SMS for Customer Service — Q&A With CX Experts
5 minute read
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Gladly’s 2022 Customer Expectations Report found that 42% of customers ranked reaching agents on their preferred channel as an essential attribute of their experiences. And texting, or SMS, is a popular channel among shoppers — 63% of customers favor SMS for customer service over the traditional over-the-phone route.
We spoke with CX practitioners Joel Fuster, Sr. Digital Experience Manager at Super Coffee, and Cheryl Belyea, Site Manager at United Financial Freedom, about using SMS to offer customers proactive customer service and reduce support costs. Read on to explore how SMS for customer service can contribute to creating lifelong brand advocates.
1. How Do You Think SMS Has Changed Modern Customer Support?
Joel: It’s created a higher sense of what I call “relaxed urgency” and ease of use for both the customer and the support hero. When you receive a text message, you decide whether to look at it, reply now or ignore it. You’re your own boss. But a second message could bring your attention back to the text and bring that decision tree back into the fold. If the message includes a timer and the ability to text another time if preferred, relaxed urgency is felt.
When customers are looking for help, more than 50% of them will choose the SMS route — it’s right on their phone through the main app they already use, they don’t have to stay glued to a browser (live chat), and most importantly, allows them to be themselves a lot easier. The same goes for our heroes, who can really showcase their personalities through concise yet impactful and playful messaging that is not normally found in an email.
Best of all, conversations can be completed in a fraction of the time, thanks to the unbelievable open and response rate for SMS.
Cheryl: It shows fortitude. A willingness to accommodate how clients think and get things done. But with SMS, it’s more than that; it shows that you, as a company, are keeping up with the times and client needs. It allows easier access for the client AND the company in a non-confrontational way. You have faster response times, and more clients can be helped at a time (in theory) — increasing productivity and efficiency.
2. How Do You Balance the Convenience of SMS With the Privacy of Customers?
Joel: Gladly has been a huge help in this, as a big portion of our customers have provided us with their phone numbers and are quickly displaying the correct profile.
But say we don’t have their phone number already, we would ask the customer qualifying questions to help ensure we’re talking to the correct person or viewing the right profile. Our heroes are trained not to disclose any sensitive information through text, and if moving over to email for any reason, customers are reassured that they won’t be opted-in for any marketing or used elsewhere outside of 1:1 support.
Cheryl: Standards are key. You also have to keep it very basic. When we say “basic,” we think about things like password reset, account reset, appointment confirmation, and cancelation. Concerns that are simple and allow for a quick and easy response. As soon as we start dealing with personal information or security, SMS is off-limits for us, and we immediately use a phone call or screen share.
3. What Other Communication Tools Do You Use Alongside SMS?
Cheryl: We use phone calls, screen share (GoTo Meeting), email, and chat. Offering these different tools to our clients allows us to effectively address the financial questions they have in a timely manner.
Joel: We currently use email, IG + FB messaging, and an IVR for customers to leave a voicemail and let us know which method of communication works best for them.
With the voicemail option, we come across customers who only want to receive support by phone. As a small team, in these moments we would still reach out through SMS or email to schedule a time for a hero to give them a call and spend as much time as needed.
4. How Do You Decide When To Use SMS and Other Support Tools at Your Disposal?
Cheryl: This is very situational. We have to take into account “what” the client is reaching out to us about and “how” they are reaching out to us. When it comes to finances — 90% of the time, this entails either a phone call or a screen share. We consider the “what” first before addressing the “how.”
Joel: We ultimately leave this decision in the customers’ hands when they first reach out. We provide all the ways they can reach us at different times (contact us page, auto-reply) and offer the ability to transition to another if preferred.
Once we begin building that relationship, the hero would place a note on their profile advising which method is ideal for the customer.
5. Where Are You Looking To Improve the Implementation of SMS?
Joel: We’re currently focusing on visibility — bringing as much awareness as possible to our SMS support option. Most customers are used to finding or responding to an email, but SMS continues to be moved at the forefront of communication; we want to help guide and coach our customers into giving SMS a try or be aware that the options exist.
From our packaging to our site, we’re aiming to ensure customers can easily reach out for support, with SMS being the main channel.
Cheryl: For us, it’s very important that we keep support costs down. When we first started using Gladly, we had to make drastic changes. One of our trade-offs at the time was to use SMS as little as possible. We are now trying to figure out how to make SMS a bigger, more cost-effective part of our support strategy.
6. What Success Metrics Do You Use To Evaluate the Effectiveness of SMS?
Cheryl: Given that we are still optimizing for SMS, we are still in the process of evaluating KPIs. If I were to have KPIs in place, I would look at response time and how long the conversation was open. I would also evaluate which topics were being discussed and look to see if self-serve resources were being utilized.
Joel: CSAT is high on the list as we aim to maintain the same high level of experience our customers are used to receiving through email. In building relationships with our customers, they are the first ones to point out any issues or inconsistencies. CSAT is combined with our opt-in rate for marketing, as this allows us to reach out to customers with the CSAT survey via email.
The second would be response times. Although we aim for relaxed urgency, modern technology has caused a reduction in patience as customers would ideally want their issue or question resolved as quickly as possible.
Lastly would be the number of contacts (back and forth) and overall time to close a conversation. We find that the lower the number of contacts, the more efficient we are in obtaining the right info early on and providing the best well-rounded responses each time.
Building relationships is at the forefront of every conversation, and while we never want to limit how many contacts an SMS conversation should have, we want to always reinforce how much we value our customer’s time and allow them to quickly get their resolution and enjoy the rest of their day on a positive note.
Beyond SMS for Customer Service
Modern ecommerce brands know how important it is to meet customers where they are—and that includes over text. With Gladly’s customer service software, text is included out-of-the-box; with no need for a separate platform with separate licensing fees. This means service teams can get up and running in no time, meeting customers on this popular on-the-go-channel.
Meet your customers on-the-go with Gladly's SMS text support.
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