In my last post I laid out a vision for the future of CRM as one where Sales and Marketing will unify with Support in order to create a truly customer-centric experience, and where companies will personalize that experience to the individual. In some cases, the tools for achieving this vision have not been fully developed yet. Others are available and ready for use, but the organizational limitations I wrote about in my first post (siloes, ingrained processes, poor data management, etc.) are keeping companies from implementing them and reaping their benefits.
One such technology that has been available for several years, yet is surprisingly underutilized by many brands, is text and mobile messaging. The majority of businesses still require customers to call or email to get support. Some have implemented live chat, which is an improvement in some cases, although it still requires the customer to sit in front of a screen and keep the session open. If the agent is talking with too many people (usually more than two) at once, the customer is often left waiting just as long between responses as they might have been sitting on hold. And on the business end, it does not increase efficiency significantly over the phone channel because of the speed required for responses.
The text and mobile messaging channel, which encompasses traditional SMS as well as services like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, solves for many of the pain points of the dreaded customer service experience. It allows customers to contact businesses on their own time, sending a text like, “Where is my order? I was supposed to receive it on Friday,” and going about their day. Thanks to CRM, the agent can identify the texter via their phone number or username, so the customer doesn’t have to provide an order number or any other personal information. Just a few minutes later, the agent texts back: “Hi Michele- So sorry your order is late! I have just tracked it and it’s scheduled to arrive by 3pm today.” Because the conventions of texting are different than those of live chat, the customer will likely be delighted with a response time of a few minutes. Meanwhile, that same experience would seem excruciating on live chat.
The text and mobile messaging channel contributes to alleviating many of the current pain points of CRM and the customer experience issues it causes:
- Can Be Used Throughout the Customer Journey: Unlike the phone or web chat channels, text and mobile messaging can be used all the way from acquisition through support. Brands can proactively reach out to customers who have engaged with them via messaging with promotional offers, and respond back to them promptly to deal with any support issues post-purchase. A true enterprise messaging platform should integrate seamlessly with the CRM so that the entire messaging history is accessible alongside all other customer communications. Instead of viewing these messages as “tickets,” they can be part of a continuous conversation with the customer that helps to build a stronger relationship with your brand.
- Makes for Better Personalization: As the order update scenario above illustrates, texting allows agents to interact with customers on a more conversational and personalized basis, bypassing the typical identification steps required in other channels. Skilled agents (after a bit of high-level guidance) should also be able to match the tone and texting style of the customer so the interaction feels natural to them.
- Leads to More Customer-Driven KPIs: Once you start communicating with customers on their own terms, KPIs change. Metrics like “Time to Resolution” will be replaced with new ones like “Dedicated Agent Time,” which measures the time an agent actually spends on a single conversation, which could be a few minutes spread over an hour or more, depending on the customer’s response times.
- Delights Customers and Improves Retention: Too many companies still communicate with customers via the methods and channels that are most convenient for them rather than in ways the customer actually wants. While some people do prefer resolving issues on the phone, more and more people are becoming used to communicating solely via text and other messaging channels, especially digitally native younger generations. Allowing the customer to reach your company in the way that works for them goes a long way toward keeping them loyal to your brand.
In addition to the benefits reaped by the customer and business, text and mobile messaging improves the agent experience and increases efficiency. Agents who work in the phone or live chat channels are under a lot of pressure to answer in real time, or within seconds. The asynchronous nature of text and mobile messaging gives agents time to research the customer request and come back with an accurate response. This also means that a single agent can communicate with several customers at once without degrading the customer experience. Reading and answering an angry customer message is a lot easier than being screamed at over the phone, which causes a lot of agent turnover.
In my next post I’ll lay out a plan for implementing the organizational changes necessary to use CRM and integrated tools like messaging platforms to become more customer-centric.
Missed the first two posts in this series? Check them out:
About Ryan McGuire
Ryan McGuire is a CRM/Analytics thought leader and expert who helps companies be more relevant to their customers by driving customer retention and loyalty. Ryan has held increasingly senior CRM and Analytics roles within global brands such as Carter’s | OshKosh, and Lenscrafters/Sunglass Hut, as well as with agencies such as 84.51 (formerly dunnhumbyUSA). During his tenure at these organizations he developed and drove customer engagement strategies, enabled topline sales growth, optimized CRM spend across channels, and maximized ROI on significant customer investments.