Why Can’t We Text Companies Yet?

How many phone calls have you placed in the past week vs. texts?

How do you feel when you figure out you have to call customer service to resolve an issue?

How many times have you had to repeat your information to 2–3 different representatives before you could get your issue resolved?

I’m going to guess the answers to those questions, in order, are- not even half, dread, and “Ugh.”

So why do businesses still insist on driving customers to the phone?

It’s more expensive for the company, because an agent can only talk to one customer at a time.

It’s super annoying for the customer, who just wants to get a quick question answered and not wait on hold for 8 minutes listening to jazz and a robotic message about how important their call is.

It’s also much more stressful for agents, who have to find answers in real time, and talk down customers who range from mildly annoyed to irate over and over. No wonder the turnover rate for customer support employees is somewhere around 30%.

Live chat can be a step up, but it still requires you to sit in front of a device with the window open and answer questions on the agent’s time. You still have to supply identifying information, and you certainly can’t get anything else done while engaged in the session. Also, how many times have you started typing in a chat window only to receive a super empathetic and not at all infuriating message letting you know that no agents are available at the moment?

On the business’s end, they still have the high cost of the agent-customer ratio (anywhere from 1:1 to 1:3 at best) and the agent’s stress in needing to produce answers in real time. Imagine frantically trying to scroll through a customer’s record while two others are typing, “Are you there??!”

Bots can help answer simple requests like forgotten passwords or order confirmations, but they’re far from being able to handle complex situations with efficiency and empathy.

Imagine if you could just send a quick text saying, “I need to change my flight from Thursday to Friday,” or “I need to return a shirt I just received but I lost the return label,” and go about your day until you had the time to return to that conversation. Your phone number would pull up your record from the CRM, so there would be no need to let the agent know who you are or dig up an order confirmation.

You could go to the grocery store, and while you’re waiting in line behind the lady trying to find a coupon at the bottom of her purse, you see the business has replied to you. It may have taken the agent three minutes or even five to respond, but you didn’t notice because you weren’t compelled to sit there and stare at your phone. You see a message like, “Hi Emily! I was able to find a flight tomorrow at 7:11 am out of O’hare for only $50 extra. Does that work for you?” You write back, “Yes- thank you so much!!” and vow to only ever fly this airline because they’re so easy to work with. As you’re loading your groceries into the car, you receive a text with a confirmation number and a link to your new e-ticket. Done.

Oh and while you were picking out your fruits and veggies, that agent also texted with ten other customers and got their inquiries solved.

So the question remains: Why don’t more businesses offer text and mobile messaging? The answer seems to be a simple one: fear.

Most business leaders know that customers prefer texting and mobile messaging to calling or emailing and waiting 1–3 business days for a response. The problem is, they associate SMS with words like “spam” and TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act.) These can be valid fears if you’re talking about marketing. Under TCPA there are explicit rules about ensuring that customers know they’re opting in to marketing messaging and can easily opt out.

Texting for customer support is a whole different ball game, because the customer has contacted YOU first. A business will not be penalized for texting a customer back after they have reached out, because simply by sending your company a text, the customer has opted in to receive messages back from your company in relation to that issue. (You can’t go ahead and send them spammy marketing stuff after.)

Another fear businesses have is that it might be hard to implement a messaging channel and train their workers. Any good enterprise messaging platform will integrate seamlessly into the CRM so that texts pop up right inside the customer record along with any other communications. (No new software training needed.)

If agents have already been doing live chat, texting is much, much easier because they have a luxurious three minutes or so to send a response. They can buy even more time with an autoresponder saying something like, “Thanks for your message! An agent will be with you in just a couple minutes.” Given that most call center employees are on the younger side, you can bet they know how to use emojis better than they know how to transfer a call to their supervisor.

Recently Doug Kramon, who is in charge of customer operations and fan support for ESPN, did a webinar where he talked about the amazing results he’s seen since implementing texting for customer support more than two years ago. Fans text in for things like resetting their fantasy draft, forgotten passwords, or having streaming issues when trying to watch a game online. Here’s the graphic:

If you want to listen to the whole presentation, it’s here. Not pictured here is the fact that texting and mobile messaging have increased both agent and customer satisfaction.

The bottom line is, as customers we just want to get our problems solved and questions answered quickly, efficiently, and pleasantly. We want businesses to communicate with us on our own terms and stop wasting our time. We don’t care which department handles what. We already entered our information and don’t want to repeat it yet again. We just need to exchange a shirt for a bigger size because we ate too much ice cream over the summer. And we hate jazz.

Looking for more info on how your business can get texting? Reach out to us at Teckst.