Messaging • Last Updated 2/5/2024

Benefits of conversational SMS

Break away from the robotic and impersonal messaging, and discover why conversational SMS is the future of business communication.


By Emily Bowen

conversational SMS header

Originally, SMS came in just two flavors: 1-way SMS and 2-way SMS. However, artificial intelligence makes true, automated conversational SMS possible.

And, thanks to cloud communication platforms like Telnyx—a popular alternative to Twilio for SMSconversational SMS is an affordable and practical method of communicating with your customers.

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What is conversational SMS?

Conversational SMS is an advancement of 2-way SMS. Traditional 2-way SMS systems only respond to specific words. Conversational SMS uses artificial intelligence to create a true two-way conversation. If the AI is unable to respond appropriately, human representatives can take over to keep conversations from stalling.

Conversational SMS enables you to provide automated customer service through chat and text, without the risk of delivering a bad customer experience because the options are too limited to solve real customer problems. This makes it possible to connect with customers in a way they find convenient, and it also makes life easier for your customer support teams.

Two-way SMS vs. conversational SMS

There’s some gray area between two-way SMS and conversational SMS. Conversational SMS shares some traits with two-way SMS, since both can be automated, to a certain point.

However, two-way SMS is much more limited. Automated two-way SMS uses keywords to generate responses. If a customer sends something other than a defined keyword, an automated two-way SMS system must prompt the customer to send a different keyword.

In contrast, conversational SMS can generate automated responses to keywords, but the system is also capable of automatically forwarding a customer’s message to a human support agent if need be. That way the customer gets a personalized, helpful conversation when they text your business.

How conversational SMS works

Conversational SMS uses one of three methods: chatbots, live agents, or a hybrid approach.

Chatbots leverage artificial intelligence to analyze customer messages and generate an appropriate response that mimics true, human conversation. This enables chatbots to respond more fluidly to customers than a system that can only generate predefined responses to certain keywords.

Another option is to have a system that simply routes text messages to customer service agents who can help customers via text. This produces the most conversational experience, but it’s also the most resource-intensive method, because there’s very little automation.

The most flexible method is a hybrid approach. When a customer sends a text, a chatbot responds first. If the chatbot can’t solve the customer’s problem, the chatbot routes the message to a human agent, who takes the conversation from there. The hybrid approach delivers a personalized customer experience while leveraging automation to lighten your team's load.

However, the hybrid approach isn’t always the best. In certain use cases, a chatbot may be able to do everything you need; however, in some situations a human customer service agent may be the only way to get the job done. It’s all about applying your resources the right way.

Benefits of conversational SMS

No matter how you use conversational SMS, it’s almost always better than relying on 1-way or 2-way SMS. Conversational SMS improves customer communication in a few key areas.

Happier customers

One of the big problems with 2-way SMS is that it often leaves customers hanging. If a customer texts a message other than a keyword that the system recognizes, the system simply prompts the customer to send a recognizable keyword. This can frustrate customers and leave them with an unfavorable impression of your customer service.

Conversational SMS eliminates the issue outlined above—chatbots can interpret a broader range of messages and produce more tailored, believable responses.

Chatbots can also collect customer information and prompt customers to describe their issue in detail.

You can use a hybrid approach to automatically connect customers with an employee who can help them when the chatbot can’t handle the customer’s request. If the chatbot already collected the customer information, your customer service representative will have the customer profile up and ready as soon as they take over the conversation.

This delivers a seamless experience designed to increase customer satisfaction.

Faster response

An automated 2-way SMS system can be cumbersome to navigate. Relying on keywords produces an experience which is similar to a touch tone menu where customers must go through a series of "Press one for sales, press two for support" commands to get the help they need.

Conversational SMS reduces the number of steps it takes for a customer to get the answer they want. Artificial intelligence systems can analyze customer texts and provide responses just as fast, if not faster than, a human representative.

Additionally, the chatbot cuts wait time because it's able to respond to customer messages instantly, as opposed to a phone queue that forces customers to wait to speak to a representative. Conversational SMS gets the problem solving process started as fast as possible.

Cost effective

Conversational SMS enables you to leverage automation without negatively impacting your customer experience. Integrating automation in this capacity ensures that you can deliver the best customer experience at the lowest cost.

But it’s not all about monetary costs. Automation also means less work and stress for your customer service teams. With a lighter load, your team will be able to better serve the customers they do talk to, and you may not even need to up your headcount as your business scales.

So, while conversational SMS can reduce staffing costs and help you serve more customers on a smaller budget, conversational SMS also reduces the intangible costs of customer service.

Get started with conversational SMS

As you may have guessed, integration is an incredibly important aspect of conversational SMS. You’ll need to integrate your conversational SMS system into the customer service tools that you already use.

Telnyx offers completely programmable SMS and conversational SMS, with full API support for building conversational SMS into the customer service tools you already use.

Talk to a Telnyx programmable SMS expert to start serving customers with conversational SMS.

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