In our last post ‘How outbound text messaging can improve the customer experience’, we outlined some of the benefits of integrating outbound text messaging in your contact strategy. As with any channel, the success of those interactions will be dependent on an understanding of who will be using the service, how the text messaging fits with the wider journey and designing great SMS content. So what should you consider if you’re thinking about offering your customers outbound text messages?
Considerations in implementing outbound text messages
1. Understand where SMS fits within the customer journey
Outbound text messaging is likely to sit alongside other channels that your customers will be using. It’s important that your outbound SMS strategy takes into consideration the wider customer journey. Don’t design these experiences in a silo. For example, if you’re sending a text message to remind customers to pay their bill, offer a link to your online payments and/or offer proactive treatments in your IVR, for example, ‘I see you have a bill due, is that what you’re calling about?’.
2. Not all tasks are right for SMS
Outbound text messaging is great for simple straightforward updates and reminders but shouldn’t be used for handling complaints or more complex queries. In our usability research, insight has shown us that outbound text messaging works really well for things like simple order updates and reminders but isn’t great at handling more complex order queries where more information is likely to be needed by the customer. When considering using outbound text messaging, think about the task, the context of that task and whether SMS really is the right channel. Don’t use it just because it’s low cost.
3. Design great SMS content and evaluate it with customers
Designing effective SMS dialogue isn’t always an easy task. With a character constraint of 160 for single messages, there is a limit to the amount of information that can be presented. Anything over 160 characters will be split into multiple messages. We’ve seen this cause some challenges in messages arriving in the wrong order, or some messages not arriving at all.
When designing SMS content, make sure you understand the specifics of the information that customers need and evaluate SMS content with representative users. In usability research, SMS content often raises some interesting insight into things like the formality of dialogue, use of emojis and the level of detail contained in text messaging. In one study for a global retailer, we found that participants preferred a slightly more formal approach to dialogue than common ‘text speech’, the former being perceived as more professional and a better brand fit.
4. Adhere to local regulator’s rules
Each country will have their own rules and regulations about sending text messages, particularly related to privacy and data protection. For example, in the US, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) states that customers must give their consent to receiving text messages. At VoxGen, we’ve seen how the IVR can provide a useful channel for obtaining this consent. For example, working with a global retailer, we provided an option to opt in to order updates via SMS within the IVR dialogue e.g.“I can text you updates for this order - standard messaging rates will apply. To get *text updates*, press 1.”
Certain sectors, like the medical sector, will also have some very specific rules about the kind of information you can and can’t send via SMS. So make sure you know what those rules are and adhere to them, particularly if you’re dealing with private or sensitive information which often isn’t allowed to be sent by SMS, or where additional authentication steps may be required.
5. Allow customers to opt in and opt out
Customers hate being spammed with text messages, so allowing them to opt into relevant outbound text messages gives customers more control, but also means they are more likely to be receptive to the content they are receiving. There is also a legal requirement for customers to opt in to receiving certain types of content via SMS, for example, when contacting prospect consumers.
It’s also important that you enable customers a way of opting out of receiving text messages so ensure you also make it easy for people to opt out if they want to.
6. Send the right content at the right time
And finally, if you are sending outbound text messaging, make sure they are sent to the right person at the right time. Feedback from customers tells us that this can be a real pain point. For example, when interviewing customers from a large Telco about their experiences of the existing outbound text messages, one of the key criticisms was the fact that they were receiving text messages in the middle of the night. That might be the lower cost solution from a business perspective, but it led to customers missing or ignoring those text messages, or even worse, being woken up by the sound of an incoming text message. Likewise, we hear of customers receiving SMS content that isn’t relevant to them, or even multiple messages with the same content. It’s essential that any outbound text messages are relevant, sent at an appropriate time and customers aren’t bombarded with the same content.
Outbound text messaging can be a great addition to your contact channels, but only if designed for the needs of your customers and implemented in a way that helps rather than hinders the customer experience.