Where Is UR Txt Msg Strategy?

Four years ago, my preteen daughter sent me a text message. "Where R U" she asked. My initial thought was, "@ wrk". Before sending a response, however, I considered the real meaning of my daughter's question. She was not actually interested in my physical location. Instead, she really wanted to know when I would be home. She cared about timing, not location. I replied, "@ wrk, b home in 30."

As I meet with people in large enterprises, I often ask the same question -- "Where R U?" Or more pointedly, when will your organization fully embrace interactive text messaging? When will text messaging be fully integrated into your proactive marketing, customer care, and collections processes? I have found that very few organizations in 2010 can answer this basic text-messaging question.

The rise of mobile messaging

No longer do American consumers lag the rest of the world in text-message adoption. Text messaging has become the preferred communications channel for millions of people, and not just teenagers. Ninety-one percent of all Americans currently carry mobile phones. Twenty-five percent of households do not have landline phones. We send over 3 billion text messages per day.



While U.S. consumers are fully embracing text messaging, very few enterprises have followed suit. Some organizations have begun adoption, but others continue to overlook the mobile data phenomenon entirely. Here are four critical considerations that an enterprise should consider when implementing an interactive mobile messaging strategy:

#1: Get started.

Establish a presence in the text-messaging channel. It would be foolish for any company to operate without an Internet site. Similarly, the time has come when consumers expect basic text-messaging services from the companies they know and trust. Consumers expect proactive notifications and visibility into account information, order status, store locators, FAQs, and more. Far too many companies do not support text messaging at all. The key ingredient for most companies is simply to get started.

#2: Demonstrate proficiency.

Text messaging can be effective at all stages of the customer life cycle, such as marketing, customer care, and collections. By demonstrating to consumers that your organization has text-messaging proficiency early in the customer relationship, it is possible to fully leverage the channel throughout all the sub-processes of customer acquisition, support, and retention. It is important that customers understand that your organization speaks the language.

#3: Keep it short.

Text messaging is well-suited for sending and receiving information that is relevant, timely, actionable and brief. Consumers expect text messages to be highly relevant to their needs and interests. Unwanted or unnecessary text messages will damage customer relationships. Timely delivery of information increases the value of information and the likelihood that it will be acted upon appropriately. In fact, no other communication channel can elicit an immediate response like text messaging. By definition, text messages must be short and concise. If you cannot convey the message in 160 characters and you cannot send a message quickly then the message is probably not suited for text messaging.

#4: Integrate all channels.

Text messaging rarely stands on its own. There are situations where a text-messaging program may produce revenue or reduce costs independent of other communications channels, but those programs are rare. In most cases, text messaging is used to augment other communications. A great example of blended and integrated channels can be found on cellular 411 calls. When directory assistance finds the telephone number you requested, it provides the option of receiving the information as a text message. The text message allows you to record detailed information without writing it down. Multichannel blending is essential for any organization.

Consumers are now asking your organization, "Where R U?" When will you respond to their text-message inquiries? Not long ago I reviewed the Web sites for all of the Fortune 100 companies in America. Under "Contact Us" on the Web site, not one company listed text messaging as a supported channel of communication. They provide mail address, 800 numbers, email addresses, and even TTY for the hearing impaired, but none listed text messaging.

The time has come to fill this void. It is time to speak the new language of the consumers, to embrace interactive text messaging in marketing, customer care, collections and more.

I welcome your questions and comments on interactive text-messaging strategies. Please contact me if you require additional information or would like to engage in a deeper dialog.

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