T-Mobile Sends a Message with Text Support
Last June, T-Mobile opened a new channel for customers to speak directly with customer service agents: text messaging. The wireless phone carrier is getting ahead of business analyst firm Gartner's prediction that by 2019, requests for customer support through mobile messaging apps will outnumber requests for support through traditional social media.
T-Mobile customers can press a "Message Us" button inside the company's mobile messaging app to text a customer service representative. The phone company's mobile messaging application is built on the LiveEngage platform from LivePerson.
After nearly six months of use, the average connection between consumers and T-Mobile representatives lasts about 86 minutes, compared to about six minutes for the average customer service phone call.
That might sound like a long time, but consider that the consumer hops on and off the messaging application, replying when it's convenient, without having to wait on hold. The consumer receives a push notification and alert when the agent has responded to his latest message.
The in-app messaging technology also brings a personal tone to consumer and customer care interactions, says Nick Drake, T-Mobile's senior vice president of digital.
Overall, consumers on the messaging app interact with customer service representatives 48 percent less than customers who opt for voice calls, he adds.
"Voice creates more voice," says Robert LoCascio, LivePerson's founder and CEO. "When you call up, your call could be dropped, and if you do speak to an agent, you still might call back or say, 'Let me talk to your manager.'"
When using text, the threaded conversation itself becomes the CRM system, according to LoCascio. "We're capturing all the data in the conversation, and we have a way to analyze the conversation in real time," he explains. "If the consumer isn't happy, that lets us take action now and not wait for a week."
The messaging software matches each T-Mobile consumer with a particular team of agents, so someone within that group is always available to respond to a thread whenever the customer sends another message. If the agent who originally responded to the request is available, the consumer is routed to that same agent by default.
"All the conversation history is on the agent's desktop," LoCascio says. "You don't have to re-explain your story or the issue you're having."
For T-Mobile, each agent can be involved in about 15 active conversations at once. If a customer hasn’t responded to a message within 10 minutes, it disappears from the agent's desktop. When the customer finally does respond, the thread is reopened on the agent's desktop or is rerouted to another representative within the group.
Consumers can also send text messages from T-Mobile's website, where the threads from mobile devices appear and can be updated.
Agents are generally able to wrap up 15 to 20 message threads an hour, as compared to about eight voice calls an hour.
During the six months the in-app messaging technology has been in place, typical agent attrition rates the average contact center fall from about 40 percent to around 3 percent. For T-Mobile, that can be significant since it pays from $2,000 to $4,000 to train each new agent it hires.
LoCascio attributes those "wildly different" attrition rates to "less wear and tear on the agents."
"We've interviewed them, and they're happier," he adds.
It also helps that agents can chat with each other while answering messages, unlike during voice calls.
When adopting LivePerson's LiveEngage text messaging platform, companies can expect to see the following results:
- agents complete 15 to 20 message threads an hour, compared to about eight voice calls an hour;
- consumers on the messaging app interact with customer service representatives 48 percent less than customers who opt for voice calls; and
- agent attrition has dropped from 40 percent to 3 percent.