Warm Customer Engagement for Digital Financial Services

The Keys to Building Relationship with SMS

July 6, 2015

Posted by Dante Cassanego

Written by Veronica Pugin, Latin America Relationship Manager 

The explosion of SMS as a communication tool

Mobile phones have opened doors in how relationships can be developed and maintained between two people, between groups of people, and between organizations and businesses.

Companies and organizations have identified the mobile phone as a tool for massive and scalable communication with customers via SMS, with the idea that this is a quick and easy communication method to better engage their customers.

Over 47%[*] of the world owns a mobile phone, and in fact, 95% of mobile customers who have agreed to receive text messages from a company open those messages within the first three minutes of receiving them.[†] It makes sense that companies and organizations are dramatically increasing their investment in this type of communication.

The question is: Does an opened text message mean a relationship has actually been developed?

In terms of building a relationship, the most ideal scenario is for two individuals to have in-person conversations to learn about each other, but this method is not cost nor time effective for a company or organization to employ. How can text messaging be used to build relationships between an individual and a company or organization?


Weak approaches to developing customer relationships via SMS

There are several strategies implemented to take advantage of the use of text messaging (SMS) to interact with customers. Two common strategies are:

  • One-way Messaging: This strategy serves to disseminate information. In terms of building relationships, it is difficult to build a relationship with a human being via one-way communication. Imagine someone who says he wants to meet you, but he never wants to hear from you
  • Two-way messaging without adaptations: This strategy involves participating in two-way conversations but never adapting the content of the messages. When trying to build a relationship, a participant in a conversation will become frustrated if the responses he receives indicate that the other party is not listening. Imagine if someone asks you what you want to drink, you respond juice, and then they give you water—how frustrating?

Successful approaches for developing relationships via SMS

In our experience of thousands of conversations with customers every day via SMS, we have learned that there are certain characteristics that are essential to using text messaging as a tool to build and strengthen customer relationships. These features foster quality communication while maintaining low costs and allowing for scalability to thousands and millions of customers:

  • Two-Way: Again, a good relationship is based on two-way communication between both parties involved. If the customer does not have the opportunity to express herself, it is no surprise that she would not feel included in the relationship. The provider also loses the opportunity to listen to the customer. A customer’s feedback represents elements of her personal story. If the customer has decided to share pieces of his personal story, that information should be treated as an opportunity to better understand him as a person.
  • Adaptable: Two-way communication can be a missed opportunity if the content of the messages do not match the information the customer shares. In a relationship, it is important to remember that the customers’ perspectives are personal and that people are dynamic and can change their minds. Using their personal responses to send tailored content to them lets them know that they are being heard. Adaptability allows for messages to be based on customer feedback and to change over time as needed.
  • Giving the Customer Control: SMS marketing campaigns decide what the customers will talk about and what time they will talk about it, instead of letting the customer decide. In a relationship, it is important to have opportunities where each side can decide the content of conversation.
  • Individualized: Many companies and organizations see the value of text messaging as an opportunity for mass communication. While text messaging is a good tool for that purpose, if the goal is to build relationships, it is necessary to take a much more individualized approach. In a good relationship, each participant responds to comments and specific questions of one another in a personalized way.

JUNTOS has learned how to build successful relationships with SMS

At JUNTOS, we have spent years learning how to best communicate with and relate to customers of financial institutions via SMS. With experience with clients in the United States, Mexico, Colombia and Tanzania, we have developed a methodology of interactive design that employs behavioral economics, user-centric ethnographic research, and statistical analysis This allows us to understand the client and their history, as well as their needs and perspectives on financial products, and develop relevant content to promote specific financial behaviors. We are always adapting the content of our messages to ensure that communication is the most effective.


[*] The Mobile Economy 2014, GSMA


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