What if there was a cheap, quick and effective way to reduce customer effort, provide proactive updates, and to increase customer satisfaction? This is where outbound text messaging comes in. Text messaging offers great opportunities for providing proactive messaging and in reducing caller effort, but not all brands are utilising those benefits.
Over the past few years, VoxGen has worked with clients to integrate text messaging alongside their IVR experiences. Through user research, we’ve learnt that outbound text messaging is a great way to keep customers informed, particularly for status updates and reminders. So, what benefits does outbound text messaging provide?
The benefits of outbound text messages for customer experience
Reduced customer effort
Our research consistently shows us that customers get frustrated by having to make multiple calls to a company to solve their query. Take a fault query for example. From an initial call to report a fault, to chasing up the status of that fault, the effort is often on the customer to keep track of the status of their query. Customers are more positive about brands who are perceived to be anticipating information needed by customers and proactively offering that information. Done well, outbound text messaging can provide customers with proactive status information or reminders keeping customers informed without the need to make a call, and thereby reducing customer effort. In a recent usability study with a global retailer, we found that providing text message updates for order statuses enhanced customer experience by offering information in a way that made it quicker and easier for customers to access it, without the need for them to go looking for the information. One participant summarised this by saying “I’d prefer to use SMS…it’s easy, you can use it anytime and it’s more convenient for me”.
Reduced calls into the call centre
Providing effective outbound text messaging to customers, for example with information on the status of an order or fault, reduces the need for customers to speak to an agent (assuming text messages are designed well) thereby reducing agent time on calls. For one of our clients, we implemented an interactive broadcast message system within their IVR for communicating issues like known service outages. The IVR informs callers about the known issue at the start of a call and asks callers if that is what they were calling about. If callers respond ‘yes’, the IVR updates them on the status of the service issue and then asks whether they want to be kept updated about the issue by SMS. Over an 11-month period in 2016, our client reported that 18% of callers responded that they were calling about a known service problem. 43% of those callers opted to receive outbound text messages, with a 95% success rate in enrolling to those messages. Prior to offering proactive outbound messaging, these calls would have typically transferred to an agent. Offering SMS updates allowed customers to receive updates without the need for speaking to an agent, therefore reducing calls into the contact centre.
Increased CSAT and brand perception
In user research, CSAT around these proactive outbound SMS experiences is often higher because customers feel that the brand is being proactive and taking the effort away from customers. We’ve seen a direct correlation between brand perception and CSAT when customers feel that brands are perceived as pre-empting information needed by customers and proactively offering that information. When working on an interactive text messaging system for a global retailer, we found that offering a ‘text-back’ when an agent wasn’t available (in this case, because the contact centre was closed) not only helped to improve customer experience but also helped to improve brand perception: ‘It’s good they took the initiative…it indicates this matters to them’. Outbound text messaging offers a simple yet effective way of offering proactive communications to customers and another opportunity for increasing CSAT. Our own research commonly highlights efficiency and convenience as being two key benefits that participants report when they are offered contact via SMS.
Optimising channel choice
Customers like having a choice of channel and increased channel choice can also help to increase customer satisfaction (CSAT). However, the correlation between channel choice and CSAT isn’t as simple as just offering customers a multitude of channels. CSAT is positively impacted when customers have the choice of relevant channels for a given task. Understanding the customer journey and the right kinds of tasks that are best suited to SMS is critical in offering experiences that optimise CSAT and customer experience. This relies on research to understand your customer journey, the tasks within that journey and in identifying the information requirements required to fulfil that task. Tasks that require more simple information, such as reminders or status updates, often work well for outbound SMS as they are suited to the limits of the SMS interface in terms of character limitations.
Including outbound text messaging as part of your contact strategy not only offers a quick and low-cost solution to interacting with your customers, but it’s something that can also help improve the customer experience. In our next post, we’ll be outlining some key considerations to designing and delivering great SMS experiences. More on that to come…