(EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog is an adapted excerpt of our ebook, How Effective Customer Communication Can Help Brands Through Extraordinary Times.)
Consumers don’t have the time or desire to spend minutes for something that could be answered or resolved in seconds. Amidst a global health crisis, the need for speed, convenience and responsiveness is even more important, and ideally, without any face-to-face contact. Businesses must be ready to engage consumers on their terms and today that means through text messaging and real-time communication.
Text messaging is how we communicate important updates and plans to co-workers and loved ones, it’s how we stay in touch with our kids and communicate with distant friends and family. As texting has grown to become the most prevalent and personal form of communication in our private lives, it has also become the most effective way for modern businesses to communicate with customers.
More than half the homes in the U.S. no longer have a landline (U.S. Health Department), 77% of the population owns a smartphone (Pew Research) and texting, not calling, is how the majority of people use their phones to communicate today.
Businesses know they have to be available across all the channels their customers may use, but for real-time communication and two-way conversations, texting is the most effective and efficient platform. Voice calls can be tedious to make one at a time and are impersonal and ineffective when automated. Mass email is far easier to execute, but open rates that reach 20% are considered good. Social media updates are necessary, but may not be seen by customers, depending on when they are posted, other trending news and the ever changing algorithms that control who sees what.
The Benefits of Real-Time Communication
With more than 300 managed vacation rental units throughout Perdido Key and Orange Beach Fla., Luxury Coastal Vacations always struggled to reach every guest by phone when there were severe storm warnings. They spent hours trying and rarely connected with renters, meaning the maintenance team would have to work nights visiting each property to ensure guests knew what was going on and to properly stow the patio furniture.
“We would spend so much time on phones trying to reach people and they’d never see the emails we sent,” said Kenzie Carden, a marketing specialist at Luxury Coastal Vacations. “And then we’d have to send our maintenance team out and they were spending three days and at condos we couldn’t reach until 10 at night moving furniture. It was a really bad way to handle communication especially with the stress on top of that because of the storm.”
After implementing a messaging platform, the team at LCV now sends group text messages to all in-stay guests to warn them about hurricanes and provide instructions, whether it be evacuation orders or to move furniture inside.
With texting having an average open rate of 98%, businesses like LCV can send personalized communications to multiple customers quickly and be assured the message is received. Texting also provides an easy way for customers to respond, using the device they’ve already got in their hand, no matter where they are. With a text messaging platform, businesses can manage all customer conversations on one screen and provide personal and real-time communication.
Text Messaging Helps Businesses Quickly Pivot
When crises or other circumstances cause sudden disruption to business operations, open channels for one-to-one communication can facilitate that change, quickly. The brands already engaging a large part of their customer base in text conversations have found adapting and informing far easier.
During the ongoing health crisis, many businesses that pivoted to new models, like restaurants and retail stores shifting to curbside pickup, were successful because they were able to proactively inform their customer base of new safety standards and operating procedures. Other businesses shifted from in-person workouts, meetings and consultations to virtual versions and similarly used text messaging to inform and invite customers to the new format.
By proactively engaging customers in conversation with real-time communication, businesses can handle rapidly changing circumstances. But even in normal circumstances, the benefits of that engagement are immeasurable: Brands will better anticipate needs, identify issues before they become problems and ultimately guide customers to better experiences that lead to increased spend and return visits.