When *DONOTREPLY* really means *WEDONOTACTUALLYCARE*

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At age 21, SMS text messaging is finally growing up. Time for big business. Time for business2consumer communication. Finally! But let’s have a closer look at how SMS is predominantly used today.

Do you get prescription reminders from your pharmacy, or appointment reminders from your clinic? I do. They’re great, right? A short buzz on your phone (or wrist), a quick glance, and the likelihood of you missing that doctor’s appointment is reduced. And it helps the doctor or clinic reduce the no-show rates, too. But here’s how the reminders I get look like:

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See where the problem is? *DONOTREPLY*, or rather:

“Yeah, so, we’re using this cool new method of reminding you, but don’t you dare respond to us on the channel we know you love so much! Oh and if you try – we’ll outright ignore you. Need to reschedule? Well, call us, duh!

Tweet this: Starting reminder text msgs with DONOTREPLY = disrespecting your customers’ time & channel of choice.

There are several things wrong with messages like these:

  • They’re not saving me time
  • They’re not making it easy for me to reschedule or cancel (or even confirm!)
  • They’re forcing me to use the voice channel that we all hate more and more, as it doesn’t fit into our lives (can’t make that call right now, in a meeting), isn’t easy (IVR with poorly tuned speech recognition), takes more time than necessary, requires my full attention…
  • They’re causing unnecessary cost to take that incoming phone call

Let’s look at another example:

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So you’re asking me to call you, but you’re not telling me the number to call (you know who I am, so you should know which number I need to call). Furthermore, you’re telling me to lookup the number on the card that I… probably just lost! That’s actually almost funny, isn’t it. (Oh and you’re wasting 15 precious characters by spelling out your name, AmEx…)

In this case, I just wanted to tell my card issuer that this transaction is legitimate. Needless to say, they didn’t want to hear it. They haven’t responded to that text to date…

SMS is inherently a two-way communication medium. Use it like that. And it doesn’t even require expensive staff! Interactive Text Response systems, i.e. “IVR” scripts that just happen to use text messages as the medium, not audio prompts, are flexible, more tolerant to user errors, cheaper than IVR, more convenient than IVR, don’t struggle with speech recognition challenges, or any of the other symptoms of bad IVR. Systems like Aspect Customer Experience Platform (CXP) can even power IVR and ITR out of the same application, re-using backend integration you already implemented, giving you cross-channel reporting, exposing the business logic on other text-based channels such as Twitter, USSD, WeChat, Line … Add Natural Language Understanding to the mix, and you get a system that almost converses like a human, but with response times of seconds, not minutes or even hours.

It’s time to embrace texting to its fullest! What’s stopping you? *DO REPLY!*

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Tobias Goebel

Tobias is Director of Emerging Technologies at Aspect. He has over 14 years of experience in customer care technology and the contact center industry with roles spanning engineering, consulting, pre-sales engineering, program and product management, and product marketing. As part of Aspect's product management and marketing team today, he works on defining the future of the mobile customer experience, bringing together channels such as mobile apps, messaging, voice, and social. He is a frequent speaker and blogger on topics around customer service and, more recently, the (re-)emerging chatbot, NLP, and AI technologies. Tobias holds degrees in Computational Linguistics, Phonetics, and Computer Science from the universities of Bonn, Germany and Edinburgh, UK.
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