An Introduction to Two-Way SMS for Contact Centers
A two-way SMS platform is one that incorporates outbound and inbound text messaging into a unified service. SMS is one of the fastest-growing channels for business communication. And it’s no surprise as SMS engagement and costs outperform the more traditional phone and email. Here are a few surprising stats:
- SMS open rates beat email nearly 5x over: 90% vs 20% – Open rate of SMS compared to email open rates (VoiceSage).
- It takes the average person 90 seconds to respond to a text message ((GSMA).
- 75% of people wouldn’t mind receiving an SMS text message from a brand (after opt-in) (Digital Marketing Magazine).
It used to be that outbound SMS-alert functionality alone was enough to hit the messaging mark. Many brands still simply use texting as a means to send messages in real-time to large groups of customers simultaneously. What they don’t realize is that many of those messages are getting responses. This means you could be leaving some serious relationship-building opportunities (not to mention cash) on the table.
Here is the most astonishing thing to consider: According to LiveVox survey data, 60% of the one-way SMS messages you’re sending are getting responses that go unanswered. That amounts to a huge missed opportunity.
To help you turn a one-way message blast into a true engagement, in this article, we lay out three core aspects of successful two-way SMS adoption:
- Two-way SMS basics
- The potential value add of conversational messaging for your organization
These SMS basics will help you get up to speed and scale as your digital engagement grows.
Create a Meaningful Hello
Two-way SMS is almost like creating a conversation with a stranger. You have to make sure you’re saying something interesting and impactful because customers actually want to talk back to you on this channel. This touch goes a long way for customer service. A simple “Welcome” message can translate into some serious NPS points.
In highly-regulated industries like financial services, for instance, these messages can also bolster data security posture and give your customers an added sense of protection.
But Make Sure It’s Compliant…
Compliance is essentially constantly confirming and re-confirming you as a business are engaging with customers on their terms. You can’t just buy a list of numbers and start texting. You have to build an opt-in list that tracks obtained consent by the customer.
To build your SMS messaging database, you first need consent to engage with a consumer. To do so, you need to ask their permission. Obtaining consent for the initial touchpoint is critical, but it’s an ongoing affirmation.
This is because brand-to-consumer SMS messaging is protected by the same regulations as calls to cell phones. Just like there are rules about how you can conduct calls to cell phones that come with some pretty steep fines, TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) governs text messages, too. In broad strokes,TCPA states that organizations must obtain written, explicit consent from the consumer before contact can be made on a mobile channel.
This is why it’s crucial to go for platforms with built-in consent management. That way you can accomplish the following:
- Acquire the customer’s express written consent to receive messages via SMS. Written permission may include electronic or digital forms of signature (such as a website form, text message, or email confirmation).
- Maintain a record of each customer’s consent.
- Disclose useful information and opt-out instructions.
- Offer the ability to revoke consent and opt-out at any time (e.g., a STOPkeyword.)
Like earthquake insurance and rainboots on a sunny day, TCPA is probably one of the most important things you didn’t know you needed to protect yourself against. Thankfully, making sure you’re on the right side of TCPA isn’t as difficult as reading insurance policy fine print.
Continue the Conversation
What makes conversational SMS so desirable is that after the initial point of consent, you can contact customers by text moving forward with information about updates, issues, and promotions, even invitations to join VIP programs, events, or surveys.
This creates a personalized experience by leveraging what you already know they want to know about. You can use the data you collect with each interaction to build on that value and generate new opportunities for more meaningful conversations.
In addition to fraud alerts, consumers are more apt to receive texts about payment reminders, low balance alerts, etc. But the data shows they’re receptive to so much more.
SMS provides a twofold benefit because you’re enabling constant contact while also gathering vital intel that can be utilized to better understand customer preferences, history, and intent. With this information, you can then further develop relationships that yield positive ROI-benefits for your company’s bottom line
If You Do It Right… They Want to Talk Back
Consider your own everyday use of messaging as a proxy. You use your personal phone for business, you receive text updates about packages that have been delivered, maybe you even make appointments via text.
SMS texting is part of our everyday communications. As Deloitte points out in their most recent mobile usage study from 2018, the vast majority of consumers worldwide have access to this capability on their mobile phones. People often send more text messages than they place voice calls or email.
Texting has also changed from a short one-way communication to an ongoing conversation between people, and consumers are now expecting this same fast easy communication with the brands they use everyday.
Having two-way text messaging to provide effortless service is essential to keeping customers satisfied. SMS/text notifications are ubiquitous—from doctor appointment reminders to credit card fraud notifications, they’re commonly used to send messages, alerts, and reminders. That is now the status quo.
All too often the message only goes one-way and the customer cannot reply with a question or text back anything other than a confirmation code or a request to stop receiving such messages. Or, the customer is provided a phone number to dial for further assistance. All of this creates friction on a channel that exists for quick and easy interactions. Contact centers that offer messaging have an easier time merging online and mobile channels. They also experience more success with contact rates and higher NPS scores, in addition to breaking down silos that can cause problems.
Why It’s Effective
It’s clear smart brands have adopted SMS but are primarily using it as a one-way service. You may receive an update from your mobile carrier notifying you when you’re near your data limit, or maybe an appointment reminder about your upcoming dentist visit. What many businesses don’t realize is that customers want to respond to those texts, and may already are. With 90% of all text messages read within 3 minutes of being received, the opportunity to engage with a consumer on this channel is one of the most impactful.
In addition to being a conversation launchpad, SMS is a far more cost-effective channel when compared to traditional voice. The average cost of a phone call hovers around $15.50 per interaction according to Forrester research vs $1 and $5 for SMS. Optimizing SMS in your call center is a no-brainer.
Reasons Why People Prefer SMS over Other Channels
One More Thing About Compliance…
The expansion to new channels is all about the consumer. They want to communicate with brand sin the same way they talk to their friends. They’ve driven this change across industries— from retail to finance. It’s a consumer’s world out there, and businesses have a lot of boxes to check if they want to cut through all the noise.
Incorporating SMS into your channel suite not only makes customers happy (win!) it’s practical and cost-effective. SMS is covered under the TCPA, a consumer protection whose purpose is ensuring people are reached only when they want to be.
When looking to implement two-way SMS, or a new channel of any kind for that matter, search no farther than platforms that take the mystery out of a confusing topic like compliance with built-in consent management.
And trust me on the earthquake insurance.
LiveVox is a leading provider of enterprise cloud contact center solutions, managing more than 14+ billion interactions a year across a multichannel environment. With over 15 years of pure cloud expertise, we empower contact center leaders to drive effective engagement strategies on the consumer’s channel of choice. Our leading-edge risk mitigation and security capabilities help clients quickly adapt to a changing business environment. With new features released quarterly, LiveVox remains at the forefront of cloud contact center innovation. Supported by over 450 employees and rapidly growing, we are headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Atlanta, Denver, Bangalore, and Colombia. To learn more, schedule a demo today.