SMS – the rise of the text message

shutterstock_328653185Text messages have been with us for a long time, in tech terms, but are they being fully exploited when it comes to customer communication, especially customer service and support?

We’ve all heard about the rise of mobile access and how more and more of us are using services and platforms via mobile devices. So the majority of us are already in possession of a device that can easily receive text messages. Even old 2G phones can still receive texts. They are a simple format, easy to read communication with no complex interface.

More importantly, 90 per cent of all SMS messages are read within 3 minutes of being received and have an average open rate of 98 per cent. Compare that to email which generally has an average open rate of around 22 per cent, and you can see the potential of the humble text when it comes to customer engagement.

Text services, if used correctly, can appear less intrusive when it comes to the overload of communications we receive on a daily basis. We also generally only give our mobile number to those we are happy to receive messages from, unlike email where we are more readily willing to subscribe and sign up to services less important.

Examples of our acceptance of text based information services include bank balance updates and overdraft alerts, taxi companies sending a message when they arrive at a destination, alerts when delivery times are confirmed, messages regarding progress of orders etc. A number of airlines are also using SMS to alert passengers about flight delays, cancellations and gate changes.

Some brands are utilising SMS for marketing campaigns, with some success, especially when exclusive offers are made available to VIP subscribers, or an event or offer is coming to an end soon. The most impactful marketing driven message campaigns are short and to the point, include some sort of direct call to action and make the recipient feel they are being offered something of value or exclusivity to a service. It’s also extremely important to ensure the recipient is clear on who has sent them the text message, who’s behind the communication.

shutterstock_294453458Not everyone is open to marketing focused text messages though as they can appear impersonal and spam like. Customer service and support however is more of a one-to-one experience and therefore the exchange of information on a more personal level – the exchange of mobile numbers and receipt of direct SMS messages – is generally more acceptable.

So, why haven’t they been used more often in customer service scenarios? Perhaps they have been lost amongst the multitude of channels now available for customer connection and have appeared too simple a format?

I believe we’ll see a rise in the number of companies reverting to SMS outreach as mobile access continues to increase and customers expect to be kept informed and updated on products and services, consistently and accurately. At present only a small percentage of consumers resort to SMS to communicate with businesses, but with 86 per cent of people in the UK engaging in text messaging every week, my prediction is that we’ll see the number significantly rise in the coming months.

By Stephen Pickett 

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