The Next Customer Service Channel You Are Currently Ignoring

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For companies looking to provide the best service to their customers, it may be time to consider a switch in their call centers to shift the focus from the desk phone to the mobile phone. According to a new study conducted by The Harris Poll and commissioned by OneReach, more than 80 percent of Americans are frustrated at being tied to their phone or computer for customer service. Among those who use text messaging, 64 percent say they would prefer to carry out some kind of customer service activity via SMS.

These numbers reflect the changing communication habits of consumers over the past decade. In 2005, mobile phone use surpassed landline use in the United States, a gap that has only widened since then. With increased mobile phone ownership came increased text messaging: As of 2013, more than 80 percent of Americans use text messaging—up 23 percent since 2007.

Given this explosive trend and how easy it is for people to send and respond to text messages—not to mention the cost-effectiveness of text messaging for a company when compared to other channels—SMS customer service is poised to revolutionize the customer service industry.

The proof is in the data: Nearly half (48 percent) of customers think texting would be more convenient than their current service option, and 44 percent would rather text a customer service agent immediately than wait on hold to talk to a live agent. Unfortunately,companies don't always tap into what their customers want, and many still rely on phone support. Self-service options such as IVR cost less than live-agent phone calls but can have a huge impact on overall customer satisfaction when implemented poorly.

Common phone complaints include long hold times and customers having to repeat themselves. All of this leaves a negative perception of an interaction with a company, which could result in decreased loyalty and potentially lost business.

Conversely, the Harris/OneReach study found that companies that offer text messaging are likely to get a more positive response from customers. In fact, the study found that 64 percent of consumers are likely to have some kind of positive reaction to a company that offers text as a service channel, including the following:

  • feeling the company understands their time is important;
  • staying loyal to the company;
  • recommending the company to others; and
  • choosing the company over others that do not offer text messaging.

It's clear there is significant customer demand for using the SMS channel to contact your business. Are you ready to meet their demands?

Customer Habits

According to the Harris/OneReach study, customers would prefer to use texting for simple service interactions, the top three being the following:

  • checking order status (38 percent);
  • scheduling or changing appointments (32 percent);
  • making or confirming reservations (31 percent).

The important thing to note about these types of service interactions is that they are all two-way communications, which people would typically have to conduct 

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