Just 14% of phone calls to customer service are answered without the customer waiting on hold. That’s a lot of people listening to muzak versions of ‘The Girl from Ipanema’. It’s not surprising that 78% of people would prefer to forego phone calls and have a conversation with a business via SMS.

Some of the benefits of SMS are self-evident; it’s affordable, simple, immediate, time-efficient, and requires what most of us already own: a smartphone. But above all, texts are easy to automate and people actually read them (even if they sometimes don’t reply straight away).

78% of customers prefer SMS over phone

Automate standard processes

The most obvious benefit of SMS over calls is that it’s cheaper. If you can automate customer service behaviour through SMS, operating costs will come down. The other principal way to save money is to outsource customer service. However, it is worth noting that 90% of Aussies prefer a local customer service team. So, SMS is a key way to reduce costs without alienating your customers.

There are many opportunities to automate manual processes through technology, such as making or cancelling bookings and sending out appointment reminders. Additionally, companies can allow their customers to update policies, addresses, contact details, or payment methods. A platform like an SMS Communication Manager can enable this by embedding in your CRM (e.g. Salesforce) and connecting directly into the company’s customer records.

These opportunities for automation mean businesses that have a lot of back-end bureaucracy can benefit the most from SMS communication (e.g. insurance companies, health services, car rental, telcos, and energy companies.)

Emails. Emails. Emails…

A recent study revealed that the average open rate for emails is only 22%. But that same study showed that SMS has an average open rate of 98%. SMS consistently proves itself a great channel for proactive customer communication.

One of the reasons for this is that people are frequently engaged with their phones. One survey noted that Americans are on theirs for five hours per day. While Americans tend to be ahead of the game in these habits, you can be sure that the rest of the world is catching up fast.

SMS gets in front of people in a way that email just doesn’t anymore. How do you get customers to opt-in to text communications rather than email? People are understandably wary of giving their phone number out to any old business, so you have to offer a juicy quid-pro-quo. A great example is Domino’s special offers by SMS. 6pm on a Friday and you get a two-for-one pizza offer? You’re going to opt-in to that.

Anything offering something customers can act on immediately is great via SMS – SMS-only special offers, surveys, and instant service updates are just a few.

Watch customers and staff benefit

Customer service staff love SMS. It takes the grunt work out of their routine and lets them focus on more complex cases, and the reduced grind means they have more energy to apply the personal touch for customers that actually need (or prefer) to call. Making life easier for call centre staff can also help reduce the notoriously high staff turnover rate.

SMS is both informal and personal, whereas email and phone calls can feel either overly calculated or intrusive. SMS is cheaper, and customers are more likely to engage with you. Engaged, happy customers are more likely to stay yours, and with that, comes the chance to up-sell and cross-sell to them utilising these same techniques!

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