It’s only when you stop to reflect what life was like ten years ago that you realize just how far SMS messaging has come. Back then, text messages were still primarily used for interpersonal communication between friends and family. Now, all kinds of businesses use SMS for all kinds of reasons, all of which enhance the customer experience and just make life easier for everyone.
Think about the text messages you receive that aren’t from people you know personally. Banks send statements and fraud alerts; taxi drivers and ride-sharing services let you know they’ve arrived via text; healthcare providers send appointment reminders and everyone from airlines and travel companies to concert promoters and delivery services send confirmations by SMS.
The reason all these organizations are using text messaging over other forms of communication is very simple: people actually read their texts. Further, most people actually read ALL of their texts - and they usually do it within a few minutes of receipt. That fact is music to the ears of marketers in any industry, when you consider how routinely commercial emails are trashed, ignored, or junk filtered before they even had a chance. With SMS, around 90% of all messages are opened and read within three minutes. And since a similar percentage of the population owns a cellphone, using it as an effective way to reach people is a no-brainer.
And yet, one-to-one customer support is one area where SMS messaging has been slow to take off - thought that’s beginning to change. So it should, because the potential is considerable.
SMS Customer Service is Win-Win
Firstly, every consumer out there is a candidate for SMS communication. It doesn’t require a smartphone, so even the most committed feature phone acolyte can be reached, and 2G networks are still the most reliable. Because of the 160 character restriction, a text message doesn’t demand too much of the recipient. There’s no action required - the recipient can consider the information and make their choice as to whether it’s relevant. If not, they can opt out of receiving future messages from the brand.
Businesses love SMS because of the aforementioned high read rate, and the personal, informal tone generally expected of the information contained therein. A mobile marketing campaign centered around text messages is also incredibly cheap compared with more traditional mass media strategies.
But while the benefits of SMS as a marketing strategy are well understood, we’re only just beginning to see customer service-based applications of the technology. Airlines have rightly spotted the aptness of text messaging for letting passengers know about delays and cancellations. Some have started using text messaging to help reduce wait times at check in, and provide passengers with a way of interacting with the airline that doesn’t require a tedious phone call.