Originally, SMS came in just two flavors: 1-way SMS and 2-way SMS. However—with the advent of artificial intelligence—true, automated conversational SMS is possible.
And, thanks to cloud communication platforms like Telnyx, conversational SMS is affordable enough for just about any business.
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, with support from human support agents to keep conversations from stalling if the AI is unable to respond appropriately.
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 enables you to connect with customers in a way that’s most convenient for the customer and at the same time make life easier for your customer support teams.
Don’t be Confused with Two-Way 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 it will automatically forward a customer’s message to a customer support agent if the system is unable to generate an automated response. That way the customer gets a true conversation when they text your business.
How it Works
Conversational SMS relies on a few methods to achieve this conversational experience: artificial intelligence (chatbots), live agents, or a hybrid approach.
Without getting too into the weeds about how artificial intelligence works, 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. Clearly, this produces the most conversational experience. However, 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 and attempts to help the customer. If the chatbot can’t solve the customer’s problem, it will route the text to a customer service agent who takes the conversation from there. This is a best of both worlds approach that delivers a great customer experience, while leveraging automation as much as possible.
However, the hybrid approach isn’t always the best. In certain use cases, a chatbot may be able to do everything you need. Whereas a customer service agent may be the only way to get the job done. It’s all about applying the right 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.
One of the big problems with 2-way SMS is that it often leaves customers hanging. If they send something other than a keyword that the system recognizes, the customer gets a response that prompts them to send a keyword. This frustrates customers.
Conversational SMS eliminates this problem. Chatbots can interpret a broader range of messages to produce more tailored responses. Chatbots can also collect customer information and prompt customers to describe their issue in a friendly way.
Then, 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 without giving customers the runaround.
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/press two decisions to get the help they need.
Conversational SMS reduces the number of steps it takes for a customer to get the answer they want. The artificial intelligence system can analyze the customer texts to fast track them to resolving their issue or connecting with someone who can help.
Additionally, the chatbot will respond to customer messages instantly, rather than forcing a customer to wait for a customer service representative. So conversational SMS gets the problem solving process started as fast as possible.
Conversational SMS also enables you to leverage as much automation as you can, without negatively impacting your customer experience. That way 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. This might be hard to quantify. But your customer service teams will have more pleasant interactions with your customers if your teams are less stressed.
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 Today
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 gives you 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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