When It Comes to Texting, Companies Need to Strike a Balance

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Texting can also be a more demanding channel than voice because users have come to expect an immediate reply. Businesses need to keep their average response times low because lag times can lead to increases in abandonment rates, customer dissatisfaction, and, ultimately, churn.

Companies need to be careful to avoid overstaffing and increasing their expenses unnecessarily. One option is to supplement agent downtime with email responses.

Companies are also often unsure of whether to create a separate texting channel or to integrate messaging into other channels. “Businesses have gone back and forth on both approaches,” Koelliker notes. Either option creates benefits as well as challenges.

First of all, the two channels are not the same. Scheduling is very different. “With voice, companies have well-defined practices and forecasts that have been developed through the years,” Connolly says. “Texting follows a different work pattern. Consequently, corporations cannot just take their voice business processes and adapt them to texting. They need to develop new ones.”

In some cases, it makes sense for companies to carve out separate voice and text teams. Companies that have to adhere to very strict industry guidelines, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), have voice security business processes that are more mature, better defined, and easer to defend than those with text. But in this case, duplication could also arise, meaning that resources might not be maximized. Also, the autonomous approach does not create the holistic environment and cohesion that customers increasingly demand when being serviced. As a result, many companies are trying to break down rather than build up department silos within the organization.


Integrating text and voice is also a double-edged sword. When turning phone agents to messaging agents, companies need to understand that the two skill sets are quite different. “Some strong voice agents do not write well,” O’Flahavan argues, noting that some agents might not be native English speakers, or might have reading disabilities, each of which might only become evident when they start texting.

Companies also have to confront the fact that some individuals tend to resist change. Younger generations are more predisposed to using texting as a communications channel, multitasking and having several open screens in front of themselves simultaneously. As a result, they might feel more comfortable balancing simultaneous conversations than agents who are conversant in voice interactions, which are serviced in a linear fashion. For that reason, companies might want to give employees an opt-in/opt-out option as they extend the contact center’s reach to texting.

Texting also gives businesses a chance to alter their staff composition and reduce costs. When companies began routing phone calls to outsourced overseas contact center agents years ago, customers pushed back. They sometimes resented and had trouble understanding and effectively communicating with foreign agents because of accents and unfamiliarity with U.S. customs. Texting masks those limitations, so businesses can revive that business model.

To be successful, companies can’t just make a one-time investment in their texting channels. “Texting programs need support tools, templates, text service levels, and all of the other features found with more established channels,” O’Flahavan says.

The process starts with marketing so that consumers know the service exists. “Companies should put a texting option in their IVR scripts: ‘Thanks for calling. Press one to talk to an agent and two to text one’,” notes Mike Myer, CEO of Quiq, a business text messaging services and solutions provider. In addition, they should offer texting on their websites, Contact Us pages, product pages, and FAQ pages.

Data complexity is another challenge that businesses face when moving into the text channel. As they increase their service options, information often becomes scattered in more autonomous solutions, and texting creates one more data repository. “Companies now keep their customer information everywhere,” O’Flahavan says. “To understand who the customer is and what they need, they must bring it all together. They do want two systems that have different data. They need a single consistent source of customer information.”

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