Payment Failure: Why text is the right channel for difficult messages

OpenMarket – September 2, 2017

When you need to get in touch with your customers to be there, be useful and be responsive – in time pressured situations – text messaging is a much better channel than either email and voice calls.

In this blog series, we’ll look at seven different Empathetic Moments – times when brands can win customer loyalty by sending communications that really matter at exactly the right time.

Payments fail to go through for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes the customer’s card details are wrong and they fail to update them. Sometimes there’s a miscommunication between the customer and their bank and the transaction gets cancelled. Sometimes there’s a miscommunication between your business and the customer and the payment doesn’t go through.

However it happens, a failed payment is a problem.

It’s embarrassing for your customer because they forgot to read a bill, confirm an order or update their payment details

And it’s concerning for your business because cash flow is vital and a collection of failed payments could add up to cause your business bigger liquidity issues.

What’s clear is that payment failure is a problem worth solving. But too few businesses have figured out how to do it.   

Tackling payment failure

The root cause of payment failure is almost always human error.

The challenge for businesses is to reduce the size of the issues caused by those errors.

You can do that in two ways.

First, you can help your customers avoid these errors. So when they’re yet to pay last month’s bill, you send them a timely, friendly nudge. If their card’s about to expire, you need to let them know ahead of time.

The second thing businesses need to be able to do, is respond appropriately when a failed payment happens. Here, you need to make sure your customer corrects the issue as quickly as possible.

Both these types of communications are sensitive. So the key to getting them right lies in picking the right channel through which to send them.

Why SMS is the right channel

Getting a message out to customers is easy enough – you can send an email, drop them a line or even use good old-fashioned post.

But getting them to read this message is the tricky part.

The problem is that most messages are easy to ignore. Emails can land in junk folders, calls can be screened and letters can end up behind the couch.

There’s only one channel that gets around this problem – text.

98% of all SMS messages are opened and 90% are read within three minutes of receipt. To provide some context, only 20% of emails are read and the rest are ignored and forgotten.

This makes text the perfect channel for urgent messages such as payment reminders. You can pretty well guarantee that your message will reach your audience and you can predict when they’re going to read it.

And crucially, you can automate the process of distributing texts to make it as efficient and cost-effective as possible. Just develop your messages, schedule distribution times and let algorithms take care of the rest. You can even create automated responses for those customers who have questions about their payment.

So it’s scalable, too.

Once you’ve automated the process, you can send thousands of messages in an instant without the need for expensive contact centres.

Payment failure is the kind of problem that frustrates customers and businesses. It’s also the kind of problem that, let’s face it, may never completely go away.

The good news is that the right messages can help you reduce the number of payment failure problems you have. You can prevent a failure from happening, and you can expedite the process of dealing with failure too.

Just as long as you use the right medium for your message.

To find out how it can help you deliver more customer wins at crucial moments, read our Empathetic Moments workbook.

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