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.