These days, cell phones are basically molded onto our bodies. I often forget or misplace my keys or wallet, but I would never leave my iPhone 7 out of sight.
According to TechCrunch, Americans spent about five hours per day on their cell phones in 2017. 92% of this time is spent on apps -- 51% of that is specifically on social media, messaging apps, and media and entertainment apps -- while a mere 8% is spent on a browser.
So, let's face it: If you're trying to communicate with your customers via online chat, phone calls, or email, they probably aren't too interested in responding. Making your customers go out of their way to get customer support is bound to result in frustration, confusion, and disappointment.
This is why there has been a rise in companies using SMS customer support. It's affordable, simple to maneuver, and time-efficient, and requires what most of us already own: a cell phone.
What Is SMS Customer Support?
In essence, SMS customer support is any support provided by a company to a customer via text messaging. It is completely virtual and requires no face-to-face interaction or verbal communication.
According to Gigaom, text messages are opened, on average, 98% of the time, but emails are only opened 22% of the time. So, if your company wants to actually be heard by your customers, it makes sense to meet them where they already are: texting on their phones.
According to eWeek, 52% of the respondents to a HeyWire Business customer support preference study said they'd likely text with a customer support rep. 52% would also prefer to text a customer support rep over their current preferred mode of communication.
SMS customer support is a way to connect with your customers on a more personal level. While emails or phone calls feel distant and professional, texting is much less formal. It also helps that SMS customer support is a lot cheaper than support over phone calls or email. You're saving money, and your customers are more likely to engage with you. Win-win, right?
Below, we have compiled a list of the best ways to incorporate SMS customer support into your business.
6 Tips and Best Practices for Using SMS Customer Support
1. Speak like a human.
Source: TTAG Systems
According to the same eWeek article, about 75% of respondents would prefer texting with a customer support representative than speaking with them on a social media platform. This indicates that customers prefer social media solely for letting out frustrations over negative customer experiences, whereas SMS customer support is an overall more personalized, easy, and flexible method.
Many customers enjoy SMS customer support when it's as personalized as a live chat or conversation on social media. Text messaging is a very personal form of communication, so it only makes sense that customers would want the same experience when speaking with a support rep.
When possible, as in the above example with a fictitious bank, engage live with customers via text. You would be providing the same kind of service that you might over live chat, but in a channel that is more accessible for your customers and that makes customers feel understood. It's a plus to include their name to show that there's a real person behind the texts.
2. Use it to get unbiased customer feedback.
According to Groove, only one in 26 customers actually complains or gives feedback about a negative customer experience, and 91% of the remaining 25 out of 26 customers will move onto a competitor. That is an alarming statistic.
A way to avoid this gap between customers and businesses is by offering options for customer feedback over SMS customer support. It's easy for customers, typically only involving them sending one-word or number responses. It also encourages them to give negative feedback in a neutral channel where they might not feel as awkward doing so.
On the plus side for your company, you will get honest feedback -- in a less aggressive, frustrated tone than what might occur in online reviews or on social media. Customers will appreciate the fact that you are giving them a voice and taking their opinion into consideration.
3. Go above and beyond by following up with customers
Source: Get Timely
It's easy to speak to a customer when they ask you a question. All you really have to do is find an answer to it in a reasonable amount of time. What's harder is showing you care by following up with them later.
In this example, a fictional day spa shows they care about their customer by reaching out when they haven't visited in a while. They even offer a discount to show how much they miss that customer's business. This type of text message is easy for customers to respond to, but also shows customers that your business is willing to go above and beyond for them.
4. Send reminders about appointments.
Source: Get Timely
We've all been there. You scheduled a dentist appointment or fitness class, maybe months in advance. The day comes, and you get a call during your time slot asking where you are, but you totally forgot. Now, you have to reschedule for the next available opening, which is possibly weeks away.
With SMS support, you have the opportunity to send simple reminders of appointments to customers. This can be done anytime in advance, and a customer can simply confirm with a one-letter or one-word response, as shown in the example above. Since your customers might be very busy, reminding them via an inexpensive text could be a lot more efficient than trying to disrupt their lives with a phone call or send an email that may be left unread.
5. Give all necessary support over one channel.
The best part about SMS customer support is that you can complete all of it on a single platform. Often, my live chat support sessions have been redirected to phone calls, or social media support has led to email conversations. According to Harvard Business Review, 57% of customers have to switch from web support to phone support, which was a recurring complaint many had with their customer experiences.
SMS customer support allows you to complete an entire conversation over that channel. In the above example, a fictitious emergency alert likely sent by a state government was able to alert people of the tornado warning, give options for shelters, and even offer directions. While each text gives an option to direct away to a web link, the texts themselves give all the necessary information for people to get the help they need with ease.
6. Be clear, but get straight to the point.
Source: U.S. Short Code Directory
Texting is all about being concise. Leave the long-winded explanations and flashy language for email. In SMS customer support, you should be writing a brief summary of whatever message you're trying to convey.
In this example, a fictional car company is trying to inform its customers that it has a brand new model out. They have perfectly scripted their text, highlighting the key points in a short message. For more information, customers can click the link.
In outbound SMS customer support, you don't want to bore customers with an essay. Also, the channel doesn't allow for easy reading of lengthy messages. Keep it brief and engaging, and that'll have more of an impact on your customers and increase the likelihood that they read the entire message.
Next, read about these essential customer support skills.