Ways companies are improving upon their customer support and direct communications with “customers”
Innovation in the area of customer support. Customers are always on the go, but they don’t necessarily want to chat on the phone or wait on hold to have questions answered. So companies are going beyond the call center, email support, and social media engagement to improve customer support
SMS Chat (a one-to-one messaging feature)
A university wants to accomplish 2 key goals: staying engaged with current students who are disperse across multiple campuses (both on and offline) and introduce prospective students to their programs. University email addresses are used for assignments and staying connected with professors, rather than university-wide announcements. And students are spending more time on their phones than in past years – particularly sending SMS (text messages) or using mobile apps.
To address the first goal of engaging current students, we’ve setup a 411 type of SMS campaign. Using signage throughout the campus, the campaign invites current students to text a keyword (such as “CAMPUS”) to a shared short code (such as 33898*) so they can ask questions and send feedback about the school. When a student texts in, a new SMS Chat session begins with a live person from the campus administration’s support team. This team is equipped to answer questions about the university and document and feedback from students.
Each phone number is used as a way to identify each student as a unique contact. All messages exchanged between the support staff and that student are saved, and can be referenced back to. While the support staff are replying to students from a computer, students have the look and feel of texting with a friend from their own mobile phone. The information can even be synced with the university’s customer database software.
The result of this upgrade is a more engaged student population. Students feel more empowered to provide feedback to the university and ask important questions about their finances or grades before it becomes a problem.
The second goal of reaching prospective students is an equally interesting prospect for leveraging SMS tools. Many high school students fill out applications online or meet recruiters at college fairs, but they often do not complete the application process or something is missing. Following up with these young people via email is not the most effective way to communicate.
So we will update the online forms to include a mobile phone field (along with SMS compliance content). The prospective student’s information is added to the customer database software, and the call center team can now follow-up with these teens in the fashion they prefer – text messages. Each call center team member can open an SMS Chat with individual prospective students to follow-up on their questions about the university, the application process, or any other burning questions.
*Note this is not a live campaign, so do not try to text in to see a sample.
It’s pushing technologists to work double time to satisfy the needs of the public.
The Bad News: There aren’t enough developers out there to tackle and test out every wild idea that bubbles to the surface
The Good News: The community has become more tech-savvy and it’s an exciting space to be in.
What You Need to Know About SMS
1. Mobile is Permission-Based. This means that you cannot spam random phone numbers with promotional text messages – even if you think the person would be interested. Your audience must choose to opt-in to receive SMS (text messages) from you. This can be done a few different ways:
Texting a Keyword to a Short Code,
Entering a phone number and agreeing to terms on a website form,
Verbally signing-up over the phone with a support/staff member, or
In-person printed form.
In all cases, the user will receive a confirmation text message that reads something along the lines of “You’ve just opted in… reply YES to confirm.”
2. Highly Personal. You are sending a message to someone’s personal phone. This is the device that he or she has at hand for most of the day, which is great – but it can also be intrusive if you don’t deliver the right kind of content. Be thoughtful and selective about the messages you send to your contacts. Just as you have learned to segment your email campaigns, the same concept should be applied to SMS.
3. Opting-Out. At any time, your contacts may text the word STOP to opt out of receiving text messages from you. This is a built-in compliance mechanism that protects consumers. Once someone has chosen to opt-out, he or she will receive a message confirming that opt-out. To opt back in, he will have to go through the same process as previous (texting in, or web form, etc). By delivering quality content at a consistent frequency (not too often), you will prevent opt-outs.
4. Integration. Since reporting and customer relationship management are such high priorities, one of the best ways to track what’s happening with your contacts is by integrating the mobile messaging portal with your existing systems. When you connect the messaging portal with your CRM system, then you can create a complete view of each customer as well as view reporting in either platform. 3Seventy has a pretty robust API that allows our clients to make this easy to setup.
Mobile innovations continue to grow, but can only keep up as fast as the people are requesting.
Everyone likes to feel empowered. In marketing, empowering the target of a campaign is a fantastic method to persuade that target to buy your brand or to keep them loyal. The term “empowered-consumer” should not be feared by businesses. Instead, they should be cultivated and tapped into as a valuable sales-boosting resource. Empowering consumers can create a legion of enthusiastic Tweeting, Facebook sharing, smartphone-wielding evangelists for your brand.
We are living in the age of virality, where the buzz around a brand happens overnight on the Internet. It happens when your Facebook friends share a funny commercial during the Super Bowl. It happens when a hashtag promotion starts trending on Twitter. Harnessing this new type of marketing should be at the top of every marketer’s To-Do list. The consumer is usually socializing on his or her own accord, so how can marketers engage them to take part in this inadvertent advertising?
Empower the Brand
Person-to-person marketing is nothing new. Advertising on social networks is no longer new either. In order to adapt, marketers can combine these two methods by engaging consumers with their social networks, especially the consumers already familiar or loyal to a brand, from the device they love most – their smartphone.
Here are a few examples of how businesses can empower their customers through their smartphones:
Make it democratic. The best way to empower someone is to show them that their opinion matters. Give customers something to vote on, like a new product, promotion, or slogan, and ask them to share the business’s web-poll with their social networks. Have them text-in and deliver real time results. Majority rules, so the customer will want their pick to get as many votes as possible.
Make it free, or at least seem free. In order for this technique to work, it should only apply to the brand’s target market or brand loyalists. Try offering this group something free in exchange for sharing a link on Facebook or forwarding a text coupon promotion to 5 friends.
Make it a game. Similar to making an offer seem free, turning it into a game or contest for a loyal customer to win empowers that person. In the context of mobile marketing, this might be a call-to-action for a customer to get their friends to text in a keyword to a short code so that the customer wins a gift card.
Make it theirs. Once a brand’s product is off the shelf and in the hands of the customer, it is theirs. Ask a customer to snap a picture with their new product and upload it to their social network, like Instagram, along with a specialized hashtag.
We all have one: a friend or a relative with the communication clock. There’s that person in your life that has a preset ratio of calls per day passed that is somehow directly wired to the quality of your friendship. Perhaps you are that person. I respect that, but I’m on the other end of the spectrum. I have no clock. Picture this: we’re having a conversation at a family event, say Christmas. I can be halfway through a sentence when we’re suddenly interrupted by something else. I’ll go handle that matter, go home, go to bed, get up the next day and go to work. It is entirely possible for me to go two years without seeing you. When we do talk again, I can literally finish the sentence we were in the middle of when we were interrupted. That’s how unaffected I am. Our friendship isn’t challenged by this gap. I’m not worried that we haven’t talked. I don’t remember how long it’s been. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning.
Then there are the people with the clock. You’ll never talk to them enough. You can identify them in one of two ways: they’ll tell you all the time or they won’t. The latter is much worse! That’s the slow silent guilt version. Like a sleeping lion, that’s dangerous. Leave it alone. The former isn’t much better. Even when you do make contact, you’re reminded that you don’t do it enough. It is constant and abrasive and you can’t win!
Somewhere in the middle is the “correct” amount of communication.
Businesses have to walk this line as well. On one end of the spectrum is the spam mailer. For whatever reason, some version of this is the all-too-common standard. If you could find the computer sending this junk out, you’d probably set the whole building on fire. On the other end, there’s the business that has a great product or idea but doesn’t want to bother you about it. The hope is that the customer will just casually find them on the 3rd page of Google search results. Neither one is particularly helpful.
I’ve been shopping for cars recently. This industry is in particular need of an overhaul. If you’re even lucky enough to find an email address in their unusually bug-laden site, you have no idea who it is going to. Most of them force you to put way too much contact information in an obscure little form. In what has to be 80% of cases, you get an initial blast of unusable coupons, bait-and-switch car prices for cars you aren’t interested in and if you’re lucky, there’s a small note at the bottom of the email from the actual salesman you intended to write. Then it happens: the first daily (if not four-hourly) email blast… you’re on their email server. Good luck, weary traveler. I went to one dealership in Austin where the salesman wrote a clean, graphic-free and link-free response. In the response he offered his own cell number and the freedom to text whenever needed. I’m still talking with him two weeks later. Why? He gave me the option of when and how to contact him. His information isn’t buried in spam. I define the communication clock.
That’s the value of text marketing. It is 100% opt in and 100% opt out. You cannot legally continue sending texts once someone has asked you to stop. At the same time, if someone wants to hear from you, they get what they wan so text marketing provides the company with users that voluntarily engaged in their marketing efforts. They’re almost impossible to ignore, yet not so wildly overused that you feel bothered by it. You quickly and conveniently receive the information that is valuable to you. It’s with you wherever you are. It’s your communication clock. Nobody will bother you more than you want. Nobody will add you to a giant server list on an unmanned computer on an island you can’t find. At the same time, you won’t be forgotten. You’ll get the right amount of relevant updates when you need them.
I had an egg taquito. That’s right.
Headquartered in Austin, Texas, TrueDialog is the preferred SMS solution for enterprise businesses and higher education. TrueDialog's cloud-based software and API make it simple to send mass text messages, communicate with employees, alert students and parents, and provide multi-user, team-based customer support at scale.