Luddites Like Me Like Personal Interactions
I must be a real Luddite—more so than I originally thought. While the rest of the world apparently loves texting—to the tune of 560 billion messages sent and received every month (five times the number of phone calls)—I generally prefer an actual voice conversation. My life is complicated, and I feel that I can explain it better during a phone call rather than trying to type it out one character at a time on my smartphone’s tiny keyboard.
At the same time, I am not completely blind to the benefits of text messaging. I like that my dentist sends me an automated text reminder of upcoming appointments and I can respond with a single digit to confirm, cancel, or change the appointment (although sending the message more than a month in advance is probably overkill). I also like the shipping updates I receive after most online purchases, the prescription refill reminders from my pharmacy, the mobile coupons I receive from my local pet store, and the mobile data usage reports I receive from my mobile phone carrier.
I am certainly not opposed to receiving those kinds of messages from businesses, but only if they require little or no effort on my part.
Even more important, any text messages I receive from companies must be relevant, must provide some sort of value to me, and must be personalized. Don’t bother sending me a coupon for ferret treats when you should know that I don’t own one, and don’t expect me to come running into your store to redeem an offer for 30 percent off asthma medications when that is not one of the medical conditions I have.
Messages that contain details about me—such as my name or references to prior purchases—or that appeal to my interests are more likely to grab my attention.
To do personalization well, though, is not an easy task. It requires companies to keep detailed information about their customers and to make sure that the data they have is up to date. A sure recipe for disaster is trying to personalize based on information from years ago. People move, evolve, get married and divorced, and change jobs. Their preferences change too.
To stay relevant, companies need to check in with their customers regularly so they can update their records and tweak their messages to their customers’ current realities.
Equally important, companies really need to provide transparency to their customers before engaging them via text. Tell them exactly what they are signing up to receive, with full disclosure about the types of messages they can expect and how often they will receive them.
Before engaging with customers by text, companies also need to understand the regulatory climate in which they will operate. In the United States, for example, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) clearly lays out exactly when companies may and may not send text messages to consumers. It also requires companies to obtain clear consent from consumers before sending text messages to them and to provide a clear and straightforward mechanism for customers to unsubscribe, opt out, or alter their preferences.
The regulatory climate surrounding text messaging is only going to get tougher as consumer privacy advocates ramp up their efforts worldwide. You can blame for this the unscrupulous robocallers and spammers who have illegally exploited the voice and email channels. The texting channel is still quite new and has yet to be corrupted, and everyone wants to keep it that way.
In the end, if there is one message we hope you will take away from this issue of CRM, it’s that the main goal of any text messaging strategy should be to send communications that consumers actually want to receive. To that end, it is a good idea to place the customer at the center of any text messaging strategy.
This means knowing customers and then being able to personalize text messages for each one individually. If you send me text messages that are personal and timely, and you make it clear to me that your company has something valuable to say, I just might listen. And you just might turn this Luddite into a loyal customer.
Leonard Klie is the editor of CRM. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.