By Doug Thompson, Director of Product Management
Customers expect more from their brands than ever before. They’re looking for the products, services or information they want on the channel they want, when they want it. And with texting emerging as the clear channel of choice, strong proactive engagement strategies are more important than ever.
On average, people look at their phones 47 times a day. That number rises to 82 times for 18- to 24-year-olds. Collectively, that makes up more than 9 billion mobile moments in the U.S. every day.
That provides plenty of opportunities to connect with your customers, and one obvious channel is SMS. When sending SMS text messages, you have a few options:
Person-to-person conversations may be declining, but app-to-person traffic is on the rise. The continual evolution has brought the opportunity to leverage texting for business to an all-time high. Check out this blog to learn more about five types of SMS conversations for business.
With extensive reach and ever-improving technology, SMS is an important piece of any proactive engagement strategy. Here are the five steps you need to remember when getting proactive:
1. Map your customer journey and develop your outreach strategy
Before sending your first message, first take a look at your customer experience (CX) strategy. CX is not a single experience, a single channel or media or a single function. CX is a holistic experience that transcends devices, media, functions and time that creates an emotional connection with your brand across the Customer Experience Life Cycle.
So before you consider what your text message should say, first ask yourself a few questions. Are you using a multi-channel approach? Have you thought about how voice, SMS and email can work together? Do you empower customers to interact according to their personal preferences? Do your proactive engagement strategies align with your overall business strategy?
If you answered no to any of these, then take a step back and map the customer journey from awareness to attraction. Then consider how you’ll move across the rest of the lifecycle to reach your ideal state. As a starting point, customers want to:
- Be recognized and remembered
- Be given choices
- Experience “moments of delight”
Most consumers keep their smartphone within arm’s reach 24 hours a day, so consider how to capitalize on that accessibility with messaging they need.
2. Mitigate risk and maximize your communication investments
As you strive to take advantage of the latest and greatest ways to communicate with your customers, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by concerns over regulations like the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
Every year, over 36 million phone numbers are reassigned, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Interacting with customers on mobile can be rewarding for both your business and your customers, but you need to make sure those texts are getting to the right person.
Suppose Brian signed up for text alerts from his dentist 12 months ago but then switched cellular service providers. His number was reassigned to Maria, who then receives a text from the dentist. That dentist could be on the hook for a hefty fine. Some notable TCPA violations led to fines of between $10 million and $47 million, although those companies were sending promotional messages or advertisements to millions of cell phones without consent.
Avoid the risk with solutions that:
- Detect invalid and deactivated numbers
- Implement an opt-out mechanism
- Keep a list of “wrong numbers”
- Periodically send email or mail requests to let consumers update their contact information
3. Promote and engage
Once you set your goals and prepare to mitigate risk, you must develop a plan to convince customers to opt-in to your new channel. Inspire adoption by giving customers what they want. According to Salesforce’s Mobile Behavior Report, 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, website or app (31%)
With any new strategy, consider a pilot with current loyal customers before promoting to potential new ones. Then send a survey to bring customers into the conversation and allow you to make changes based on specific feedback. Basically, have a plan, execute on it and measure your results.
A top U.S. airline partnered with West to pilot an SMS chat service. After 633 conversations and almost 6,000 texts over three months, the service deflected 75 percent of calls from the IVR. Then in a follow-up survey, 91 percent of customers said it alleviated their need to call, and 92 percent rated the interaction 4 or 5 out of 5.
4. Improve performance with business intelligence and analytics
By 2018, nearly 50 percent of all customer service interactions will be influenced by data and analytics, Gartner predicts. Leveraging data in proactive engagement strategies allows businesses to send the right message to the right consumer at the right time.
But where does this data come from? Start by thinking about what you’re already collecting through your customer relationship management. What channels are your customers using? What questions are they asking? Then follow three steps:
- Identify data siloes and consolidate
- Ensure data is accurate and create processes to keep data current
- Design operational data-collection strategies
Analyze: Collect from multiple data sources and treat pain points as opportunities.
- Get a skilled analytics team in place
- Use business rules to understand user intent
- Conduct value-based experimentation
Apply: Relate data to your business goals and close the gaps between your current and ideal CX.
- Apply data findings to predict user intent and prescribe the next best action
- Calibrate your application with data to match how your customers engage and provide value
- Route the conversation to the most qualified agent
- Plan for automation through machine learning and chatbots
5. Define success, measure and refine
Put guidelines in place so you can judge whether your proactive engagement strategies are working. This is most effectively done by identifying key performance metrics like customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, customer advocacy, solution quality and employee engagement.
According to Gartner, organizations use 3.31 metrics on average. Some companies have hundreds of metrics, but you can determine which metrics are right for you. For example, a retail pharmacy measured their return-to-stock ratio because it costs them $12 on average when someone doesn’t pick up a prescription, costing them millions of dollars every year. With SMS, the pharmacy lowered the ratio by 4 percent, saving them $480,000 a month.
Whatever metrics you decide to track, we recommend considering metrics that address three questions:
- What happened?
- What did the customer perceive happening?
- And what will the customer do as a result?
This keeps your focus customer-centered, which will help you evaluate experiences from the customer’s point of view and create the CX they’re looking for.
Better Proactive Engagement Strategies for Better CX
Before developing your own proactive engagement strategies, answer the questions in this worksheet to see if your current strategy is making or breaking the customer experience. For even more help developing your proactive engagement strategies, watch this webcast, capturing the full presentation West gave for CRMXchange:
Then download our whitepaper describing our complete Customer Experience Lifecycle Management Maturity Model to help you see what kind of CX you’re creating, determine where you want to go and get tips to help get you there. And feel free to contact West Interactive Services at 800.841.9000 to talk with a CX expert.
Whether you’re a novice or expert at proactive communication, it’s worth taking a second look at your proactive engagement strategies. Customer demands are constantly evolving, and so must your CX.
Doug has over 23 years of experience in billing and customer engagement tools in helping utilities optimize processes and achieve strategic objectives. Dedicated to providing solutions that increase operational efficiency and customer satisfaction, Doug is a seasoned professional in consulting, product development and solution-set engineering across the customer experience lifecycle. Before joining West Interactive Services, Doug’s experience includes time with Oracle Utilities Global Business Unit, CSG International and First Data Corporation, where he held several positions within client consulting, product and business development.