SMS text messaging is a little over 20 years old. For a human, that’s young.
For a digital technology, on the other hand, it’s ancient.
And in a world where Amazon Alexa and Google Home Assistant are duking it out to be the future of conversational interactions between brands and consumers — powered by the latest in bio-authentication and artificial intelligences programmed to learn about their customers at all times — old-fashioned SMS text messaging can seem downright quaint.
But for the team at evo — a clothing brand specializing in outdoor activewear — the importance of an innovation should not be judged by the age of the underlying technology, but by the usefulness to the customer.
And evo’s customer base is young — skewing heavily toward younger millennials. For those consumers, the brand noted, oftentimes avoiding a phone interaction altogether is a priority when seeking customer service.
Phone apps on millennials phones are actually among the more neglected — usually ranked somewhere between the fifth and tenth most common use for the device. Texting, on the other hand, tends to dominate millennial communications efforts, with nearly 70 percent telling Gallup they send messages via text at least once per day.
Outdoor gear and apparel retailer evo believes good old-fashioned text messaging is among the more effective ways to meet customer expectations.
Solving for Immediacy
The brand’s customer base may not want to make phone call, but according to evo, that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for instant solutions when they encounter issues that require customer service. Some consumers are OK with the email pace — where a query is sent in and an answer is sent back within a day or so. The question itself — “how do I return this?” for example — is fairly straightforward and is the type of thing a customer might ask if they were heading out the door and looking to drop off a return box at the post office.
It’s not a situation ideally suited for phones, according to the brand — because who wants to be put on hold to get the answer? A text, according to evo, solves the problem in a way that splits the difference between a call and an email, in that it is much more immediate than waiting for an email, and much easier than lingering by the phone while waiting for a representative from the company.
While evo has expanded across a variety of chat programs, including Facebook Messenger, which also offers up an immediate interactive experience, text is actually better suited for easier access to wider communication modes between the brand and its buyers.
The simple addition of a smartphone’s camera — and the advantages inherent in being able to exchange an image in real time and discuss it — can’t be overstated.
Supporting the Service
The crucial element for evo is making access simpler and easier to navigate for the consumer, who only has to tap a simple link to pull open an auto-populated text message to send to customer service from their phone. After adding their specific issue and clicking send, they will either get a semi-immediate reply or an off-hours response about when the next agent will be available.
On the brand side, agents receive all chat, SMS and Facebook messages through a single portal managed by Quiq, so agents can respond easily and in real time, no matter which method is used.
While the change has been minimal on the brand-end for workers, it’s making a large difference on how consumers are choosing to use the platform. Before utilizing to text messaging, evo said about 70 percent of its customer service volume was routed through phone calls. Since opening up the unified texting platform with Quiq, call volume has decreased to about 50 percent.
That change actually punches well over its weight, since a customer service worker can only handle one phone call at a time, but on chat, they can productively handle several customer queries.
These reductions, according to evo, have come with no special push toward texting or chat interfaces. Evo simply put the option out there, and customers have been free to adopt it as they’ve seen fit. As it turns out, they’ve seen fit a lot of the time.
So, while the world of chat-based, consumer brand interfaces races toward the hi-tech, it’s good to remember the tech matters less than the service underlying it. And that sometimes even an older offering can radically reset a customer’s experience and make the brand’s life a bit more efficient at the same time.