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Using SMS to improve – or detract from – the customer experience

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 05/24/2017

I’ve been traveling a lot, and recently had a few service interactions that show the power – and the peril – of using texts to engage customers.

Perhaps you’ve seen that some higher-end hotels are sending welcome texts as a simpler way to engage customers and to show responsiveness. I first experienced this at the Hilton Toronto, which greeted me with:

Good evening, Mr. Tincher. Welcome to the Hilton Toronto! True to our MAKE IT RIGHT commitment, if we can assistant with anything, anytime, simply text us. – [Name]

What a great idea! Easy for me, and just one text. If I don’t need anything, our interactions are over. But I now have a low-effort way to reach out if I need anything. I had no issues with my stay, so that was the end of it.

Later in the week I flew Delta and checked my bag. For the first time, I received a message on my phone when the bag was loaded, and another when it was available my destination. This is another great example of using this to reassure me. Quick and easy, but adds to peace of mind.

Unfortunately, this force can also be used for less service-focused ways. 

How Texting Can go Wrong

I attended the CXPA Insights Exchange last week, which was wonderful. We stayed in the Arizona Biltmore, run by Waldorf Astoria. Of course the location was beautiful – one of the best I’ve stayed at.

After checking in, I received a voice mail in my room welcoming me, and a text telling me how to login to the Wi-Fi. A nice feature. An hour later, I received another text, this time from a different employee (same number), thanking me for being a loyal Hilton member, and making sure I was pleased with my room. This felt like overkill, but not a big deal.

Then came the third and fourth texts the following afternoon. The first said, “Just checking in – how is your stay going so far? Feel free to reply back with a 1-10 (10 being excellent). Have a great day!” So, since the stay was going great, I sent back a 10. A bit annoying. But then…

The fourth message said, “We’re very pleased your experience has been excellent. Please consider sharing your perspective on TripAdvisor,” and then they sent me the link.

That’s going too far. It’s no longer about me – now their texts are about them, and begging for good reviews. It gets worse.

I forgot some jeans in my room. Since they wanted my feedback, I responded to the conversation with this question. No response. The following day I texted again, asking if this account was monitored. Again, no response.

SMS text has a great opportunity to make service easier on customers, and to build engagement. It’s something that doesn’t fit for every experience, but done right can work for many.

But make sure you keep the conversation about your customer. The minute you use it to ask for good reviews is the minute you turn it from a customer engagement tool to just another way of focusing on yourself instead of your customers.


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