Customer service call centers around the country are experiencing an escalating number of calls from consumers. Industries hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak are seeing the greatest increase. According to a new Zipwhip survey, 70% of consumers are reporting longer wait times than normal when trying to reach businesses during COVID-19. But any company that offers a customer support number can feel overwhelmed at times so this information is useful for everyone.
Calling a toll-free customer service number can seem inconvenient on a good day. Needing to call with the added stress of a pandemic can make it even worse. One way for companies to lessen consumer anxiety and create a more streamlined process to answer questions and handle requests is by adopting business texting. Customer service texting options give consumers more choices in how they connect.
Common use cases for customer service call centers during the coronavirus crisis:
- Answer quick questions: Does my insurance policy cover coronavirus testing?
- Requests for information: How can I reschedule my dental appointment?
- Service-related questions: Does your grocery store/restaurant offer take-out meals?
- Scheduled texts: Here’s today’s delivery schedule. We’ll text you when we arrive.
- Send auto replies: Thank you! We received your text and will respond shortly.
- Keywords: Text FLIGHTS to 555-475-5555 for info on today’s departures and arrivals.
- Group messages: Send a group text but start a 1:1 conversation if someone replies.
Texting offers an alternative to waiting on hold, which customers prefer
When waiting on hold, most of us are half-listening for the customer service rep to come on the line. Our attention is split between what we’re doing and making sure we don’t miss our cue to engage with the other person when they start speaking. That’s not the most effective way to focus on your work.
Texting lets you send a message and move on to the task at hand while waiting for a response. If you step away from your phone for five minutes, you don’t run the risk of missing your chance to get help. Unlike when a customer service rep is ready and you’re not there, you’re likely to get disconnected.
A text message will be waiting for you when you’re ready to read it. If no follow-up response is needed, the call center rep can move on to help another person. If you decide later that you have another question or would like further assistance, the rep can reply to your newly sent text while also being able to read previous messages you exchanged with them or another member of their department.
Losing the waiting game
We’re becoming an instant gratification culture. People aren’t as patient as they used to be. In a recent Zipwhip survey, 92% of consumers said they hung up after waiting on hold for customer support. Of those customers, 77% said the situation would have improved if the company offered text support.
Business texting can be used as effectively as phone calls when it comes to customer needs. If an individual has a quick question, requires technical support for a product, needs clarification on their insurance policy coverage, has to change travel plans or resolve a discrepancy about a financial transaction, customer service agents can assist by text message just as easily, and in some cases more easily, than by phone.
For example, to speed up the process, MMS (multimedia service) texting allows a customer to include an image of the product they may be having trouble with, a screenshot of an email that raises concern or a photo of a letter they received in the mail. Plus, texting from home is convenient and ensures the conversation stays private, even when you’re sitting less than two feet away from a couch mate.
Text-enabling toll-free phone numbers for customer service call centers
A landline or toll-free business number that has been text enabled can do double duty and be used for two-way text conversations as well. And because companies can use the same number for phone and text support, it’s that much easier for customers to contact them. Text or call, one number does it all.
To let people already on-hold know that texting is an option, simply update your on-hold script. For many, hearing that they can hang up and text the same number they just called will be a welcome message. While not everyone will make the switch, enough will that you’ll see a drop in the number of people on hold.
Most notably, younger generations who prefer texting to talking on the phone will take advantage of this newer technology. And for others, it alleviates the fear and frustration of unceremoniously being disconnected after a lengthy wait on hold, only to have to call back and wait some more.
Before you start texting, it’s important to note that consumers must first opt in to receiving messages from you. If a customer texts you first, that’s all it takes to start a dialog. For tips and best practices on two-way texting, download our free e-book on TCPA Compliance.
Travel company customer service centers see sky-high call rates
With states currently under “stay-at-home” orders, companies that specialize in moving people from city to city have nearly shut down. Business and vacation travelers are left wondering what to do about flights and other reservations that are in limbo as planes sit grounded and hotels remain shuttered.
The absence of a timetable as to when society will return to normal is leading to a surge in calls to travel companies as consumers attempt to change plans made months before the pandemic hit. Staying ahead of the rush of calls may seem challenging, but it is doable. It just takes a little planning.
Expedia is one example of a company being proactive in its outreach by using texts. The Seattle-based travel giant is texting customers with a request not to call unless their trip is within the next 7 days. Phone lines may still be busy, but the call volume is more manageable, which allows for a better customer experience and a less stressful work environment for its staff.
How urgent care centers can provide guidance relating to COVID-19
Due to HIPPA laws, confidential patient information cannot be shared by SMS text message. However, texting can provide non-medical information to assist people in times of uncertainty.
To reduce the call-in rate, some urgent care centers offer text support to let people know what services they provide and, specifically, if they offer testing for the coronavirus. Rather than have someone wait on hold, a text can provide information faster. It can also reduce the number of people who show up unannounced hoping to be tested but are turned away, either because the facility doesn’t have testing kits or the patient doesn’t meet their guidelines for being eligible for a test due to limited supplies.
If testing is available and an individual is told to come in, a text can provide instructions on what to do when they arrive, such as text the facility from the parking lot. This allows the staff to direct them where to go and if they should await further instructions. A buffer of time and space enables the urgent care center to ensure proper distancing between individuals to reduce possible exposure to other patients, many of whom may be there for physical injuries or other health-related reasons.
Texts can also be used to provide links to reputable health resources where people can get more details about COVID-19 and what to do if they think they or a family member may be infected.
Texting speeds up appointment rescheduling for medical offices
Elective and non-emergency surgeries are being delayed so hospitals and doctors’ offices can help those most in need. Texting is being used by medical support staffs to contact patients with non-life-threatening procedures to let them know their upcoming appointments will need to be rescheduled.
Sending a text is often more effective than calling. Leaving a voicemail used to work well, but with so many people not answering the phone anymore and even ignoring voicemails, texting is the go-to communication tool. Why make multiple attempts to contact a patient by phone when a text message can relay the same information one time.
A text can be sent quickly and easily. And the sender can be confident the message will be seen, unlike an email that could get lost in a sea of other messages, many of which are spam or low-priority marketing promotions.
Insurance policy questions can be answered quickly by text
Talking to an insurance company may not be the highlight of your day (no matter how likeable your agent may be). That’s why companies have implemented texting, so the insured can ask questions about policies and coverage relating to COVID-19. With the coronavirus on the minds of so many, consumers are finding peace of mind through a text exchange with their insurance providers.
To streamline the question and answer process, agents can respond to inquiries and policy questions while providing a written record of their conversation. That’s something a telephone call can never do. Say goodbye to jotting down notes while talking on the phone with your agent. With text messaging, all the information you need is available right at your fingertips on your phone’s native texting app.
Learn more about business texting solutions for customer service call centers
During this challenging time, consumers are looking for reassurance that they can get the help they need quickly and easily. Texting provides that. Department heads of call centers know that asking people to wait on hold for the next available representative isn’t ideal, but when the alternative is hiring more workers to address the demand, the projected costs often outweigh the benefits to the company.
The result is that consumers are left to wait on hold for longer and longer periods of time. What price does a company pay when they hang up and go to a competitor? What if that competitor also offers the convenience of texting?
To learn more about how call centers can streamline their customer service with texting during the coronavirus outbreak and beyond, contact us today. And for more on texting and how it can improve your overall communication strategy, download The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers. It’s filled with everything you wanted to know about Texting for Business™ but didn’t know where to start.