Comcast has announced it’s appointing a long-time company executive, Charlie Herrin, as senior vice president of customer experience. Many people are waiting to see how he’ll improve Comcast’s customer marketing, and breathe new life into an industry that’s infamous for poor customer service.
I have some advice for Mr. Herrin and any other business looking to improve customer communication – use the right channels, effectively. Consumers don’t want to navigate through an automated phone system or wait in line for hours. A recent study revealed that 85% of consumers want companies to communicate with them via SMS, but only 58% of companies actually do. This is leading many companies to place a greater emphasis on the technologies and people that can make their customers happier.
The study also revealed that while 73% of businesses think they’re doing a good job of communicating to customers via SMS, email, phone calls, and other means of communication, only 36% of their customers agree. The market for mobile customer engagement is ripe with opportunities and room for improvement.
Customers are already using SMS to talk to their friends, family and co-workers, so why aren’t they able to text the companies they do business with, when and how they prefer? Consumers are demanding this type of rich B2C interaction, and businesses need to start embracing it.
Here are a few ways SMS can take marketing to the next level:
Bypassing IVR – Toll-free Texting
Toll-free texting enables customers to proactively reach out to a business in a way that’s convenient, rather than waiting on hold or navigating an IVR system. Very few businesses are engaging with their audience through texting to 800-numbers, but there is incredible, untapped potential for the customer experience. With more than 40 million toll-free numbers in existence today, up to 80% of consumers demand the ability to send SMS messages for better interaction with businesses.
Leverage Shortcode Messages
Enabling shortcode text messaging creates an opportunity for businesses to engage with consumers an automated and cost-effective way. Shortcodes have been used for weather updates, airline flight information, and automatic carrier updates for years. But, as more people are turning to over-the-top (OTT) applications like Pingr or WhatsApp to communicate, this capability was only available through traditional, native messaging apps that came pre-loaded with the phone.
Today, capabilities exist that enable shortcode correspondence with the OTT apps that many consumers rely on for communications. Users can sign up for shortcode subscriptions with their favorite businesses, regardless of what their preferred messaging app is, enabling a new communication channel to engage users. In the banking industry, for example, a study by Digital Banking Report found that consumers demand contextual SMS alerts and notifications that demonstrate their financial institution is looking out for them 24/7. Regardless of industry, consumers are looking to SMS as a channel to stay connected with companies they do businesses with automatically, whether it’s shipment updates, new product notifications, seasonal promotions or scheduling appointments.
Replace Telemarketing and Email Surveys with SMS
Telemarketing surveys are a thing of the past, and email surveys often get lost in flooded inboxes – or worse – spam folders. With SMS surveys, consumers can respond on their own time within a format they use daily in their personal lives. While customers aren’t likely to spend 5-10 minutes on the phone answering questions, they may be willing to answer two to three quick questions through texting.
Key to all of these SMS marketing initiatives is consent of the consumer. Customers want to engage with businesses on their own terms, and therefore businesses should offer a way for customers to opt-in to this type of communication. The ability to opt-in and opt-out of SMS communication needs to be clear and easy for users.
So, Mr. Herrin – keep this in mind as you try to improve Comcast’s customer experience. Consumers prefer to connect via SMS in their personal lives because it’s more efficient than picking up the phone, and they can do it on their own time. But the value of text messaging shouldn’t be limited to their personal lives. Marketers who ignore the SMS channel are missing out on valuable opportunities to build better brand relationships, engage with their customers proactively and provide a better overall customer experience.