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SMS Has Grown Up, So Let's Treat it Like a Real Service Channel

Getting a text is exciting. We all love receiving SMS messages from the people closest to us - whether it’s a family member, friend, or co-worker. They reach us wherever we are, and we pause our day to share a quick laugh and respond. The easy back and forth makes texting a very personal form of communication, and this intimacy is the reason that generic SMS marketing blasts tend to annoy customers and erode brand loyalty.

It’s not like organizations should stay away from SMS altogether - 67 percent of consumers want the ability to contact companies via text. It’s that they need to quit acting like a bull in the SMS china shop. Think about the last unsolicited marketing text you received – it was probably pretty irritating! It interrupted your day, and potentially felt invasive given the personal nature of the channel. Even if the information was relevant and you were interested in starting a conversation, your response probably ended up in the dreaded SMS black hole, never to be heard from again. Or the message may have asked you to take action across a different channel (i.e. calling a 1-800 number), forcing you to start an entirely new conversation to reach an actual human being. Too many companies are treating SMS as a one-way “megaphone” marketing tool rather than a place to turn for good customer service, and the resulting frustration is negatively impacting brand loyalty.

So the time has come for SMS to grow up and become a fully functional contact center channel. The first step is ensuring customers know that SMS is available as a viable communications option. Many companies have found success in promoting SMS codes that customers can opt-in to for specific information like order statuses, fraud alerts, relevant promotions, or reservation changes. But SMS should also be a two-way conversation channel, capable of delivering personalized experiences with knowledgeable company representatives that have insight into a customer’s entire history with a particular brand – aka a contact center agent.

The good news is that technology is making the SMS path from adolescence to adulthood fairly painless. Emerging contact center software solutions are able to automatically route SMS messages to appropriate agents, and seamlessly facilitate two-way conversations. These solutions treat SMS as any other channel in an agent’s universal queue, helping them prioritize responses while providing a “thread view” history of every previous SMS interaction. So when customers reach out via text, not only do they get a prompt response from a real-life person, they get an informed one. 

So to my marketing friends, let’s stop exploiting the SMS channel for cheap gains at the expense of brand loyalty. We can do better than that. Customer expectations have risen, the technology has matured, and we need to start treating SMS with the respect it deserves.    

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