The Text Dilemma


Their expectations mean organizations must be instantaneously responsive and highly personalized in communicating.

The Explosive Growth of Text Communication

It should be no surprise that, for the 77% of American adults who now own a smartphone, text messaging is the #1 communication method of choice. With smartphone ownership rising 8 percentage points year over year and 81% of owners saying they “text regularly,” the number of text messages being sent and received in the U.S. has now topped
8 billion messages daily. And that’s not just for personal conversations. In a recent survey conducted by market research firm Instantly, Inc., 80% of respondents said they regularly use text messaging for business purposes.

From a business perspective, the imperative to elevate text messaging to the top of the customer engagement tool chest is clear. Text messages are fast, convenient, and inexpensive. But above all, they are read.

Text vs. Phone and Email – What Gets the Attention?

According to a report from Dynamark International, 90% of text messages are seen within three seconds with a 98% average overall open rate, compared to only 14% of business calls that are answered without being placed on hold or the 75% of emails that are never opened at all. What’s more, among customers who call a company for assistance, a full 75% are put on hold, and 1/3 of those callers say they would hang up immediately and search for another way to get their issue resolved (including turning to a competitor) rather than wait. Each lost contact, according to this British Telecommunications Business study, costs a company tens of thousands of dollars as disappointed customers take their business elsewhere, share their displeasure through social media, fail to recommend your company to others, and undermine the value of sales and marketing efforts designed to create and sustain a loyal customer base.

According to Naven Gupta, Chief Product Officer at RingCentral, this “instant gratification” consumer culture can be traced largely to the demographic shift towards a younger, more text-centric population, combined with rapid advances in digital and cellular network technology that follows the needs of an increasingly mobile population.

“Having grown up in an all-digital world, sending 50-350 texts per week since middle school, their (millennials’) expectations for interaction mean organizations must be instantaneously responsive and highly personalized in communicating,” he says, adding, “The large size and purchasing power of the millennial generation, pegged at $170B (comScore), makes this a valuable market segment.”



Other factors to consider when measuring the value of text messaging for business purposes:

  • Efficiency: Phone calls, on average, take 2 minutes each of an employee’s time, not including time lost due to work disruption. A text message, by contrast, requires approximately 5 seconds to send. So in the time spent on a single phone call, an employee could have handled an average of 10 two-way text conversations. What’s more, employees can manage multiple text message conversations at once, further maximizing the value of time spent with customers.
  • Flexibility: Digital conversations include the ability to embed links, contact information, click-to-callback numbers etc. so customers receive, and can save, all the data they need from a single source. This not only speeds issue resolution but creates a positive impression for your company.
  • Mobility: employees engaging in text messaging need not be tied to their work phone, but can engage in conversations from any location.
  • Affordability: Worldwide, consumers currently show a preference for chat applications over texting in order to avoid carrier data charges. However, competitive pressures in the U.S. have dramatically reduced the cost of text messaging to the point where, today, U.S. smartphone users are sending and receiving five times more texts than phone calls.

Why then, with so many positives, are companies so slow to add SMS texting to their IT environment?

The answer can be summed up in one word: Fear.

Business Texting Fear Factors

Consider the following ways traditional SMS text messaging between employees and customers could harm your business:

  • Loss of data: SMS text messages cannot be easily saved to a database, so valuable customer data is lost to the organization every time an employee communicates with a customer through standard SMS text messaging. What’s more, that information is lost to the organization entirely if that employee chooses to leave the company.
  • Exposure of employee contact information: Texting through personal devices also exposes the employee’s phone number to strangers which creates a privacy risk.
  • Risk of HIPAA/PMI privacy breach: Healthcare and financial institutions are particularly concerned about the security risk if medical, financial, or other sensitive information if shared through unregulated text messaging.
  • Lack of professional standards: Text conversations are difficult to confine to business standards and hours which could undermine the company’s reputation for professionalism. Additionally, complex text conversations through mobile devices can be easily marred by auto-correct or user error.
  • Worry over costs and time required to maintain a new communication channel: Corporate IT departments are looking to streamline, not expand, their communications systems and so are reluctant to add more cost and complexity to that infrastructure.

No defined strategy for employee-to-customer communications: Even those companies that hope to add SMS text capabilities to their communications arsenal worry about employee adherence to defined protocol when SMS communications have traditionally been of a more casual, personal nature.