and build rapport with your customers.

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conversational bot

The Perfect Tool(s) for Joining the SMS Bot Gold Rush

By | Automation, Big Ideas, Mobile, Mobile Payments, Texting | No Comments

Through the history of the Internet, we’ve seen a bots of all flavors (scrapers, viruses, worms), all often giving bots a bad name. They’re small bits of code that can carry out a host of malicious actions–stealing web content, screwing up web analytics, and encouraging click fraud.

This all sounds pretty dire, but more recently, the concept of bots has been harnessed for more and more good. And one of its new and improved forms is  conversational SMS bots. Read More

business texting

Build Customer Retention through Business Texting

By | Customer Service, Guest Posts, Texting | No Comments

This guest post is written by Michael Janowski, Marketing & Brand Manager for Corporate Dynamics, Inc.

A few years ago, I finished my Masters study at Eastern Illinois University in the little town of Charleston, IL. Approaching Charleston from the West, you can see the outline of EIU’s signature building: Old Main Castle. It’s a beautiful site (as any Panther alum will attest). There’s only one thing on the main stretch of Lincoln Avenue that may draw your attention from it: a dancing slice of pizza.

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