Embracing SMS for Customer Service

Business leaders view short message service (SMS) as a crucial tool for the support of customer service, marketing, business continuity and emergency management, according to a recent joint Clickatell and CMO Council survey. The study was commissioned by mobile messaging carrier Clickatell and conducted by the CMO Council, and finds that the use of SMS will continue to grow, as companies have turned the service into a critical business function. The reasons why are text messaging's ability to immediately reach a customer anywhere and its low cost, according to the survey. "Every Fortune 500 Company is looking for better ways to interact with their customers and clients," says Pieter de Villiers, CEO of Clickatell. "The reality is that with messaging and simple technologies like mobile texts, you can cover 94 to 98 percent of the mobile population in the U.S. That translates to about 60 percent of the overall population, which translates to one in every third person globally. From a reach and coverage perspective, there is no technology that is more ubiquitous." The study found that 70 percent of the 450 CEOs and CMOs surveyed had used text messaging to support some aspect of their business, primarily customer service. An even higher percent (83) agreed that SMS is a key means to send alerts and notifications. The respondents had a variety of job functions, ranging from marketing to operations to IT, and represented a large cross section of industries and global locations. According to the study, mobile messaging will become even more prevalent in 2007. Half of those surveyed anticipated an increase in their company's use of text messaging from 2005. Only a small fraction (1 percent) expected a decrease. All agreed that through extended use, customer service had the most potential for benefit. Respondents from the Asia-Pacific demographic believe that marketing programs had the second most potential, while those from Europe and North America considered that business continuity should the hold the second place spot. De Villiers cites the history of business text messaging to explain the link between SMS and customer service. "How SMS is evolved is that it was used as a CRM tool in the respect that it was the operator told you as a phone customer that you needed to call the support number. All that's happening now is that other businesses are saying, 'If this is so efficient and can reach so many people, I want to get access to this technology and find out how it can best serve my business.'" Eight of 10 respondents recognized text messaging to be at least somewhat of a competitive advantage. This advantage can be tracked to marked return on investment with 60 percent counting greater operational efficiencies as the highest value of ROI in text messaging, followed by higher customer loyalty (58 percent), faster product adoption (50 percent), and high response rates (43 percent). The study also finds that companies believe text messaging is valuable in a wide range of industries. Telecommunications and IT marked the top sectors best suited for text messaging, garnering 59 and 57 percent of votes, respectively. Other industries respondents deemed suitable for text messaging included: media and entertainment (48 percent), emergency service (46 percent), financial services (44 percent), travel and lodging (41 percent), and healthcare (37 percent). Respondents cited many different uses for SMS in these sectors, including notification (65 percent), emergency advisories (56 percent), and scheduling (43 percent), found to be the three most important uses. News and information (43 percent) and staff collaboration (42 percent) were also noted as possible functions. De Villiers asserts that the use of text messaging in will continue to grow in all applications and all fields. "We find that once businesses launch this type of services other businesses follow because they cannot risk not having level of service delivery. Messaging goes a long way to giving the information, knowledge, and empowerment to customers, understanding that my bank or my healthcare or my insurance is really looking out for me, no matter where I am in the world." Related articles: Statistically Speaking
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