Smartphones have become a common part of everyday life. Pew research reports that 96% of people in the United States use cell phones. And with their ubiquity, text messaging has become one of the most common forms of communication in modern life. Recent research from Text Request found that 97% of smartphone users had texted in the past week.
For businesses, that makes text messaging an important channel to include in your customer support strategy.
3 reasons to offer text support
Setting up text support (or SMS support) requires an investment in new tools, time, and work. If you’re going to add a whole new channel to your support offerings, you want to know it’s worth it.
Consumers like options
In the Zendesk customer experience (CX) trends report, 60% of people said they wanted the option of multiple service channels to choose from. It’s no longer good enough to provide a support phone number and email address alone. People want and expect the ability to contact you via the channel of their choice.
And in a Zendesk survey on the business impact of customer service, 24% of respondents said text messaging was their preferred channel for support. 27% said any time they weren’t able to use the channel of their choice, it caused a bad customer experience. Even if the portion of customers that prefer SMS above all other options is in the minority, they expect you to be there and will be disappointed if you’re not.
Text support enables real-time updates
For some business models, real-time updates are essential. For same-day orders, such as with food delivery services, people want to know sooner rather than later if there’s a holdup. And text messages are one of the most reliable ways to do that, since most customers have their phones on them at all times.
The same thing goes for industries where seeing updates about last-minute changes has high stakes, as with airlines. If someone fails to see an update about a gate change, they risk being in the wrong place when their flight boards. For someone on the go, text support increases the likelihood they see important updates on their mobile device right away, instead of wading through emails.
Text support can improve efficiency
Consumers are accustomed to the more casual, succinct exchanges made via text, so agents can respond faster and more concisely. And if your business deploys artificial intelligence (AI) technology to handle simpler inquiries, that can offload a portion of text service requests from your human agents entirely. As a result, offering text support can decrease the amount of work your team does, while still ensuring customers get the answers they need.
Tips for getting text support right
Text support has to be done well for it to offer any benefits to you and your customers. Disappointing support over text is no better than a bad customer experience in any other channel.
Give consumers a chance to opt in
Some of your customers will want to hear from you over text. Others will be annoyed if you contact them that way. For those that still prefer support through other channels, an unwanted text looks like spam and risks hurting your overall brand reputation in their eyes. Make sure you only provide text support to customers that have made it clear they want to hear from you via SMS.
Set yourself up for quick responses
When asked what makes for a good customer service experience, the number one answer customers gave in the CX trends survey is a speedy resolution. When you offer text support, you need a process in place that ensures you can get answers to customers fast. One way to speed up response times is creating text-specific macros to use for common questions. Instead of agents having to answer questions from scratch, they can pull from answers already written to fit the text format. You can also boost customer experience by an automated text message reply when a text comes in -- that way, your customers know they've been heard, and it takes some pressure off your support team.
Integrate text support with other channels
In the same survey, one of the top reasons people gave for a bad customer service experience was having to repeat themselves or communicating with someone that doesn’t have enough background knowledge about them on file. To avoid that, you need one integrated customer relationship management (CRM) tool that connects all your different channels.
When someone contacts you over text, the agent that answers should be able to tap into all the relevant details about the customer’s past experience with your brand. And if the next time they get in touch it’s over email, that agent needs to know about the previous text interaction.
With the right platform, you can capture every data point about a customer in one profile and make it accessible to agents across the organization, ensuring every conversation—via text or otherwise—reflects an up-to-date understanding of the customer’s situation.
Use automation strategically
Around half of all customers in the CX report found interacting with AI bots helpful for simple questions. And many are happy to chat with a bot instead of a human, as long as it leads to getting accurate information. By incorporating AI technology into your text support strategy, you can provide customers with instantaneous answers 24/7, without needing human agents to be working at all hours.
And you’ll cut down on the amount of time agents spend answering repetitive questions, leaving more room in the day for the complex issues that actually require a human’s help. Customers get answers faster, and agents get to focus on work that’s challenging and lets them really shine. It’s better for everyone.
Text support plays an important role in modern customer service
Text messaging is a huge part of how customers communicate today. In order to meet modern customer expectations, being available via SMS is a basic requirement. By following a few best practices and using the right tools, you can provide text support to customers easily and effectively. Quicker response times can lead to fewer unhappy customers, and by thinking about how to deliver support service in a different way, you'll be able to be there when your customers need you.