Author: Brad Epker
The Signal Conference is an event for Twilio customers and developers that featured a pretty diverse group of speakers, from Mindy Kaling (The Office) and rapper Macklemore to product owners, marketing managers and student interns. As exhibitors, we spent most of our time in the community hall, doing some Chatbox demos, but mostly listening to what attendees were looking to accomplish with their customer communications.
I found it ironic that with so many discussions of communications from every standpoint, including email, SMS, IVRs, and programmable voice, that many organizations are still struggling to have genuine bi-directional conversations with end users. Instead, they are doing a great job of getting messages out, even highly relevant messages, but they offer little ability for the recipient to engage in any meaningful way once the one-way message has been received. Why the disconnect (literally)?
Takeaway 1: Education of what is possible is an on-going process
Based on the discussions I had, the biggest reason for one-way communications is the lack of knowledge of tools like Chatbox. Many developers like the idea of building a platform that allows for outbound SMS, plus agent engagement plus data collection via mobile, but put together it’s a daunting task. There are business requirements, technical requirements, and process considerations. Many have started down the path only to be re-focused on maintaining and optimizing what is already in place.
When people see the Chatbox platform, it’s clear that it serves multiple requirements that have been on wishlists of contact center and customer experience executives for years! One person we chatted with said that they thought functionality within our platform was 5 years away at best.
Takeaway 2: Validation of persisting notions that “there’s got to be a better way”
In some cases, companies have sent emails and texts and made phone calls for something as simple as an account update with no response for weeks or months. Something this basic shouldn’t be that difficult, and yet folks I chatted with at Signal said this was quite common. Often, even after sending emails and texts, the only “easy” way for the customer to respond was via the customer service phone number. Everyone can agree that not everyone is willing to wait on hold to simply provide an update of their information.
Also, the folks with responsibility for developing either the strategy or the tools for outbound SMS are not always the same people who manage the channels for inbound engagement, like the website or mobile app(s). They are making strides with connecting to contact center automation (like with Twilio Flex), but SMS remains purely uni-directional in most cases.
Takeaway 3: There is a gap in the customer experience and consequently, the data
It’s one thing to be able to deploy bulk SMS messages. It’s quite another to be able to get the customer to act as a result. Chatbox makes it possible to capture the data within a fully mobile interaction and route it to a CRM, data warehouse or back-end system. Many times bulk messages drive customers to a less than mobile-friendly website or a mobile app requiring a login or download. So even if the text message gets read, the desired customer action may never be taken:
- The account is never updated…
- The appointment is never made…
- The confirmation is never registered as actually received…
- The agreement is never signed…
- The order is never completed…
- The list goes on and on…
This persists as a huge gap in what many organizations are looking to get out of SMS as a channel. If the desired action is never taken, customer data goes quickly out of date.
Overall, we had a great experience at the Signal conference, learning about both the challenges and opportunities surrounding customer communications, and of being on your feet for 24 hours over 2 days. Next year, I’ll definitely be gellin’.
Brad Epker has over 30 years enterprise sales and sales management, with time split between Fortune 500 C+ sales experience and start-up sales and market development leadership. He received his MBA in Technology Management from the University of Washington and currently serves as Chatbox’s Chief Revenue Officer.
In addition, Brad has extensive experience within the Salesforce ecosystem helping companies maintain strong, profitable ISV partnerships. He joined Chatbox after watching traditional communication effectiveness plummet, while text messaging effectiveness continues to increase. Chatbox now brings this power and efficacy to business.