An introduction to two-way SMS for contact centers

A two-way SMS platform is one that incorporates outbound and inbound text messaging into a unified service. SMS is one of the fastest-growing channels for business communication. And it’s no surprise as SMS engagement and costs outperform the more traditional phone and email. Here are a few surprising stats:

  • SMS open rates beat email nearly 5x over: 90% vs 20% – Open rate of SMS compared to email open rates (VoiceSage).
  • It takes the average person 90 seconds to respond to a text message ((GSMA).
  • 75% of people wouldn’t mind receiving an SMS text message from a brand (after opt-in) (Digital Marketing Magazine).

It used to be that outbound SMS-alert functionality alone was enough to hit the messaging mark. Many brands still simply use texting as a means to send messages in real-time to large groups of customers simultaneously. What they don’t realize is that many of those messages are getting responses. This means you could be leaving some serious relationship-building opportunities (not to mention cash) on the table. 

Here is the most astonishing thing to consider: According to our survey data, 60% of the one-way SMS messages you’re sending are getting responses that go unanswered. That amounts to a huge missed opportunity. 

To help you turn a one-way message blast into a true engagement, in this article, we lay out three core aspects of successful two-way SMS adoption:

  1. Two-way SMS basics
  2. The potential value add of conversational messaging for your organization 
  3. Compliance

These SMS basics will help you get up to speed and scale as your digital engagement grows.

Create a meaningful “hello”

Two-way SMS is almost like creating a conversation with a stranger. You have to make sure you’re saying something interesting and impactful because customers actually want to talk back to you on this channel. This touch goes a long way for customer service. A simple “Welcome” message can translate into some serious NPS points.

In highly-regulated industries like financial services, for instance, these messages can also bolster data security posture and give your customers an added sense of protection. 

To create a meaningful hello, follow these tips:

  • Be clear. Include your brand name so customers have a record of who they’re texting with and spell out exactly what they should expect as your SMS subscriber. This might look something like this: “Thanks! You’re subscribed to SMS messages from Smith & Co. We’ll send product recs we’ve selected just for you about once a week.”
  • Be mindful of tone. Just because SMS marketing messages are short in length doesn’t mean it’s time to ditch your usual tone and style guidelines. Keeping your language aligned with what customers are used to will contribute to a stronger brand.
  • Keep it short. That being said about tone, the length of your business SMS does matter. To prevent your message from getting clipped, keep it under 160 characters. 
  • Offer the option to opt-out. Giving subscribers a simple way to opt-out isn’t just a best practice; it’s required by law. 

But make sure it’s compliant…

Compliance is essentially constantly confirming and re-confirming you as a business are engaging with customers on their terms. You can’t just buy a list of numbers and start texting. You have to build an opt-in list that tracks obtained consent by the customer. 

To build your SMS messaging database, you first need consent to engage with a customer. To do so, you need to ask their permission. Obtaining consent for the initial touchpoint is critical, but it’s an ongoing affirmation. 

This is because brand-to-customer SMS messaging is protected by the same regulations as calls to cell phones. Just like there are rules about how you can conduct calls to cell phones that come with some pretty steep fines, TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) governs text messages, too. In broad strokes, TCPA states that organizations must obtain written, explicit consent from the customer before contact can be made on a mobile channel. 

This is why it’s crucial to go for platforms with built-in consent management. That way you can accomplish the following:

  • Acquire the customer’s express written consent to receive messages via SMS. Written permission may include electronic or digital forms of signature (such as a website form, text message, or email confirmation).
  • Maintain a record of each customer’s consent.
  • Disclose useful information and opt-out instructions.
  • Offer the ability to revoke consent and opt-out at any time (e.g., a STOPkeyword.)

Like earthquake insurance and rain boots on a sunny day, TCPA is probably one of the most important things you didn’t know you needed to protect yourself against. Thankfully, making sure you’re on the right side of TCPA isn’t as difficult as reading insurance policy fine print.

Continue the conversation

What makes conversational SMS so desirable is that after the initial point of consent, you can contact customers by text moving forward with information about updates, issues, and promotions, even invitations to join VIP programs, events, or surveys.

This creates a personalized experience by leveraging what you already know they want to know about. You can use the data you collect with each interaction to build on that value and generate new opportunities for more meaningful conversations.

In addition to fraud alerts, customers are more apt to receive texts about payment reminders, low balance alerts, etc. But the data shows they’re receptive to so much more.

SMS provides a twofold benefit because you’re enabling constant contact while also gathering vital intel that can be utilized to better understand customer preferences, history, and intent. With this information, you can then further develop relationships that yield positive ROI benefits for your company’s bottom line

If you do it right… they want to talk back

Consider your own everyday use of messaging as a proxy. You use your personal phone for business, you receive text updates about packages that have been delivered, maybe you even make appointments via text. 

SMS texting is part of our everyday communications. As Deloitte points out in their most recent mobile usage study from 2018, the vast majority of customers worldwide have access to this capability on their mobile phones. People often send more text messages than they place voice calls or email. 

Texting has also changed from a short one-way communication to an ongoing conversation between people, and customers are now expecting this same fast, easy communication with the brands they use every day.

Having two-way text messaging to provide effortless service is essential to keeping customers satisfied. SMS/text notifications are ubiquitous—from doctor appointment reminders to credit card fraud notifications, they’re commonly used to send messages, alerts, and reminders. That is now the status quo. 

All too often the message only goes one way and the customer cannot reply with a question or text back anything other than a confirmation code or a request to stop receiving such messages. Or, the customer is provided a phone number to dial for further assistance. All of this creates friction on a channel that exists for quick and easy interactions. Contact centers that offer messaging have an easier time merging online and mobile channels. They also experience more success with contact rates and higher NPS scores, in addition to breaking down silos that can cause problems.

Why SMS is effective

It’s clear smart brands have adopted SMS but are primarily using it as a one-way service. You may receive an update from your mobile carrier notifying you when you’re near your data limit, or maybe an appointment reminder about your upcoming dentist visit. What many businesses don’t realize is that customers want to respond to those texts, and may already be. With 90% of all text messages read within 3 minutes of being received, the opportunity to engage with a customer on this channel is one of the most impactful.

In addition to being a conversation launchpad, SMS is a far more cost-effective channel when compared to traditional voice. The average cost of a phone call hovers around $15.50 per interaction according to Forrester research vs $1 and $5 for SMS. Optimizing SMS in your call center is a no-brainer. 

Using a two-way text platform is a great way to boost conversions. By including an enticing call to action that’s personalized for the subscriber, you can encourage click-throughs to your bottom-of-the-funnel landing pages. From there, the floor is yours to turn that subscriber into a customer or repeat purchaser or respond to any questions they may have directly in your text conversation. And, as mentioned above, each message comes at a lower cost than other marketing mediums, which increases your ROI. 

Finally, two-way messaging is incredibly nimble. Distributing a push notification that reaches your entire customer base is as simple as tapping out a message in your SMS software and hitting ‘send.’ Plus, your text message platform provides valuable analytics that can be used to optimize your messages, resulting in campaigns that are increasingly effective over time. 

Reasons Why People Prefer SMS over Other Channels

Less Time Consuming 44%
More Convenient 42%
Less Frustrating 30%

Drawbacks of one-way SMS messaging 

The benefits of two-way messaging are clear. But if you’re still on the fence about upgrading from a traditional one-way messaging platform, consider these drawbacks. 

  • Customers can’t reply to you. This is the most obvious downside of one-way messaging. But the worst part is that many customers will still think they’re replying to you and you’re simply not responding–not a good perception to leave them with.
  • It doesn’t match up with your promise to customers. Somewhere in your marketing, you’ve probably used language conveying how much your customers matter to you. But if they can’t have a two-way conversation with you, how much do they really feel like they matter?
  • It’s bad UX. Modern customers are used to the back-and-forth cadence of a regular text message conversation. If your SMS messages are purely one-sided, it makes for an awkward user experience that can leave customers with a negative perception.

How to choose the best business text messaging software 

Because of its convenient and highly personal nature, SMS messaging is incredibly effective at engaging customers. Most customers respond positively to text message communications from brands once they’ve opted in to receive them. 

There are many types of SMS that brands can use for messaging and support purposes, including:

  • Promotions
  • Coupon codes
  • Contests
  • Transactional messages
  • Status updates
  • Service alerts
  • Geo-triggered messages

Choose your SMS messaging provider as part of a unified communications strategy by considering how their offering fits in with your other channels and support strategies. For example, a transaction that happens on your website might then trigger text message shipping alerts, or a support request that begins on text might move to a call with a live agent. The beauty of SMS is that it accommodates these seamless transitions with ease. 

Essential Features: text messaging software for businesses

User-friendly Interface: A crucial feature of text messaging software for businesses is an intuitive and user-friendly interface that allows employees to quickly learn and efficiently operate the platform. This ensures seamless communication with customers, increasing overall productivity and effectiveness.

  1. Contact management: Effective text messaging software must include comprehensive contact management features such as importing, exporting, and organizing contacts into groups. This allows businesses to target specific audiences with personalized messages, enhancing customer engagement.
  1. Automated responses: Text messaging software should have the ability to send automated responses to frequently asked questions or predetermined triggers. This increases response rates and decreases wait times for customers, while also reducing the workload on the customer support team.
  1. Personalization: Business text messaging platforms need to offer personalization features, such as customizing messages with the recipient’s name, allowing for a more engaging overall experience. This can help businesses create stronger connections with their customers.
  1. Reporting and analytics: To optimize communication strategies, text messaging software must include detailed reporting and analytics features that enable businesses to track key metrics such as open and response rates, trends, and patterns. This information can help organizations continuously refine their messaging efforts and maximize return on investment.
  1. Security and compliance: For businesses that handle sensitive customer information, text messaging software should prioritize security features to protect user data. This includes encryption, two-factor authentication, and adherence to industry-specific regulations such as GDPR and HIPAA.
  1. Integration with other platforms: A robust text messaging solution should seamlessly integrate with existing business tools, such as CRM systems, email software, and social media platforms. This allows for more streamlined communication by consolidating all messaging channels in a single platform.
  1. Scalability: It is essential that the text messaging software can adapt and grow with the business, accommodating fluctuations in customer base, team size, and communication volume. This ensures that the platform remains an effective communication tool as the organization evolves.
  1. Customizable templates: To save time and maintain brand consistency, text messaging software should offer customizable message templates that can be adapted for various purposes, such as appointment reminders, customer surveys, or promotions.
  1. Scheduled messaging: Text messaging platforms should allow businesses to schedule messages in advance, ensuring that important information is delivered at the most appropriate times. This feature enables organizations to manage their communication efforts more effectively and maintain a consistent presence in customers’ inboxes.

The essential features of text messaging software for businesses include a user-friendly interface, comprehensive contact management, automated responses, personalization, detailed reporting and analytics, robust security measures, seamless integration with other platforms, scalability, customizable templates, and scheduled messaging capabilities. These features enable organizations to communicate efficiently with customers, increase overall productivity, and effectively manage and optimize their communication strategies.

How to scale up your business’s conversational text messaging

Here are three things you can do today to optimize your SMS messaging campaigns:

  1. Target your texts
  2. Set ip triggered events that are personalized based on behavior
  3. Include a call to action.

Another SMS best practice is to Integrate with other channels. Text messaging is highly conducive to integration with other channels, like email and voice. Here are some examples:

  • Allowing subscribers to text to receive a call back instead of waiting on hold
  • Deflecting inbound calls by offering text-based support
  • Texting subscribers to let them know a sensitive document will be arriving via email
  • Emailing subscribers a special offer when they opt in to receive marketing via text
  • Transitioning from text support to a voice call to tackle a complex customer service issue.

One more thing about compliance… 

The expansion to new channels is all about the customer. They want to communicate with brands in the same way they talk to their friends. They’ve driven this change across industries— from retail to finance. It’s a customer’s world out there, and businesses have a lot of boxes to check if they want to cut through all the noise. 

Incorporating SMS into your channel suite not only makes customers happy (win!) it’s practical and cost-effective. SMS is covered under the TCPA, a customer protection regulation that exists to ensure people are reached only when they want to be. 

When looking to implement two-way SMS, or a new channel of any kind for that matter, search no farther than platforms that take the mystery out of a confusing topic like compliance with built-in consent management. 

And trust us on the earthquake insurance.

Outsourcing: What’s the best text messaging service for businesses

Outsourcing has become a prevalent strategy for businesses looking to improve their communication methods, particularly in the realm of text messaging services. One of the primary reasons behind this is the rising demand for efficient and quick communication between businesses and their stakeholders – including customers, employees, and suppliers – via text messages. Text messaging services allow businesses to send out personalized, targeted messages to a broad range of recipients in a single click, making it an effective tool for promotions, product or service updates, and appointment reminders. As a result, businesses seek reliable text messaging service providers and weigh various factors like cost-effectiveness, delivery rates, customization options, and customer support before making their decision.

Among the multitude of text messaging service providers in the market, some consistently stand out due to their superior performance and unique features. TextMagic, for instance, is widely acclaimed for its affordability, high delivery rates, and an intuitive user interface that allows for easy message scheduling, templates, and automation. Additionally, it offers integrations with popular apps such as Zapier, which enhances the service’s capabilities and is a massive selling point for businesses. Other reliable service providers include Twilio, which has garnered praise for its scalability, reliability, and robust API, allowing businesses to implement text messaging solutions across their platforms seamlessly. Moreover, SimpleTexting is another fantastic service that has carved a niche in the market owing to its vast array of features, like unlimited keywords, drip campaigns, and analytics tools for businesses to optimize their messaging strategies. As outsourcing becomes more common among businesses, companies must carefully assess these and other text messaging service providers to choose the solution that best aligns with their organizational goals and requirements.

How to automate your contacts with an SMS messaging platform

To automate your contacts with an SMS messaging platform, you’ll first need to choose a suitable platform that fits your needs and then integrate it with your existing systems. Next, you can create specific workflows to automatically send personalized messages to your contacts under varying circumstances. In order to achieve a higher degree of semantic richness, let us elaborate on this process and provide three specific examples:

Appointment reminders and confirmations

One of the most common use cases for automated SMS messaging is sending appointment reminders and confirmations. To implement this workflow, you would first set up a connection between your calendar or appointment scheduling system and the messaging platform. Then, you can create templates for different types of appointments with placeholders for personalized details, such as the recipient’s name, appointment time, and location. The platform would automatically send the appropriate message based on the details provided. For example, a dental clinic could integrate their appointment system with an SMS platform to send reminder messages to patients two days before their scheduled check-up, including their appointment time, the dentist’s name, and any pre-visit instructions.

Event and promotion notifications

Another effective use of automated SMS messaging is to inform contacts about upcoming events, sales, or promotions. In this scenario, you would need to create a mailing list of contacts based on their interests or past interactions. Once you’ve established these segments, you can set up triggers to send messages when certain conditions are met, such as a certain date or the release of a new product. This allows your audience to receive personalized and relevant information. For instance, a retail store could use automated messaging to notify customers who previously purchased outdoor clothing about an upcoming sale on camping equipment, or to inform customers about a new loyalty program they are eligible for.

Feedback requests and surveys

Automated SMS messaging can also be used to collect valuable feedback and insights from customers or clients. After a contact completes a purchase or interacts with your business, you can set up an automated message requesting feedback about their experience. This message could contain a short survey, a ratings-based feedback system, or a call-to-action directing them to an online review platform. To enhance the semantic richness, use polite and engaging language, and make sure the messages are as relevant as possible. For example, a car rental company could send an automated message to customers after their rental period ends, asking about their experience and directing them to a short survey. Not only does this provide valuable insights into the company’s services, but also demonstrates their commitment to continuous improvement and customer satisfaction.

Automating your contacts with an SMS messaging platform involves selecting a suitable platform, integrating it with your existing systems, and creating custom workflows for specific scenarios. By implementing targeted and personalized messaging for appointment reminders, event notifications, and feedback requests, you can enhance your communications, streamline your processes, and foster stronger connections with your audience.

Discover the seamless capabilities of two-way SMS messaging with NICE

Take the first step towards enhancing your customer engagement strategy by exploring our free demo. Experience firsthand how our innovative solutions can streamline communication, boost efficiency, and elevate customer satisfaction. Don't miss out on this opportunity – sign up now and revolutionize your customer interactions with NICE!

White Papers

The innovator's guide to the digital first contact center

Contact center adoption and support for first generation digital channels such as Email and Web Chat, including video chat and co-browsing, is growing very rapidly.

White Papers

Digital-Savvy WFM for Contact Center Leaders

How becoming more digital-savvy is influencing the ability to keep-up with rapidly changing buyer needs.

White Papers

Getting the Full View of the Constituent Experience

Discover a framework for understanding and realizing the value of feedback management technology.

Contact us

If you would like to know more about our platform or just have additional questions about our products or services, please submit the contact form. For general questions or customer support please visit our Contact us page.