How to Provide Customer Support Via Text Messaging

Sam Schrup
December 27, 2021
January 11, 2024
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Have your customers indicated a preference for text communication?

Text messaging has been a growing area for marketing as well as customer service. Many consumers have expressed a preference for communication by text because it is quick and convenient for them.

In fact, around 67% of consumers would rather text than talk or email. It’s a way of quickly reaching people, with the option of taking a more personalized approach. At the same time, many consumers see it as less intrusive. It gives them the option of taking their time to answer, especially those who prefer not to talk on the phone!

When Someone Calls instead of messaging

The question for many businesses is, should you use text messaging as part of customer support? If so, how can you use it effectively?

Should you offer text message support?

Understandably, many businesses hesitate to offer another channel of communication. It means additional resources going to managing the new channel and ensuring it keeps customers happy. That’s probably the main downside – if you’re going to do text messaging, you need to be prepared to be very responsive, because that’s what customers expect.

On the flipside, there are many positives for offering text message support:

  • It’s very quick and convenient for customers, encouraging them to engage.
  • 90% of text messages are read in under three minutes. If you compare that to back and forth email exchanges which can go on for days, you can see it might be possible to resolve support tickets much more quickly.
  • Text messages have a 96% open rate (on average).
  • 75% of consumers say they’re frustrated when they’re unable to reply or take action via text. By offering support, you’re giving them what they’re asking for.
  • Text messaging is a channel that people are constantly using. Most people are never very far from their mobile phone. This makes text a wide-reaching option.

If your business is grappling with the question of whether to offer customer support via text message or not, it may help to consider these questions:

  • Are your target customers regular users of text messaging?
  • Have you found that other channels aren’t always very efficient for engaging with customers?
  • Do you have the resources available to run customer support via text messaging? (Or, can you easily put some in place?).

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these, then you may want to look at offering text support. Customer demand should be a key driver, although it sometimes takes a period of getting used to using text for customer service.

Conversational messaging

Text messaging as a marketing or customer service tool is also in line with a wider trend for conversational messaging. This is messaging that feels personal to the customer, like having a one-on-one chat rather than having impersonal messages pushed out.

This conversational tone can take place on any messaging channel between customers and businesses. Some typical channels include:

  • WhatsApp
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Chatbots
  • SnapChat
  • Email

Text messaging fits right in because it’s typically what people use to communicate with friends and family members. The idea of any conversational messaging strategy is to make it personal and keep it customer-centric.

What do customers want? Generally easy, fast and personalized ways to communicate. They want to feel that they’re being treated as a human by a fellow human. SMS has an advantage over other channels mentioned because it tends to be more immediate. Most people are notified the second they receive a text – they don’t have to open an app to check it.

What do you need in order to offer text support?

At a basic level, you need these things in order to offer text support:

  1. A text messaging provider. This is the platform that enables you to send text messages, either one-on-one in response to a customer, or en masse such as with marketing messages. Service providers such as AudienceTap help to ensure that your text messages get delivered.
  2. A means of signing people up. One of the prerequisites for texting customers is that they must have willingly signed up to receive those messages. You would be breaking the law if you simply bought a random text list, or added people to your list without asking. Good text messaging service providers usually have a signup mechanism you can use.
  3. The personnel available to respond to text messages. In general, people expect a quick response. It’s okay to have business hours so there isn’t a 24/7 expectation, but you also need to adequately communicate your availability and when customers can expect a response. You might want to use some autoresponders to inform customers of important information, as well as text messages directly from representatives. (For example, consider an automated text acknowledging receipt of their message and how quickly they can expect a response).
  4. A documented strategy including KPIs. You’ve got to measure to understand if text support is helping your business.
Women on couch looking at mobile phone

Best practices for text messaging support

Here are a few best practices for getting good results using text messaging for customer support:

Balance automation and “human” messages

We’ve touched on this already, but to make SMS a success, it requires a quick response. Obviously if you’re relying entirely on humans, a quick response isn’t always possible. You’ve got after-hours, weekends and holidays to consider, as well as any busy periods where they may be slower to respond.

Finding the right balance with automated messages can help. It’s a way of setting expectations with customers and ensuring they don’t think their message is being ignored.

As a general rule, customers see text messaging as a very personal channel, so you wouldn’t want to lean too heavily on automation. People can usually tell when they’re not getting a response directly from a human…

Give people a good reason to sign up

If you want to use text messaging as a customer service (or marketing) channel, then you need to give people a good reason to sign up for your messages. In other words, they have to derive value from your service.

One mistake some companies make is to go in too heavily with many repeated messages. That shifts them more into the “nuisance” category rather than being helpful. Deliver what you said you were going to do via text and do so in a timely manner so people see the value of the channel.

Have a system for prioritizing messages

If your text service becomes very busy, you’ll find you need to respond to messages in order of priority. For any customer service team members, it’s important that there is a system to determine what those priorities are.

There’s no one “right” approach to this – companies usually discover what works for them. For example, some will prioritize by type of query, some by customer lifetime value and some by level of urgency.

Simple queries may even have some kind of message template database where a team member can copy and paste a response. Consider how you might keep a level of personalization, while operating efficiently.

Use a recognizable number

Customers generally expect that text messages should be coming from the number they initially texted (or from the same number you first sent a message from). This helps with trusting the messages that they receive, and feeling confident in how they can reach you.

Have a consistent approach

When a customer texts you, they should have an experience that is consistent with what they get reaching out via any other channel. Aspects such as tone, responsiveness and even the answers that they get should be consistent.

Final thoughts

Text messaging is an increasingly important channel through which to offer customer support. The bottom line is that it’s giving consumers what they want. A majority have already expressed a preference for text over phone calls or email.

You can be successful with text messaging by offering a responsive, conversational service. People expect personalization, along with fast, efficient communication. Treat text messaging as you would other customer service channels by putting the resources into running it well. This will help you to develop the channel as a primary form of service.

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