By Andrew Dill, Sales Executive, Utilities
Most companies want to provide good customer service, but every second someone spends on the phone costs money. So businesses start tracking things like average call length, which leads agents to rush through calls, hurting the customer experience (CX).
Fortunately, there’s an option that both improves CX and lets you reduce call volume, and it’s located in nearly everyone’s pocket: SMS texting.
Texting is not only convenient. It’s also an increasingly popular channel of choice for millions of consumers. So to kickstart a CX revolution, here are the top four ways to lower call center costs and reduce call volume with SMS.
1. Preference Management
With keyword-based and natural language options, SMS makes it easy for customers to say when, how often and on what channels they want to be contacted. And for many of them, that channel will be through text message.
More organizations use texting to engage customers every year. At West, our SMS traffic from 2016 to 2017 rose by 87 percent. By comparison, voice traffic rose by only 5 percent.
Of course, they must opt in to receive a text message before you can use that channel to start managing preferences, so give customers a reason to join. According to Salesforce, the top five reasons consumers opt in to a brand’s text messages are:
- Coupons or deals (77%)
- Personal alerts (50%)
- Being in the loop (48%)
- More meaningful content (33%)
- No need to visit a physical location or log into a website or app (31%)
As text notifications become more common, customers will grow frustrated with brands who don’t have SMS solutions. So it’s important to keep up with the pack amid the rapid adoption of new technologies.
Throughout the process, make sure you remain compliant with regulations like the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prevents businesses from texting without permission. For more information, read our data sheet covering compliance solutions for voice and text.
2. Automation and Text Chat
Texting has evolved beyond mere notifications. Modern-day SMS solutions empower self-service opportunities that cut costs and allow agents to focus on high-value and complex problems.
According to CRM Magazine, 67 percent of customers prefer self-service for finding answers, and 91 percent of customers would use self-service if it were available.
No one likes waiting on hold, especially when they know there’s a better option. SMS isn’t just a one-way street for companies to talk to their customers. It’s evolved to increase customer service options and support complex conversations.
Even though SMS has changed over the years, every stage of the evolution plays an important role in a balanced proactive engagement strategy.
- Notify and remind customers of important information, or target audiences by sharing coupons or promoting a weekend sale.
- Engage and converse in two-way interactions using keywords, natural language or agent-assisted interactions to easily refill prescriptions or pay a credit card bill.
- Customer-initiated texting allows customers to start the conversation using a company’s toll-free number (1-800, 1-888, etc.).
- Virtual Customer Assistants learn from every interaction and create exceptional CX through automated, intelligent interactions.
Learn more about the evolution of SMS in our blog post, 5 Types of SMS Conversations for Business. All these solutions reduce call volume, help achieve business goals and align messaging channels to the preferences of your target audience.
3. Proactive Messaging
No matter how much time is spent planning, sometimes things just don’t go according to plan. Luckily, addressing outages, weather warnings or other emergencies with proactive communication helps companies in all industries increase customer satisfaction and reduce call volume during these stressful moments.
A study by J.D. Power found 82 percent of utility customers prefer to be proactively contacted during outages. It also cuts down on call center traffic, so agents can focus on the most important matters.
But proactive messaging doesn’t have to be reserved for emergencies. J.D. Power conducted another study in the automotive repair industry, where it found 67 percent of customers who received a text notification “definitely will” return. It also identified texting as the preferred channel of choice for:
- 41% of Gen Y customers (born 1977-1994)
- 25% of Gen X customers (born 1965-1976)
- 25% of Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)
- 10% of Pre-Boomers (born 1945 or earlier)
For help sending the right proactive messages, check out our five steps to creating proactive engagement strategies.
4. Multi-channel experiences
When switching between webchat, text and phone conversations, 60 percent of customers believe they’re talking to the same agent.
While SMS continues to cement its place as the nation’s channel of choice, exceptional CX isn’t created with a single text message. The best communication strategy incorporates multi-channel notifications, including voice and web solutions.
To streamline operations, share customer data from one channel to the next. Then follow these five steps to create exceptional experiences across the CX lifecycle:
- Evaluate where you are today and focus on current objectives to make wise technology investments.
- Get to know customers by mapping multiple customer journeys to connect where they’re looking for you.
- Understand how customers interact to build upon customer data and optimize interactions across multiple channels.
- Look at metrics to understand customer behavior, predict intent and prescribe solutions.
- Get employees on board to build a customer-centric company culture from the inside out.
Finally, learn about each step in depth in our blog post and webinar, 5 Steps to Optimize Customer Experience. With a multi-channel approach, consumers can be confident that their problem will be solved in every channel. So they’ll be willing to start the conversation in their channel of choice, texting.
Reduce Call Volume on the Channel of Choice
SMS isn’t just the channel of choice for consumers. For businesses in any industry — utilities, pharmacy, retail, etc. — texting is the clear choice to reduce call volume, cut costs and create the differentiated experiences customers crave.
For a more comprehensive view of these tips, check out our whitepaper, 4 Reasons Customers Call — and How to Reduce with SMS. Call or text West Interactive Services at 800.841.9000 to speak with a CX specialist, or check out our blog post outlining the four factors increasing call volume at your business.
Andrew has been with West since 2015 and has more than 10 years of sales experience. He graduated from Miami University and now resides in Columbus, Ohio, where he specializes in connecting utility companies with advanced technology solutions to meet strategic objectives and enhance the overall customer experience.