Business Text Messaging vs. Web Chat: What’s the Difference?

Web chat at computer.

It’s official: customers in countries from the US to India prefer messaging to any other channel for customer service. Messaging has quickly gained in popularity due to the fact that customers like to communicate in real-time with knowledgeable employees, instead of sending emails that are answered days later or waiting on hold with the phone. In fact, messaging is 3-8x more preferred than face-to-face communications across all generations. In response to this clear demand from customers, businesses have started to adopt business text messaging and web chat capabilities.

However, for many businesses, messaging is new territory. Messaging channels range from native SMS to web chats to OTT messaging like Facebook Messenger. There are so many channels that it can be difficult to determine how they differ and how they can work together.

That’s why we decided to set things straight once and for all. We’ve laid out the differences between the two most popular messaging channels available to businesses—business text messaging and web chat. Then, we’ll explore how they can work together to help you improve your customer communications.

Defining Business Text Messaging And Web Chat

Business texting is a two-way channel specifically used by businesses for customer-facing or, sometimes, internal communications. On businesses’ part, it is often conducted through advanced texting platforms that empower teams to send, receive, track, and manage large numbers of texts from customers. Customers never need to install an app, and instead simply use the native SMS on their phone. Because business text messaging is regulated by the TCPA, each business should ensure that recipients opt in to their SMS programs before receiving texts. Advanced business text messaging platforms support widgets to embed SMS capabilities on web pages.

Web chat is another business communications channel. It is also a two-way channel, but chats are conducted through a business’s website with either a customer service agent or a bot. Most often, businesses feature a web chat widget on their native websites so that customers can quickly click on it and connect with a waiting agent.

Differences Between Business Text Messaging And Web Chat

While they are both messaging channels, business text messaging and web chat have a few distinct differences.

Situational requirements: In order for web chats to operate, two requirements must be met. First, the customer must be on your business’s website. Because web chat is a real-time capability, both the agent and consumer must be online at the exact same time, and they must stay online for the duration of the conversation. These requirements do lead to a large amount of chat drop-offs as customers exit the website. However, if customers stick around to finish the conversation, queries can be resolved quickly.

Business text messaging can also be conducted in real-time, but customers and employees involved in a conversation don’t need to answer messages immediately, nor do they have to be on a business’s website. (However, website widgets are one convenient way for customers to sign up for texting programs.) Customers can simply text from their phones whenever it is most convenient. Advanced business text messaging services offer iOS and Android apps so that employees can text from their phones, too.

Opting in: If your business operates in Europe under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), you might need to obtain consent to store and use consumer data when you start web chats. Otherwise, your business can chat with anyone who contacts your business through your web chat form.

With business texting, recipients must opt in to your texting program before holding a conversation with one of your agents. You can feature a widget on your website with a checkbox for a fast opt-in process. Additionally, your “Contact Us” page or other collateral could ask customers to text in with a specified number or keyword.

Contact post-chat: With web chat, customers can contact your team through your website, then drop off and never be seen again. They may have provided your team with their email, but if not, you cannot contact them again.Woman texting from phone.

If customers are enrolled in your text messaging service for business, you can text them at will—even after the initial conversation—since they have opted in. You may send them check-in messages, survey requests, or even new product or service announcements. However, texting your customer list sparingly can help you maintain a large customer texting list. 

Using Business Text Messaging and Web Chat Together

When united with the help of an advanced texting platform, web chats and text messaging in business communications compliment one another well. 

Integrations: If your teams use a web chat and business text messaging application that features integration capabilities, your business can sync valuable customer data, like contacts and their custom fields, across platforms. By combining this valuable data, your teams gain 360-degree views of customers and their interactions, empowering agents to provide even more personalized customer service. Platforms that integrate with popular business applications like Zapier and Zendesk or offer a full-featured API can also help your teams create a true omni-channel customer experience.

Reporting: Both your business texting and web chat platforms should offer relevant reports for tracking key performance indicators (KPIs). If your systems empower you to export each data set, you can use that information to analyze how customers use your services and how agents perform on each channel. Then, you can use these insights to improve your messaging services in the future. For web chat platforms, ensure you can track response rate, resolution rate, and abandonment rate. For business text messaging, your platform should track agent response time, resolution rate, and how often customers return.

Charts on computer.

Today’s customers gravitate towards businesses that allow them to communicate from the channel they prefer at that moment. Some prefer web chat on native websites, some prefer business text messaging, and some even prefer phone calls. The most effective businesses will utilize an omnichannel approach to make it easy for customers to reach them.

Such expanded offerings are also beneficial for your business operations, empowering your teams to consolidate customer profiles and reporting so you can develop a full view of every customer’s profile.

Have more questions about web chat or text messaging in business communications? Let us know.

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