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Why You Should Not Overlook SMS as a Customer Care Tool

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Every company can agree that keeping customers happy is critical to business success. So it’s important for businesses to know their customer demographics and understand what they truly want. According to Forrester Research, Gartner, and other experts, traditional voice-based customer service such as by phone or in-person is on the decline—unless by “voice-based” you mean AI smart assistants like Siri, Google Home, or Amazon Alexa, which are heralding a renaissance of voice in a different form. Many consumers are also embracing social and mobile messaging systems like chat, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. But for customers who are still leery about the digital transformation from phone to messaging, there’s a third option that most people are already familiar with and comfortable using: SMS.

Research indicates that most people own a mobile device and that most mobile devices now are smartphones. Text messaging is an accepted part of most people’s lives. It’s how most people communicate with their families; it’s how most people communicate with their friends; and it’s how many people would like to communicate with their favorite brands and businesses. SMS is the most used communication channel within the United States, with more than 6 billion messages sent each day.  Survey data says that 72 percent of consumers would prefer to text a business instead of call, and open rates for SMS exceed 95 percent, with response times under three minutes.

Traditional Channels Are Not Cutting It Anymore

Most people dislike calling customer service departments; they dislike waiting on hold; and they dislike having to schedule a time to do either of those two things. To make matters worse, their issue may not be resolved during the first or even the second call, and customer satisfaction (CSAT) is known to decline with the need for each point of contact. Yet despite these statistics, many companies still haven’t taken full advantage of the benefits of SMS.

These facts also impact the customer service agents whose job it is to handle the calls. Many agents are required not only to answer the phone but also to respond to chat messages, assist in-person customers, and attend to other administrative tasks. Given that multitasking isn’t something that the human brain is wired to do in its natural state, according to scientific studies, it’s no wonder that the constant, excessive busyness leaves many agents feeling overworked and underpaid, leading to employee dissatisfaction and a high turnover rate within contact centers that operate within these traditional, outmoded boundaries.

Joe Gagnon, CEO of Sparkcentral, a messaging customer service platform provider, argues for the benefits of specialized agents in a January 2019 article in CMSWire titled “Why Specialized Agents Are the Future of Customer Service.” Gagnon notes that by support centers embracing specialization for customer service agents, they will experience increased productivity and greater innovation in how they think and approach taking care of the customer.

Beyond One-Way Reminders: Let Customers Send Inbound Texts for Customer Service

Fortunately, modern technology already offers a solution to the dilemma that confronts most contact centers. As messaging replaces voice, texting provides a comfortable alternative for customers who aren’t social media-savvy and for agents who are trying to find the elusive balance between efficiency and speed. SMS can be used to handle FAQs, reset passwords, check the status of orders or deliveries, report missing or damaged items, and manage refunds or other billing/payment adjustments. Many businesses already use texts to send a notification or reminder, but modern digital messaging customer service platforms now allow customers to respond and engage with agents, or send a message into a business for inquiries.

There are clear benefits to using SMS to achieve modern digital transformation. First, it gives customers a private place to vent any disappointments, complaints, or frustrations, which is much better for businesses than a negative review on one of the company’s public social media channels. Second, text-based interactions are significantly more efficient and cost-effective than voice-based interactions. According to research compiled by Sparkcentral, it costs an average of three times less to handle several text interactions simultaneously than it does to handle one phone interaction at a time. If it were just a matter of efficiency, that’s still a significant improvement, but it’s also a matter of quality: With SMS, both the quality and the quantity of B2C/C2B interactions improve. Third, both these facts give SMS a 20-point higher CSAT than voice, according to Forrester.

As customer demographics transition to the younger generations, companies that don’t provide omni-channel digital messaging will be hard-pressed to remain in business. SMS provides the perfect solution for those who wish to retain their existing loyal customer base, while gradually integrating to the next level of customer service via modern messaging systems.

Tobias Goebel is vice president of product marketing at Sparkcentral, an innovative software and solutions company that turns messaging apps, SMS, chat, and social media into customer service channels on one universal messaging customer service platform.

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