Customer outreach builds the strong customer relationships that lead to retention and revenue, but it can be tricky, especially in SMS marketing.
Customers are very particular about how they receive messages, which leaves marketers perpetually puzzled about what kind of business texts to send, who to send them to, and when.
Chat starters offer an easy solution. Chat starters are pre-set message templates used to create and send the first customer message of a campaign, a non-invasive and compliant way to improve response rates, start real conversations, and strengthen relationships. They are particularly useful for financial institutions and the telecoms industry, highly competitive sectors that always need to be earning the trust of large customer bases that remain duly fickle.
To make the most of chat starters, we’ll take an in-depth look at their benefits and the mistakes you risk without them, alongside best practices to follow and common mistakes to avoid.
Why use chat starters
Whether your workforce is 5 or 5,000 people, managing what employees will say if given free texting reign is challenging. Without consistency and control, mistakes like spelling errors, wrong information, and overly long or promotional texts quickly multiply at the crucial outreach stage.
Chat starters prevent these missteps by being templated, giving you full control to optimize while still personalizing message content so your message is always consistent and correct. This makes it much easier to solicit the all-important first response that opens the door to having real one-to-one conversations, the key to earning trust, building a relationship and moving customers towards wider business outcomes like sales and retention.
Besides these, chat starters yield other significant, ongoing benefits that help building long-lasting customer relationships, including:
- Non-invasive. Fast and easy to read, chat starters are discreet and unobtrusive way to secure a customer’s attention compared to cold calls or random email blasts.
- Conversational. An invitation to a two-way conversation that people prefer to generic promotional message blasting, chat starters templated with the right inquisitive language and sent at the right time spark a conversation and encourage a direct response from the customer.
- Ease, speed, efficiency. With only a few variable fields to fill, chat starters let you send high volumes of compliant, personalized first-touch messages quickly and efficiently.
- Prioritization. The ease, speed, and efficiency of chat starters frees up employees to spend more time on higher-valued opportunities with better chances of success.
- Legal Compliance. Chat starters keep you compliant by letting you easily template required Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) information - such as identifying who you are, the business you represent, and why you are reaching out - as well as segment your audience into who you are allowed to text (only those who have opted in or you have an existing business relationship with).
- Brand Compliance. Chat starters standardize tone and voice, ensuring messages also comply with your brand and marketing guidelines.
- Personalization. Customers prefer personalized messages and although chat starters are mostly pre-written, they also leave enough room to build in personalization, like the customer’s name and their interaction history.
- Performance. With open, response, and click-through rates as high as 98%, 45%, and 15%, respectively, texting outperforms other ways of connecting with customers – all of which leads to more conversions.
Chat starter best practices
Poorly-worded chat starters can rub discerning customers the wrong way and prevent conversations from even starting. The step from having no reason to respond to requesting a Do Not Contact (DNC) is a short one, so when templating chat starters for your campaigns, avoid the following common mistakes:
- Too sales-focused. If a customer is not in a sales mindset, any message that hypes a sales angle comes across as too transactional and promotional.
- Too much information. Concision is the key to business texting, so keep your message to between 15-20 words, short and sweet.
- “Suspicious” wording. Most of us are attuned to shady marketing, so avoid using overly promotional language like “free stuff” or “act now”.
- Non-conversational. Customers need a reason to respond, so texts without open-ended questions or that include too much information quickly hit a wall.
- Too specific. Avoid overwhelming customers with product details. Start general and move them to more precise, personalized information depending on their responses.
- Too bland. As the first campaign message, a chat starter should pique their interest and get them to respond, so avoid blandness in favor of a punchy hook.
The more complicated a campaign, the simpler the chat starter should be. Remember you’re playing the long game in a campaign, and simple back-and-forth conversations will nudge the customer toward its goals.
For example, after a new customer buys a phone, the chat starter for a welcome campaign is simple as saying thanks and that you’re checking in to see how they like the product. Once they respond, you can begin a one-to-one conversation that is always pivoting to ask more questions and discover new opportunities to help the customer or find entry points to further sales.
Response best practices
The ability to have a two-way conversation drives the success of business texting, so managing a customer’s first response to a chat starter is pivotal to relationship’s future. The first step is to answer every inbound text quickly, but here are some other tips for handling various responses:
- Positive response. A positive response demonstrates the customer is primed for conversation, so begin asking them more pointed questions that nurture them towards campaign goals.
- Neutral response. Responses like “Who is this?” or “You have the wrong number” often stem from a lack of intel on your side. Apologize for the mistake, double-check your in-house information, and ask the textee quick questions to clarify where you went wrong.
- No response. After a few days, send an even shorter message, worded to keep it open-ended and conversational, like “Hey it’s Neal! Did you get my last message?”
- Negative response. Text back customers who respond negatively right away. You don’t want to push people away, so your messaging needs to be empathetic, listening to the customer, and solutions-oriented, remediating the issue as soon as possible.
Time to start chat starters
Chat starters are an incredibly versatile and valuable tool for customer outreach, especially for telecoms and financial institutions. They can be leveraged for any campaign, from welcome campaigns to product launches to soliciting feedback that improves customer support. And, instead of one-way SMS marketing blasts, chat starters initiate an ongoing conversation that brings the customer toward your campaign goal.
Striking a delicate balance between consistency and flexibility, templated messages with customizable fields allow for the right amount of personalization while maintaining control and compliance. And by increasing the likelihood of response, chat starters become the vanguard of the responsive, empathetic conversations that business texting excels at and that lead to conversion, trust, and retention – all of which impact long-term revenue and growth.
To learn how to start a conversation the right way, every time, book a demo today.