Text messaging: a customer service channel whose time has come – Interview with John Huehn of In The Chat

Time is now

Today’s interview is with John Huehn, founder, President & CEO of In The Chat, a social media sales and customer service company, that is aiming to make text message and social customer service easy with their software. John joins me today to talk about how text messaging as a customer service channel doesn’t get the press that it deserves but that it can offer great benefits to businesses that implement it as a channel.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: Social listening could replace traditional voice of the customer methods – Interview with Dana Miller of Crimson Hexagon – and is number 138 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to their customers.

Highlights from my interview with John:

  • Text messaging got ‘jumped over’ as channel for customer service with the introduction of social media. However, interest in text messaging as a channel is picking up as companies ‘cycle back’ and realise the benefits of introducing it as a channel.
  • The main reasons that customers use social as a service channel is 1. they are angry and want to out a company publicly (although this applies to the minority) and 2. It is convenient i.e. it’s right there on the customer’s smartphone.
  • However, what text messaging offers is the same convenience but a higher level of privacy.
  • John asks an interesting question when he asks: ‘What would people prefer…to publicly tweet with their bank or privately text with their bank?’ Most customers, he believes, would opt for privately texting their bank.
  • Texting also tends to be more pervasive across the age groups.
  • 60% of North American homes with all inhabitants under the age of 35 have no home phone (landline) and 40% of all North American homes have now gone cellular (mobile) only.
  • Millenials are sending and receiving, on average, 4,000 text messages a month and that group (millennials) are set to account for 31% of the US economy by 2020.
  • The main value for business, typically a larger organisation, implementing a text messaging channel is it’s ability to deflect calls to a lower cost channel, where an agent can typically handle 3-5 text based conversations at one time compared to just one call.
  • Concurrency brings great efficiencies.
  • Also, text based messaging does not time out like ‘chat’ sessions and can be picked up and put down at the customer’s convenience.
  • Text and email have some of the same attributes.
  • However, people read about 98%, on average, of all of the text messages that they receive and most of these are read within the first five minutes of receiving them.
  • This is different from the cultural behaviour that has developed around email.
  • Text messaging has been around for 22 years.
  • With the development of phone plans that all-inclusive or unlimited texts included, the barriers to texting as a channel are now being removed.
  • Large organisations implementing this tend to use short-codes as they have a throughput of 30 messages per second compared to one message per second for a 10-digit or regular mobile/cellular number.
  • In The Chat, traditionally a social media platform, launched text messaging capability as an additional channel on their platform last year as they saw that text messaging’s time had come.
  • To consider text messaging as a new customer service channel, the key is to first figure out what your use case is.
  • Secondly, start somewhere, pilot, gradually introduce it and learn about the channel before attempting a wide-scale introduction.
  • Not talked about in this conversation but do check out In The Chat’s text mining and analytics capability too, which can route the right messages to the right agents based on their analytics.

About John (taken from his In The Chat bio)

John HuehnJohn Huehn is In the Chat’s founder and CEO. His passion for service started on the front-lines in the Call Centre and he ascended the executive ranks of Canada’s Telco industry before breaking out to build a new world-class service experience. Recognizing that the future of customer service will go beyond the traditional contact centre tools, John established In the Chat to deliver the next generation of customer service and help companies better serve their customers through social media.

With extensive experience leading operations, strategic planning, change management and systems delivery, John understands the needs of his clients and is driven to work with them to achieve their cost reduction, customer satisfaction and loyalty-building objectives.

Connect with John on Linkedin and on Twitter @IntheChat and @JohnHuehn.

Photo Credit: decontrol via Compfight cc

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