Allowing consumers to text a company straightforward queries is an opportunity for brands but it doesn’t replace click-to-call, it empowers it, says Anna Forbes UK MD of Marchex.

Google recently announced that it will soon be rolling out its click-to-SMS ad extension. This mobile-only offering will give consumers the option to text a brand alongside the usual options that Google currently offers, such as click-to-call. This announcement also comes at a time when other companies such as Facebook are stepping up with their messaging and chat bot services to improve their customer service offering for brands.

Messaging can be a real opportunity for a business to be even more responsive to consumer needs, but as this new trend is on the rise, brands need to question the part messaging plays in the customer journey and, crucially, how it can be used in order to optimise sales.

Text messages have traditionally been a way of communicating between individuals but Google’s recent launch of click-to-SMS and the increasing use of chatbots are evidence that brands are seeing an opportunity in the space. Messaging a company can prove valuable to a customer, especially when it comes down to answering questions with a simple yes or no, or finding out information about the business such as it’s opening hours or address.

Marchex data shows that offering consumers the option to text when they already have the option of email or phone increases consumer engagement, and actually makes the consumer more likely to call the brand. Since an interaction has already taken place, calling the brand is a natural next step.

Giving the customer a variety of options when looking to contact a business is a step in the right direction, but messaging consumers should be exercised with caution as brands do run the risk of frustrating customers if their queries are misunderstood or not answered efficiently. Messaging is a relatively new way of contacting brands, and consumers have little experience of interacting with companies via message so it has the potential to cause lots of confusion for consumers, especially when it comes to complex queries.

The longer you leave a customer feeling confused or misunderstood, the more likely they are to complain or take their business elsewhere. Prompting a call at this point and offering a more detailed response via a call could mean the difference between a happy or very disgruntled customer.

In our trials, more than 20% of texts to a business led to phone calls or in-person conversations, demonstrating the important part that messages can play in the customer journey and the impact they can have on creating conversions. For example, if a consumer is looking to purchase a holiday, they might message the travel agent asking if they fly to a certain location, but when it comes to actually booking the holiday, they are more likely to want to speak to someone on the phone.

In many cases, there will come a point where a query gets too complex to answer via a message, this is the opportune moment for a brand to prompt a call. Our research indicates that UK consumers will make 12 billion calls to businesses this year, with over a quarter of them resulting in a sale or booking, so linking this behaviour together with click-to-SMS is a real opportunity for businesses.

There is clearly an appetite amongst consumers for a quick and easy way to contact businesses with straightforward questions, and being able to text an organisation in the early sales process is an asset that can be beneficial in the path-to-purchase. Balancing where automated messaging is appropriate to help establish initial intent and encourage conversion with actual human contact is vital if brands want to use messaging successfully.

While Google’s introduction of click-to-SMS is a welcome one, it will take time for both brands and consumers to learn more about what texting companies means and how it plays into the customer experience.

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