While virtually every area of business operations has been touched in some way by the fallout from COVID-19, few have been as impacted as communications. In fact, as the crisis continues to leave a wake of disruption behind it, effective communication has gone from a business objective to a survival strategy.
In recent years, we’ve seen the evolution of intelligent messaging as brands have used texting to improve customer experiences, operational efficiencies and bottom-line results. Over the last couple of months, messaging has taken on a new role in helping businesses quickly adapt their operating models and communication strategies as they face a whole new set of needs and challenges.
Here are some of the ways messaging is showing both its agility and versatility, as well as how Zingle is helping businesses across multiple industries navigate this uncharted territory with automated Zings.
Anticipating Customer Needs in Real-Time with Automated Zings
Any communication plans that brands had in place pre-COVID have been tossed out the window as crisis communication has become an almost daily routine. The sweeping impact of the crisis has created an extreme sense of urgency around customer needs and demands. As the pressure ratchets up, brands are experiencing strains on their teams that they could have never seen coming.
And while customers may accept hold and wait times in normal circumstances, understandably, patience is in low supply today. This is where sophisticated messaging platforms come into play, allowing teams to automate or easily route inquiries in a way that helps them handle the massive spikes in volume, without sacrificing personalization.
Of course, taking a reactive communications approach during these times is sure to leave even the best teams frozen with paralysis. To help Zingle users deploy a more efficient and proactive approach, we developed a new series of automated Zings — automated workflows and communications that can be customized to fit any business type — aimed at anticipating the needs of customers and delivering them the services and information they need, in real-time.
For example, when a customer texts a word such as ‘CORONA’, ‘VIRUS’ or ‘COVID’ a Zing is triggered that provides a COVID-19 FAQ and procedures, and even asks the customer whether they’d like specific information pertaining to the state in which they reside.
COVID-19 Receive Updates
Not only do these types of automated communications help brands streamline their strategy and notify customers of how their operations have changed, but more importantly, they disseminate information that is crucial to keep the public safe.
Another example can be seen in some of the Zings developed for brands that are seeing an uptick in inquiries related to subscription or membership cancelations. For example, an automated Zing for fitness brands recognizes keywords such as ‘CANCEL’, ‘MEMBERSHIP’, and ‘PAYMENT’ and then automates a series of messages that thanks the user for being a member, asks those who are financially able to remain members to consider doing so, and assists with freezing or cancelling memberships if needed.
COVID-19 Membership Questions
While no one could have predicted the extraordinary landscape we find ourselves in today, it’s imperative that businesses anticipate the needs of customers. Brands who take a reactive approach rather than a forward-thinking one will quickly find themselves overwhelmed.
Enabling Teams To Do More With Less
In recent years, the pressure on businesses to “do more with less” has increased. But now there is little choice as a result of the ongoing health and economic crisis. Businesses have had to adapt on the fly to meet new needs and demands, and in many cases, with significantly reduced resources.
As if the surge in customer needs and constricting bandwidth wasn’t enough, the entire configuration of teams has turned upside down overnight. Even today’s largest brands have seen the entirety of their service teams go from the contact center to the couch at home. While this type of shift can provide herculean tasks for big brands, it’s equally challenging for much smaller teams to execute a communications strategy when resources take a hit and operations become virtual.
Intelligent messaging platforms can make it incredibly efficient for small teams dispersed across different locations to manage proactive and personal outreach and response at scale.
With a single team inbox, one or more people can monitor and manage dozens of customer conversations at once with a consolidated view of all SMS and MMS texts along with messages from web chat and social apps like Facebook Messenger. Message templates can be created ahead of time and responses automated to answer common questions without any human support, freeing up staff to spend their time on the most important issues.
Even in the best of times, managing customer communications across an entire business can be a daunting task. But with intelligent text messaging, brands are deploying communications strategies that can be managed by a focused team, or even a single person. And the strategies aren’t just enabling them to get information from point A to point B, they’re driving entirely new business models.
Driving New Business Models
Rather than close, many restaurants, bars and all kinds of retail businesses have shifted their business models on the fly with new text-thru options. They’ve developed processes to enable customers to use messaging to coordinate seamless, safe and contactless pickup at the business’ location.
Curbside and contactless commerce has taken off across the country and Zingle’s customer success team has been working around the clock to support many of these businesses. One such business is Beyond Bagels & Deli in Long Island, where owner Dr. Robert Kleinwaks is using messaging to enable a new curbside pick-up option. This approach has accounted for 10%-15% of revenue, a significant portion of business Kleinwaks says he wasn’t getting before launching the curbside option.
With text messaging, curbside pickup can be easily replicated in many industries. For example, across the U.S. dry cleaners have been entrusted with cleaning the uniforms of our hard-working front liners, such as our delivery drivers and healthcare workers. To ensure optimal safety, many are offering non-contact curbside drop-off and pick-up options, which means effective, real-time communication is key.
Another Zing, or automated workflow, helps streamline this process: Customers can text their dry cleaner a trigger word like ‘EXPRESS’ to alert them when they are on their way to pick-up their dry cleaning. This text will then prompt a reply asking the customer for their details, including what kind of vehicle they are driving. The staff is then alerted and can be ready with the order for a seamless — and socially distant — handoff.
For big-box retailers, messaging can be quickly deployed and implemented to enable contactless curbside pickup options that meet the demands of health conscious consumers even after social distancing may be relaxed.
Contactless Curbside Pickup
While messaging is helping these companies drive revenue during the pandemic, it’s also helping customers stay engaged with brands, even if it doesn’t result in an immediate lift to the bottom line. For example, another Zing helps fitness businesses automate a message to class or club members at the start of each week asking them to share links to their Instagram or YouTube videos showing how they are staying fit while stuck at home.
Even fitness brands that have shifted to virtual workout classes for their members are facing challenges to their revenue streams. By keeping customers engaged, they are building deeper relationships that are maintaining some revenue today while paving the way for a stronger recovery in the future.
Other businesses types — music lessons, financial planning and more — have also gone virtual and are using automated text communications to inform and engage their clients.
Keeping Customers and Employees Safe
Of course, while finding ways to maintain operations is important, public safety is the top priority. There won’t be a return to any semblance of normalcy until health risks are suitably mitigated. This is why social distancing has become such an important part of our daily lives. While many businesses have been shuttered or adapted to become more virtual, other essential businesses have remained open and have adapted operations to minimize risk.
Staying open may have obvious benefits, but it also comes with an enormous amount of responsibility and pressure for owners and operators. In the hospitality space, hotels have played a valiant role in the fight against COVID-19, housing medical workers and others on the front line as they help combat the virus. To help these and other properties that are still accepting guests, a series of Zings is available to ensure health and safety remains the primary focus. One automated Zing can be triggered by words such as “COUGH, or “HOSPITAL” and routes guests to clinics or urgent care providing a ‘hotline’ to help them self-assess whether they need to take action.
Another example is a Zing that automates a pre-arrival message that allows hotels to notify incoming guests of sanitization standards and allows them to request items that they’d like left in their room so that properties can limit in-person interaction. This type of pre-arrival communication will be crucial for all types of businesses well into the future as they look to find ways to welcome customers in safe and manageable ways.
And while customer communication is more important than it’s ever been, so too is employee communication. Across industries, employees’ professional lives have been turned upside down. In light of this, it’s crucial that employers are placing the same emphasis on employee communication as they are on customer communication. Not only is regular and transparent communication critical in enabling employees to get the job done, but it’s also crucial in helping them stay safe, especially for essential workers.
With Zingle, text messaging can also be used to manage employee communications. Regular internal updates can be automated to send on a daily or weekly basis to all employees, or even specific segments of them, depending on how they are impacted. This can be especially important for workers who may not have access to a computer at home or company email.
The COVID-19 crisis has forced businesses to adapt new models and safety protocols and the versatility of text messaging has helped keep both customers and employees informed and engaged during these rapidly changing times.
If there’s a silver lining in the impact that this crisis has had on businesses, it’s the reprioritization of the core tenets that will ultimately build stronger and more successful brands. One of these tenets is communication, and we’ve seen countless recent examples of how brands have successfully reprioritized and reimagined their communications to not only keep their businesses operating, but to play an important role in helping society get back to a sense of normalcy.