The New World of Customer Service


Earlier this week, Digiday published an article about Overstock’s customer service, specifically that Overstock’s customer service texts have a 98% open rate. When I first saw the headline, my initial thought was “Wow, that’s impressive.” A near 100% open rate seemed so extreme, especially when you consider that an open rate for email typically hovers around the 20-25% range.

But then I saw this quote in the Digiday article: “People get a ton of email, so it tends to get lost in people’s inbox, and they won’t respond to it. We are finding texting has more success.” And it clicked for me. At the most basic level, effective brand marketing comes down to offering your services via the channels your consumers prefer.  I for one am not a fan of customer service emails, nor am I a fan of customer service phone calls (I especially dread outdated IVRs) but I do opt-in for SMS whenever a company offers it to me.

SMS is a way to get directly in front of me and cut through the noise of every other company I engage with. I’m sure you have seen the meme that jokes about ‘two types of people in the world: inbox zero vs. inbox 13,678’. I’m not sure how or when it happened but at some point, I lost control of my personal Gmail and became part of Team inbox 13,678.

With an inbox like mine, I can say with full confidence that I rarely open customer service emails. In fact, it’s a frustration of mine when companies send me important email reminders and notifications because they are often filtered, not marked as priority and I miss them. However, on the flip side, when I get doctor appointment notification, Chase credit card payment reminder, or even a post-delivery survey from DoorDash via SMS I always respond. When a company messages me, it is a sure-fire way to ensure that I will open it and I will read it. Obviously, I’m happier when a company is communicating with me in ways that I prefer, but I think it makes the company happier too. It means I’m not missing appointments and wasting their time/money, I’m paying my bills on time, and my delivery drivers are always receiving a 5 out of 5 bumping up their customer satisfaction scores. I truly think it’s a win-win.

I know that SMS is not “quote-unquote” new technology, but it still seems some companies are treating it as if it is. It’s time to realize the new world of customer service, figure out where your consumers are and engage with them in the ways they prefer, such as digital self-service,  I promise us inbox 13,678 folks will appreciate it!