Digital marketing experts Stephen and Catherine Toms’ took time out of their day jobs as founders of digital marketing training and coaching consultancy Smithfield Digital, and lead instructors at digital education institution General Assembly, to share their thoughts on how to best utilise SMS to save you time and create value for your customers.
So, is SMS as strong as email when it comes to communicating with customers?
ST: Oh absolutely, because when we get a message on our phone we usually open it right away, especially here in Australia where we open our mobile phones up to 150 times a day. So the open rates you’ll get will be high and your response rate is also going to be far higher than any other channel. The daily messages we get on our phones are usually all of a “high quality”, meaning they’re coming from a family member or friend, so generally you pay more attention when you get an SMS rather than an email. So when it comes to things like reminders about documentation (like Privacy Consent and NCCP Documents), it’s quite an appropriate channel because with SMS you know the person’s going to get it and open it quickly, which is important for timely, really valuable communications.
CT: SMSs get read and responded to often within about 90 seconds, which is a lot faster than all the other communication channels that we have.
In a nutshell: SMS can be just as strong as email when it comes to communicating, we all usually open every text we get!
What’s important for Brokers to consider before using SMS for the first time?
CT: We do our banking on our phones, we pay for stuff on our phones and they’ve really become a part of our day-to-day life. So when using this channel you’ve got to think of the customer first, is this message I’m sending adding value? Am I interrupting or intruding without a good reason? ... It’s important that businesses think about how they’re going to implement the use of SMS and what communications are relevant and appropriate to send in this format.
ST: There’s two fundamentals to communicating to your existing customers. One is timing and understanding – you need to have a very clear idea of who your audience is and how you’re going to reach them. The other element is relevance and context. So, if you were going to send an alert or reminder, you wouldn’t just send it to everyone on your database. You’d work out and identify, “Who is that relevant to?”, then focus on that customer or segment.
In a nutshell: Our phone numbers are personal to us all, including your customers, so make sure you understand all applicable regulatory and legal requirements and make your SMS communications timely and relevant.
What should a Broker do to get started?
ST: I would modularise your communications, which means you’ve got a set of standard communication templates for each step of the customer journey; i.e. application received, application in review, application approved. It’s about making sure the text message is triggered by what’s happening in that person’s world and how that also ties into your email marketing, don’t just rely on SMS. It’s important to make sure that your text messaging aligns with your email platform as well so you’ve got a multi-channel approach.
CT: If I was just getting started I would begin by sending transactional messages only and just make sure those messages are really valuable and useful to the customer. So you could provide messages that are triggered by someone’s individual circumstances, like “Oh, it’s time for your annual review”, or general messages around annual reminders like “the end-of-tax-year deadline is approaching”.
In a nutshell: Have a plan, create your templates and trigger your SMS sends based off the steps in the process or align with email sends e.g. when documents are received, applications lodged or finance is approved.
What kind of SMS communications could Brokers be sending to existing customers that will add value?
CT: It’s all about timeliness and speed, when you need to get a message in front of somebody quickly and you want them to see it quickly. So things like “you’ve got to get these documents in” are ideal for SMS. You can even reference your other communication channels and say, “Hey, documents just landed in your inbox, make sure you take a look”. Referencing back to email or driving people back to your website in this way is an easy strategy to help integrate the SMS with your other communication channels.
ST: When we think about mobile and SMS, the norm for a lot of businesses is now appointment reminders. If I get an appointment reminder, it adds value to me and creates a sense of support, it improves the customer experience. Good communication strengthens relationships after all.
CT: I think Steve’s absolutely right. It’s all about timely communications, it’s those appointment reminders and notifications. If I got a text saying, “Hi, your documentation is due”, something like that is really helpful, because it’s something I might miss in my inbox, but I’m definitely not going to miss it on my mobile.
In a nutshell: Use SMS for practical messaging such as reminders around lodging documentation and process updates.
How do Brokers make sure their customers don’t confuse their SMS for spam?
CT: Brokers could use their first SMS to introduce this new channel to their customers, something like, “Hey, we’ve now got the opportunity to communicate with you by SMS. Yes to opt-in; No to stop.” You could even send an email first and say, “We’re using this new functionality et cetera.” The rules of SMS marketing in Australia is that you must always identify the sender, give people the opportunity to opt out immediately, and ensure that all the information and data will be archived correctly.
In a nutshell: You may want to introduce your customers to this new channel before you begin.
Why should Brokers get excited about using SMS?
ST: The exciting thing about this channel is all the added value they are going to enjoy, and it’s not just the value to the brokers, it’s the value to the customer. It’s going to allow the brokers to have less touchpoints (since there’ll be less phone calls) and it’ll create better efficiencies within their business. Then you’re also adding loads of value to the customer as well, by helping them in a more personalised, convenient and relevant way.
CT: It’s going to create efficiency because messages will be very quick and easy for brokers to send. SMS is very effective and could also be a massive time-saving tool when it comes to scheduling meetings and booking appointments, the idea being that customers can click-on or respond with their preferred appointment time. The other exciting point is the customer engagement. Your customers are going to feel really well taken care of. If they’re getting timely reminders, not missing deadlines and they’re getting the right information about submitting paperwork and process updates, it’s going to really help with the customer experience.
Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed are those of the individual contributors and not of NFC Aggregation. Any reference to third party goods and services are not endorsements or recommendations by NFC Aggregation.
There are various legal requirements associated with marketing or communicating via SMS. If in doubt, we recommend that you seek independent legal advice on the applicable laws and regulations including, without limitation, the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), the Spam Act 2003 (Cth) and the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 (and National Credit Code).