This post originally appeared on ICMI.
The use of digital channels for customer service is on the rise. Recent research by Dimension Data found that over 35% of contact center interactions are now digital, not voice-based. In fact, digital interactions in the contact center will surpass voice interactions in two years’ time.
Text messaging is one of the digital channels contributing to that increase. According to the same Dimension Data report, nearly 40% of contact centers use text messaging/instant messaging, with this number set to increase to over 60% by 2017. The research also found that more interactions are handled via text messaging/instant messaging than on smartphone applications or social media.
The prevalence of text messaging in the contact center means it is channel businesses can no longer afford to ignore. It allows agents to interact with customers on a channel they frequently use and prefer to use. In addition, text interactions can be managed through automation for lowered costs, or through live agent conversations via texting.
Below are eight reasons why contact centers should start offering texting.
1. Texting can be managed from the same platform as web chat for omnichannel capability.
The aforementioned Dimension Data report found that agents use two to three different software systems to manage voice interactions, and the same number to manage non-voice interactions. In addition, contact centers said that establishing a single platform for omnichannel capability was one of their top 3 technology priorities. Luckily, texting can be managed from the same platform as web chat and voice, and agents can switch between channels seamlessly in the right platform.
2. Agents can manage multiple conversations at once.
If there’s one universal truth about customers, it’s that they hate to wait. Over 75% of customers expect customer service to be faster, and 90% are frustrated by being placed on hold for a long time. But with texting, as with web chat, agents can manage multiple conversations at once, decreasing average hold time In fact,42% of customers say chat’s primary benefit is that it’s readily available. Managing multiple conversations at once can also satisfy customers—91% of customers who have used live chat are satisfied with its ability to solve customer service inquiries.
3. Texting can integrate with your CRM or other data source.
Customer service conversations don’t exist in a vacuum—they’re informed by data to help agents better understand the customer, their background, and their current problem. Unfortunately, contact centers list integration of web, contact center and CRM technology as their primary multichannel hurdle. Contact centers can surmount this obstacle by finding a texting solution that integrates with their existing CRM, ticketing system, or other data source. Luckily, with most cloud communication platforms today offering integration, this shouldn’t be a problem or require extra work.
4. Texting is cost-effective.
A Forrester study found that the average cost of a customer service phone call ranges anywhere between $6 and $25, or an average of $15.50 per interaction. Text chat, by comparison, is significantly less expensive, ranging between $1 to $5 per session. Costs can also be lowered significantly (down to 25 cents) with automation. Some of our customers have seen a call deflection rate of 40% by pivoting customers to text, significantly decreasing the cost per interaction.
5. Texting can be partially automated for further cost savings (and for a smarter, faster user experience).
Texting, much like IVRs, can intelligently route callers to a certain person or department. Setting up a series of automated questions to answer before the customer is transferred to a live agent can give agents a better understanding of what the customer’s problem is and help move the interaction along. It also saves customers from having to repeat the same routine questions over and over. In addition, agents aren’t always going to be available, so it’s important to set up some form of automated response to catch customer inquiries that might come in during off hours.
Texting can take advantage of automation throughout the conversation and can even engage the use of multiple channels at once for more complex needs. For example, American Express fraud prevention asks customers what kind of phone they have when they call in. If customers have a smartphone, they receive a text with a link to a webpage where they can check their transactions for signs of fraud. The best part is that they’re already signed in because the system knows the phone number is associated with their account.
6. Texting merges mobile and online chat.
Texting blends the real-time answers of web chat with the portability of a mobile device. This means customers can interact with an agent from wherever they are, even in places where the customer may not have an internet connection. The agent and the customer are also able to seamlessly switch from web chat to texting without losing their connection, even if they have to continue the conversation on the go or if the customer has to run to a meeting. In addition, the customer can continue to multitask without having to start over another time. From an agent perspective, texting lets them use a web chat interface they’re familiar with, meaning they don’t have to relearn how to use it.
7. Texting is a channel customers want to use.
You may about know the high amount of usage of text messaging (97% of U.S. smartphone users use texting at least once a day), but you may not be aware that people want to texting with your contact center as well. A2014 study conducted by Harris Poll and commissioned by OneReach found that 64% of customers want to text your business, and 44% of customers would prefer to texting with a live agent immediately rather than wait on hold. In addition, 23% of customers are likely to be loyal to a company that offers SMS.
8. Texting can handle a variety of use cases.
Most contact centers have a single use case that drives a large percentage of communication activity (ie password resets, status of order, etc). Many times this can be resolved better in a written channel (web or text) vs. voice, but could also be automated so you aren’t paying a live agent or the cost of the call to answer simple questions. For example, OneReach has worked with multiple companies where a password reset or a order status request make up close to or just over 50% of their call volume. Automating that answer or allowing the customer to self-serve quickly, without the need for a live agent, have drastic impacts on cost cutting measures as well as overall customer satisfaction. And in case it’s not as simple of an answer as they originally expected, SMS supports the ability to pivot back to a live agent for further assistance without confusion or interruption.
Text messaging is a powerful channel that can benefit businesses in various ways. It’s time to add it to your business communications, for both the benefit of your company and the customer.
To learn how to provide a great customer experience over text messaging, download our new whitepaper here.
Photo by Adriana Calvo from Pexels. CC0 License.