Customer expectations are constantly changing, but here’s five that you can count on.
1. I want to use my mobile device for customer service.
According to a recent Gartner report, by 2015, at least 60% of Internet users will choose mobile customer service applications as their first option. This shift brings enormous challenges and opportunities. Companies and brands that honor this preference will be able to build a relationship with each individual customer. Many companies, however, are already behind the curve in their ability to build a relationship with the customer in this way.
2. I don’t have time to call you. Can I text you instead?
According to Pew Research, 81% of mobile users use their phone to text. This grows to 97% in the 18-29 year old demographic. Text messaging is by far the most common activity people do on their mobile devices, surpassing voice, email, and social networking (Source: Portio Research). While offering text-based support makes perfect sense, executing on that strategy is often not an easy thing to do. Most businesses rely on an antiquated short code system. More on that later.
3. I want to text using a phone number, not a weird short code.
People text friends and family—to a number already saved in their contact list. This can be a sticky point for businesses who often feel restricted to the use of expensive and confusing short codes. Denver-based OneReach is one company that has developed a solution to this nagging problem. Explains CEO Rich Weborg, “We basically provide the platform for businesses to use SMS to text back and forth with clients on their main phone line. The technology is out there.” Once customers know they can call or text you on the same number or your existing toll-free number, they will be more likely to save that number in their phone. Then, when they do receive a text from you, it won’t be coming from an unknown number, or worse yet—that weird-looking 5-digit short code.
4. I assume a person—not a robot—is reading my text.
Whether it’s with friends, family members, or co-workers, people tend to text those who are close to them. It is an intimate and conversational process. So what are you, the business, supposed to do with these inbound text messages? Answer them, of course. And not with a robot (although a sophisticated Interactive Text Response system can be used effectively to allow for self-service or pre-chat data collection for routing purposes). Companies that are truly committed to offering an awesome customer experience will answer each inbound text message with a response from a real person. Existing web chat clients can also be used as the agent interface.
5. Don’t you dare ignore me!!!
Customers expect to get a reply, or at least an indication that you got their message. Even a simple “ok” will suffice. But the second someone doesn’t get a reply to a text, it is natural for them to assume that either something went wrong or that they are being ignored. In either case, it has a negative connotation. So how does this impact SMS as a viable customer service channel? Simple. Companies that prioritize customer experience should let customers text directly with an employee or agent. Text support is a two-way street.
The challenge is that even though text-to-chat sessions are far more affordable than phone conversations, the number of interactions may go up due to the fact that you have made it so easy for your customers to contact you. The way to control costs, then, is through smart automation.
Picture this: a customer initiates a text conversation and asks for help with resetting their password. That request is responded to by a real person, who then sends the customer into an automated interaction that walks the customer through the process step by step. Even better, at each step the automation engine uses relevant information pulled form a CRM product (such as Salesforce) to personalize the interaction. So really, it’s personal interaction blended with personalized automation.
The result is a less expensive support instance and a very satisfied customer.