What makes your product great? The best of breed companies have actionable, customer-centric data in their products—feeding critical marketing, lead generation, sales automation, CRM and analytics workflows. Capturing and integrating multi-channel or omni-channel communication is table stakes today for SaaS platforms of all kinds, and that includes traditional offline communication channels like text messaging as well as online channels such as email.
Today, a complete, omni-channel, customer-centric data strategy includes:
- Physical Retail Locations
- Websites & Mobile Apps
- Phones and Call Centers
- Online Chat
- Text Messaging
That last one, text messaging, was left out for far too long—despite its mass adoption across every segment in our consumer lives. But no more.
Text messaging is moving beyond the traditional marketing use cases to a widely used two-way communication channel that is often preferred over email and phone calls. So why are software platforms moving to add virtual phone numbers with text messaging alongside email, websites, social networking and chat?
Reason #1 – Mass Adoption. Everyone is text messaging… everyone.
More than any other activity on our phones, we text according to Nielsen and Pew Internet Research. Pew reports that 81% of cell phone owners text message vs. 52% that are using their smartphones to email. For sharing, “the SMS button has been used 3-4x more often than the Twitter button ever was” according to USA Today’s sports blog, For the Win.
What’s up with WhatsApp, SnapChat, and Over-The-Top (OTT) messaging?
Is that where businesses should be? If you asked, text messaging would say “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” In fact despite the threat to wireless carrier revenues from text messaging by OTT mobile apps, text messaging adoption as a form of communication is here to stay. Why? What other form of communication works across iOS and Android, from AT&T and Verizon, to Vodafone and China Mobile? None. Despite the fact that all-you-can eat texting plans may be bad for wireless carrier revenues, they’re also the reason why texting is now universally adopted and available.
Reason #2 – Mobile Engagement without “App for That” Consumer Fatigue
There’s an app for that! <Sigh> If you are requiring customers to download, install, update and find your mobile app in the “junk drawer of their digital life,” aka their smartphone app collection, you might find yourself in the 95% of apps that never gets used. Mobile communication and engagement must be quick and effortless.
Take an international hotel… let’s talk about products they use for marketing, Reservations, check in, concierge services, check out, loyalty. Today, many of these systems use web, email and phone calls as their main channels. For confirmations, that works, but as we travel we become inherently mobile. It is widely quoted that the average email is read 48 hours after it is sent, while the average SMS is read in 4 minutes…ya 4 minutes. So before check-in, during our stay and at check-out, texting becomes a more effective channel. Therefore it’s no surprise the hospitality industry is integrating text messaging at a rapid pace—for example, a Bandwidth customer, QWASI, has created workflows for clients that enable Room Ready Notifications, Check-in Activation, and Concierge Chat using text messaging. The Four Seasons has done just this exact thing.
Auto dealers use texting as part of their CRM for sales and customer service to communicate with buyers. In a multi-channel world, managers in the auto industry need the ability to track and manage communications between customers and their sales and service departments—whether those communications happen via email, phone or now especially text messaging. In a survey, over half of car buyers said they prefer text messages for service topics such as service updates, recall notices and maintenance information—making it even more critical that Auto dealers have CRM systems integrated with text messaging.
And industry applications don’t stop there. Insurance agents, home improvement services, real estate agents, healthcare, financial services and more…all of them benefit from allowing customers to engage and communicate over texting messaging, while tracking, managing and aligning with CRM data.
Reason #3 – Easy to Integrate & Manage
Texting has never been easier to integrate and manage using simple on-demand, cloud-based API platforms. What we all once thought of as a “hosted VoIP phone service” running on our PCs has now given way to the next generation of “virtual phone numbers for applications.” This change has made it easy for CRM systems to create add-on services for voice and texting, just like a traditional VoIP phone system does. Bandwidth provides a developer platform, the App Platform, ap.bandwidth.com, that provides exactly these cloud services to CRM providers while giving them access to a direct-to-carrier pricing model just like the largest VoIP companies.
By integrating local or toll free virtual phone numbers into software products, like CRM systems, the flow of offline communications such as text messaging can be brought back online. This suddenly makes these channels easy to track and manage—improving the businesses’ ability to provide a better overall customer experience. It’s like moving your SMS text messaging from your smartphone to your CRM platform, and across every device you use—not just your smartphone. Give your users:
- Notifications of new messages
- Information organized by customer thread or search history
- The ability to manage a conversation as a team
- The ability to re-route messages by time of day, employee schedules or customer type
It’s all as easy as integrating with a few basic web APIs, which is making it possible for every type of marketing or CRM software to add these features vs. using specialized platforms.
Reason #4 – Toll Free Texting
Toll free texting is being called the unexpected new customer service channel. Texting is starting to roll out more broadly because of this simple but powerful technical change—toll free numbers can now text. Most people are surprised to learn that this is new. Many businesses have used toll free phone numbers for contact centers and call centers integrated with CRM for decades.These national brands tended to favor use of short codes, five or six digit codes for texting rather than phone numbers. However, short codes are inherently one-way forms of communication and mostly used for marketing.They are expensive, take a long time to set up and provision and are not capable of also receiving phone calls.
Now with the availability of toll free phone numbers that are able to handle both phone calls and send and receive SMS messages, marketing platforms, contact centers, sales automation and CRM software are integrating and adding new features for text-in, click-to-text, and many other forms of texting workflows alongside voice calling. This is helping businesses more efficiently process orders, send out appointment reminders, answer customer questions and more.
Reason #5 – Texting Converts Easily to Phone Calls
In this increasingly omni-channel world, the ability to move from communication channel to communication channel is critical to a customer-centric experience. Texting is preferred by customers. It’s easy, quick, and convenient; however, texting often progresses to a phone call in our personal lives because we just can’t explain over text that last minute detail. So, we pick up the phone and call.
For customers and businesses, texting gives that same cross-channel context. A text conversation can progress to a phone call when needed on the same virtual phone number the texting is happening on, and then revert back to the text conversion. This kind of seamless transition across channels is rare even in our digital economy. From web to mobile app to phone call to email is extremely complex,but the simplicity of text to phone calls is an easy win for omni-channel CRM and sales software systems.
Don’t have texting and virtual phone numbers in your product today?
In the near future, texting will be as common as email features are in today’s CRM products. Still on the fence? Give Bandwidth a text at (919) 670-3000. Our sales and product teams can share use cases that make sense for your product, with easy-to-use APIs that will get you up and running quickly.