Younger Consumers and the Contact Center

According to a study by a telecom technology provider, 60 percent of consumers over 45 are just as inclined to use SMS as to make a phone call with their cell phone. Also, 80 percent of the study participants said they felt that an SMS would be responded to more quickly than either an email or a phone call.

This may be surprising to those of you who thought SMS, or “texting” as it is called in North America, is solely the province of teenagers. The call to action for contact center management, however, is the reverse of the statistic. While a majority of consumers over 45 are as willing to send a text message as to make a phone call, teenagers and young adults are by far more inclined to send and respond to text messages. According to CBS.com in 2008, “The surge in text messaging is being driven by teens 13 to 17 years old, who on average send and receive about 1,742 text messages a month. Teens also talk on the phone, but at a much lower rate, only making and receiving about 231 calls per month”.

What does this mean for you in the contact center? If you are interested in serving younger consumers, SMS support is one way to get them engaged with you. There are three areas we’ve seen most commonly requested and deployed:

1.       “SMS IVR” – the customer authenticates and sets up a profile. They utilize standard commands to query systems such as to retrieve a bank balance, transfer funds, etc.

2.       Inbound ACD questions or orders via SMS – consumers want to be able to quickly route in questions, or even product orders, such as an order for pizza. Forget faxing, that’s so old school!

3.       Outbound SMS alerts – once a customer enrolls and asks for SMS updates, automatic messages can go out to alert them to an overdrawn bank balance, the restocking of a requested store item, or the ability to get in to see the doctor because an appointment just canceled.

We also know of firms using SMS to alert customers when their credit card is being used, where the credit card company may suspect some type of fraud taking place. Because users tend to respond to SMS even when they won’t pick up the phone, they are more likely to respond to a request telling the bank that they are actually making a purchase with their card. And that also makes SMS a natural for the collections industry.

If we want to stay in touch with younger consumers, the contact center needs to evolve, just as the generations do. It would seem that SMS is one of the “must have” new media for a new generation.

What are your thoughts on incorporating SMS within the contact center? Do you think it’s only relevant for specific regions in the world?

Rachel Wentink