More of your customers own smart phones than ever before, including those earning a limited income. Optimize automated text messaging in order to engage and educate throughout the COVID crisis and beyond.
Companies that use text messaging, a.k.a. SMS (short message system) marketing, report higher engagement and more cost efficiency than those that don’t. While email and snail mail communications should still have a place in your overall marketing plans for the long haul, simple text alerts are excellent ways to educate and engage your customers right now–especially in light of the ongoing coronavirus situation we’re currently living through.
We here at BlastPoint love the ease and simplicity of text alerts, and apparently we’re not alone.
This Seattle Times article notes that, “LivePerson, a company that makes support software used by 18,000 companies, says when given the option, 70 percent of people chose a ‘message us’ button over a ‘call us’ button on a company website or app. And it says customer satisfaction rates are 25 percent higher for chatting and messaging than for calling.”
Beyond a behavioral preference for slick, efficient texts, we uncovered a few more reasons to consider upping your business’s text messaging game.
Texting yields higher customer engagement.
96 percent of Americans now own a cell or smartphone, according to findings from this recent Pew Research study. Low-income customers (earning less than $30K) rely on smartphones exclusively for internet access, because they often do not have broadband in their homes. So it makes good sense, then, to tap into text to deliver important messaging about your company’s products or programs, particularly when the situation is urgent.
“SMS open rates are as high as 98 percent, compared to just 20 percent of all emails,” says marketing agency Gartner.com. Moreover, they add, “on average, it takes 90 seconds for someone to respond to a text and 90 minutes to respond to an email.”
The disparity between text and email results is rather astounding. And at this particular moment in time, when companies need customers to take action quickly, texts may be the more effective and efficient choice.
Texting saves companies money.
For businesses, text services are usually more affordable than telephone services due to the number of phone lines and human resources needed to handle incoming and outgoing customer calls. And texts reach more customers simultaneously, making them much more efficient.
As PublicPower.org explains: “A utility’s phone service is limited to the number of lines it rents from the phone company. Unlike power generation, however, there is no requirement to maintain a reserve margin to handle spikes in phone calls, so most utilities try to match their day-to-day call volume with the number of lines they rent. During emergencies or large outages, those lines can quickly be overwhelmed. Those limits do not exist with a texting service.”
Texts can also be sent from anywhere over a network, making them easy to coordinate for employees who are currently working from home. For many of our energy industry partners, saving time and money is essential, because expendable pieces of the budget are being cut in order to keep customers’ homes powered through the COVID crisis.
Texts are useful for delivering urgent messages as well as for relaying general education to the public.
Retail stores have long used text messaging to alert customers to special coupon offers or one-time deals. Political campaigns keep voters’ attention and generate donations through text. Credit card companies deploy texts to notify customers about potential security breaches. Banks let customers know about overdrafts. And news outlets warn of severe weather or missing children reports via text.
Your company can text news of an urgent nature, too. But think longer-term about what text communication affords, and you can begin to see text as your new go-to educational tool for spreading bite-sized info about your programs, products and services.
For utility customers who already appreciate receiving time-sensitive texts about power outages or bills coming due, they may welcome more general-knowledge messaging that helps them cut energy costs or explains how to enroll in payment plans. So even if your company is already using text to communicate, there’s likely plenty of room to expand reach.
3 Things to Remember Before Executing Business-Related Text Alerts
Before you proceed with blasting out a text message campaign, make sure you have these essential ingredients in place first:
A valid mobile phone number for each of your customers, to avoid bounce backs and redundant data gathering.
A documented opt-in form. Per legal guidelines, no one should ever receive a text message from a service to whom they didn’t provide authorization.
160 characters of pure, useful info. A curated message that’s short and sweet gets you the most bang for your buck. As Twilio explains, a longer message will be cut into smaller chunks, and the end-user will receive a series of texts. Our sources recommend resisting the urge to clog your users’ inbox. Some customers find batches of texts from businesses to be annoying. So keep messages short and provide a link to more information, if necessary.
You’ll keep customers’ attention and garner their appreciation by boiling down your text messages into the most wisdom-packed, bite-sized gems possible.
Bonus Pro Tip
In order to roll out a truly effective SMS platform, find out which of your customer segments would be best engaged through text. By looking at your customer data through a behavioral lens–identifying attitudes toward technology, internet and social media usage, and cell phone usage, for example–you can target the right customers with prompts that will get them signed up for, and quickly engaging with, automated texts.
Twilio.com – Customer engagement platform & fellow Carnegie Mellon Univ. alum
Notepage.com – Text Messaging software solutions for utilities