SMS Marketing Podcast: Effective ways to use SMS customer support

SMS Marketing Podcast

Nate and Drew have spent a lot of time pouring over what makes the SMS channel a great place to market to your customers. In this episode, Chatitive’s Director of Customer Success Connor Callahan joins to discuss SMS customer support. Connor brings a background of CS team management experience and provides a wealth of knowledge on how to seamlessly delight your customers who are coming to your brand for assistance on you mobile messaging channel.

Drew:
Hello and welcome to left on red. My name is Drew Davis and today with me I have Chatitive’s VP of marketing, Nate Odell and our Director of Customer Success Connor Callahan.


Connor:
Hey Drew, thanks for having me on.

 

Drew:
Hey Connor. Nate, thanks for joining me today. The reason that Nate and I wanted to have Connor on was because he works really closely with operators of Chatitive’s platform. And he’s really in tune with one specific use case that I think is incredibly important right now. And that is using a two way texting channel to support your customers, especially in an environment where you might not have face to face or maybe you are experiencing more support tickets than usual. So thanks for thanks for being on Connor.


Connor:
Yeah, you bet. As you know or you may not know some of that. My background is in customer support and so when I talk about how customers are using messaging to solve certain problems here, this really gets my juices flowing. Cause I felt the pain or I have felt a lot of the pain before.


Drew:
Yeah, that’s, that’s great. And I think that Nate, you’d agree with me, we have spent a lot of time on this podcast talking about marketing and engagement and eCommerce over the mobile messaging channel. So it’s great to sort of dive in here and talk about easy to use support, you know support use cases for channels that are enabled in two ways.


Nate:
Yeah, totally. You know, for a long time there was sort of this belief and discipline that, you know, the front end and you know, marketing or commerce and interactions with customers on the front end of things should be, you know, separated from customer support. And we’re increasingly, I think living in a world where those lines are blurring a little bit, especially in terms of you know, direct to consumer you know, marketing and commerce where it’s all about the lifetime value of a customer. And so making sure that not, you know, having an, an incredibly an incredible world class customer acquisition, marketing programs you know, frictionless ways to buy are all super important. But arguably the care and the feeding and the handling that you do when your customers are upset or having problems from a, you know, from a customer experience standpoint is arguably more important. And so you know, I think to your point, we spent a tremendous amount of time over the last few podcasts talking about that front end. And I’m really excited that we have Connor here today to talk about what he sees as you know, best practices and sort of thinking about texting as a direct fast path to reach your customers for CS use cases.


Drew:
Yeah. And I want to get to you real quick Connor, but first I want to sort of frame what not to do over the channel. And it’s something that I see a lot of a lot of brands do. And that is sort of forcing customers out of a very immediate way of communication and into maybe more legacy ways to communicate, whether it’s offering them an 800 number to call or telling them to go out of their app where they’re trying to get a hold of you and write an email to create a support ticket. So, Connor, the question for you becomes why isn’t that the best approach and what then becomes a next generation or an innovative way to do that over the channel?

 

Nate:
Okay.


Connor:
Yeah, great question Drew. So when you take a step back and you look at some of the required kind of the bare minimum for any mobile messaging program is when someone says, “help,” what do you do? Well, you send them a message and you say, Hey, here’s how you reach us. And you force that customer to take effort, extra incremental effort to talk to you the way that you want to be talked to. That’s not customer centric. Customer centric is thinking about how to make my customer do as little work as possible to accomplish exactly what they want to accomplish. And so one of the smallest things we do to all, or at least we work with our customers to do their compliance messages is and or reply to this message. It’s really simple. It’s one sentence Or a couple of phrases. But like that gets to the point. You’ve got someone ready to have a conversation with you. They need help and you’re telling them, “hey, no, I’m actually, can you hit me up on Twitter? Cause that’s where I have my support team listening.”


Drew:
Yeah. And it’s just, it’s assuming that that person has A: has the time to go and do that, and B: maybe they don’t even have an email address. Maybe they aren’t in a situation where they can call at that specific moment. Maybe they don’t have a Twitter account, you know? Right. So you’re asking them to create a, a in this hypothetical situation, a profile on a social media website to get a hold of your brand, which I’ve done before. One of the first things I did on Twitter. But you know, we have to complain about airlines sometimes.


Connor:
So have you, have you checked out Wendy’s Twitter profile? I’m pretty sure when whoever runs Twitter profile they have a whole next level of awareness. But comment, sorry, bad segue. A common thing in CS recently, like in the last five to 10 years, is taking an omnichannel approach. What we’re seeing is like the wave where customers only reached out via email is no longer that it’s no longer the case. When you look at the spread of how your customers prefer to communicate with you, that is increasingly flattening out. So you want to be able to talk to them wherever they prefer to talk to you. And when you take your marketing channel and you up-level it to be able to handle, support you out a whole new channel for people to text you on. And I mean, just look at your phone. What most people when you look at how they’re using their own mobile device, we text all the time. We text each other, it’s a very natural next step to just text the company who’s texting you.


Drew:
Yeah. And I kind of want to talk about segmenting and sorting out people who have problems to maybe get them to those correct support agents and B, get those tickets solved as quickly as possible. So how would you use an Intel? Well, a contextually aware, a two way texting channel to create automations that would then feed to customer support agents to solve quickly.


Connor:
So normally they’d text in, well, if you’ve provided your customer with a way to self-serve via text, a simple super simple situation would be, Hey, text status and we’ll push to you all of the statuses for your open orders. So for any e-commerce company looking to reduce the amount of questions about order tracking, so no brainer, right? But the, the, the origin of it always goes back to what does the data say? And that’s going to be different depending on the industry. And so you look at the data, you look at your inbound support tickets and you say, okay, what can be automated? And I have some, you know, it’s interesting when you and I may be getting big for my britches here. I’m going to start talking about technical things like AI or parsing of specific text fields.


Connor:
But like I’ve gone into my own support data in the past and I’ve looked at the, the line of questions and I think any other CS manager will know, Hey, I’ve looked at a list of the first sentence of every ticket that’s ever been sent in the last month and I’ve pulled it into Excel and I’ve run a pivot analysis on what the first five words that come in and what’s the most frequent ones and how do we predict what someone is asking based on that. What’s beautiful about texting is the amount of information someone sends you doesn’t have fluff. They’re going to reach out to you and they’re going to say, I need help.


Connor:
Like, “where is my order?” When you think about a text to your buddy and your buddies running late, “where are you at?” Right? We don’t have like, “Hey dear Drew, thank you so much for taking my reply. Where are you at? I’m at the bar waiting for you to come. Sincerely, Connor.” You just don’t do that. So when you think about the data that you’re collecting from a support instance and you’re trying to automate, that’s where you look at the medium and you say, okay, people are giving very small bite size, easy to understand chunks of intent to solve the support problem. That’s where two way messaging comes in. You can easily look at that data set, figure out what your most frequently asked questions are. Are there going to be bite sized chunks. And then you work with a partner that has the tools to help you automate responses.


Connor:
And then maybe those tools allow you to call an API and get an order tracking. Maybe it’s the USPS status. Maybe it pulls context from that user’s conversation with your brand already. Maybe it says, Hey, you don’t have an order on file. And so it is, and it tells them, but you should go check out our website. We have a sale for 30% off. Right. That’s, that’s really where, when you look at the head and the tail of your support tickets, you want to solve the most frequently asked questions first because most of your issues come from it, it’s that, paradox. What is Pareto’s Rule: “20% of the work comes, or 80% of the questions usually come from 20% of the root causes.” And so, that holds, that’s true in CS. I guarantee you every CS manager you’re going to say, “Hey, if you could solve these three problems, how much would that reduce your support’s ticket load by?” And they’re going to say, “Oh, a lot. Yeah.” They’d list you those problems. So it’s just thinking about how you do that with them.


Drew:
That’s, I mean, incredibly insightful. And I think highly valuable insight. I think when you’re, you touched on something that is pretty key to Chatitive’s story. And the story of two way contextually aware messaging as a whole and that’s data and data collection and being able to see the entire history of conversations that you’ve had with your customers at scale. So in that Excel spreadsheet has 100,000 conversations or 100,000 questions in it down to, okay, now I’m hoping this one person and I can see easily what they’ve had, what sort of problems they’ve had in the past and I can guide them quickly to a solution to get them back into a maybe it’s a happy customer mode or excited about their shipment even if it might be arriving a day late, you know, so it’s all about that, that happiness and the support that you can give your customers at the, at both the beginning and the end.


Drew:
Because I think that if you can self serve as a customer, I’m always wanting to self-serve, but if not, I want somebody who knows what they’re talking about and to have at least some idea of where I exist in their, in their universe as a whole. So can you talk a little bit about how a little, just touch a little bit more how that data goes from scale down to one on one conversations and maybe how, maybe how ticketing support solutions such as like Zendesk’s or like help desks play into that specific role as far as where this might exist in your overall CS tech stack?


Connor:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So when you’re thinking through support incidents where a customer reaches out, Oh, your agent, you’ve done all this work, you’ve set up knowledge basis for that agent to be successful, you might have even, and in a lot of cases, build a bespoke customer profile like tool that gives your agent all the past order history. It gives them a couple of quick switches, like maybe you want to change their address. If you’re working in Shopify, maybe you have an agent who’s tied into Shopify, but at the end of the day, you’ve done all this pre-work to help your agent be successful, and then all of a sudden they have a support ticket coming in and they have to use a separate tool to get this, the answer solved. And one of the things that was fortunate to learn about through hard experience is like in process improvement, there’s a bunch of different types of waste and one of the waste is movement. One of the waste is that the key one here is movement.


Drew:
So we were talking about this thing called a movement and about how it’s a huge waste. It’s a huge waste or creator of waste inside of your CS agents world. How does it get created and how does it, and how does a messaging app solve for that?


Connor:
Yeah. Yep. So when you think about the movement of a mouse across the screen, sometimes when you’re handling hundreds of thousands of tickets, right? By saving an agent three clicks, you can save your business tens of thousands of dollars because it happens so frequently. So little small changes in your process have material impacts on your costs and therefore your net profits. So when we talk about how a messaging platform solves that, what we’re talking about is a messaging platform that has the data that it can push into. Like if you’re handling your ticketing system within that messaging platform, great. The agent has everything at their fingertips there. But if you’re pushing that data into a ticket management system, like for example, Zendesk, including that contextual data, prevents your agent from having to take those three clicks, go into a different tool that can be, that can and often is a material difference in the cost of that agent’s time. Maybe you don’t need to hire another person for an extra month because you’re just running more efficiently. So you want a messaging platform that makes you more efficient as a team. And to do that, you need both, collect the data and then surface it to the agent who’s helping that customer at that moment.


Drew:
Yeah. Awesome. And Nate, did you have anything to add? On this front, I want to go and transition sort of back after this to putting your customers back into those marketing and those and those e-commerce and engagement automations once these tickets are solved or as they’re getting solved. So I wanted to sort of transition and bring you in here too, to give your point of view on how support in this sense can turn into marketing and engagement opportunities.


Nate:
Yeah, no, it’s great. What I really like is that we touched on, you know, first making sure that you do everything that you can to delight customers and making, making support frictionless. Everything that you do as a marketer, as a business owner as somebody that has you know, e-commerce or support organizations, everything you do should be thinking about the customer first. And and, you know, starting there is always a great there’s always great on the other side. What I love, you know, just to sort of recap what I love, what you guys just talked about is there is also an added benefit to, you know, the operations of a business of a direct to consumer brand by you know, to your point, tying in a you know, an SMS channel into support and that benefit is being able to automatically create tickets within a platform like them. That’s where some other CS platforms, so that there’s sort of this seamless not only is there a seamless experience for the consumer, but there’s also a very easy way for customer support agents to not have any sort of disruption to their workflows. Right. But by using, you know, a system like Chatitive as an example that hasn’t integrations with those customer support platforms. The setup is relative, easy and seamless and it doesn’t require a customer support person to, you know, to, to transition into a different application. Dave lives inside the application and the workflows that they already know. And I think that the really good benefits in something not to sort of gloss over and to point out that that’s, that adds business value for, you know, for brands. But going back to what you were, you know leading off with is the, if you believe in the life cycle, right? If you believe in the idea that the ultimate measure of success of customer success is lifetime value that you acquire a customer, you feel good, you know, amazing products that they love and then you support that customer. So they keep coming back again and again and again and again. And there’s, if you do the support side correctly and you have a system that ties into your support organization and SMS marketing solution that ties into your support platform there’s every support ticket, every support interaction that you have with a customer, whether it may be inherently bad initially, if you solve that problem there, that data is rich.


Drew:
Yes.


Nate:
With ways of treating that customer better down the road. From a, you know, in a human to human aspect, but also like it’s rich with data on things that they don’t like, right? Like whether it’s a workflow or just an overall brand experience or you know, the product that they got came and delivered to their house and it was broken. That data is rich with insights that can be applied back into the front end of your, if you know, of your customer life cycle that all that information can be fed back into how you better market to that individual or cohort of, of users or customers that look like that individual. And I think, you know, conceptually that is a really, really advanced way of thinking about how do you communicate with your customers when you acquire them and you bring them into your brands when they buy products, how you support them, and then how do you restart that loop again. And I think that SMS is one of those really unique channels to your point where it offers you the best path to communicating in real time. With a customer, no matter where they are in the world. And it’s the fastest path to understanding their precise desires, dislikes you know, whatever it is that is that or that’s going on in their, in their mind. Mobile messaging and especially two way mobile messaging is the fastest path to getting real time feedback from that customer. And that’s incredibly powerful.


Drew:
Yeah, that’s, that’s great. And I, I think that this, this particular episode, if anything has been incredibly informative to sort of put everything together for what we’ve been talking about. And that’s what I love about having a Connor on the line with us. Thank you Connor. If there’s anything that I missed or you think we should have touched on we’ll have to do this again.


Connor:
Yeah, sounds good. No, I think what you guys have done so far speaks volumes to what’s possible when you start to think about the channel holistically. Relationship. And so, being able to support while you sell. It’s all part of that relationship.


Drew:
Absolutely. Connor, Nate, thank you for hopping on today.


Connor:
You bet.


Nate:
Thanks Drew!

 

Conversational Messaging Evangelist at Chatitive