Contact Centers Integrating MMS “Texting” Into Customer Interactions

By Bianca Wright, Customer Experience Report

Offering customers a way to interact in their channel of choice is the business imperative of the increasingly demanding customer environment. While text and voice-based options have been embraced, visual communication opportunities, especially in the form of MMS, have, to some extent, been overlooked. MMS is becoming a serious option for call centers however, as developers integrate functionality into existing offerings.

While the functionality is there, contact centers have been slow to adopt it in innovative ways. Susannah Richardson, Marketing Director at mplsystems, noted: “Current MMS usage for inbound customer service is minimal. It is currently used for password resets and surveys. I’ve mostly seen it in use for outbound marketing and notifications.”

Mplsystems’ CEO Paul White added: “Customer service organizations have until now, been reluctant to open themselves up to customer messaging from channels such as mobile apps, social media and instant messaging because they’ve been too busy trying to keep up with handling emails.” White cited research from ContactBabel that showed that while text-based channels such as email, web chat and social media now account for almost 20 percent of inbound interactions, their growth has been inhibited by a lack of responsiveness and a disproportionately high cost of processing.

He noted that with the increasing percentage of calls to contact centers coming from mobile phones, customer service organizations are increasingly concerned about how to handle the widely-projected growth in customer text messaging. MMS can be an important part of that interaction.

According to Meredith Flynn-Ripley, CEO of HeyWire Business, MMS/SMS Text is being incorporated into support centers for one simple reason: it is a mobile-first world today and customers now prefer mobile messaging to voice. “Contact centers are playing catch-up to their customers’ preferred channel of mobile, which brings flexibility and responsiveness unlike voice calling and emails,” she said.

She explained that through these new applications, customers can exchange texts and pictures two-ways. For example, she said, the customer can send a picture of a broken appliance or home furnishing, and have the agent respond by sending a coupon or picture associated with a replacement product that is being requested.

A number of software providers are integrating MMS functionality in their call center offerings. In a statement on its website, Twilio noted that MMS could be used in contact centers for mobile marketing activities, handling delivery logistics such as ensuring the consumer knows what the driver or courier looks like, and records and auditing.

MMS adds another layer of convenience to the customer experience. Steve French, Vice President of OpenMarket, explained that instead of customers having to spend time describing an issue, mailing in a form, or finding a scanner to digitize and send in a document, MMS enables them to simply snap a picture and text it in. He said that two specific examples of how MMS is already being used for customer service include insurance companies allowing customers to file repair claims by sending in a picture of the damaged property instead of filing by phone, and pharmacies allowing customers to refill a prescription by sending in a picture of the order.

French emphasized that customer service is a key differentiator for major enterprises and their contact centers. “Consumers want to communicate with customer service on their preferred channel, which is mobile, and get quick resolution of their issues. They do not want to wait on hold after navigating an IVR system,” he said, adding that decision-makers should be leveraging the mobile channel as much as possible to accomplish this goal.

“By implementing two-way MMS communication, enterprises can provide a better customer experience that closely aligns with the increasing consumer demand for mobile messaging interactions,” he said.

Flynn-Ripley noted that offering MMS and SMS streamlines the call center process. “In contrast to voice, or even Web chat, where a customer often must repeat their problem several times to clearly express their issue and must be in a dedicated place where they can speak freely to a rep and not annoy others, or sit at a Web browser, text cuts through,” she said.

Using MMS within the contact center environment is not as straightforward as it sounds. Richardson advised: “Don’t do it in isolation of other channels and customer service. In our view the best approach is to implement MMS as part of one integrated solution. Customers increasingly hop from one channel to another in a single transaction and expect the customer experience to be integrated. If they connect via a voice call then the agent needs to have access to all of the details previously submitted via MMS to enable a seamless customer interaction.”

Looking to the future, Richardson said: “I believe the use of MMS in the contact center is set to change rapidly in the next couple of years.” She added that this will be driven by the increasing dominance of Generation Y, those consumers born between 1980 and 2000, who text by default and want to use their phone to obtain customer service. “This is often used ‘on the go’ rather than the traditional fixed land line or PC at home traditional approach,” she said.

MMS is yet another opportunity to offer customers a dynamic contact experience through a channel of choice. As Flynn-Ripley explained: “Contact centers should understand that mobile messaging, versus campaigning and alerting, is a preferred channel for a majority of their customers today. Mobile is a channel that will only continue to grow in reach and customer experience management effectiveness, and needs to be embraced now. Not just in the form of mobile campaigns or mobile browser-based web chat, but used for one-to-one communication that is responsive, cost-effective and generates new revenue opportunities.”