Guide to SMS Customer Service & Conversational Messaging
Guide to SMS Customer Service & Conversational Messaging
Feb 22, 2021 - 11 min read time
Learn how an SMS texting service works for customer service and conversational messaging. We show you 7 ways to provide SMS text support + free templates.

Learn How to Adopt a Conversational Messaging Strategy and Use an SMS Texting Service for Customer Service

Consumers want personalized, human, authentic interaction and they want it in real-time. This shift toward conversational messaging is here to stay - especially for business messaging.

But out of all conversational messaging tools, SMS text messaging is the most widely adopted and frequently used.

Today, some 67% of consumers would rather text than talk or email

Consumers especially Millennials view text messaging as an easier, less intrusive way to communicate. It’s convenient, fast, and direct. Which means...

SMS text messaging is perfect for providing conversational customer service.

  • But we hear a lot of questions regarding SMS for customer support and service, like:
  • Why are more businesses and organizations texting for customer service?
  • Why is a conversational messaging strategy important to customer service?
  • How can my business or organization use an SMS texting system for customer service?
  • What are some effective customer service message templates?
  • What should I look for when choosing a texting app for customer service?

We answer each of these questions and offer insights in the following guide. Read on for more.

Why Customer Service Matters

The following statement might be obvious. But it’s worth mentioning:

When it comes to customer service, how your current customers feel about you and your business or organization is wildly important.

Why?

Because it’s far cheaper to retain existing customers than acquire new ones.

It doesn’t matter what sales or marketing strategies you employ. The cost per customer acquisition will always be greater than retaining a current customer.

Existing, happy customers are also your greatest referral source and they can even drive further growth. When things go well for existing customers, they tend to tell their friends. When things go poorly, they tend to do the opposite.

Bottom line: Good, proactive, conversational customer service will help you retain customers, earn referrals and drive revenue.

And there’s more good news. You’ve got access to a host of customer service software and customer service apps. Each makes it possible to offer conversational messaging experiences.

These apps make it easy to take advantage of the consumer demand for conversational messaging. And they can improve your customer service experience.

But before we continue...

What is Conversational Messaging?

Conversational messaging is messaging that feels personal. It’s like having a one-on-one conversation. This can take place on any messaging channel between a customer and a business or organization. Conversational messaging tools include but aren’t limited to:

  • SMS text messages
  • Chatbots
  • Live chats
  • Website forms and widgets
  • WeChat
  • WhatsApp
  • SnapChat
  • Messenger (formerly Facebook Messenger)
  • Email
  • Voice calls and VoIP services

What is a Conversational Messaging Strategy?

It’s important to remember that conversational messaging is always customer-centric and personalized. The strategy is simple: talk to people 1-on-1, face-to-face, like a real person.

Conversational messaging strategies are also empathetic and human. They put customer needs first and use data tools to make messages feel human and personalized.

The goal is to make your customer service conversations feel as warm, friendly, and personal as possible.

So here’s the bottom line:

Whatever tools you use to communicate with your contacts and customers, they need to be conversational. Consumers want fast, easy, personalized, and responsive ways to communicate with businesses and organizations. That’s what conversational messaging is all about.

And SMS text messaging does have some clear advantages over other channels.

What is SMS Customer Service?

SMS customer service is the support your business or organization provides to contacts and customers via SMS text messaging. SMS customer support is all text-based. There’s no face-to-face interaction or verbal communication. All communication takes place on the customer’s phone in their native text messaging app.

5 billion people send and receive text messages every day. This makes text messaging one of the most widely used and popular means of communication, especially for consumers.

The reason for this popularity? Convenience and personalization. Texting enables everyone to connect in fast, personalized, and actionable ways.

Consumers are driving the demand for texting, but businesses have taken notice. Some 39% of businesses already use some form of text messaging to communicate with their customers.

But...

Here are the top 3 reasons why businesses and organizations are adopting text messaging for customer service and support:

  1. Customers are demanding more real-time, personalized, conversational experiences.
  2. Businesses and organizations are saving money by sending texts.
  3. Businesses and organizations are scaling their messaging with increased text message automation.

1. Customers Are Demanding More Real-time, Personalized, Conversational Experiences

Consumers are driving the conversational support trend. Some 74% prefer to talk to a real person vs an automated chatbot. And 3 out of 4 get frustrated when they can’t respond or take action after receiving a message.

We also know that voice calls are on the decline. And that customers (especially Millennials) don’t answer the phone. In fact, 58% of consumers have tried to reply with a text message after missing a call from a business.

Customers are also 4 times more likely to respond to a text message than call back after receiving a voicemail.

Suggested Article: Texting Statistics | Texting Facts, Stats and Insights

2. Businesses and Organizations are Saving Money by Sending Texts

Time is money and text messaging tends to be cheaper and more scalable than making phone calls. The average customer service phone call costs about $16 according to a Forrester study.

Compare that cost to $1 and $5 per for the average text message interaction.

Keep in mind, there will always be a place for voice calls in your business or organization.

It’s hard to quantify. But a human voice can make a world of difference when it comes to customer engagement.

Talking on the phone can sometimes make or break a sale, close a deal, keep a customer, or secure a donation. There’s just nothing more human than a personal phone call.

This is where chatting on the phone can sometimes beat SMS.

But even if you have an advanced VoIP system, calling won’t scale.

Suggested Article: Email vs Text? Texting vs Calling? Which One’s Best?

3. Businesses and Organizations are Scaling Their Messaging with Increased Text Message Automation

It’s easier to scale conversational experiences with text messaging. This is because it’s text-based and the messages are more concise. And you don't necessarily need another person at the other end of the line.

Why pay someone to answer phone calls? Your businesses or organizations could automate much of the initial messaging and response that’s part of the customer service experience. And you could make it feel just as friendly.

This is where most business text messaging platforms offer some level of automation. They might start with simple scheduled text messages. But they could also include more advanced autoresponders and text message campaigns.

Regardless, text messaging results in time-savings and improved efficiencies through automation. Features like scheduled messages, templates and personalization tags make it easy to reach more people, faster, and in more personalized ways.

Suggested Article: Guide to Automated Text Messages

We’ve seen how text messaging works as part of a conversational messaging strategy.

We’ve also discovered that customers prefer texting.

And that there’s good reason for a business or organization to use text messaging for customer service.

So…

The following are seven real-world ways your business or organization could implement text messaging for customer service.

  1. Send more timely, personalized messages
  2. Save you and your customers’ time
  3. Automate your customer service experience with scheduled messages
  4. Instantly answer customer service questions with autoresponders
  5. Be proactive with appointment reminders and text message alerts
  6. Collect customer feedback with polls and surveys
  7. Collect more Google Reviews

1. Send More Timely, Personalized Messages

There’s an art to crafting the perfect text message, sounding human and sending it at the right time.

But offering text message customer service builds customer relationships. It connects you with your audience in deeper, more personal, and timely ways. Compared to other tools like email, text messages even feel more friendly and immediate.

Email is great for longer communication and storytelling. But text messaging can help you stay on a first-name basis with your customers and get questions answered immediately.

Texts lend themselves to one-on-one communication. They’re more scalable than making phone calls. And they can seem just as personal and deliberate. This can make customers feel heard and like their issue actually matters.

This all builds rapport and encourages customer retention.

Suggested Article: 10 Step Guide | Text Message Etiquette for Business

2. Save You and Your Customers’ Time

Email can be a slow, clunky way to get the word out. And there are often long periods of time between communication.

Phone calls are one of the most personal, but they take time. And if they’re not handled promptly, (leaving customers on hold) can lead to serious frustrations.

If customers don’t hear back from you fast, the risk of a bad review and/or losing their business increases.

Not only is texting faster, but it can also be more accurate too. Information gets exchanged easily over text. This leads to speedier solutions.

Plus, your customers can also reach out to you when it’s most convenient for them. Texting puts them in control throughout their buying journey.

Suggested Article: The Ultimate Guide to SMS Texting for Salespeople & Sales Teams

3. Automate Your Customer Service Experience with Scheduled Messages

Time savings start with automation. This is huge if you’re a small business. We’re talking automated welcome texts, order notifications, payment reminders, and more.

A texting platform that helps you schedule and automate these messages results in more efficiency.

Scheduled messages also allow you and your team to be more proactive. You can maintain greater transparency with your contacts and customers and answer questions before they arise.

Suggested Article: Guide to Automated Text Messages

4. Instantly Answer Customer Service Questions with Autoresponders

Business texting lets customers get in touch instantly. Questions about an order, special requests for a service, and all other types of inquiries can get handled faster.

Are customers not happy with their experience? Text messages can help you fix issues as soon as possible.

Better customer service response times lead to better brand perception, positive reviews, and potentially more business.

Simple automated messages for office hours, hours of operation, and even inclement weather are a great start. They can go a long way in terms of setting expectations and improving a customer’s experience.

Suggested Article: How to Set an Out of Office Message for Text & Email

5. Be Proactive with Appointment Reminders and Text Message Alerts

Aside from offering reactive support, text messaging also makes it easier to be proactive.

Texting appointment reminders is one of the most proactive ways to text. It reduces no-shows and smooths out day-to-day operations. Smoother daily operations mean both happier customers and staff.

Inventory alerts, limited-time promos, seasonal changes, and links to events are also great messages to send via text message.

These text alerts can help drive interest, traffic and leads to increased sales.

These are just a few of the many ways your business or organization can start utilizing text messaging.

Suggested Article: How to Text Appointment Reminders | Guide + Free Templates

6. Collect Customer Feedback with Polls and Surveys

Conducting surveys and polls used to require resources, effort, and survey software.

But text-based customer service works well for acquiring customer feedback.

Now, anyone can get valuable feedback. All you have to do is send a text message with a link to a Google Form survey or poll.

In fact, 45% of text message users have already interacted with businesses and organizations for surveys or polls. And these numbers are growing as more businesses and organizations start texting.

Suggested Article: Guide to SMS Text Message Surveys and Polls

7. Collect More Google Reviews

When was the last time you checked your business’s Google Reviews? What does Google display when you search for your business?

Texting makes it easy to follow up with someone after they’ve had a great interaction with your business or organization. With texting it’s easier to send a more timely message with a link that asks for a review.

Catch a person at the right time and they’re more likely to leave a positive review.

Suggested Article: The Ultimate Guide to Google Reviews (2021)

Chapter 4

Customer Service Message Templates

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Text Message Templates

Hours of Operation Autoresponder SMS Template

Hey {{ FirstName }}. Our hours of operation are Monday-Friday 8am-5pm. For emergencies please call {{ OrganizationPhone }} - {{ UserName }}, {{ OrganizationName }}

Out of Office Autoresponder SMS Template

Hey {{ FirstName }}. We’re currently out of the office for lunch. We’ll be available to answer your questions starting at 1pm.

You can expect a response from us then. We appreciate your patience. - {{ UserName }}, {{ OrganizationName }}

Document Request SMS Template

Hi {{ FirstName }}. We just wanted to remind you that we’re waiting for the [DOCUMENT] you agreed to send us. If you have any questions, please text or call us. - {{ OrganizationName }}

Appointment Reminder SMS Template

Hey {{ FirstName }}, just wanted to remind you of your appointment today at 3:30pm. See you then. - {{ UserName }}, {{ OrganizationName }}

Missed Appointment Reminder SMS Template

Hi {{ FirstName }}. We’re sorry to see you missed your appointment today and hope everything is well. If you’d like to reschedule, please reply to this message or call us at {{ OrganizationPhone }}. - {{ UserName }}, {{ OrganizationName }}

Billing Reminder SMS Template

“Hi {{ FirstName }}, it’s {{ OrganizationName }}. We just wanted to remind you that your credit card on file will be charged {{ InvoiceAmount }} on 3/25. You can view your invoice here: https://bit.ly/3xdRL7v
If you have any questions, please reply via text or call us at {{ OrganizationPhone }} - {{ UserName }}, {{ OrganizationName }}

Inclement Weather SMS Template

Hi {{ FirstName }}. Due to the weather, we’re canceling service today. We will keep you updated on all weather-related updates and future closures. - {{ UserName }}, {{ OrganizationName }}

Survey or Poll SMS Template

Hey {{ FirstName }} we’d love to know what you thought about your last service. Did it meet your expectations? Do you have any feedback for us?
Please take a minute to complete this survey: https://bit.ly/3xdRL7v. If you do, we’ll take $10 off your next service. Thanks! - {{ UserName }}, {{ OrganizationName }}

Google or Yelp Review SMS Template

Hi {{ FirstName }}. So happy you had such a great experience with your service today. Would you mind taking some time to leave us a review on Google?
It’s super easy and only takes a few minutes. Just follow this link: https://bit.ly/3xdRL7v thanks! - {{ UserName }}, {{ OrganizationName }}

Suggested Article: The Ultimate List of Free Text Message Templates

Chapter 5

What to Look for When Choosing the Right Customer Service Texting App

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At this point, you may have already identified that you’re ready for a business SMS platform.

And we’ve shown you how text messaging works for customer service.

So now it's time to understand what to look for in a good customer texting app.

If you're interested in a customer support app or customer messaging system, then you have a myriad of options (including MessageDesk). But what you really need is a way to know which texting app will work best for your business or organization.

There are many things to consider when choosing the best texting app, but overall the best texting apps have these features:

  • Easy to use and get started with
  • Accessible on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices
  • Able to support adding multiple users
  • Use a local 10-digit phone number instead of a shortcode
  • Supports sending messages over 160 characters
  • Equipped with call forwarding features
  • Capable of saving text messages as templates
  • Create groups of contact lists and customers
  • Sends texts to multiple recipients without reply all
  • Schedules text messages for sending later at any time
  • Manages opt-in, opt-out, and consent
  • Integrates with other apps
  • Provides good customer service and support

Suggested Article: How to Choose the Best Business Texting App