Even in today’s technology-driven age, there remains a disconnect between how individuals communicate with each other and how businesses connect with their customers. The difference is text messaging and it’s significant.
With 98 percent of smartphone owners using text messages on a regular basis, it’s baffling to see that a mere 14 percent of businesses regularly use text messaging, despite a recent survey stating that nearly 90 percent of consumers want to communicate with businesses via text.
Messaging – including both short messaging service (SMS) and multimedia messaging service (MMS) – creates an opportunity for businesses to share relevant information quickly with their customers, as well as differentiate themselves by providing a channel to drive sales and improve the overall customer experience. Further, businesses now have the ability to unify both calling and messaging on one phone number, including both new and existing landline and mobile numbers.
Below is a checklist of three key questions that small to medium businesses should consider when evaluating how to utilize messaging in their customer communications.
1. Am I engaging with customers in their preferred method?
When asked which communications channel they preferred to use when engaging with a business, more than 1,300 consumers surveyed cited an overwhelming preference for messaging over other methods like email or voice/phone interactions. Messaging was seen as being both more relevant and timely than email, with respondents noting they only opened roughly 25 percent of the emails they received from businesses, versus 82 percent of their text messages received from businesses.
When so many influential users agree across a number of different industries, it is time for companies to take notice. Businesses that still rely on email to get time-sensitive information and offers to customers have lost their voice. Consumers increasingly depend on and demand messaging services that let them interact with businesses in a fast and convenient manner.
2. What impact will messaging have on my business?
There are a number of use cases for messaging, serving industries such as retail, utilities, healthcare and pharmacy, and banking and financial services, among others. Specifically:
As more businesses move their servers into the cloud, take on partners or create portals for customers, better authentication has moved from a “nice to have” to “absolutely essential.” Two-factor authentication via SMS is one of the most cost-effective and powerful mechanisms enterprises can deploy to protect digital assets.
Additionally, appointment reminders can help cut down on no-show rates and late appointment cancellations, which are often the single biggest drag on revenues for appointment and reservation-based businesses, which lead to staffing inefficiencies and overall operational performance challenges.
SMS can improve customer satisfaction and service by providing accurate ETA windows and real-time arrival and delivery alerts.
Quick surveys are a powerful way to harness immediate feedback from your customers. Businesses can send customized survey questions integrating data from their customer relationship management (CRM) platform or other applications and receive a higher response rate.
By providing proactive conversations around topics customers care most about, such as fraud threats and low balance notifications, banks, and other financial institutions can build a level of trust that will make a lasting brand impression.
3. What criteria should I consider when selecting a messaging provider?
As with any technology purchase decision, conducting in-depth research is important to ensure that the service provider selected can meet the demands of both the business and the customers and partners that work with it.
When considering messaging as a business communications channel, below are the top criteria small and medium-sized businesses should require from a service provider:
- Quality of service is perhaps the top criteria a service provider should meet. Customers expect instantaneous, seamless and flawless voice and messaging services from the start; anything less can negatively affect the company’s reputation, productivity, and customer loyalty.
- Ability to manage services online and through APIs. Businesses should determine if a service provider can provide their developers with control and direct access to telephony resources such as phone numbers, inbound/outbound calling, and advanced signaling data via APIs. Further, developers should be able to access a web portal for service ordering, number porting and service management. Without this, operating processes can be delayed with potentially negative consequences for the customer experience.
- Utilization of existing phone numbers. Until recently, business phone numbers, local and toll-free, could not send or receive text messages. That is no longer the case. Today, businesses in the United States use more than 100 million local and toll-free phone numbers and often invest significant resources and dollars on marketing or promotional campaigns to ensure those phone numbers are easy for customers to remember. A carrier should have the ability to unify calling and messaging on one number, using existing business phone numbers.
- Flexibilty and scalability. Onboarding new users and transferring phone numbers can be two of the biggest challenges that companies face when it comes to moving their telecom services. It’s important that a provider offers simplified operations to ensure smooth adoption and control over the porting process. A provider with reliable operations will have extensive experience with onboarding and automated porting, as well as with the call flow design, support, service, and custom implementations processes.
Organizations of all sizes are beginning to see the benefits of incorporating messaging into their communications services, and finding that the transition doesn’t have to be a painful or difficult process.
Those choosing not to support messaging are closing the door on potential customers who are actively seeking engagement. As a result, these companies are inconveniencing customers and ignoring opportunities to build their brands.
If you are thinking about adding messaging as a communications channel, check out Flowroute’s SMS and MMS capabilities, delivered through an API. Our team of messaging experts would be happy to talk through your use case – firstname.lastname@example.org.