SMS Customer Service & Support: The New Standard for 2021 Consumers

SMS Customer Service & Support: The New Standard for 2021 Consumers

Postscript

January 14, 2021

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Discover the benefits of providing 1:1 customer service and support communications with SMS

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. You call customer support to solve a problem. You navigate through confusing menus, suffer through painful hold music, then get bounced around from one unhelpful agent to another. Or you send an email to customer service, then wait 24 hours for an initial response and days for a final resolution.

Sound familiar?

Customer service needs an upgrade. In fact, 90% of consumers say customer service is important to their loyalty to a brand and 58% of consumers globally will sever a relationship with a business due to poor customer service.

In response, businesses are making the process faster, smoother, and more convenient. One major step forward? Customer support through SMS messaging. Two-way conversations between customers and businesses in a personal format like text messaging allows quicker and more efficient problem resolution.

SMS Marketing is Taking Off…

Setting up an SMS support program doesn’t require a big behavior change for consumers. They simply text like they do with friends and family.

Businesses are catching on. In a 2019 report from EZTexting, 84% of consumers said they already received texts from a business. Of that group, many receive support-related messages:

  • 86% received appointment reminders.

  • 55% received service notifications.

  • 55% received customer service follow-ups.

… But customers want more SMS customer service

One study found that 69% of consumers would like to contact a business via text, and 54% are frustrated when unable to do so.

Another found that 66% of consumers say they want service notifications via SMS, but only 23% of businesses send them that way.

What is SMS customer support?

SMS customer support empowers companies to address customer issues via text conversations rather than more traditional outlets like email or phone.

While brands have found plenty of new ways to address customer success via phone, the most common scenario looks like this: Customers send a brief description of their problem and a live agent creates a support ticket and helps find solutions.

Why companies choose SMS support

SMS support allows companies to solve problems with lightning speed.

SMS open rates are nearly 100% and most messages are read within 5 seconds. It also reduces stress on support staff, deflecting as many as 40% of inbound calls — leading to less waiting time for customers and more efficient work days for agents.

Why consumers like SMS customer service

For consumers, SMS feels like a natural way to communicate. Texting is far less formal than other types of communication and gives the entire interaction a personal feel — like chatting with a helpful friend.

It also shows urgency. Customers say that text is their preferred form of communication for urgent matters. It’s the complete opposite of the one-to-many, bland corporate messaging that’s far too common today.

Also, people hate phone calls, especially younger generations who grew up texting.

How SMS can be used to improve customer support (an industry-by-industry guide)

SMS can solve customer issues in a wide range of industries. An ecommerce company can send digital receipts. An airline can text up-to-the-minute flight information. A salon can send appointment reminders.

The possibilities seem endless, so we’re providing the following industry-by-industry breakdown of SMS customer service applications:

Ecommerce customer support via SMS

Returns.

By answering a few quick questions and entering basic information, businesses can facilitate quick returns with SMS by providing updates on return status.

Cancellations and reroutings.

Sometimes customers need to cancel orders or reroute them to a different address. Why not make it as easy as sending a text message?

Oversold and backorder notifications.

Companies may not have an item in stock, especially in the age of COVID-19 which has shuttered factories and increased shipment times. With a well-written SMS, the company can manage customer expectations.

Shipment updates.

In an age when consumers can follow a rideshare or food delivery driver’s placement on a map, they’ll also want up-to-the-minute information on shipments. An SMS saying “the package has left our facility and is on the way” can really help. These types of messages typically come from couriers, like USPS, UPS, and FedEx.

Ratings & reviews.

Why is it important to solicit customer feedback via SMS? Only 1 out of 26 customers will complain about an issue. (We’ve all been at a restaurant, didn’t like the food but declined to make a fuss.) If prompted by a text message, customers are likely more inclined to offer some feedback. It also takes a lot of motivation for someone to take the time to write a positive review — so make it easy with a quick text asking “write us a quick review” or “rate us for 1-5.”

Firing off a quick text response is a much easier lift and will lead to more positive reviews for your company. And obviously it’ll help you address issues quickly. With reviews in hand, services like Junip and Okendo can help you turn their responses into action by capturing great reviews, user-generated images and showcasing them on your website and social channels.

Service industry customer support via SMS

From beauty to healthcare, any service-oriented business can use SMS messages to communicate with customers and help them solve pressing issues.

Appointment reminders.

Gently remind people of upcoming appointments via SMS. Since read rates are nearly 100%, chances are high that your reminder will get noticed. That should lead to higher no-shows — saving your business time and money.

This is particularly important with younger demographics. In fact, 78% of millennials prefer appointment reminders via text than other communications like phone calls.

Scheduling and cancelling appointments.

Why make people make a phone call to schedule appointments or make a cancellation? Allow them to fire off a quick text message to handle that task quickly.

Customer surveys.

Feedback is crucial in any service industry. Learn about potential problems by sending an SMS customer survey after an appointment or service call.

Travel industry customer support via SMS

Booking information.

Airlines, hotels, and travel agents can send booking information via SMS. That allows easy access for travelers and is far more efficient than fumbling around with paper tickets, downloading an app for one-time use, or searching for a message in a sea of email.

Updates.

Whether it’s a flight delay or hotel room that’s open before check-in, travelers want up-to-the-minute information — and text is the best way to get in front of them quickly.

Changes/cancellations.

Finding a new flight, changing a rental car reservation, or cancelling altogether shouldn’t require a lengthy phone call. A few back-and-forth SMS messages can do the trick and save time.

Travel industry customer support via SMS

Digital receipts and order confirmation

In the age of COVID-19, many restaurants have increased takeout and delivery capacity. SMS can provide digital receipts and order confirmations that make the process easier. Plus it’s a powerful potential marketing tool. A restaurant can share discounts and special deals to attract them back again — crucial to survival as many are struggling to find new revenue channels.

Delivery updates and contactless handoff instructions

A restaurant can explain exactly when a customer should expect their food, and provide updates if they’re running late. They can also send instructions about delivery and contactless handoffs.

Feedback.

Solicit feedback from customers to learn more about how they enjoyed the meal and areas where you might improve.

Financial services customer support via SMS

Security alerts.

If your bank or credit card company notices suspicious activity, you want to know right away. A text message is certain to grab your attention.

Billing.

Banks can send monthly payment reminders to keep customers informed and on track. They can also answer basic questions, provide account balances, set up automatic payments, or remove old bank accounts.

Notifications.

Banks can share information about overdrafts, low balances, or rate changes. They can send reminders for payment due dates, or notify an investor that a stock has risen or fallen by a certain amount.

Pharmacy customer support via SMS

Prescription status.

Why wait inside a pharmacy while your prescription is being filled? Instead, many pharmacies will offer SMS alerts when a prescription is ready for pick up. They’ll also let you know when it’s time for a refill and allow you to opt-in to receive it.

Questions.

Should I take this medication with food? Will it make me drowsy? How does this medicine interact with others I’m currently taking? SMS empowers pharmacists to provide quick answers to patients so they get optimal results and don’t experience harmful side effects.

Vaccination reminders.

The high strain on healthcare professionals has led many to seek vaccinations from pharmacies instead. Once you’re on the list, the pharmacy can send a reminder for your annual flu shot or any other innoculations you might receive. If you’re lucky enough to be in line for the COVID-19 vaccine, they’ll send you a reminder for that too.

Best practices & tips for getting started with SMS customer support

Determine your goals

Do you want to route 10% of your phone and email support traffic to SMS? More? Do you want to increase customer satisfaction by a certain percentage? Make some initial goals to help you kick off your program.

Welcome new customers

An SMS support program only works if customers use it. That’s why you need to spread the word. Send them a welcome text to let them know you’re ready to text with them. It could read something like this:

"Thank you for enrolling in SMS messages from our business. If you ever have a problem, our customer care team is a text message away."

Be ready with pre-written responses

Your customers will probably ask the same questions over and over. Write answers to obvious questions and keep them on hand to provide quick but thorough answers. Don’t turn the channel into an automated chatbot, but having those pre-written responses will save you some time.

Find your voice

If your company is more straight laced, keep the automatic message more formal.

“Thank you for your request. We take every effort to help you. We’ll be in touch soon.”

If your company is more fun — be more fun.

“Hi there! If you’re reaching out, chances are you’re having a rough time. Sorry to hear that. We’re on it.”

Develop a plan for categorizing messages

Perhaps you’ll take a first-in-first-out approach. Or you’ll prioritize them by urgency or customer value. In any case, remember that speed is key and customers want prompt responses — so use a bit of automation in the first few messages to buy your team some time.

Best practices for building your opt-in SMS list

Perhaps you’ll take a first-in-first-out approach. Or you’ll prioritize them by urgency or customer value. In any case, remember that speed is key and customers want prompt responses — so use a bit of automation in the first few messages to buy your team some time.

Just ask!

You don’t get what you don’t ask for. Simply request that potential and existing customers text a keyword to a certain number. Or ask them to enroll via email or direct message on social media. Be sure to explain why you want their phone number and how it will benefit them.

Spread the word about SMS in existing marketing materials.

Tell customers about SMS support on social media, your website, in email, or on the pre-recorded message in your customer service hotline. Simply knowing the option exists will get customers to opt in. Use a smart link and let folks sign up if they are interested.

Offer opt-in incentives.

Some people may need a little coaxing. Offer them a discount coupon or free gift for choosing SMS. It’ll pay dividends down the line because you can use text messages to market to those consumers too.

Add one-click-to-opt-in mobile popups to high trafficked pages.

When collecting data, don’t forget to collect phone numbers too.

Add SMS helpdesk services.

Seamlessly create helpdesk tickets when a customer sends an SMS. Postscript has integrations with Gorgias and Zendesk so support agents can respond in the platform they’re already using to manage customer support — and their responses are sent out via the same SMS number in the same thread.

Compliance

SMS messaging comes with much stricter rules than email or social media. You must stay compliant with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and similar laws.

How do SMS compliance regulations impact SMS customer support?

If you don’t have permission to send SMS messages for customer support, you could receive big fines ranging from $500-$1,500 per violation. That’s a steep price to pay for sending SMS messages to customers who did not opt-in to your SMS marketing or unsubscribed but still stayed on your list.Here’s a short list of ways to stay compliant:

  • Only send SMS messages to subscribers who agreed to receive them

  • Provide an easy way to unsubscribe

  • Disclose that message and data rates apply

  • Update your Terms of Service & Privacy Policy

If you’re looking for messaging to add to a check box or other communication, use this: “I agree to receive recurring automated text messages at the phone number provided. Consent is not a condition to purchase. Msg & data rates may apply. View our Terms of Service for details.”

Software tools & platforms for SMS customer support

APIs Integrations

Some services use API integrations to allow text messaging with minimal coding. Some offer two-way SMS interactions as well as one-to-many programmable messaging. These services tend to be one tool in a very large toolbox of services, meaning the providers are focused on lots of things, not just SMS. Twilio and Amazon Simple Notification Service are popular options.

Mass texting solutions

Not designed for 1:1 communication, these services allow you to send mass messages to you customers. They’re good for widespread customer support alerts and notifications but aren’t designed to support back-and-forth conversations. Examples include Textedly and Slicktext.

Customer support platforms

General support solutions have branched out into texting. They integrate into systems you might currently be using — and can automatically turn texts into support tickets. But 1:1 conversations aren’t so easy because every message runs through the customer support platform then to the customer. Examples include ZenDesk and Gorgias.

Purpose built SMS solutions

Provide nuanced, personalized, and effective customer support that can be automated and streamlined with solutions built specifically for SMS. They allow businesses to understand exactly who they are talking to and approach support in a 1:1 manner. Also, when companies work on nothing but creating SMS experiences, they tend to deliver a more powerful solution. Postscript is a solution that falls into this category.

Postscript

Postscript