SMS and AI: Goodbye to the ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you’ era

A disastrous chapter in the history of customer service is ending – thanks to the marriage of natural language processing (NLP) and text messaging

AI-powered mobile messaging blog series: post 2 of 3

OpenMarket – July 31, 2019

Some businesses will do anything to avoid unsolicited communications from customers.

They’ll hide phone numbers on websites, tell customers to email instead, and inform them it might take three to five days to receive a response.

Take a second to ponder how ridiculous this is.

You’d imagine businesses would be desperate to stay in touch with new prospects or existing customers – always ready and available to answer their questions, make their lives easier, and build trust, loyalty and advocacy.

Relationships come at a cost

Of course, the reason so many companies keep customers at arm’s length is expense.

Enterprises have tens of thousands (sometimes even millions) of customers nowadays. Setting up call centers to be there at the whim of every one of them is prohibitively expensive. So is having people on standby to answer every email or text within seconds.

These enterprises tend to only engage with customers in situations that suit their business models – for example, in specific moments of the customer journey, when specific staff are available, or when automated communication technologies can handle the interaction.

Take SMS as an example. It’s fantastic at handling automated customer conversations. But until now, the customer has had to follow specific conversation parameters. They’ve never been able to use the channel to randomly get in touch and ask anything they want – whether it’s about opening times on a bank holiday, stock availability, or more general questions.

Thankfully, this sub-optimal state of affairs is changing.

Businesses now have the opportunity to offer instant help to customers no matter when they get in touch. And it’s all thanks to a convergence of AI and the good old-fashioned text message.

Here’s why.

Stop talking and start texting

Nowadays, our first instinct when we want to check in with a friend or family member is to send them a text message or chat message rather than call or email.

Whether it’s an SMS, a WhatsApp or a WeChat, we feel comfortable with the ease and intimacy a mobile message gives us.

This presents a business opportunity. Imagine if companies could win a place in their customers’ contact book and be available for text-based conversations at any time? Imagine if they could be there for questions about products, comments about services, or just a general helping hand?

That’s where AI comes in. Plugging natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning algorithms into your business messaging platform gives you the ability to answer customers’ questions, engage them in conversation, and help them do what they want to do – at any time of the day or night.

You have a chance to be there whenever your customers want to get in touch.

How NLP in texting works

Customer: My phone is broken

Company: I’m sorry to hear that. Can you describe what is wrong with it?

Customer: The screen is cracked.

Company: It’s under warranty. Would you like to bring it into one of our shops for a repair?

Customer: No. I don’t have the chance to get away from work.

Company: Would you like to ship it to us?

Customer: When would I get it back?

Company: Phones shipped for cracked screen repairs normally take up to seven days.

Customer: OK

Company: Great. We can deliver a shipping box to your home address tomorrow so you can safely send your phone to us. Instructions in the box will tell you what to do next. You can find more details about our repair service here. Would you like us to send the shipping box?

Customer: Yes

Company: Ok. We’ve done that. Is there anything else we can help you with?

Customer: No

Company: Ok thanks for your time. Bye for now.

Customer: Er . . . bye.

Soon businesses everywhere will have the opportunity to be there for customers like never before. You’ll have a chance to enjoy an always-on open line with customers and become the empathetic partner you’ve always wanted to be.

Whether you’re a marketer, sales director, customer operations manager or a CEO, NLP-powered conversational commerce via mobile messaging is an unprecedented opportunity.

For a deep dive into how to plug NLP into your SMS, MMS and RCS channels, read: A strategic guide to AI-powered mobile messaging.

This post is number two in our NLP texting series. Check out the other two:

Post 1 – How to use NLP for empathetic customer service messaging
Post 3 – How AI-powered SMS and RCS messaging works

Want to chat about the AI and mobile messaging opportunity? Then click here.

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