The customers have spoken: Email is out and text messaging is totally in.📱 When it comes to communicating with businesses, 85% of consumers prefer texting over both emails and phone calls. SMS customer service is the future. But as with all new changes, seamlessly integrating text messaging into your support processes requires you to learn dos, don’ts, and tricks of the trade.

We chatted with Ty Hill, OpenPhone’s Head of Customer Experience, to get you expert tips on implementing SMS customer service. Keep reading to learn how our team uses text to support over 20,000 users and how you can do so in your business too.

How we deliver efficient SMS customer service

When your team has over 1,000 clients for every team member, customer service can definitely get overwhelming. But here at OpenPhone, we keep our support rolling on a day-to-day basis without breaking a sweat. 😅 In fact, one G2 reviewer states, “The absolute best thing about OpenPhone is the prime customer service. I’ve never experienced such nice, quick, and efficient service in a company.”

Our not-so-secret strategy? Using digital tools — including our own — to streamline every conversation. Here are four tools and tactics that we use to excel in SMS customer service.

SMS automation

When you have a growing customer base, automation can be your company’s best friend. Sending automated texts is a simple, hands-free opportunity to engage your clients from the start of your relationship.

“When anyone signs up initially for OpenPhone, we send them an automated text message on how they can contact our support team,” Ty says. Our team also sends automated responses to users when we receive inbound SMS messages.

According to Ty, businesses can replicate this strategy by using an automation tool like Zapier. OpenPhone integrates with Zapier, so you can easily set up an automated workflow in which an action (like a website opt-in) triggers the sending of a pre-written text.

Text message templates

a GIF showing message templates from OpenPhone

So once a support conversation has already started, how do we keep our efficiency high? Ty recommends using text message templates or canned responses — we call them snippets — to reduce the time you spend crafting messages.

Odds are, your team is having similar conversations over and over again. For example, customers may report bugs on your website or software every once in a while. Instead of typing out the same information each time, you can pre-populate your SMS message with a template, then customize it for the conversation before sending.

For example, you might use this template for gathering more information about an issue:

Hi {{First Name}}, I’m sorry to hear that you’re having issues. Could you please clarify the problem that you’re experiencing? What steps did you take before it occurred? Thanks!

Once the issue is resolved, you might follow up with clients using this template:

​Hi {{First Name}}, We’re reaching out to let you know that the issue that you previously reported has been resolved. Please give it another try and let us know how it goes. Fingers crossed!

Customer relationship management

When you’re offering SMS customer service to thousands of people, it’s impossible to remember every detail about every client or conversation. If you’re sharing phone numbers with your team, a new customer service agent could be helping clients each time.

So, how do we make our support experience seamless? We harness the power of customer relationship management (CRM). 💪

OpenPhone acts like a lite CRM. While it’s not as robust as a tool like HubSpot CRM — you can use our HubSpot integration for more advanced needs — OpenPhone allows you to track and share essential information about contacts directly on our desktop, browser, or mobile apps. For example, you can add:

  • Names
  • Icons
  • Contact information
  • Companies and job titles
  • Custom properties
  • Notes about past conversations

Analytics

SMS customer service:  OpenPhone analytics view

Are you hiring part-timers or contractors to handle your SMS customer service? Figuring out when you need people available is just as important as deciding who you’re onboarding. That’s where our analytics come in.

“In terms of making sure that we have appropriate staffing, we have our analytics, which is available on our premium plan,” Ty says. “You can see a heat map of activities per hour of the day.”

Tap into your analytics to see when you have the highest volume of incoming text messages. This way, you’ll know when you need more customer service staff on hand.

SMS customer service do’s and don’ts

Tools and templates are just part of the formula for SMS customer service success. In this section, we’ll break down three do’s and three don’ts for text message support.

Do: Ditch the formalities

a GIF of joker asking a man why so serious?

One of the defining characteristics of SMS customer service is its lack of formality. Text messaging allows you to build closer relationships with customers by making your client interactions more human and more personal. And when you choose a text messaging app that offers MMS (picture text messaging), like OpenPhone, your customer service experience becomes all the more engaging and impressive.

“We send GIFs with our integration with GIPHY to make business communication just a little bit personal, friendly and fun,” Ty says.

Going casual is especially important for reaching younger consumers. According to Ty, Millennials and Gen Z are digital natives who grew up with texting. SMS customer service feels much more natural — granted that you’re not sending massive paragraphs — whereas “email feels much more professional and antiquated.”

Next time you chat with your clients via text, ditch the “greetings” and just say “hey.” 👋

Don’t: Send spammy texts

Digitally savvy people are basically human spam detectors these days. Send anything that sounds too salesy, and they’ll instantly tune out — if they get the text in the first place. Ty says that text messages that appear too spammy, like those that emphasize “FREE” in all caps, can affect your deliverability.

Governments and carriers are increasingly regulating SMS marketing around the world. So while OpenPhone phone numbers have high trust scores, promotional content can still get filtered out as spam, even when it’s part of a legitimate support conversation.

You can reduce your bounce rate by avoiding URL shorteners like bit.ly or tiny.url and by limiting all your texts to 160 characters or less.

Do: Master your response times

a GIF of Jimmy Fallon saying let's go!

One key rule in business texting etiquette is to never wait more than 24 hours to respond. While most clients aren’t waiting up at 3 a.m. for you to text back, long response times can make your clients feel ghosted. 👻

One way to improve the customer support experience is communicating your average response times, then sticking to it.

“We have an automated follow-up message that tells people our average reply time is 2-3 hours,” Ty says. The auto-replies we have set up automatically go out on missed calls, voicemail, and incoming messages. 

As previously mentioned, OpenPhone’s heat maps can help ensure you’re adequately staffed throughout the day. This way, your customer service agents are never too overwhelmed to hit your target response times.

Don’t: Delay messages after your first response

Could you imagine having a six-text conversation that takes three days to complete? 😬 Odds are, your friends, family members, and favorite brands all reply much faster.

Text messaging is a communication channel that lends itself to real-time conversations. The moment you respond, you’re initiating a one-on-one chat that’s as synchronous as written communication gets. Many customers will get back to you right away — and they’ll want you to do the same.

According to Ty, after the first response, there’s no room for two-hour gaps between messages when it comes to SMS customer service. He says, “Once you start a conversation, you want to make sure you’re getting back to them in a timely manner.”

Be available to quickly wrap up your conversations to provide a better customer service experience. 

Do: Filter your inbox

When you’re offering SMS customer service, your text message inbox can fill up quickly. Left as is, you’ll see an unorganized blend of new SMS messages, closed conversations, and incoming texts your team members are already responding to.

To create a smoother workflow, Ty suggests filtering your inbox to make your unread notifications more accessible. It’s a simple step you can take to avoid missing messages from customers, all while saving yourself some time. ⏱️

Don’t: Wait for clients to reach out

a GIF of Boo from Monsters Inc looking sleepy

Traditional customer support is client-initiated. Clients reach out to you when they experience an issue, and you respond back. But if you automate support for your clients before they even realize they need help, your customer satisfaction can skyrocket. 📈 (Bonus perk: This can reduce the volume of phone calls, emails, and texts your customer service agents need to field!)

So, what are some creative ways to use SMS for client support? Consider sending appointment reminders, billing updates, and other important notifications via text — and don’t be afraid of sending the same support message on multiple customer service channels. Your channels can supplement each other.

“A lot of times, you’ll find that someone’s not responsive over email because their email gets bogged down,” Ty says. “They may be more responsive over SMS.”

Think about how many emails you get each day. Most office workers get 121 emails daily! While email can be a great channel for reaching some clients, Ty explains that others may delete important support emails because they assume they’re promotional. Supplementing your emails with texts allows you to show up on a less saturated channel and boost your open rates.

Taking an omnichannel approach will help you get your support messages across for better customer care. 💕

Offer better support with SMS customer service

mobile and desktop view of OpenPhone app

SMS customer service is the future of client support. With more people gravitating toward text messaging than ever, it’s time for your team to launch and excel in this customer service channel. With OpenPhone, you can implement all the tools and strategies listed above to rapidly improve your support experience. Sign up for a free seven-day trial of OpenPhone to try it out for yourself.

Author

Emily is a freelance business and marketing writer based in the desert, though her writing is anything but dry. Her passion is writing compelling, human-friendly content that helps growing businesses perform better.

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