Did you know 5 billion people globally send and receive text messages as of today? That staggering number is essentially 65% of the world’s population and it is only expected to grow in this decade. With the exponential growth in mobile phone usage, business text messaging has become an immensely influential tool to build relationships between businesses and consumers and convert prospects into loyal customers.
Business text messaging is exactly what it sounds like - organizations using business SMS platforms to communicate effectively and exchange information with different stakeholders of the company via text messages. However, business text messaging is no longer restricted to just SMS – it encompasses various other over-the-top (OTT) messaging platforms (WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger) and Rich Communication Services (RCS).
Why do you need texting in business?
"From my perspective, any consumer-facing business that seeks to nurture, engage, and grow its customer base can leverage one-to-one texting. I would be hard pressed to find any consumer brand that would say "no" to this point. And for that reason, it's clear that business text messaging is a ubiquitous channel regardless of industry." - Peter Macnee, CEO at Statflo
On an average, it takes about 7 hours and 4 minutes for the customer support team to respond to the tickets coming their way. That is a lot of time, right? Today’s customers are busy and don’t have the time or patience to wait for you to follow up with them. With so many choices available, they are not hesitant to make the switch to your competitors if they fail to receive timely communication from your end. Communicating with customers over their preferred channels with appropriate information is a major part of customer service and customer service plays a big role in customer retention.
To answer the question of why you need one-to-one business text messaging, you need to grasp the importance of reaching customers wherever they are most comfortable communicating. The focus should be on developing an omnichannel communication strategy based on cross channel integration that promises seamless connectivity between businesses and customers.
Texting has to be a big part of this omnichannel customer outreach strategy because it is the most convenient channel to have conversations. Let’s take a look at some stats to back our statement here:
- 98% of adults aged 18 to 29 in the US own a device capable of receiving a text message. With 3.3 billion monthly active users globally just between WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, the popularity and market penetration of OTT apps is tremendous. This means texting almost has a universal presence among your audience and this ease of accessibility makes it the emerging communication platform between customers and businesses.
- According to this Twilio report, 9 out of 10 users would like to talk to businesses using messaging. So, if you are not using SMS for business communication and incorporating customer messaging in your outreach strategy, you are losing out on a big chunk of opportunities.
- A study recently reported that 90% of business leads prefer text messages over phone calls. With the advent of numerous user-friendly texting platforms, that number is only growing. This shows how important text outreach is for converting leads to customers, even in a B2B setting.
- As per a study, SMS has a 98% open rate as compared to emails which only have a 22% open rate. Direct text marketing saves you time while promising better open, response, and conversion rates.
The bottom line here is that businesses have to take into account customer communication preferences and plan their customer outreach strategy accordingly. Text messaging is convenient for customers to connect to businesses and hence, it has to be a part of every organization’s communication plan.
How do you use one-to-one business texting?
One-to-one business texting has a huge advantage over chatbots and bulk messaging as you can use it to forge a connection with your audience and influence customer loyalty. The use cases of this personalized communication channel go way beyond sales-y, impersonal, and irrelevant messages that go something like “Click on this link to win a voucher worth $100!” or “Reply YES to enter this giveaway!".
Here are some popular ways in which businesses can use personalized messaging to engage their customers:
1. To follow up with your customers
When you follow up with customers after they have purchased your product or service, it shows the customer that you genuinely care about them. Imagine you just bought a new car for yourself. A couple of weeks after your purchase, you receive a message from your car dealer checking to make sure everything is working well with your car and to enquire if there is anything you need their help with. That would be so reassuring, right? Now you know whom to contact directly if you face any problems with your car. Also, you would not mind recommending this car dealer the next time someone in your social circle is looking for suggestions to buy a new car. That’s the power of preemptively following up with your customers via customized text messages!
2. To convey crucial information
Transactional text messages allow businesses to communicate crucial information to the customer regarding their product or service. These text messages can alert customers regarding updates like shipping information. They also play an important role in reminding customers about actions needed on their end such as payments for subscription renewals. Organizations belonging to certain verticals like finance and insurance can also use text messages to convey critical information like account balance and transaction details.
3. To schedule appointments
Studies show that 75% of millennials want to receive communication about deliveries, surveys, and appointments over text messages. Given the convenience and ease of use of text message communication, this statistic is justified. Businesses across industries that operate on reservations and appointments can leverage one-to-one business text messaging to schedule and confirm appointments as well as send reminders about upcoming reservations. Healthcare and wellness organizations, hospitality ventures, travel and tourism businesses, transport companies, real estate agents, legal services, and recruitment firms are some of the enterprises that can effectively use text messaging channels for appointment management.
4. To address customer service inquiries
Offering customer support through text messages is one of the most advocated use cases of one-to-one business text messaging. When customers face an issue with your product or service, they expect a prompt response from your side.
Did you know 62% of companies do not respond to customer emails? Those who do respond, their average response time is 12 hours and their slowest response time is about 8 days! Nobody has the patience to wait for that long, right?
The lack of a channel to get in touch with the customer service team or failure on the business’ part to reply briskly to customers often leads to them jumping ship.
From a customer standpoint, texting a customer support agent is much easier than dealing with delayed responses to emails, automated replies from chatbots, and long waiting times on phones. From a business standpoint, grievance redressal via messaging is cost efficient as it saves operational costs. Investing in an enterprise SMS solution costs less than setting up a call center. According to this Forrester study, the average customer service phone call costs about $16. Compared to that, the average text thread costs between $1 to $5 per interaction.
5. To promote offers and discounts
A popular survey shows that mobile coupons get 10 times the redemption rate of traditional coupons. This advocates the use of text messages to approach customers with offers and discounts they might be interested in. From info on upcoming sales and hot deals to the latest product arrivals and specials, there are multiple ways in which businesses can capitalize on cross-sell and up-sell opportunities via text messaging.
Businesses have to be careful and exercise caution when it comes to promoting offers and discounts via text messages though. If you overdo it and constantly bombard your customers with promotional messages, customers will simply opt-out. Remember when we talked about how nobody pays attention to messages like “Click on this link to win a voucher worth $100!”?
6. To communicate remotely when face-to-face isn't an option
Let us take the case of a pharmaceutical company trying to adjust to the new normal of working remotely. Their sales teams regularly need to visit clinics and meet with doctors to give samples of their latest products and drugs. While the shipping part can be taken care of by mail services, it is difficult to schedule virtual visitations and book times with doctors to explain their products. That is where they can leverage a business texting platform to communicate with the doctors about their product features and get them to give feedback virtually. Opting for an advanced text messaging platform that is equipped with the ability to send video chat links or request e-signatures over text will be a huge advantage in such scenarios.
How to develop a business text messaging strategy that improves ROI?
A business text messaging strategy can rarely have a one-size-fits-all approach. Improving ROI and driving sales via interactions depends on a ton of factors. However, some tried-and-tested steps form the backbone of a successful SMS marketing campaign. They are:
1. Identifying interaction points during the customer journey
Interaction Design Foundation defines customer touchpoints as the various interactions (including encounters where there is no physical interaction) that might alter the way that your customer feels about your product, brand, business, or service. For example, in a post-paid wireless environment, there is a touchpoint in the first 30 days of activation, then again mid-contract (12 months), and then again, a few months before the contract is set to renew/upgrade. Depending upon the nature of your business and the vertical it belongs to, you will have a varying number of customer touchpoints throughout the customer journey. Having an in-depth understanding of these touchpoints can help you improve user experience and drive sales by interacting with the customer at crucial decision-making moments.
2. Defining the suitable channel and messaging type
Based on the customer touchpoints, businesses need to identify the best-suited channel for that particular interaction. To do this, businesses need to ask themselves, “What is the best channel to converse with the customer for this topic? Is it over an email, a text message, a WhatsApp message, a phone call, or does it need a face-to-face conversation?”
Also, it is essential to determine what kind of messaging works best at every customer touchpoint. Does this message need a personalized, two-way conversation or is it simply generic information that can be conveyed to all the customers and leads via a message blast? Answering these types of questions will get you closer to nailing your customer messaging strategy.
3. Personalizing conversation based on the customer’s history with your business
In a recent study of 1,000 customers and 50 retailers across the United States, 86% of consumers said personalization at least has some impact on their purchasing decisions. This means today’s customers expect businesses to know their preferences and choices even before the conversation begins.
Personalized text messaging for businesses has to take into account the customer’s history with the business before striking up a conversation. Otherwise, the business might end up driving the customer away with irrelevant information that adds no value. For instance, imagine you are a loyal user of the iPhone and your telco retailer reaches out to you with a promotional offer for the latest Samsung device in the market. You are going to end up ignoring the message, right? That’s why personalization of conversations based on the customer’s purchase history is very critical to driving customer engagement.
4. Keeping the brand tone and messaging consistent
Focus on creating a standard brand guideline that clearly outlines your messaging style and tone. Make sure your frontline staff adheres to this framework while doing any kind of text messaging outreach exercise or SMS marketing campaign. Maintaining uniformity of tone and consistency of messaging makes it easier for sales reps to cover for each other without letting it affect the customer experience. With the high employee turnover rate in retail, this is especially critical.
5. Training the frontline staff
In business text messaging, the customer-facing employee has to be receptive to the behaviors and preferences of the consumer even though they are not physically in front of each other. Frontline staff must be able to understand and solve the customer’s problem via text messaging. In addition to coaching them on using the business SMS platform, they also need to be taught the fundamentals of relationship building and customer engagement. Inculcating a deeper understanding of customer expectations will help them deliver better customer experience over text messages and will ultimately improve customer retention.
6. Reporting and auditing conversations
To ensure the efficiency of your SMS marketing and text outreach campaigns, it is essential to have a business SMS platform that lets you audit the conversations your frontline staff has with your customers. This kind of reporting and auditing exercise will let you control the narrative reaching your audience. It will also help you to analyze and identify what is working and what is not working.
To summarize, there can be no single business text messaging strategy that improves ROI. What is working today might not work tomorrow. The key is to keep a close eye on industry trends and conversation reports and pivot your strategy based on customer feedback.
What are some of the best practices for business text messaging?
As effective as conversational text messaging is, it can quickly spell disaster for your business if it goes wrong. One oversight or honest mistake from your frontline worker and you may find yourself caught in a complex web of lawsuits. To avoid this, it is vital to follow some rules that are indispensable to business texting.
Here are some of the best business text messaging practices that promise an enhanced customer experience while adhering to compliance guidelines:
- Replace spammy text blasts with personalized, intelligent conversations
- Segment your audience into specific groups based on what they have in common
- Target each segment with relevant, value-driven text messages
- Quick follow-ups are essential – you cannot afford to keep your customers on read!
- Keep it conversational, short, and simple – Don’t type a wall of text in your message
- Focus on nurturing relationships through interactions and problem solving
- Use a business texting solution for streamlining the process
- Check your spellings and grammar – Typos are a strict no-no!
- Keep it compliant and secure – The fines from TCPA (US) and CASL (Canada) are hefty and embarrassing!
- Maintain professionalism while texting customers – leave personal politics out of it