I am a father of two teens. It recently dawned on me that my children are no longer interacting with me the way they used to. My wife tells me it is because they are growing up and it is a normal change. I understand THAT, but that is not what I meant. They are on their smartphones ALL the time, interacting with their friends, spending time on social media etc., on the phone always, but not really ON the phone. I see them talking on the phone once in a while, but mostly it is either texting or messaging using some social media platform.
This is not limited to teens, somewhere along the way most smartphone users have gravitated to communicating via texting and social media. There are of course exceptions. My 80 year old father refuses to text, he prefers the old school pick up the phone and talk approach. The kids grudgingly comply, but let’s face it, if they didn’t HAVE to, they would just text with him too.
Often, I find myself looking for a “Chat” button on websites to see if I can avoid talking to someone and just take care of whatever I need by chatting with them. Personally, I look for Chat interactions mainly from a multi-tasking point of view. I can get multiple things done, since the Chat doesn’t require me to stop what I am doing and give it 100% of my attention.
I recently switched my cell phone provider. I was able to do that very easily; in fact, I had two chat windows going simultaneously. One with the Customer Service agent of the provider I was leaving and another with the new provider. All this while answering emails, my productivity was going through the roof, it was a great feeling. Then it occurred to me, the Chat agents chatting with me on the other side were probably experiencing a similar feeling!
From a provider’s point of view, taking it a step further, in addition to having a chat widget on the website, why not provide a way for your customers to interact with you via Text? Given an option, in some cases, your sales reps might want to interact with their customers and prospects using SMS. This Two-way SMS based interaction can be used to increase customer engagement by giving them another channel to interact with you.
Think of some support instances where you are interacting with a customer and they give you information in bits and pieces over a period of time. While it could be done via email, imagine conducting the same interaction via SMS, allowing the customer to spread out the support incident over a period of time – at their leisure, without the need to rush through a phone call to serve the next customer. Imagine a Salesforce.com Case object screen with a Chat widget that is “connected” to the customer’s cell phone, and has a history of all the back and forth with the client for that case.
The same is also true for a Salesforce Opportunity object. Imagine a Chat widget within the Opportunity screen that lets you interact with the customer via SMS, records all that activity and associate it with that Opportunity. You now have an SMS channel to engage with the customer.
SMS is a powerful channel, especially in the B2C world. How far you can go with it depends on your customer demographics. If you have a fair chunk of your customer base in the “under 50” age bracket, you should consider using SMS through your CRM to improve your customer engagement.
At the time of writing this, Salesforce.com didn’t have native SMS/Text capabilities. AppShark’s Open SMS Pro is one of the apps available on the AppExchange that lets Salesforce.com customers add the SMS communications channel to their CRM. Depending on your location and/or the location of your target audience (Customers, Leads etc.), you can sign up with a gateway that provides the best pricing and use that Gateway through Open SMS Pro. For more information visit the AppExchange listing OR the Open SMS Pro site.
Image courtesy: Heraldsun, AU.
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