Text Messaging and the Contact Center

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Do you have a mobile phone?  If I play the odds, it's a pretty safe bet that you do.  The CTIA (who has  a particular interest in mobile phone usage) indicates that 91% of the U.S. population has at least one mobile device.  Furthermore, nearly 23% of Americans have "cut the cord" completely and don't even have a traditional landline. 

The rapid adoption of the mobile phones introduces some intriguing ways to interact with your customers.  The most ubiquitous of mobile phone features is text messaging: short message service … SMS … those tiny little messages we send to one another using just 160 characters.  Of the 285 million mobile phones currently subscribed, over 96% of them are capable. And can we say anything useful in such a limited space?  I can't say if it's useful content, but I CAN say that we in the United States send a LOT of them: 1.56 TRILLION last year?!

Thus far much of the SMS usage is peer-to-peer: people talking to friends, family, co-workers, etc.  Businesses have used  outbound SMS for applications like coupon delivery, contents, voting, loyalty programs, reminders, notifications, etc.  But what if the customer wants to reach out to YOU via text?  SMS is such a common channel these days yet contact centers are still trying to figure out what to make of it.  Can an agent carry on a dialog with an SMS-based customer?  What applications are good for the contact center and which ones are not?  Is it appropriate to start in an SMS channel and then convert to a phone call?  What are the best applications for SMS communication into the contact center?

While SMS isn't currently a dominant channel into the contact center, businesses need to start thinking about it very seriously.  Businesses need to be willing to engage customers in their preferred method … and increasingly that's becoming SMS.