When It Comes to Texting, Companies Need to Strike a Balance
As technology has evolved, new ways for companies to engage with customers have inevitably emerged. Text messaging is one of the newer innovations, and as one would expect, just about every company has begun or is in the process of developing a texting strategy. But because this channel is so new, not every corporation supports texting well right now. More aggressively marketing the use of this channel, extending agent skill sets, providing comprehensive agent support tools, and understanding how to strike the proper tone are areas in need of improvement.
Companies’ interest in texting has naturally followed the exploding interest in and use of the medium among consumers for interpersonal communications. Its use spans generations, with older consumers texting about a dozen times a day and younger consumers sending and receiving 100 or more messages every day.
Not only do consumers rely on it for personal communications; increasingly, they expect it from the enterprises with which they do business. Advanced capabilities have made it possible and practical for companies to engage with their customers via texting apps. “The rise of solutions like Apple Business Chat made texting even more acceptable for professional communications,” says Christopher Connolly, vice president of product marketing at Genesys.
Businesses are changing with the times: 38 percent now offer SMS text messaging as a method of communicating with customers, according to NICE inContact’s latest Customer Experience Transformation Benchmark.
The medium is also taking on more important transactions. Whereas banking customers traditionally felt the need to talk to human beings when evaluating their financial options, customers and financial institutions alike are finding texting as a viable alternative. Several online banking providers in particular have had success deploying texting services.
Companies benefit in a few ways from texting. It can enhance their brands. More than one out of three (36 percent) consumers report that they would be highly likely to recommend a business based on their texting experience, according to the NICE InContact survey.
Employees become more productive. It takes a contact center agent far less time to respond to a text message than to answer a phone call, and most agents can manage multiple text conversations at the same time.
Companies and customers also have gained more communications options since texting has evolved from simple words to images and video. Instead of writing out lengthy, complex, sometimes misunderstood text responses, agents can exchange images, files, screenshots, and even how-to videos with customers. Consequently, problem resolution time falls, and agent productivity increases.
STAFFING CHALLENGES ARISE
The addition of texting is having a major impact on contact centers in many other ways. Staffing a new channel can be daunting. First, corporations must create a baseline outlining the number of calls they receive. “Texting may not reduce call volumes but instead enables companies to interact with their customers more frequently and more successfully,” explains Kelly Koelliker, director of solutions marketing at Verint Systems.
Texting also alters workflows. “With texting, customers disappear all the time,” says Leslie O’Flahavan, founder of E-Write, which provides writing and training services to businesses. “During a chat, someone opens a window and then flakes off.”
That can occur when consumers start texting as they’re walking to the train and stop when they get on it. Those conversations might restart in minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months later.
Another challenge for businesses is determining how quickly to respond to text messages. “I have been surprised by the reluctance of some businesses to adopt texting service-level agreements that are equal to those found with voice,” Connolly says. “Some view texting like email, where 24 hours is considered an adequate response time. That is not how the customer thinks.”
As with any other channel, companies need to be clear about wait times. If customers must wait for a reply, it pays to let them know how long the wait will be. If the issue requires time-consuming research, customers should be told what the process will entail before it begins.
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