SMS Is Here To Stay! VoiceSage’s Steven Robertson discusses why reports of the death of texting aren’t really credible
For many commentators, moves in the mobile world around the Rich Communications Services (RCS) protocol for experiences beyond voice and SMS spell the imminent end of SMS – an ‘outdated’ technology.
That doesn’t make sense. There’s every reason to be excited about RCS, but the fact of the matter is that there’s not enough of a driver for change to warrant dropping SMS.
In his The Innovators Dilemma (1997) Clay Christensen told us how new, under-featured, but “good enough” services will always disrupt established players. But in this case, that descriptor actually fits SMS much better, as it’s SMS’s amazing simplicity and reach which makes it such a compelling, cost-effective medium unlikely to be superseded for some time.
Platforms that enable access to SMS let us send a short form communication to anyone. If your message can be communicated in text and emojis, you can send it via SMS – which explains why, in particular for younger people, text is more popular now than at its supposed peak in the mid-1990s. And not just for Generation Y as texting is the most popular form of communication for all adults under the age of 50, while 97% of Americans text at least once a day; and why 8.3 trillion text messages were sent in 2015 alone.
In consequence, businesses are not going to ignore text any time soon. Not only are texts easy to consume, they have an urgency and trust factor attached to them that makes them far more widely consumed than emails. It’s been found that 76% of respondents are likely to read a text sooner than an email, while MailChimp confirms that, on average, only 20% of emails ever get opened compared to 99% of texts – of which 90% get read within the first three minutes.
Given this background of on-going success, no wonder 61% of all contact centres will offer SMS support this year.
Contact Centre Productivity
Patently, SMS is central to our lives, despite the RCS SMS replacement hyperbole – so any firm ignoring its relevance is making a mistake. Not only is text wildly popular and something that gets our attention over other media, but it is hugely important in terms of promoting contact centre productivity.
After all, text allows for non contiguous but highly responsive interactions, in asynchronous, multiple timelines. As a result, a call centre agent can easily track and manage multiple simultaneous conversations: our customers report that, with texts, an agent can manage no less than 15 conversations via our own product’s ‘SMS Conversations’ feature, for example.
You send a message out, the customer responds, and the agent responds back again, and so on.
Another advantage of this context-based interaction is that if any customer handover needs to take place, i.e. the agent gets to a place where they can’t help, or they simply need to take a break or change shift, they can switch to another team member, in double-quick time. And because the conversation is digitally captured, the new agent can see the history up to that point, then start helping in a relevant, seamless way.
Meanwhile, simple interactions can also be automated over text, plus visual elements can be added so that customers can click a hyperlink and get presented with an easy-to-use tool for moving a delivery slot, or make an instant payment.
All this functionality makes SMS the truly disruptive technology here – not RCS, I would maintain.
Disruptive – and here to stay
The conclusion’s clear – the way ahead for the contact centre has to be to keep SMS at the heart of all their outreach strategies for some time to come.
That’s because in both the B2C and B2B worlds, text/SMS can offer productivity and seamless customer handling that makes complete business sense.
SMS is still really the only game in town for serious brand communication to major customer bases.
Steven Robertson is Sales and Marketing Director at VoiceSage