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The Next Big Bet in Business-Customer Communications


August 3, 2014

The Next Big Bet in Business-Customer Communications

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The International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) recently conducted a poll revealing that 79% of companies believe customers want SMS/text support.

Turns out they’re right. The New York Times published that at least one in three texters would rather text than talk.

With statistics like those, you’d be smart to bet a million dollars that most companies and their competitors are at least offering customer support via text messaging. After all, the number of text messages sent per year bypassed voice calls in 2008 and has done so every year since.

But it’s a good thing you didn’t really bet a million dollars – you would have lost.

Call-centers, IVRs, support-via-twitter and Facebook, community-support websites, email and web-chat systems are all table-stakes at this point—everyone with customers offers some or all of these. However, finding a business that offers customer support in the single-most ubiquitous communication channel (two way text-messaging) is exceptionally rare.

Sales and marketing efforts seem just as stunted. In a recent poll conducted at the 2014 XChange Solution Provider conference in LA, 97% of the decision makers present said they are increasing their digital marketing budgets. 90% of those polled plan to increase social media, 93% will increase online efforts, 75% email marketing, while a measly 5% have any current or planned use of text-messaging for their potential customers. You don’t have to be Bill Gates to know this makes absolutely no sense.

The history of text-messaging may be to blame for some of the corporate hesitation, as early misuse of text-messaging by companies led to restrictions and policies to protect consumers from spamming. However, those same consumers have moved on, desiring a text-based relationship with businesses who know better than to blast large anonymous contact lists.

Technology has moved forward too, now allowing businesses to send and receive text messages. Beyond that, intelligent automation makes text-enabled IVRs and phone-trees possible, while integration-based platforms connect a customer’s texts to a web-chat session with live agents. And really, that’s just the beginning.

Companies would be remiss to not recognize that right now is a rare moment wherein the simple act of allowing customers to text them would make those companies exceptional. This disparity between the number of customers who want to text and the number of companies who offer it means that – for the moment – text-support is a bold differentiator between a company and its competitors.

That means the opposite is true as well. A customer needs to only experience the convenience of text support a couple of times before it’s unacceptable to interact with a business that doesn’t offer it. Late-adopters may find their customers gone and texting in greener pastures.

The simple truth is that intelligent text-messaging for businesses is here, and customers are anxious to use it. Perhaps it’s time to notice the trends and make the big play. Becoming a text-enabled business is the smart bet.

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