How to Use SMS Customer Service as a Transition Between Support Channels

6 min to read · By VHT

Most customers choose SMS customer service as their preferred communication channel with a company—70% of consumers think it’s a great way for companies to reach them. Yet 48% of customers still use the phone—and prefer to speak with someone. Most customers are satisfied with a combination of the two.

But staffing, as any contact center manager knows, is the most expensive part of the customer experience. You want to keep costs down, but you also want the customer to feel appreciated and heard.

There’s a solution that sits between automated text messages to your customers and fully staffed phone lines: transitioning customers across channels, from text to voice and back. This allows call centers to queue customers while still attending to their issues and give customers the sense that they’re being helped at every point in their journey.

Servicing across text and voice offers a complete customer experience that shows empathy, concern, and appreciation of the customer. We’ll show you how to do it, with Mindful helping along the way.

Start with texting best practices.

When you start a customer interaction with text, you’re able to gather information and figure out the source of problems. You can provide the customer with a format to express their goals, which can be passed on to the live agent. Text is also a more cost-effective alternative to live agents—two-way live texting costs about one-third of the cost of staffing a phone agent—so it makes sense to incorporate texting as the first leg of your customer communication strategy.

“In 2019 consumers sent over 7 trillion SMS messages to one another using a smartphone and half of them have expressed the desire to interact with brands the same way,” said Matt DiMaria, CEO of VHT. “Mindful enables our clients to engage with their customers, who want access to the full power of their smartphones, at a time that is convenient for them. And all this must result in a successful conversation regardless of whether it’s a voice or text interaction.”

Make your text communications brief and clear. Text is a limited space format. Don’t waste the space with unnecessary jargon or wording. Keep the tone light, friendly, and informative.

Reach out when your customer’s likely to be available. Try to catch your customer before their workday starts or just after their typical workday ends, so they have time to focus on your text. Between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. or between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. (based on the time zone in which your customer resides) on weekdays is optimal.

Transition from text to voice.

So, why the transition from text to a live voice call? This type of flow puts the customer in control, while enabling you to plan for it.

This key transition allows the customer to start with low stakes, then schedule a call on their time, at their leisure—while also making sure it is a time that you have appropriate staffing.

Turning this clutch transition into a success is better from all angles:

  • Keep customers moving forward with your brand.
  • Build trust (the customer thinks, “When I’m stuck, there’s always another option.”)
  • Create predictable call volume and eliminate peaks.
  • Track the customer journey from the SMS channel into voice so you can create better containment options.
  • Show the customer you value them.

Voice interaction is more personal.

Verbal communication makes customers feel that someone cares enough to listen—the responses aren’t from automated bots. Live agents can use voice inflection, personality, and humor to win over clients, while it’s virtually impossible to do that through text. And according to a 2020 report, a whopping 96% of customers will churn because of perceived bad customer service.

First, prioritize text conversations that require escalation, like very angry or aggressive customers that complained in the text. Look at call logs and call center data to help you sort difficult customers out—is the person complaining a repeat customer? Have they (or others) repeatedly complained about the same issues? This could be found in the CSAT and NPS survey results or with call monitoring AI.

Personalize the experience for the customer as much as possible to create delight. Answering the call with, “Am I speaking to XYZ?” is much more effective than telling a customer, “Thanks for calling, who am I speaking with?” Eighty percent of consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that personalize their experience.

Use text to connect experiences.

Between an SMS message and a follow-up phone call, you have the opportunity to reassure customers they’ll be taken care of. Use the time to promote your brand’s care for the customer by letting them know that you’ll be calling them (from the same number!) at a specific time (give estimated wait time), and notify them with reminders that their call is coming up.

Another great chance to minimize the customer’s issues: Use your AI framework to analyze the texts and customer’s pain points and follow up with suggestions for self-service. Then, pass the context over to your agents to prime the call for an incredibly efficient and personalized conversation.

Follow up with a text.

Now that you’ve sent out a text and followed up with a phone call, follow up again with another text. Customers will feel heard and appreciated even after an issue is resolved. It’s important to make the customer feel like their feedback was acted on (77% of consumers view brands more favorably if they do) and that you care enough to check in with them even after the problem, issue, or question was resolved.

Depending on the issue, follow up within 24 to 48 hours. Immediate issues (delayed shipping, product defect, or any other time-sensitive problem) should be followed up with a post-voice text within 24 hours. Issues that might need some research (delayed shipping, billing errors) should definitely be followed up with a post-voice text within 48 hours.

You don’t have a lot of room in your follow-up text for details, so consider just summarizing the issue and asking how the customer felt about the experience. If a customer canceled an order, ask why and what could be done to make their experience better, and then maybe suggest another product or service.

“By empowering your customers to transition between talk and text, Mindful makes the user experience of contacting a brand match the experience of communicating with friends and family,” said Nick Kennedy, VP, Customer Care at VHT. “VHT’s analytics have demonstrated a lower cost per interaction while increasing customer loyalty and raising Net Promoter Scores (NPS).”

Use Mindful for seamless flow and powerful insights.

At this point, your mind might be jumping to all the different tools and systems you’ll have to implement to achieve two-way, transition, and automated SMS customer service messaging.

Fortunately, Mindful has you covered—and it’s quick to implement with your existing infrastructure.

For those text-to-voice interactions, Mindful moves customers seamlessly across channels, retaining context, collecting information in the space between, and consistently lowering average handle times.

Virtual queuing keeps customers off hold and lets the customer know by text when an agent will get back to them. Customers can reschedule or cancel a call, and reconnect rates stay high thanks to confirmation and reminder notifications.

What about when customers start online and want to move to text? Mindful’s online call scheduling lets customers decide when they want a call back. It gives the customer the freedom of choice and the satisfaction that their support options are firmly in their control. Once the call is scheduled, Mindful will send a confirmation text, keep the caller in queue with a reminder, and the customer is dialed with the same phone number for a seamless move to a voice interaction.

Summing up: Use text as a tool, not as a total solution.

Establishing a relationship with a customer using only a single channel is impersonal and one-sided. It narrows the control customers have and makes for a poor customer experience.

Texting is popular, but as a standalone channel of communication, it doesn’t always satisfy. When customers have a high value or sensitive issue, voice will always be necessary—and that SMS-to-voice transition is critical. In the end, the result is to help customers feel like they’re in control.

Mindful integrates with any telephony, customer experience, and digital infrastructure to ensure the highest degree of support and the fastest time-to-value. If you’re looking for a platform that can handle voice, transition to text, transition back to voice, and notify and assist your customers in every step of their journey, Mindful is your solution.

Watch a demo of Mindful to learn more about using SMS customer service as a transition.

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