A 2015 Pew Center study indicated that texting is the top preferred activity for smartphone owners of all ages. The lowest use was in the age 50-plus group, who texted 92 percent of the time. Then it goes up, with 98 percent of the age 30-50 group texting, and 100 percent of the 18-29 year olds texting.
Businesses like how texts are more likely to be opened, and opened faster, compared to emails. SMS enthusiasts also like the same thing, along with how they can respond quickly and get a dialogue going. They also like how texts can create a personal connection, but not so intimate as a phone call – think of them as the fun-loving friend, but not necessarily the BFF, of the interaction world. So how can businesses use this tool to improve their outreach to a very mobile audience? (Besides marketing via SMS, which is a whole other topic.) Think service. They can do things to help improve their customer's lives, whether it's answer a question, process an order or take a complaint.
For businesses considering adding SMS to their service offerings, here are some things to keep in mind:
●Get the opt-in first. There are various laws about unsolicited electronic contact, but it's also just good manners and common courtesy to get permission before you start sending texts. You can use other methods to get people to sign up for text/news, such as social media, your site or any public outreach or presence. But the good thing is that you'll not only have an opt-in, but a profile for your database for future marketing efforts.
●Assign someone to this task. Treat text outreach with the same high priority as your front-line phone/reception employees, rather than leaving it to anyone on the team "whenever you get to it." Phone owners are likely to respond almost instantly to a text, and expect you to do the same. A properly trained customer service representative can also have the knowledge to navigate any problems a customer may be having, offer solutions and maintain a conversation – all in the boundaries of a text box.
●Don't go crazy with txt spk. Even though younger customers are texting more than the oldsters, and even though their own texts are full of abbreviations and catch-phrases, doesn't mean yours have to be. Customers may appreciate your professionalism if you spell everything out and don't slip in terms that not every customer knows or relates to. TIA!
●Put some tasks on autopilot. Sure, you can send a "come by and see us" text individually to everyone in your database. They'll love what appears to be a personal invitation. But it will become tiresome and repetitive. Or you can customize your texting software to send everyone a note at certain times. An auto shop can send a note every three months reminding customers to call or text to schedule an oil change. A barbershop can invite people to come in monthly for a trim. A dry cleaner can text "your order is ready" 48 hours after drop-off.
Overall, the reason why people prefer SMS to other interactions is because they don't want to talk, type or browse much. So a business serious about service must keep this in mind by providing customers the info they need but not making it a challenge. So send a text confirming a sale or an appointment, offering directions, or a link to the exact page of the site they need to go to.