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  • April 1, 2015
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Text Takes Precedence as a Customer Service Preference

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businesses could only use texting to push information or marketing material out to customers, texting today can be used for both inbound and outbound communications. "There's a much wider range of options to communicate with customers using text," Fujita-Yuhas says.

Now, not only can doctors' offices text patients with appointment reminders or let them know when to take their medicines or refill their prescriptions, but new integrated text platforms enable patients to text back from the original reminder message to reschedule appointments.

Deployment options have also changed the communications landscape. Service providers can deliver text messaging over companies' standard local landlines, Voice over Internet Protocol, and toll-free phone lines. Companies can handle all of their communications through one infrastructure rather than juggling among multiple systems.

One company offering text over standard phone lines is OpenMarket, which in mid-January began offering two-way text-enabled landlines and toll-free numbers for businesses in the United States and Canada. Potential uses, the company claims, could include customer feedback surveys, appointment reminders, mobile coupons and promotional offers, and secure authentications, in which the customer could be sent a one-time password as a text message.

"Companies can now take voice calls and texts on the same phone line," Weborg says. "Companies have spent a lot of money on their communications infrastructures, and now they can layer SMS on it fairly easily. They can add text without having to change much."

Additionally, "there's no limit to the number of texts that a business can get," Weborg says. "The current infrastructures can support an unlimited number of texts." And, in this environment, text capacity has also been expanded from the 160-character limit on most SMS short code lines to about 1,600 characters.

A Long Way to Go

Despite these latest developments, having text capabilities tied to a company's phone system is not the same thing as bringing it into the contact center. That is still a few years down the road, according to Wettemann. "We're very early on in this being an integrated part of the call center," she says. "We're still looking at a couple of years before it's mainstream."

"Not enough companies can support texting yet," Fluss says. "Even companies that support chat are not yet on text, and texting uses the same skill set as chat."

Nonetheless, customers aren't giving businesses a choice. "Customers increasingly want to text, and companies need to support their customers on their channels of choice," Fluss maintains.

Simplicity is the key, Fujita-Yuhas explains. Texting "is so easy to use. Everyone has texting available to them on their phones, and they all know how to use it. It doesn't require the customer to download anything, buy any new technology, or change carriers or service providers."

The convenience factor cannot be discounted either. "A big part of the appeal is the time element," Wettemann says. "You can send a text whenever you want."

Plus, the chances of a response with texting are much greater than with other channels. In fact, 95 percent of text messages are read within 15 minutes, and the typical response rate for text is 10 times higher than for other communication methods, according to the Mobile Marketing Association.

In a business context, surveys sent to customers via text messaging frequently see in excess of a 20 percent response rate, and the click-through rate for URLs sent via text message is higher than 19 percent, compared to just 4.2 percent for those sent by email, the 

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