People respond faster to a text message than they do to voicemail or email. It’s a trend that has emerged in our fantastically digital age and can be used to boost your bottom line. In fact, SMS text messages have an open rate of 98 percent, which no other marketing tool comes close to matching. Relegated to a lesser status nowadays is the telephone, and even email, which is reported to have a much lower open rate of 22 percent. Combine SMS with the 4.5 billion mobile users in the world, and you have a powerful way for businesses to connect with their customers.
Companies today are getting on board the messaging train, taking advantage of widespread SMS usage to cement relationships with their customers. Restaurant owners use texting to make and confirm reservations. Nail salons use it to book appointments. Doctors’ offices leverage texting to schedule appointments and send reminders to patients when the date approaches. In these ways and many more, texting is driving the customer experience to new heights as consumers revel in this easy way of interacting with businesses.
Besides basic appointment setting and corroboration, businesses can use SMS to provide transaction updates, such as for shipping and delivery, thus reducing inbound calls to a less costly channel. Text messages are also a great avenue for sending enticing coupons or promotions, which can drive website traffic. What’s more, SMS is an optimal channel for capturing customer input on everything from recent purchases to services received, helping businesses to monitor their performance.
In this way, early adopters of this marketing technology are exceeding customer expectations with quick and efficient interactions that address their needs. They are also leveraging the cost savings of SMS. Notable examples include Time Warner’s (News - Alert) use of text messaging to boost late bill collections by 49 percent, Sharp (News - Alert) Healthcare’s utilization of texting to achieve a 94 percent engagement rate and to cut missed appointments by 25 percent, and eHealth’s employment of texting to attain a customer satisfaction rating of 4.41 out of 5 while lowering operating costs.
So, how can your business get started texting?
The preferred way is to text-enable your existing landline(s). This way your customers can still find you using the phone number they’ve come to associate with your business. Many solution providers offer easy-to-use web-based tools to view and respond to texts. Setup often takes less than a day, and most of your customers won’t even need to be notified that they can now text you. They’ve likely had your phone number on their smartphones and have been trying for a while to do just that.
To make sure the texting experience is a positive one for your customers, consider these recommendations as you develop your SMS strategy:
- Target (News - Alert) your messages. Group your customers based on demographics, behaviors, and other collected data (such as likes and dislikes) to help create more personalized messages. You don’t want to annoy your key targets by sending them texts that don’t apply to them; you want to offer value.
- Pick the right time and frequency. The right messaging, used sparingly, speaks volumes for your business and will enhance the customer experience. This includes sending texts at convenient times. For starters, don’t text too early or too late, and avoid rush hour.
- Offer service and support. SMS is a quick and easy way for customers to ask questions and resolve problems. As part of a multichannel customer service initiative, SMS will help improve customer satisfaction.
- Respect customer wishes. Don’t text people who have not signed up for it or who have opted out, or you’ll end up with frustrated customers. That’s not to mention that it’s against the law.
When you use SMS appropriately and optimally, you can build your brand’s reputation and grow your business at the same time.
Edited by Alicia Young