SMS messaging is one of the great under-used customer service tools.
Everyone understands it. Everyone can access it. It’s rock-bottom cheap compared with taking a phone call and it’s easy to integrate with other channels.
This modest technology is more universal and easier to use than practically any other piece of call center technology. It’s the preferred service messaging option over Facebook messenger, WhatsApp and Snapchat.
So if you’re not using SMS in your customer service… why not?
In this post:
- What is SMS customer service?
- Top 3 benefits of SMS call center technology
- How do contact centers offer SMS service?
What is SMS customer service?
SMS service is any service that you provide with SMS messaging. Most businesses do this to deflect calls and to support existing services. The ideal SMS interaction is completely automated, but we’re going to look at both automated and agent-managed services.
Over 90% of US adults have access to SMS services, making it one of the most widespread contact options, full stop. If customers are using it, you probably should too!
Examples of SMS service
#1 Confirmation messages
Confirmation messages are the easiest to create and run. They involve confirming appointments, sales, deliveries and… well, any topic where customers need reminding or reassuring. In most cases, confirmation messages are 100% automated.
(Interested in learning more about contact center automation? Read ‘Could you automate these four contact center tasks?’)
#2 Troubleshooting messages
You can use SMS for troubleshooting and support. The simplest way is to simply send customers links to online multimedia assets. (SMS messages are generally too short for detailed explanations – and media like video is often best for guides and how-to’s.)
#3 Surveys and feedback
It’s easy to deliver surveys and ask for feedback via SMS. Simple feedback requests are most likely to get a high response rate. For example, you might use SMS for post-interaction feedback by asking for a score out of ten. If you want to deliver a longer survey, it’s simple – send out links via SMS.
#4 Two-way messaging
Of course, two-way messaging is also an option. This lets agents handle multiple customer queries at once while still getting into a good level of detail. It’s more expensive than automated messaging, but far cheaper than taking a call. (Usually between $1-$5 for an SMS interaction compared with $16 for an agent call.)
Top 3 benefits of SMS call center technology
You’ll lower your costs
This is always worth thinking about! I’ve never found a contact center that didn’t keep an eagle eye on their costs, and SMS can bring them down by a lot.
As mentioned above, live, two-way messaging costs – at most – about a third of an agent-handled phone call.
But that’s the more expensive end; you can automate a huge number of your outbound messages. That cuts out the agent cost, leaving just the price of sending the message. And that’s measured in pennies, not dollars!
You’ll improve customer experience
It’s not all about what the contact center wants – it’s also about which services your customers are interested in.
And customers are strongly interested in SMS service. 85% of customers put SMS ahead of a voice call or email. Any feature that aligns your cost savings with customer expectations is good news.
Sometimes customers have a simple question and they want a simple answer – quickly. Messaging is much better suited to that than voice!
You’ll see faster resolutions
There are two reasons that SMS will speed up your interactions.
First is something we touched on in the last point. If a customer has a simple query, sending them a message when (or before) they ask is fast – certainly faster than a phone call.
Second is the speed of the customer response. This is an oft overlooked aspect of handling interactions off the phone. A speedy response helps to close tickets within SLAs and to keep the same agent on a ticket.
Here’s the bottom line: customers typically respond to SMS messages within 90 seconds. They respond to emails within 90 minutes. No contest!
(How do you send a message *before* the customer asks? Find out in ‘Pre-emptive contact center services – the #1 customer retention hack?’)
How do contact centers offer SMS service?
Define your goals
This is the first step in any project of course but it’s still worth mentioning.
Why? Because, for a lot of contact center leaders, the words ‘cost saving’ are all they needed to hear!
So it’s tempting to put a system in place, with a financial motivation, and take a‘let’s see’ attitude to the secondary benefits.
But the secondary benefits are important too, so ask yourself: am I responding to a specific customer need? Am I trying to raise CSat? Lower ASA? What’s the purpose?
Outline your candidates for contact types
Say somebody calls you to ask a series of detailed product questions prior to making a purchase. Should you redirect them to SMS?
But your business gets plenty of calls which would be better served by SMS messaging.
You need to figure out:
- Which kinds of calls they are
- What proportion of total volume they represent
- How much uptake you need for good ROI
What are CX leaders’ top customer support goals?
Integrate SMS with other call center technology
These days, providing good service means providing consistent service. For SMS that means two things.
Integration with tools like Helpdesk and CRM means that customers don’t just get any messages. They get the right messages for them.
Integration with channels – especially with voice – means that customers can move easily between different areas of your service. That’s important because it tends to be the most challenging interactions that cross different channels, and customers do not like repeating themselves.
(Ready to learn more about integrating tools and channels? Read ‘What are APIs and how do they enhance contact center services?’)
Automate as much as possible
You’ll only get the full benefit of SMS services if you automate at every opportunity. The simplest way for most contact centers to do that is with no-code automation.
A good no-code automation platform lets you design and build complex processes without needing a lot of technical skills (or a great investment of time either.)
Worryingly, under one-quarter of contact centers enjoy full design collaboration for their own processes. No-code automation can change that.
SMS is one of the simplest pieces of call center technology to integrate and automate. With the right tools, you can let any event in your call or process flows trigger an outbound SMS. You can also escalate that automated interaction into an agent interaction at any time – automatically.
SMS has been around for several decades now, and in that time it has built up a lot of trust and resilience. When it comes to integrating and automating SMS, there are only three practical limitations:
- What you know about automation
- What automation tool you use
- Your imagination!