Ask a young person when the last time they sent an email or made a telephone call was, and they’d probably have to think about it. Text messaging has become so ubiquitous, even the silver-haired generation has caught on to it. A report conducted by One Reach found that three quarters of people in the 50-64 age group use text messaging.
Texting, or SMS, is also no longer a strictly personal communication medium. It’s not only person-to-person communications, but business notifications. Your prescription is ready. Your flight is delayed. Your gym is closed due to bad weather. The special order you placed has arrived.
SMS is particularly advantageous to the world of customer support. Customers like it because it’s fast and convenient, and it offers businesses cost savings advantages in that it’s cheaper to support than live telephone. The very nature of texting makes it a great customer support tool. With only 160 characters to work with, companies (and customers) must be precise and to the point.
When it comes to customer support, however, the traditional model of SMS may not be enough to provide customers with what they require. For this reason, many customer support vendors are turning text messaging on its ear and introducing interactive features and the ability to escalate to other forms of support if necessary. Yes, you can send a customer a text that reads, “Please call our toll-free number,” but are you certain the customer will follow up?
Interactive text response (ITR) is a compelling technology that brings the best of more traditional customer support into the world of text. ITR takes channels such as SMS, Facebook (News - Alert) Messenger and even Twitter and transforms from one-way notifications to two-way conversations. It can take a natural language conversation in text format and remove the pertinent details, generating (for example) a rental car reservation.
“ITR uses natural language understanding to enable people to engage in personalized, conversational text interactions with an automated system,” wrote Aspect’s Abhay Prasad in a recent blog post. “It’s as simple as asking a question and getting an answer.”
Let’s imagine that a mobile phone customer engages in a routine check to see how much data he has used. The company could then push an automated follow-up dialog offering a promotional rate on a data increase. The customer’s messaged response in natural language (“Yes, let’s do that” or “OK”) could begin the process in an automated way. The company has now upsold the customer with little expense involved in the process.
From an outbound perspective, there is no longer any need to include the dreaded caveat, “This is an automated message. Please do not respond.” If a customer receives notification via text, an ITR system can give her choices for next steps. Interactions (News - Alert) such as changing an appointment after receiving a reminder can be easily handled in an automated, text-based, natural language dialogue.
If the conversation becomes too complex for text, live agents can easily pick up the same transaction and offer voice service where self-service leaves off. It’s a way to take the convenient and cost-saving automation of SMS and put the power of an omni-channel customer support experience behind it. After all, your customers are already engaging in most of their digital communications via text. Why shouldn’t they be engaging with you?