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CX and support via SMS

Improving CX and Support via SMS

Using Text Channels to Support Customers Helps Provide Context and Accelerate Response Times, Among Other Benefits

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The use of text messages, or short message service (SMS), has become ubiquitous in the US. Statistics from the Pew Research Center indicate that 97% of Americans own a mobile phone, with 85% of people reporting smartphone ownership. Further, 100% of people between the ages of 19 and 49 report ownership of any type of mobile phone, which means that nearly all adults (and most teenagers) own or use  devices capable of sending and receiving text messages.

More importantly, some devices (such as smartwatches and tablets) also support real-time texting, and because basic text messages are not data-heavy, SMS can function even when there is significant network congestion or reduced bandwidth. Texting can be done quickly while on the go, and in some cases can support the attachment of photos or other rich media.

As such, as part of an organization’s omnichannel engagement strategy, organizations should be using SMS to interact with customers, given its ubiquity, ease of use, and lack of a requirement to download a specific app. Companies historically have shied away from providing customer support via text, partially because of perceptions of interactions being intrusive, but also because of the labor costs of truly engaging with customers.

However, automated appointment reminders, payment confirmations, and order status sent to customers who opt in, can be pillars to creating more engagement with customers, and ensuring that the organization and customer are on the same page. Further, the growing use of AI-driven chatbots can be deployed via text, thereby improving speed and accuracy of interactions, reducing human labor costs, and ensuring consistent and seamless interactions across channels.

SMS, when paired with data captured via other sensors on a person’s device (such as GPS location data), can allow organizations to provide context and time-sensitive information, offers, and support to customers, further enhancing their experience. For example, an airline could recognize that a passenger is delayed in traffic, and is likely to miss their flight, based on a phone’s location and accelerometer sensors. Then, the airline could proactively text rebooking options through an SMS ticketing bot. Similarly, using the same type of location and trajectory data, along with data from flight tracking services, a hotel could text a guest that has arrived and offer them an early check-in or let them know of nearby airport shuttles.

SMS can also be used to improve response times for support issues. If there is a significant customer support queue, a company could ask the customer if they would prefer to receive support via a text-based bot, thereby reducing the amount of time to engage with the customer. Further, texts could be used in conjunction with call-back support services, alerting users that they should expect a callback within a certain window, so they can prepare for the call.

Using SMS to deploy customer service requires a careful hand, given the challenges related to the growing volume of unwanted SMS spam, as well as the parameters of the channel. CX plans that incorporate SMS should consider the following aspects of engagement:

Brevity

Keep messages brief, concise, and to the point. Although many modern phones allow for longer messages, try to keep responses to 160 characters, so it is not broken up into multiple messages or difficult to read, particularly on smaller, feature phones. 

Deploy artificial intelligence (AI) to handle initial interactions

To keep costs down and ensure efficiency, deploy an AI-powered virtual agent to automate SMS support. These SMS chatbots can often fully resolve most simple, repetitive support issues, and if the issue is too complex, can easily escalate it to a live agent or another channel for resolution. If a problem is not fully resolved on SMS, ensure there is a frictionless way for customers to opt-in for a call back or for a human to jump in, without forcing the customer to dial a number themselves or manually switch channels.

Ensure two-way communications are enabled

Many of today’s automated SMS messages, such as those containing account acknowledgements, do not allow customers to directly respond to the SMS. To fully leverage SMS and eliminate customer friction and frustration, ensure that customers can send and receive messages in a two-way conversation with all communications.

Choose the right use cases

Creating SMS conversation strings for complex use cases is not ideal, as it ultimately will require escalation to a live agent, or require a switch to a different channel for resolution, thereby increasing customer frustration, which could reduce the likelihood of them using SMS to handle simple cases.

Good customer service is, in part, defined by convenience and effortlessness. Texting has become commonplace across most age groups, and requires very little technical skill from the user to extract its benefits. If SMS support is deployed properly, many of the frustrations with routine or initial customer support can be reduced or eliminated.

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