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Industry Best Practices for Text-Based Support

Behold the simple text message. It’s ubiquitous in our everyday lives, a vital connector between us, our friends and families, and (more and more) the companies we do business with.

Customer support via SMS (which stands for Short Message Service, aka your standard text message) is a powerful and reliable way to take care of your customer support inquiries. Texting provides accessibility, inviting anyone with a phone and a little spare time to receive the support they need. SMS is also the most-received type of message in the business — upwards of 98% of texts are opened, and 95% are responded to within three minutes. This means when your customers need an answer, they’re more available via text than any other support channel.

Of course, text support quality varies widely. Some brands only offer pre-programmed automated support (think of a bank offering the ability to check your account balance) while others go above and beyond with personal, solution-focused support conversations with live reps. Text can be a vital part of your customer support strategy if you know how to provide the best possible support through this highly effective channel. Let’s dive into the best practices for providing text-based support to your audience.

Clarify the support purpose. Text conversations are often brief and should be solution-oriented; the very nature of texts encourages fast and efficient conversations. Note that in some limited scenarios, texting may be more affordable than phone calls for some customers. That’s why you’ll want to perfect the art of providing helpful, concise support as quickly as possible.

To do this, try pre-sorting your text service requests as early in the process as possible. Ask customers to clearly indicate the category of their problem in the initial service request. You can also use separate SMS numbers based on the purpose of the service request. This will set customers and service reps on the right track from the start.

Know when to automate support – and when not to. Text support automation is a great way to quickly and reliably help customers with basic requests. Checking the status of an order, for example, can almost always be handled with a well-built SMS chatbot. However, personalized support that involves answering questions or resolving a technical error is much better-taken care of by live chat reps who can provide detailed information and attentively seek solutions to problems.

The key is your automation-to-human transition. Most text support starts with a robo-greeter that can perform basic tasks or quickly transfer the conversation to a live support representative. Your support team should be ready to take over from the chatbot the moment a customer’s need exceeds the chatbot’s abilities. Whatever you do, though, never leave your customers stranded in an automated support message loop.

Even through text, many customers can tell when they’re talking to a real person by the presence or lack of dynamic and thoughtful responses. Be sure you have a large enough pool of support representatives ready to answer text messages and cheerfully identify solutions when demand requires it.

Keep all communications upbeat. Always text with an upbeat tone. Many people text in a casual and cheerful manner, joking around and coordinating meetups with friends. A text support conversation should feel just as friendly — while remaining professional. A rep can make a text conversation feel faster and more satisfying simply by being friendly and upbeat with clients during the conversation. The proper turn of phrase can give the sense of a smile from the other end of the chat discussion. Customers will feel that their experience truly matters to the rep and, by extension, to your company. On the other side of the coin, ensure that shorthand and emoji double meanings are vetted and approved ahead of time. 

Focus on quickly finding solutions. Brevity is the name of the game in text support messaging. The fewer messages it takes to find a solution for your client and make them feel taken care of, the better. Focus on finding a solution for the problem as you understand it. Ideally, a customer’s problem is limited to the details shared in their opening service request, but often there’s a big picture that only an attentive support rep can uncover upon further explanation.

Once the situation is fully understood, follow through to the available solutions. If more clarification is needed, quickly ask questions and let customers know when there’s a solution ready to try.

In the second part of this article, we reveal additional steps you need to take in order to perfect your chat-based customer support offerings. Find out what they are later this week in the Mod Blog.

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