Avoid these common challenges to unlock the potential of SMS in your business
A recent study by Pew Research Center showed that 96% of 18-29 year-olds and 92% of 30-49 year-olds in the United States own a smartphone. Now, also consider that the average American who owns a phone checks it 47 times a day. (Who, me?!) Regardless of how this now makes you feel about the state of the human condition, the reality is very apparent. We spend a great deal of time with our phones in hand!
With all this picking-up-and-putting-down of our phones, it’s no surprise that messaging has far surpassed voice as the most preferred form of mobile communication amongst these age groups. This most certainly has to do with the convenience that text messaging offers over other forms of mobile communication like voice and video. One advantage is that text messaging (and other forms of messaging, too) allow people to have asynchronous conversations. Think about it this way, I can text a friend and even when they’re not immediately available I know my message will arrive on their phone. I can then carry on with what I was previously doing. When my friend is no longer busy they can text me back. We don’t need to be available at the exact same time in order to carry on a conversation. This also gives me the freedom to be involved in conversations with different people simultaneously throughout the course of the day.
The Business Potential of Text Messaging
Although most people’s daily text message communication is conducted with those who they know and trust, this does not mean their preference for text communication is limited exclusively to personal connections or family-and-friends. This is evidenced by the fact that most consumers, when polled, express the desire to converse through text messaging with the companies where they do business. This means that for most businesses, there is an enormous opportunity to build trusted relationships with customers through text messaging. The challenge for most companies today is deciding how to implement this in a way that can scale efficiently.
Sometimes a very simple text messaging solution works. You might decide to have everyone on the team hand out their business (or personal) phone number and just say “call or text me”. A mobile phone and a business card are all you need in that case.
However, while this is a quick and easy solution, it is sub-optimal at best and downright impossible at worst. As the team grows and customers begin to text more frequently this solution begins to burst at the seams.
Let’s take a look at some of the main challenges that will impede your ability to scale your text messaging channel:
1. Team Access
You need to think about who on your team should have access to your customers’ text messages. This will greatly impact your ability to handle any significant volume of messaging. For example, if your team is using personal cell phones or Google voice phone numbers then any messages sent to those numbers are locked-in to that one team member. In this scenario it’s not possible for someone else to jump in and handle customer communication when that person is busy or out-of-office and cannot respond in a timely manner.
An ideal solution gives you the ability to configure team access to your customers’ inbound text messages. This visibility helps to ensure that messages are seen and responded to without relying on a single person which can create bottlenecks. It’s possible that you will use multiple phone numbers across departments or geographies. For example, you might have a phone number dedicated for Sales and another for Support. In this case you would likely want to only give your Sales team access to the sales phone number, and only your Support team access to the support phone number.
2. Customer Data
A major impediment to implementing an effective messaging channel is having your customer data disconnected from your text messaging solution. If your customer data resides in a CRM system (Salesforce, for example) but your team manages text messaging conversations in a separate system, then you will experience inefficiencies and wasted time in the long-term.
A common scenario is one where a customer sends a text message to a business. That message is received into some text messaging software application where a team member reads it. To answer this customer’s question, that person has to swivel-chair over to the CRM system and look up the phone number to find the customer who is associated to it. Then, they need to find the appropriate account information or transactional data in question before they can swivel-chair back to the text messaging system and respond. It’s easy to see that this type of approach can result in a lot of wasted time.
An ideal text messaging solution would be deeply integrated with your CRM so that you can view your conversations directly within the context of your customer data. By eliminating the need for dual systems, and by being able to better leverage your customer data (think templates with merge fields!) your team will gain increased efficiencies.
3. Conversations are not Actionable
As your messaging channel grows and you begin to process more text message conversations, it will become increasingly important to your team’s productivity for them to quickly surface the important conversations. Viewing a list of SMS conversations in chronological order (similar to your phone’s messaging app) is a first step, but in a sea of conversations things can quickly get lost or go missing. Also, simply viewing all of your text messages with a particular customer in a long, single thread misses out on some key context.
Conversations with your customers typically have a finite beginning and ending. For example, let’s say you have a customer that inquires via text message about one of your new products. You chat back and forth until the questions are answered. Then you both say goodbye. That equates to a single conversation. It had a beginning and an ending. The next time your customer sends a question via text message, a new conversation will start and the cycle will repeat. It’s important to be able to group your messages logically within distinct conversations. This provides many advantages to understanding the context.
Knowing the status of a conversation is a key contextual element for your team. “Is this conversation Open or Closed?”, “Do I need to respond, or am I waiting on the customer to reply back?” Knowing the answer to these questions and being able to filter your conversations accordingly is critical to effectively scaling up your text messaging channel.
4. Lack of Reporting
As Peter Drucker wrote, “What gets measured, gets managed.” Most organizations want to manage their communication channels to determine what is effective and what isn’t. As it relates to your text messaging communication, it’s important to understand metrics such as total volume of messages (daily, weekly, monthly), total volume of outbound vs inbound messages, volume of messages per user, total number of new conversations created, among others. Having the ability to create useful reports and dashboards around your text messages is critical to measuring the success of this communication channel. When your message data is locked away in mobile phones, Google voice, or other applications that lack reporting it is all but impossible to manage properly.
How Textey Can Help
We understand these challenges and have designed Textey to solve for many of the issues you’ll encounter when implementing SMS as a communication channel with your customers. Textey installs directly into your Salesforce CRM and works seamlessly alongside your existing data. Your Salesforce users won’t have to switch between systems to send, receive, or view text messages. Access to phone numbers and messages can be configured to fit your internal business rules. Our latest feature, Conversations, lets you maintain statuses and easily filter your conversation views. All of your message data is stored in custom objects in Salesforce, so you get the full power of reporting and dashboards.