omnichannel customer service best practices

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The Comprehensive Guide to Surprise & Delight your Customers on Live Chat, Email, Social Media & SMS

Best Practices for Digital Omnichannel Customer Service

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Chapter 3

SMS

It’s impossible to deny the growing demand for instant mobile support. Customers are engaging with brands through their phones like never before, and this isn’t just a passing fad. Take for instance, the wise words of Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square:

“I do believe people are consuming more content and interacting more out of their pocket, and I don’t think that’s a trend that goes away.”

According to RingCentral, 78% of people wish they could have a text conversation with a company. Yet the lack of competition in this market is stark: only 48% of businesses are currently equipped to communicate with customers via text.

Customers want support on their terms, and companies want to stand out. With approximately 5 billion mobile phone users worldwide, SMS is becoming a critical support channel. And it just keeps getting bigger: the number of mobile devices is forecast to grow to 16.8 billion in 2023 – more than even people. Equipping your team with SMS support capabilities is direct, personalized, and effective: the cell phone equivalent of coming straight to your customers’ door.

Through a combination of treating SMS as a full-service support channel, as well as leveraging the unique possibilities of this channel, you can put your customer service team at the forefront of your industry.

Best Practices for SMS

1. Leverage ‘push’ notifications

SMS and messaging apps are arguably the most immediate ways to put a message in front of your customers, as they are the prominent channels on consumers’ phones. According to IDC research, 79% of smart phone users have their phones on them for all but 2 hours of each waking day.

Unlike other channels where customers have to initiate access (through a login, for example), SMS gives you direct access to your customer through virtually universally enabled push notifications. Push notifications have an opening rate of 90%, several times higher than the 21.33% open rate of email, making this an invaluable channel for both marketing and support.

Key tools can help keep your team on track when it comes to leveraging the power of SMS push notifications:

Key Tools

  • Proactive messaging
  • Reporting

With SMS, proactive messaging can be used to bring urgent or time sensitive matters to your customers’ attention. Proactive messages can be sent from the unified agent console specifically to a designated SMS recipient. This is done on a one-to-one basis, making messaging a highly effective personalized platform.

There are several reasons why you might want to send a message to your SMS users. Consider the following use cases:

  • Appointment reminders: Help your customers keep track of key dates and
  • Promotions: Advertise upcoming and limited
  • Shipment confirmations and updates: Let customers know when a shipment has been made, and update with tracking
  • Account updates and changes: Help customers keep track of important changes to their account, to the services you provide them, and privacy/policy updates.

When sending out SMS messages, it is important to treat it more or less like you would an email service. Because SMS is often so immediately intwined with your customers’ social and business lives, all SMS correspondences should be consensual, and start with a customer opt-in. Unsolicited SMS messages – such as when a customer did not realize that your company had their phone number – can feel like spam at best and a violation of privacy at worse.

There’s a lot to play with when sending SMS notifications, including timing and frequency. Reporting shows you key insights regarding customer engagement and agent performance on SMS, which in turn will help you optimize your SMS support strategy. These reports can also be taken offline and shared with other departments with business intelligence tools through Comm100’s API.

Pro Tip

Think about where in your buyer’s journey you can set up SMS opt-ins that will add value to the customer experience. These opt-ins should cater to both your customers’ needs as well as specific company goals. Want to use SMS to send out promotions?

Promote SMS as a banner on your website, and offer customers a discount for opting in. Want to use it to help lessen incoming queries post- purchase? Give your customers an option to receive SMS shipping updates on the checkout page.

2. Treat SMS like a bona fide support channel

While SMS is great for automated push notifications, it’s also a simple and convenient platform for customers who are seeking direct support.

Unlike with live chat, customers can never accidentally cut an SMS conversation short by navigating away and closing the window. As an “anytime” channel, SMS conversations unfold at the customer’s pace, making them an excellent way to achieve resolution on the go.

It’s just as important to provide comprehensive customer support via SMS as you would on any other channel. Tasks that could be handled through any other channel, like receiving orders, processing refunds, and speaking to account managers, can all be completed directly within the SMS interface.

For too many companies, this amounts to a missed opportunity. Customers desperately want to text their way to resolution – in fact, many would rather use SMS than whatever other channels companies offer. According to HeyWire Business, 52% of customers would prefer to text a support agent over the current channel they use.

With the right tools and integrations, customers can fire off a text and connect directly with support, the way they would through live chat, phone, or social.

Key Tools:

  • SMS integrated support console
  • Chatbots
  • Permissions

For most businesses, the absence of SMS customer service isn’t due to a lack of imagination. Instead, SMS might simply feel like another cumbersome add-on: difficult to integrate into their current customer service operation and therefore hard to execute effectively.

With a solid omnichannel support system, SMS customer service no longer has to be an afterthought. SMS integration allows agents to receive text messages in their unified console, where they can view them alongside all other inquiries, such as live chat, email, and social media messages. Agents have access to the same collaboration and efficiency tools they would on any other channel – such as canned messages and Agent Assist – all of which they can access without switching screens.

sms customer support comm100

Agent omnichannel console showing SMS within the Ticketing & Messaging tab alongside other key digital channels

Thought that adding SMS as a support channel couldn’t get more frictionless? Chatbots are perfectly suited for SMS, and are easy to carry over from your existing customer service channels when you have an omnichannel platform. Chatbots are already native to the mobile landscape, and can help customers fulfill a number of advanced support requests.

SMS chatbots are easy to advertise, and have actually played a hand in helping customers convert to text messages as their preferred method of customer service. Take Capital One’s intelligent assistant, Eno, for example:

chatbot-customer-service-in-SMS

Example of SMS chatbot customer support from Eno at Capital One.

Not only is Eno able to help customers complete banking functions without involving agents, this bot was actually able to direct users away from human-run support channels. By giving their chatbot a name and advertising its friendly disposition on their website, Capital One was able to use Eno not as just a customer support channel, but a selling point.

When building a full-service SMS support channel, it’s critical to have tools that allow you to custom pick your SMS support team and leaders. Permission settings can be used to assign certain agents to specific roles and departments, so that SMS chat requests can be routed to appropriate representatives. You can also give specific agents permission to take over requests from chatbots or give greener agents guidance. This can be achieved through individual agent permissions, or based on their role or department.

permission comm100 dashboard

Example of Permissions in the Comm100 dashboard

Pro Tip

Done correctly, SMS customer service can be warm and effective, like having a friend text you a reminder. Just like friend-to-friend texting, short-form writing is key. If a text is too long, customers may have to scroll up and down to get the full scope of the support you’re offering. Whether it’s your bot or your agent that’s conversing, remember to keep messages short, simple, and actionable. Remember that chatbot scripts can be adjusted according to the platform they’re inhabiting.

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