Why People and Companies Prefer SMS Messaging for Customer Support
People like SMS messaging. They really do. In a variety of surveys and studies, consumers continue to say they like it when companies use SMS to communicate with them. Let’s look at some of the data that proves it to be true, and also how to make sure your company is using it correctly for customer support communications.
What companies believe about SMS messaging
It’s worthwhile to start off by mentioning how companies perceive SMS messaging in a customer support context. One study from ICMI revealed that 79% of companies think their customers want the option of support via text messages.
Another study by Dimension Data shows about 38% of contact/call centres offer SMS support. Twenty-three percent of companies were planning on adding it in the next twelve months. By 2016, that’s 61% of call centres using SMS messaging as part of their support packages.
That’s an incredible amount of growth in just a few years. But I think the statistics I’ll share next will explain why it’s growing at such a fast pace.
What customers want
So we know companies believe they should use SMS, and that many support centres are or will be using it. Here are some statistics to explain why:
- In a study discussed on eWeek, over 50% of customers said they “would be likely” to text with a support agent. Just over half, 52%, indicated they would prefer using SMS over their current choice for communications.
- Frost & Sullivan found that millennials prefer automated text messaging rather than interactive voice response (IVR) systems. You know, IVRs are the annoying systems that you get when you call many places for customer support. The system speaks to you and you have to speak back the options you want, but most of the time it can’t understand you or doesn’t take you to the right option.
- Fourty-four percent of consumers who have mobiles that can text would prefer to just click a button or start a text conversation rather than make a call and wait on hold according to a poll by Harris.
SMS messaging is easy, quick, and generally non-interfering with other things people are doing. When you need support, it appears customers just want to get on with it and use text messaging.
Remember, it's about relationships
While all the statistics above are great, it’s also important to remember customer service is still all about the customer. Many aspects of customer interactions can be automated and consumers are fine with that. The Harris poll showed people prefer to check order stats, schedule or change appointments, and confirm reservations by SMS.
Those types of activities fit well into an automated system – and by that I mean there doesn’t have to be a live person involved (instead the SMS messaging is integrated with a company’s own software). But there are many circumstances when you definitely want to have an agent or a representative jump in and text directly with the consumer.
For example, let’s say someone had their travel reservations confirmed to them by SMS. But they notice an error of some sort in the message. What do they do?
They could look up the phone number of the travel agency and make a call to speak with an agent. But we already know most people don’t want to wait on hold and would prefer to use text messaging. What if the consumer could respond to that message with a keyword or free text message saying something’s wrong? What automated process could you use to manage the customer’s need at that point? And would it be good enough?
In some situations it’s just better to have someone to interact with them live to help resolve their questions or issues. Perhaps the conversation will need to move from SMS to a phone depending on how complicated the problem is, but for most things they can probably be fixed quickly with just a few text message exchanges. It saves the customer time, saves the company time, and makes the customer feel good about the company because they helped so quickly and easily.
Here’s another example using a travel company. Let’s say you sent out a survey via mobile (either in the SMS message itself or with a link to a survey) to someone that stayed or traveled with you. If someone fills it out, you know they are using their phone. So, what if they rate you poorly? Do you send an automated message saying we’re sorry, here’s 10% off your next stay? You could, but if you didn’t read their comment that nothing would get them to ever stay with you again, then the offer sounds hollow doesn’t it? They will know you didn’t read their comments and possibly take to review sites and social media to complain about your poor customer service.
But what if instead, they received a personal response, something that would let them know you actually read their comment: “We’re sorry you feel you never want to stay with us again Mr. X. Is there anything we could do to change your mind?” or “We’re sorry you feel you never want to stay with us again Mr. X. Would you be willing to talk with a representative about your experience so we can improve?”
That’s one example of how a live person could be part of an automated process using SMS for customer support. Most of the time, automated messages are probably all that’s needed. But sometimes it takes a conversation with a live person to help build or repair a relationship with a customer.
And of course I just made these examples up, but they are things that could reasonably happen. You could probably think of other examples in a dozen other industries. SMS messaging gets you directly in contact with your customer in a way that’s difficult to match with other forms of communication. And understanding how many consumers prefer to use it, can help you make the case to get started adding it to your customer support process too.
SMS is a very personal method of communication that is ideally suited to customer service. Where email can seem lazy and automated phone responses uncaring, the mobile inbox communicates directly with the user, for whom the phone is often their go-to device.
When it comes to small to medium sized businesses, however, a lot of companies believe that they don't have the time or resources to truly find out who their customers are. This often results in confused messaging, emails with low open rates and low conversion levels on their website. There is, however, a way that businesses can collect precious data from their customers which will not only help them engage with their customer base on a personal level but also result in data which can help power future marketing campaigns as well as improve aspects of the company.
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