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January 29, 2014

Add Value to Customer Support with Text Messaging

In a Customer Interaction conference session at ITEXPO Miami, “Creating Brand Advocates through Contextual Customer Experience,” Jeff Cordell, SVP Technology at West Corporation, highlighted the significance of omni-channel solutions as a method of customer interactions, and how text messaging specifically can be used to increase engagement, improve brand image and merge automation with human interaction to deliver an above-and-beyond customer experience.

First, the facts: It costs five to 10 times more for a company to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one. Delivering positive customer experiences is more important now than ever – not only because customers are sharing these experiences across the Internet, which can influence your potential customer base, but because the Internet also enables them to research and switch to your competitors.

Cordell explained there are three main aspects of customer interaction management:

  • Automated self-service (IVR)
  • Proactive communication (Voice, text messaging)
  • Contextual customer experience (stitching everything together)  

The emphasis of Cordell’s session was on text messaging and how companies can use the channel to a whole new level for customer support. While almost every mobile device user today uses peer-to-peer (P2P) texting, using text messaging as part of an enterprise strategy is application-to-person (A2P) messaging, which is automated. However, companies like West provide an SMS assistant solution to find a happy medium between A2P and P2P, putting humans behind the short code and allowing them to take over A2P if a customer needs assistance beyond the automated response.

One West customer who adopted a short code texting option saw more than 10 million customers opt-in in just one year. Cordell discussed some of the options that take these automated messaging solutions a step beyond just automated messaging: As technology becomes more sophisticated, these automated responses can be customized to recognize customer responses, such as someone writing “TY” to mean “thank you” in a text. But wait, how many people really even respond to automated messages? Cordell said he was completely shocked to see more than one million responses come in a day for just that one customer.

“You have to adapt just like it was an agent, as another channel of the contact center,” he said.

Automated messages also have to be able to detect sentiment, like when customers are angry, asking for more information or if they are not actually the correct contact. West uses the technology in IBM’s Watson to appropriately respond to someone in natural language.

As much as the world is growing toward real-time communication, text is still accepted as a channel that doesn’t have to be attended to right when a message is received – waiting 15-20 minutes to bring an agent into the conversation is OK if it means the customer isn’t stuck in an automated trap.

Cordell also talked about big data, and not just as a buzzword but as a way to use all different kinds of data – when customers respond, how they respond – to determine who they are and provide more personalized offers in the future.

Other factors like M2M, video and location-based services are only going to drive the growth of text messaging used as a support channel. The number of devices and endpoints are growing, video-based Internet traffic is growing and sensors are enabling location-based services to make these text messages more personalized, relevant and helpful.  

One thing is for sure: Marketing and support budgets are coming together, and text messaging is another channel for organizations to utilize and take advantage of to improve customer experience, and in turn, create brand ambassadors. 

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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