Text may be the most popular phone activity in America, but when it comes to customer service, voice is the channel to beat. According to a study by NICE Systems, 88% percent of customers speak with an agent over the phone, making it the most common customer service channel. In contrast, only 40% percent of users using SMS to communicate with customer service.
These statistics are understandable, considering the telephone has a 126-year head start on SMS. We have a lot more experience using it. Case in point: when customers have a problem they can’t solve, over half of them call live agents to get it resolved. In one study by Ovum, more than 80% of those surveyed said phone was the most successful channel at solving their problems on the first try.
However, voice’s prevalence in the service industry doesn’t mean the desire to use SMS isn’t there: over 80% of customers want to text a business but can’t. One of the primary reasons customers like using phone is that they get a more complete response from an actual person. This isn’t feasible for a text contact center, since text traffic is, at the very least, four times greater than voice.
Text wasn’t created for in-depth conversation: it was created to transmit a piece of information as quickly as possible. The dilemma text messaging faces is delivering quick automated messages while still fostering a relationship with the customer. Here are 10 ways to make automated interactions more a little bit more human:
1. Personalize it. According to science, people absolutely love hearing their own names. Logic dictates that they love seeing their name written as well. Adding a simple greeting like “Hi Josh!” at the beginning of an automated text will really stand out to your customers (as long as you don’t overdo it).
2. Be polite. Texts are largely informal, but that doesn’t mean that your business’ should be. Bringing some refinement to the text channel is as easy as adding a “Thank you” at the end of a transaction or prompting customers with a “please” (again, don’t overdo it).
3. Watch the time. Customers want speed from their service interactions, and text can deliver that to them. Sending out a quick automated response keeps customers from getting frustrated about wait times and lets them know that you are on top of their issue.
4. Be connected. If different customer information is collected in different departments, it’s probably going to stay there. Make sure there a central database with all the customer’s information so you can draw on any of their past data to solve a problem.
5. Offer options. Most IVR systems do this already, but the importance of offering customers choices can’t be understated. In real life you have multiple ways you can face a situation, so give your customers the same opportunity and let them choose via text how they want to do things.
6. Be available. One of the great things about automated text is that it can respond to customers any time of day. If there’s a complex issue that needs to be resolved, make sure your customers know the time when live agents are around to text chat. If no one is, program a quick response so they won’t be left hanging.
7. Get feedback. Customers aren’t afraid to share their opinion, and you shouldn’t be afraid to hear it. Show customers you’re open to what they have to say by sending out an automated text with a quick survey to fill out. Don’t forget to be polite!
8. Be proactive. A typical service interaction starts with a customer reaching out for help and the agent giving it. Don’t be afraid to make the first move: asking customers if you can do anything to help proves you’re interested in how they’re doing before they even ask. However, if they don’t need or want help at the moment, give them the chance to opt out.
9. Remember them. One of the things customers hate about service phone calls is having to repeat their problems. Luckily, text eliminates the need for having to repeat something because there is a written record. Reviewing and incorporating data from previous interactions shows customers you’ve been paying attention to them.
10. Be a friend. Simple, but true. Customers will keep coming back if they feel like they’ve had a satisfactory experience. Enrich your relationship with customers by giving them the means to follow up with you personally if they have anything else, or send a handwritten note thanking them for their business. There’s still something to be said for a human touch.