How many text messages do you think the average American exchanges each month? 100? 500?
Try 914. That’s roughly 30 texts a day, or more than double that if you’re between the ages of 18-24.
Now, a good chunk of those text message conversations in your personal life will be conversational (“I miss you”, “Just a reminder to pick up the kids”, “Great to see you last night!”) but many others are transactional (“I’ll pick up the kids if you make dinner- deal?”)
Up until recently, these kinds of messages were only sent from person to person, not business to customer. However, more and more businesses are starting to see the value of letting their customers interact with them using their preferred communication channel: SMS.
How customers want to use transactional SMS
A 2014 study conducted by Harris Poll and commissioned by OneReach found that 64% of customers would rather text than call for customer support. The study found that customers would prefer to use text for the following activities:
- Check order status (38%)
- Schedule or change appointments (32%)
- Make or confirm reservations (31%)
- Ask a question (30%)
- Find a store location (30%)
- Check balances or due dates (30%)
- Refill orders (29%)
- Reset password (27%)
What all of these tasks have in common are that they can be easily resolved without the need of an agent. By adding automation, customers can achieve effortless resolution quickly and easily.
Think about it: if you had to renew a magazine subscription, would you rather call in and talk to someone for this relatively simple transaction, or simply reply ‘yes’ to a text message? We’re betting there’s a 64% chance you’d use text.
Letting customers achieve transactional resolution through self-service causes customer satisfaction to go up and the costs associated with performing these transactions to go down.
How businesses can provide transactional SMS
Choose a messaging provider that can easily connect with your APIs
You’re not going to want to manually answer simple questions about office hours or prescription refills–it would take too long to look up each customer’s information and get back to them. That’s why it’s important to pick a messaging provider that can integrate with your CRM or any other data sources. This way, when a customer texts in, the system will recognize the number and automatically incorporate their information into a series of texts. A proper integration will be able to update your databases, process payments, and complete tasks without relying on a human agent.
Let your customers initiate contact with you via SMS
Your text channel isn’t going to help any customers if they don’t know it exists. Put the call to action to text on your website, in your emails, on social, or even in your IVR . You could even go old school and put it on flyers, posters or business cards—anything to get the message out and increase engagement. By inviting customers to start a conversation over SMS, you can deflect call traffic before it even starts (not to mention save dollars per interaction).
Allow callers to transition from voice to text via “channel pivot”
The Harris Poll study found that 81% of customers get frustrated by waiting on hold, something that we all pretty much knew. What you might not know is that 44% of customers would prefer to text chat with an agent immediately rather than wait on hold. Offering customers the option to channel pivot allows them to use the channel they prefer, but also opens up phone lines for customers that really need to talk things out with an agent. For example, you might include this message in your IVR: “Thanks for calling! It looks like your account has been locked. Press * to reset your password via text message or continue to hold for the next available agent.”
Send well-timed outbound messages that your audience can actually reply to
Most outbound SMS campaigns ask customers to reply with a phone call or email, which ends up disrupting their customer experience. Rather than seamlessly moving to another channel and maintaining context (like with channel pivot), customers have to start their conversation over on a new channel. According to Accenture, 89% of customers get frustrated having to repeat themselves, so if you’re going to send outbound texts to customers, make sure they can text you back. (Pro tip: to increase your response rate, segment customers by time zone to make sure they see your message.)
If you want to get transactional SMS up and running ASAP, you’re in luck. Your messaging provider should be able to light-up a pilot in a few days to track how well this works for you and your customers. From there, you can rapidly iterate on the experience and before you know it, you’ll be helping more customers than ever and saving money.
To learn more about your customers’ preference for texting, download the 2014 Harris report here.
Photo credit: Family Security Matters. Edited.