Business texting’s popularity soared between 2020 and 2021. In just one year, 75% percent more customers said they prefer SMS customer service, and SMS ticket volume increased 28%. Cue an increase in the number of texts teams answer every day.
Once customers catch on that your company offers messaging, incoming messages can skyrocket. Responding to all of them can be overwhelming. Happily, there’s a better way to manage an influx in texts without increasing team size: text bots. But how do you know if one is the right choice for your business?
This article explores:
- The basics of text bots
- Pros and cons
- How to decide whether to adopt one
- Dos and don’ts
Let’s explore if text bots are right for your business.
What Is a Text Bot?
A text bot is a tool that businesses use to send automated text messages. It’s most often used for customer service. It can reply to incoming customer texts based on triggers within their messages, such as keywords or time received. It can also send scheduled texts. You can use text bots to greet customers, respond to FAQs, share after-hours messages, and more.
Text Bots vs. Chatbots
A chatbot can reply to customer messages sent through third-party messaging services (e.g., Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and webchats). A text bot is a bot that replies to SMS.
Some text bots also sync with other messaging services, like Facebook Messenger and Instagram Messenger. In these cases, you can call them omnichannel chatbots.
Types of Text Bots
There are two types of text bots: fully automated, and automated with live chat capabilities.
A fully automated text bot works like this: Each time customers send a message, the bot “reads” the message and replies automatically based on programmed responses. If the bot does not have a programmed answer to a question, it may display other contact options or ask the customer to rephrase their problem, but customers can’t reach a live agent through the chat itself.
An automated text bot with live chat capabilities can transition customers to a team member when it can’t automatically answer a question or when the customer requests a live agent. Conversational messaging platforms offer connected SMS bots to complement their person-to-person services.
Examples of Text Bot Messages
Today’s text bot messages look similar to person-to-person text messages. With modern messaging technology, businesses can personalize their bot text messages to the point where they’re hard to distinguish from live text messages. (More on that next.)
Hi there! You’ve reached Lakeland Style Collective’s SMS customer service. How can we help you today?
Oops! We’re actually closed for the holidays. However, we open again on January 5! — Customer Service Team, Tiger Co. Shoes
Thanks for reaching out, Sandra! Anything else I can help you with?
Pros and Cons of Texting Bots
Text bots can help to scale your customer service as your company grows; automatically handling common customer concerns and questions. These text bots streamline your SMS customer service team by boosting efficiency and customer satisfaction. The less volume your customer service team has to handle, the more time they can spend with customers with more complicated customer service issues.
Here are their benefits—and drawbacks.
Pros of Text Bots
Most text message bots offer similar benefits. You can expect:
- Fast response speeds. Ninety-one percent of customers want fast answers from customer service teams. Bot text messages are nearly instant.
- Around-the-clock service. Text bots answer customers no matter when they reach out. You can offer 24-hour responses regardless of where your team is based.
- Simple task completion. Chatbots can handle 27% of total customer service chats annually; you can expect similar results from a text message bot.
- Personalization capabilities. Seventy-one percent of consumers expect personalization. Some text bot platforms integrate with CRMs to insert custom fields into outgoing texts, providing a personal touch.
Text bots can help businesses provide immediate customer service with a certain level of personalization. They streamline the conversational support funnel, allowing your team to focus on more complex customer questions.
Cons of Text Bots
Robot text messages aren’t an end-all, be-all solution. Here are three of their limitations:
- Limited responses. You can set your text bot to answer simple FAQs based on incoming triggers. However, it will not be able to answer unique questions. (In this case, a connected text bot can pass on the conversation to a live agent. Otherwise, the bot will have to inform the customer that it can’t answer the question.)
- Lack of human touch. Text message bots can’t provide human interactions, and aren’t suited for the full range of questions your customers might have. For example, customers don’t want to message with bots for sensitive interactions.
- Customer avoidance. Seventy-five percent of customers prefer to speak to real humans. No matter how good your bot is, most customers still want to speak to a live agent.
Ultimately, text bots aren’t a complete solution. Customers want to speak one-on-one with real people. You need to use a text bot alongside conversational messaging—a messaging-first strategy that emphasizes authentic, person-to-person chats.
How to Know if a Text Bot Is Right for You
When your business is thinking about adopting a text message bot, you need to review key aspects of your current SMS service. Consider these three questions to help you decide if a text bot is the right solution for your business:
What types of questions do my customers ask?
If most of the questions your customers ask are simple and repeatable, a chat bot can easily answer them. These FAQs might include questions about your hours, basic return questions, or product release dates.
If your customers have a lot of sensitive or contextual questions, bots may just frustrate them. That doesn’t mean you have to abandon the idea of a text bot. You can still use one to welcome customers who text in and provide after-hours auto replies.
What is my team’s ultimate goal?
Review your team’s goals—especially KPIs. Are you trying to answer customers as quickly as possible, reducing response times? Are you trying to answer more questions every day? If speed is your goal, a text bot can shorten response times to help your team get to more customers, faster.
Alternatively, do you want a team member to personally answer each message? (Is that a promise you’ve made customers?) If a personal response to each text is your goal, text bots are out of the equation.
How do bots fit into my messaging strategy?
Did your team adopt SMS solely to provide a fast option to customers, in place of email or calls? If so, then a text bot is a clear solution to offering even faster responses.
Does your team have a conversational support strategy in place? If so, minimize bot use or stick to a connected one that can pass off chats to live agents. (This seamless transition is critical to conversational messaging.)
At the end of a day, adopting a text bot is a decision your team has to make based on your unique customer base and goals.
Using a Text Bot: Dos and Don’ts
Ultimately, text bots perform well for specific needs, like providing that immediate response before your team responds or answering FAQs. However, they should almost always be used alongside a live agent. If you adopt one, follow these dos and don’t to get the most out of them.
Do: Focus on customer service. A text bot can answer FAQs, but it also allows you to schedule messages. Ensure scheduled content is service-focused—not a sales pitch. (Think feedback requests instead of coupons.) This way you can build (not lose) subscribers.
Don’t: Rely on a bot alone for customer service. Many sensitive interactions call for a human touch. (Like when an angry customer writes in.)
Do: Use it for simple communications. Text bots are advanced, but they’re not people. Use yours to complete simple tasks, like welcoming customers, sharing response times and answering FAQs.
Don’t: Give your bot a vague focus. Instead, give it a narrow focus (e.g., answering FAQs) and program it to do that well. This way it will be clear when it needs to pass customers to a live agent.
Do: Make live agents accessible. Many customers want to chat with real people. Adopt a connected text bot through a conversational messaging platform for seamless handoffs to team members.
Don’t: Hide how to reach a team member. You may want to avoid a crushing number of incoming texts, but hiding contact options only frustrates customers. It’s a hallmark of bad customer service.
Do: Personalize. Customers expect personalization. Integrate your texting with your CRM system so your bot can reference customer details, like order numbers and loyalty statuses, within chats.
Don’t: Pretend your bot is a person. Customers don’t like to be misled. Make it clear that customers are messaging with a robot, not a person. For example, use a bot icon or sign off (e.g., —Zoe Team Bot or —Heartrose Clothes Team).
Do: Embrace omnichannel bots. Customers expect a seamless, omnichannel experience. Connect multiple messaging platforms to your text bot so you can answer questions no matter where they come from.
Don’t: Forget to track cross-channel performance. Your omnichannel platform’s reports will provide average response times, chat close times, incoming volume, and more. Track these metrics to measure your chatbot’s success—and where you may need more automations.
Sticking to these dos and don’ts while you use a text bot will help you streamline your SMS service. Your team will be well-equipped to answer more incoming texts while still providing a personal touch.