SMS Messaging and Other Communications13 Jan 2020
Businesses today have an overwhelming choice when it comes to communicating with clients. Face to face, telephone, live chat, SMS messaging, webforms. email – the choice is endless. You tend to pick the form most appropriate to your situation when dealing with your clients.
Some of that communication will be direct such as thanking a customer for their order, or indirect, for example hanging a poster in your shop window advertising a special offer.
SMS messaging is one such method that may not immediately spring to mind and one we’ll be considering in today’s blog post. Let’s now look at the pros and cons of the different forms of communication you may use, starting out with some of the more traditional methods…
Whether by telephone or face to face, spoken communication is simple and effective. It is a live two-way dialogue so both parties can ask questions and offer answers. If anything is unclear it is easy to repeat or rephrase something. Furthermore, you can gauge from a person’s tone or body language how they feel about the interaction and you can adjust accordingly.
It is also a quick way of gaining a win. Think of times you have bought an extra product or feature because the salesperson explained the benefits to you so well?! You can strike while the iron is hot, so if a client has had a great experience with you, there and then is a real opportunity to do some follow-up business.
Phone calls can be recorded to give something of an audit trail.
A couple of points to be aware of. Firstly, this really depends on the skills of your staff doing the talking. They need to understand that they are the voice of your brand and so they need to sell your business, not just their personality. This is especially important when clients may be dealing with different members of your team and not just their “favourite”.
Face to face conversations are difficult to record accurately. Effectively you will rely on your staff to make some notes as they try and recall the conversation, and this can be hard to do objectively. Most business rely on face to face communication to some degree, so you need to be sure that your team is doing it right.
Often working in tandem with spoken word, paper serves as the accompanying audit trail when a transaction is complete. Your receipt contains the basics – the products sold, price and date. But it is also a good marketing opportunity. If you look at your receipts you’ll spot details like special offers and discounts. It means that effectively your client keeps a reminder of their business with you right in their wallet.
If the nature of your business relationship is such that you have collected the customer address, you can also send them follow-up messages. This might be catalogues, brochures, newsletter, that kind of thing.
You’re in control of this communication – you can decide when to send (e.g. a month before a product launch), and you have the tools to verify that the finished article meets the standards expected by you and your business.
The big drawback to this is that it is very difficult to track feedback effectively. You may see which clients have moved, if you get undelivered items returned to sender. But you cannot accurately track who has received and subsequently read your correspondence.
Of course, you’ll see if any future orders come from existing clients – perhaps you included an order form in the brochure, but beyond that you might struggle to calculate how effective the mailout was.
In more and more scenarios, email has superseded the written form. Quite a few shops I visit have either gone paperless altogether or ask me if I would prefer a paper or email receipt. Similarly, product brochures are mainly sent via email, either as a link to a website or directly within the email.
Email has numerous benefits. You have the same stylistic advantages that you have with the written word. If you are sending a template you can be sure your branding and “tone” remains intact, regardless of who is doing the sending. As with the printed option, you can select when to send the mails to maximise their efficiency.
The big advantage of email is that you can build in tools to track success benchmarks. Whether you want to see who has opened your email, who has clicked on links, which link they clicked on and so on, tracking this activity is all possible and helps you track the ROI of your email campaigning.
Websites and Webforms
Although you may not consider your website to be a place for a two-way conversation, you can (and probably already do) embed enquiry forms in your website. As well as using analytics to keep tabs on the performance of your website, you can offer your site visitors the chance to interact with you and offer feedback. There are lots of different solutions for webforms out there but a great one that we use is Jotform.
You have less control as to when someone visits your site so unless you are actively promoting the site via emails, advertising, social media etc, your traffic is as much determined by your search engine performance as anything determined by you.
Nowadays, more businesses are focusing their efforts on their social media accounts as much as on their website. This might happen for various reasons. One business may well use Twitter to manage their frontline support. Another might be heavily reliant on endorsements and encouraging their readers to share content relevant to their products. A social media account only takes seconds to update and often feedback comes through thick and fast, so it is a very agile form of communication.
The danger here is a bit like with the telephone – your team will need to understand the tone of your business, so they communicate using your “voice” as it were. Tales of social media gaffes are frequent, and sometimes have disastrous consequences. As this is a very new form of communication, guidelines and training are non-existent so you can be at the mercy of members of staff who do not fully understand what your business is about.
Although it’s been around a while, live chat can be seen the new kid on the block. For quite a few years, this offered a fairly limited range of automated responses to only answer a scripted set of questions. Unless there were live operators lurking behind the scenes, this restricted form of communication is likely to be considered as much of an annoyance as a help. It’s a bit like navigating your way through telephone queuing systems until you eventually get the person you need to speak to.
The good news comes when there is a team of operators ready to help, for example on our own website, so why not click on the icon in the bottom right corner and fire us a question over?
As with the other communication options, users need to be acutely aware of maintaining the appropriate company tone, as it can be tempting to blurt out a response without thinking it through. One measure you can use to counter this is by preparing scripted responses so that when a particular question is raised, you offer a consistent reply.
You may not necessarily associate SMS messaging with a business scenario. However, if I scroll through my phone messages I can see that my inbox is actually full of business messages. These range from information regarding my mobile phone contract, details of a delivery I am expecting, to a chat with my plumber.
If you think about it, SMS is a great way of getting the message across at a relevant time. Nearly everyone keeps their phone on their person and lots of people check them all the time. Compared with a phone call, the text message is less intrusive, so your recipient can read it when it suits them instead of having to deal with it there and then. Texts are sort and sweet so they are the perfect medium for delivering snappy messages that will hopefully put a smile on your client’s face.
SMS is easily configured in your CRM system, with all manner of options such as having the ability to bulk send SMS messages, or automating the sending e.g. when an order has been signed, or if a ticket has been resolved.
Most businesses will use a combination of most of the above. As well as playing to your strengths and focus on what you do well, you need to listen to your customers and see how they prefer to get in touch with you.
Regardless of your chosen communication tools, you need to make sure you get the message right. This might mean using templates for your email and SMS messaging, teaching your team appropriate words and phrases to use or designing scripted responses for use in live chat. Each of the channels available are there to help you offer the best customer service you possibly can.