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Text Takes Precedence as a Customer Service Preference
A new generation of consumers prefers short message service to other ways to reach agents.
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More than 2 billion people worldwide are expected to be using the latest smartphones this year, capable of handling all of the traditional and emerging communication channels. But the most popular customer service channel is a more primitive technology that has been around since the early 1990s. Text messaging, which got its start in 1993, when the first mobile phone capable of sending and receiving texts was introduced, is now the preferred means of contact for the large majority of consumers.

According to recent Harris Poll data, 64 percent of all consumers now prefer texting to phone calls for customer service.

Dean Jones, CEO of PowerObjects, is one of many CRM insiders to notice the change. In the past, he says, phone and email were the primary channels used for communications between businesses and their customers. Now those contacts have increasingly moved to text messaging, which is what prompted his company this fall to release a text-messaging add-on for Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

"Texting hasn't replaced calls in practice yet," says Donna Fluss, founder and president of DMG Consulting. "But it is an important channel, and it can be an effective channel."

"Customers have shown a preference for mobility," adds Tim Fujita-Yuhas, director of product management at OpenMarket, a provider of mobile customer engagement platforms. "Customers are always on their mobile devices, and texting is now their preferred channel."

Not surprisingly, the preference for texting when dealing with businesses is especially strong among those between the ages of 18 and 34 (85 percent). The majority of parents with small children (71 percent) also prefer texting, the Harris Poll survey found. For parents, having more stressful, noisy, and chaotic lives has made the prospect of waiting on hold, sitting at a computer, or shouting into a phone far less appealing, the researchers concluded.

Additionally, the research found that 44 percent of consumers would prefer to press a button to initiate a text conversation immediately rather than wait on hold to speak to an agent. And what's more, 64 percent of consumers indicated they would think positively of businesses that offer text as a customer support channel.

"One emerging customer service channel—texting via SMS [short message service]—is turning out to be more important than previously thought," analysts at the Harris Poll said.

Rich Weborg, CEO of OneReach, a provider of customer interaction platforms, agrees. Text, he says, "is a channel that not a lot of people have been paying attention to—until now."

A Popular Channel

To demonstrate just how prevalent texting has become, Americans sent nearly 1.9 trillion text messages in 2013, or 153.3 billion per month, according to CTIA's most recent wireless industry survey.

On top of that, Forrester Research recently reported that 86 percent of business decision makers were planning to use text messaging in their business operations in 2014, the highest rate of any mobile technology across businesses worldwide. At the same time, 70 percent stated they consider text messaging to be the most important mobile technology they could use due to its broad reach and high return on 

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