Text First Services – Part 1: The text-only revolution and why you need to pay attention

This is my first article in a series of articles on text-first services.

tldr; SMS and Text Messaging is experiencing a resurgence like you’ve never seen and you should get with it because you’re going to love every minute (it will do your business goood).

A few things have been going on over the past fifteen years — the internet has gotten more mature, computers have gotten faster, phones have gotten smarter, and the challenges for businesses have been mostly the same: customer onboarding, service, and retention. To this end, many build their business around web-apps, and others create smart phone apps. While these solutions are great for some businesses, they are costly investments for others. So, what if you could provide high-quality, high-touch customer-service in a cost-effective and reliable way?

Within the last two months, a number of companies have started using SMS as their primary channel for customer-service. Susie delivers food. Eazy lets customers order any local service. Others, such as StudySoup and Handy have deepened their relationships with sellers, service-providers and customers by providing updates and help.

These companies have realized that there is a growing trend of customers who prefer to communicate exclusively via text. They don’t like email, they almost never make phone calls, but they send hundreds of text-messages every week, and in some cases, everyday. Voicemails pile up, email inboxes go ignored for days, but their SMS is attended to constantly.

For many businesses this is great news. It provides a new channel, which is cheaper and more effective – they no longer need to spend resources on highly functional websites and mobile apps. They can provide all necessary customer service via text!

For other businesses who already provide a great experience over traditional channels, SMS allows team members to quickly serve multiple customers and field agents at the same time. This also reduces noise by introducing a new channel of communication that is more appropriate for certain interactions and speeds up service. As people use their channel of choice, satisfaction will rise dramatically. A quick look at Mayvenn and Susie’s twitter feeds (@MayvennHair, @SusieDelivers) shows the potential snowball effects of SMS as a customer-service channel.

And there are numbers. Numbers that speak volumes:

  • 95 – 98% of text messages are read within minutes of receipt. This means that customers respond faster, especially when compared to e-mail and voicemail.
  • SMS comes installed on all cell-phones, while nearly 30% of all US households no longer own a landline.
  • Out of all SMS messages sent, only 1% accounts for Spam. This makes SMS a very clean channel for communication.

SMS as a channel is very stable and mature, yet a text message still feels special. The new car smell has not faded. And, thanks in part to the controls and restraint that both carriers and software makers have shown, it will continue to be a strong channel for a long time.

In the next article in this series, we will dig deeper by talking about how to implement SMS and use-cases that make sense for various businesses. Stay tuned!

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