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Meet Customers Where They Are with Conversational SMS

Kirstyn Macartney

Kirstyn Macartney,
January 10, 2019

Texting is the most-used feature on smartphones—period. We all text. In fact, up to 97% of people have sent a text this week. This means a total of 22 billion texts are sent on Earth, each day. And this doesn’t include app-to-app messaging like WhatsApp & Facebook Messenger, either, which adds at least 60 billion more messages each day.

We also consume text content quickly, with the bulk of texts read within 3 minutes, and responded-to within 90 seconds of receipt. So, it makes sense that consumers want to text businesses in addition to their personal contacts. In fact, up to 89% have identified text as the communication channel-of-choice for the brands they deal with, making Conversational SMS the latest trend in customer experience.

Conversational SMS is a Customer-Driven Dialog™, meaning customers initiate the conversation as-needed.  Interestingly, consumers’ primary concern about text-based customer support is the same as the brands that consider deploying it: the robotic, bot experience, with no escape. Despite evolution in conversational AI, we have all experienced it. It’s inefficient, it’s unpleasant, and it’s less than helpful… sometimes, you need to deal with a live person.

You want this experience:Text Sample 2

...not this experience:

Text Sample 1

Conversational SMS deployment is flexible. Your brand can opt for agent- or bot-driven deployment, or a hybrid of the two, if desired. This means all the time- and cost-saving benefits of automated one-to-one, on-brand conversations with the assurance that human intervention is always near—eliminating the dreaded robotic, bot experience.

Which deployment option is best? That depends on the brand and use cases at hand. Let’s explore the pros and cons of agent, bot or a hybrid approach:

Agents

The obvious advantage to an agent-based approach is the personality than only a human can provide. Whether the conversation is serious or lighthearted, an agent can provide an appropriate tone in response. Agents are also able to more readily understand and respond to slang or alternative question-phrasing that arises in a conversational text exchange. In addition, when infrequent requests arise, an agent can appropriately address them.

The flip side of personality is lack of message consistency. Even when agents are thoroughly versed on messaging, there is no way to ensure absolute brand consistency or accuracy in every response. While agents create efficiencies and save time in other areas of a business, a degree of scheduling savvy is required to ensure agents are available during operating hours across all time zones. Live agents also incur ongoing labor costs greater than that of implementing a bot-based system.

Bots

Bots bring with them all the advantages of AI—they don’t require pay, they are available around-the-clock, and they can provide consistent, on-brand responses. Bots can spill forth any knowledge provided to them, and this knowledge set can be expanded as needed.

Of course, becoming aware that a bot’s knowledge base requires expansion is often the result of poor customer interactions. User frustration is high when a bot fails to deliver answers, and most certainly results in the user writing off SMS engagement with a brand going forward. This frequently extends to a drain on internal resources, as the already-frustrated customer seeks alternative methods to solve their problem.

A Hybrid

A hybrid agent-bot approach allows a brand to be human, even if using a bot. When a bot picks up a conversation it ensures a response time of under a minute, even when agents are bogged down with a high volume of conversations. Agent-specific auto responses can be configured to have the appearance and personalization of an agent but delivered without their direct intervention.

When customers are angry—which they often are by the time customer service is contacted—a hybrid approach allows businesses to intervene before it’s too late. Velocity alerts and sentiment analysis can be enabled to detect volume or tone, and appropriately manage conversations as they occur. For example, if a negative tone is detected, an agent and their supervisor will be alerted to intercept and improve the interaction. A hybrid approach provides the opportunity to not only retain, but exceed, customer expectations through Conversational SMS.

A key best practice to remember when considering Conversational SMS is customer consent. Despite Conversational SMS being a Customer-Driven Dialog™—and not requiring consent due to customer initiation—if you wish to continue communicating via SMS or other channels for promotional purposes, legally-defensible, express consent is required. If you have yet to enable a secure opt-in capture and consent program, maybe it’s time to get started.

Looking to learn more about how to improve your customer experience with Conversational SMS? SPLICE can help! Call us at 1-855-777-5423, click here to complete a contact form, or watch our on-demand webinar.

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About the Author

Kirstyn Macartney

Kirstyn Macartney

Kirstyn joined the team in October 2017, and supports all inbound and outbound Marketing efforts at SPLICE Software. Prior to joining SPLICE, Kirstyn gained 5 years of Marketing and Communications experience in both B2C and B2B spaces. Kirstyn earned a BA in Professional Communication from Royal Roads University, and strives for continuous growth and learning in all areas of her life.

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