The US, collectively, will send approximately 72 billion text messages this year. Billions and billions of those will be business-customer interactions. Text message marketing is popular and it’s still growing and it’s here to stay. There’s a good reason why virtually every major brand and many smaller businesses as well are using it. Text message marketing has an engagement rate over 90%. That means that for every ten recipients of a text message sent by a business, nine will engage with that text in some way by reading/responding/clicking/redeeming a coupon. Here are three big predictions for text message marketing in 2017.

It will keep getting more popular

Okay so this one isn’t exactly a big prediction, it’s a very safe one. Text message marketing has been growing in popularity every year since it started and 2017 will be no different. Texting is increasingly becoming the preferred method of communication for virtually everyone. Even older generations are starting to embrace text messaging as they realize it’s the most likely to get a quick response. Businesses are finding out the exact same thing so expect text message marketing to keep growing this year.

SMS engagement rates will fall

What’s a negative prediction like this doing in an article singing the praises of text message marketing? It’s worth remembering that email marketing used to have engagement rates that were as high as text message marketing’s is right now. But then as so many businesses started doing it and consumers were overwhelmed with emails from various businesses, they started ignoring them and email providers started using junk folders to automatically filter promotional emails and many were deleted unread and even unnoticed in some cases.

The good news is, the SMS marketing engagement rate isn’t going to drop from 90+ down to 20% where email’s engagement rate currently sits. SMS is different from email in that consumers have to opt in first so engagement rates will remain high, they’ll just drop a little due to the saturation of the SMS marketing channel. The other good news about lower engagement rates is that…

SMS marketing will get more creative

A positive side effect of a saturated marketing channel and lower engagement rates is that brands will have to start thinking outside of the box to be noticed. Mobile coupons, appointment reminders, order and shipping notifications, and loyalty programs are all relatively common uses for the SMS marketing channel but in 2017 and coming years as engagement rates dip, brands are going to start experimenting with new ways to use the channel. We might see multi-part short fiction pieces sent via text or mini content marketing pieces. Some will be flops but some might take hold as well and we’ll look back on 2017 as the year there was a shift in SMS marketing strategy in order to stay relevant.

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SMS messaging is used by the majority of the world’s population and for good reasons. SMS messages can span different carriers. Messages can be quickly sent and received. And now with companies using AI-backed SMS message technologies, people can text companies to get immediate responses to request and inquiries. But the powers of SMS messaging do not stop there.

People can also use SMS messages to interact with other smart devices.

Texting Within a Smart Home

Smart homes and appliances now have the ability to receive and send SMS messages. One example is a smart thermostat. You can send an SMS message to your thermostat to request an increase or decrease in the set temperature. And since SMS messages do not require a wireless internet connection or an installed app, you can even control the temperature of your home from anywhere you go. Imagine that you just left on vacation and are an hour away from your house. You forgot to turn off the air conditioner so now the air conditioner will be running the entire week that you will be gone. You can text the thermostat to turn off the air conditioner.

The Potential for SMS Messaging

The potential for smart appliances and SMS messaging is expansive. Imagine being able to send a text message to set the alarm system or receive a report of what is in your fridge. Because SMS messaging is so versatile, it sets up the potential for unlimited use and growth.

Whether you need to send a text message to a friend or message a question to a company, SMS messaging is a great tool for communication. AI-backed SMS messaging services allow companies to expand their customer service and marketing tools. The versatility and potential of SMS messaging is endless.

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Customer service can be handled through a variety of platforms. Today’s world features customer service being handled through phone calls, SMS messaging, Facebook, Twitter, messenger apps, and almost anywhere where there is some form of communication. A customer can write a review on a website, whether negative or positive, and a company can respond through a comment on the same website. Customer service is being handled on every platform, but no matter where it is taking place, it is important to remember the basics.

At All Costs, Do Not Argue

Nowadays, social media seems to be a popular outlet for people’s frustrations. People argue on and on through endless comments and posts. But if you want to have good customer service, avoid arguing. People might bring up a variety of problems about a product or service you offer. Rather than get defensive and argue about it, recognize that they have the right to their opinion and their feelings. First thank them for the opportunity you have to listen to their concerns and then offer a way to use the information. You might respond by saying, “Thank you for your comment. We are always looking to improve and we will take your concerns into consideration.” You do not have to accept responsibility for whatever someone accuses or apologize. Just be willing to listen to what they have to say without arguing. Arguing will only lead to further complaints and concerns, which is probably not the most effective approach to customer service.

Try to Keep Things Positive

Staying positive can be difficult when you are handling customer service calls and messages. Approach every phone call and message with a positive demeanor. The Small Business Chronicle suggests that no matter what happens, staying positive can help the situation; getting angry will only make things worse. “Even if the customer begins to lose their temper, your customer service associates need to maintain a professional and pleasant demeanor at all times. Do not give the angry customer a chance to point out flaws in your customer service approach.” It can be easy to get frustrated and aggressive when you are communicating with people who are angry and rude. Just remember that they are not angry at you personally. Try and be positive until the end. If it is hard to be positive, at least try and stay calm and collective. Being calm will allow you to better listen to a customer and help them understand the situation.

There is a substantial amount of advice out there already for customer service representatives. There may be certain rules and guidelines that your company requires when it comes to customer service relations. But if we can stay positive and avoid arguing, we have accomplished half the battle by not making the situation worse. So whether you are talking to someone on the phone, responding to a text message, chatting with someone through a messenger app, or replying to a post on social media or a website, remember these customer service basics.

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Technology is continually improving the efficiency for people to interact both in the real world and the digital world. Someone can send a text message and get a response in the time it would take that same person to look up someone’s number and actually call them. Anyone too busy or overwhelmed to drive to a store can order food, clothes, and anything else online. A flustered web user can chat with an automated chat service to find answers to questions. The ability for people to live their everyday lives has become much easier due to improved technology. But as these aspects get better and more efficient, people expect the same easiness and efficiency in everything else, including customer service.

Innovation professor Enrique Dans says, “If you thought that customer service was simply putting a phone number on your advertisement, think again.” As companies are using technology to better meet the demands of customers, those customers are getting more demanding.

In a recent article in Forbes Magazine, Micah Soloman, president of a customer service consultancy, suggests a few ways that companies can better meet the customer service expectations of customers.

Self-Service Customer Service

Soloman suggests that companies “invest in well-designed customer-facing self-service.” The majority of companies have great employees who are available for customer service calls. Trained in professionalism and kindness, these employees work wonders in meeting the customer service demands of customers. But real customer service agents are not enough. Solomon notes that people need customer service at all times of the day, whether because of conflicting time zones or because people work through the night. By providing self-serving customer service, companies can be available to customers any hour of the day.

Self-serving customer service also benefits the modern man or woman who yields a smart device on the run. People might not have time to stop and chat while driving to work or roaming the halls. Customer service that can be provided through SMS messaging, social media messaging, and other quick means allow customers to multi-task their lives and receiving the customer service they need.

Customer Service for the Consumer

As technology better provides consumers with what they want, when they want it, and how they want it, those consumers will expect the same of customer service. They will want customer service when and how they want it. For some people, that will be a phone call to the company. For other people, that will be a text message. And for the rest, it might be an email or Facebook message. Dans encourages companies to not neglect any potential channel of communication.

Recently Twitter saw the possible frustration of only offering customer service through AI chatbot or other AI-powered means. They rolled out a new system that allows customer to recognize when they are messaging a bot and when they are messaging a real person. By giving some of the control back to the consumer, Twitter is hoping to alleviate potential stress and frustration from consumers.

There are many ways to improve customer service experiences for consumers and companies. Providing various platforms to for people to receive that customer service will help better meet the expectations of consumers.

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Customers need to be able to contact you when they have a problem or even if they just want to tell you what a great job you’re doing. That is why you need to have a lot of different ways they can communicate with your customer service department. Here are 5 ways you should offer customer service.

1. Phone calls

Being able to call a business when you need help is important. While other means of communication are nice, sometimes you just want to be able to talk to someone and describe the problem you are having. Customers hope the traditional phone call will yield better results. Make sure you have other forms of communication in place to help shorten phone call wait time, or add a feature where you will call back customers instead of making them wait on hold for an hour.

2. Texting

Customer service texting is a newer form of customer service, but it is proving to be very effective. In fact, over half of customers polled said they preferred texting customer service over other methods. That’s a pretty good margin. Text marketing and customer service texting should be an important part of your business.

3. Email

Letting your customers email in when they have questions is also effective. It is starting to fade out slightly as more and more consumers are picking up on text marketing, but for now, it is still a valuable way to communicate, especially with the older generations.

4. Social Media

Use social media to communicate with your customers. 67% of consumers have lodged a complaint over social media, which means you need to be on social media to field those complaints and answer customer concerns. It is also a great place for you to get positive reviews and bolster up your company.

5. Review sites

There are plenty of review sites out there where customers are already ripping your business a new one about some complaint they have. Rather than working with you to get it resolved, they complain on the sites and prevent you from getting new customers. Your customer service people should be scanning these sites, looking for bad reviews, and addressing them publicly on the sites. It will hopefully repair the broken relationship with your customer and help future customers see you care about them and want to make things right.

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Technology has jumped leaps and bounds in the last few years, and the ability to market to your customers has grown with it. Everything is getting smarter and better, so you can give your customers more of what they want. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and smart apps are no longer a thing of the future. The future is now, and it is time you start marketing smarter.

AI Chatbot

With AI capabilities increasing and consumers demanding more conversational-like responses, your company needs to start considering how you want to incorporate chatbot into your marketing. You can use text customer service with AI Chatbot that allows your customers to have two-way text conversations with immediate responses.

We are also seeing more companies building apps with Chatbot in them. Starbucks, for example, uses Chatbot to take customer orders through text. A customer simply needs to say or type what they want, and the Chatbot will analyze the information and pump out an order for them.

Predictive Analysis

It is amazing that companies can analyze past trends and behaviors in order to kick out suggestions for a consumer's. And through this, your business is able to offer extremely personalized services to your customers. Personalization is the biggest thing in the marketing world right now, and using predictive analysis in your smart apps helps you give the personalization they crave.

And it is about to get better, soon, these programs will be able to not only make suggestions for consumers based on their past behaviors but also at the exact right time that a consumer needs to see it. With the data from past purchases, searches, and even GPS locations of your phone, computer algorithms can identify exactly when and where a consumer needs to see an ad to get them in your store to make a purchase.

Location-based marketing now

Even if the technology isn’t quite up to speed with predictive analysis to give you everything you want in a smart app now, you still have a lot of great options. You can use location-based marketing already to send ads to consumers when they are within a certain distance of your store. Sometimes, a customer doesn’t know exactly where they want to go next, and a reminder that you are close by will get them in the store.

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With the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming more and more prevalent in our society, it won’t be long before everything we have is somehow connected to each other. We can do so much more than text marketing with our smartphones. It is very convenient to be able to control things in our lives from them. We can view our security systems, change the temperature in our house, start our cars, and check our current heart rates. We aren’t that far away from having fully functioning smart home capabilities, and new things are coming out every day. The question is, which manufacturer will win the race to smart home?

Amazon’s access

The Amazon Echo has been around longer than the other home assistants, and has a a lot more accessibility for users. With 250 devices compatible with it, it is definitely the leader in the smart home market. However, it does have some problems with security. Because it only takes 10 days for the approval process to get set up with their devices, there are definitely security flaws that might make you less interested in using the Amazon Echo. It works very well for now, but both Google and Amazon have a lot more potential for growth.

How does Google compare?

Google is the newest addition to the smart home market and offers a cool virtual assistant that is always on to answer all your questions. While it does have some devices it can connect with such as the Nest system, SmartThings, and more, it cannot do other basic things such as create notifications for you. While it seems like there is a steep learning curve to the Google Home, it will likely increase the number of connectable devices quickly. Many people already have their lives connected with Google devices and products that it just makes sense to stick with Google Home. It will eventually learn to do everything you want it to do even if other products on the market are currently beating them.

Apple’s slow race

One thing is clear, Apple is taking the slow and steady approach. Apple currently only has about 100 devices that work with its HomeKit smart access. Just like you would expect from the large tech company, they won’t let just anyone run through their smart home. They require strict testing of the device, which could take from 3 to 5 months. They want to be sure the device will work smoothly with their system and there aren’t any bugs. But compared to Amazon’s 250 devices that are compatible, it is quite a bit further behind. Fortunately for Apple, they have plenty of customers who are loyal to them regardless of their capabilities.

So who is winning?

Overall, Amazon Echo is definitely winning at the moment because it does have such a huge edge over the other manufacturers. However, Google and Apple aren’t far behind. Google definitely has the greatest growth potential and will ultimately be at the top of the race neck in neck with Apple. You can’t beat Apple’s built-in fan base and ability to keep their devices extremely secure.

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Let’s face it. Small businesses are at a disadvantage when it comes to marketing. Large businesses have more resources at their disposal to stay on top of current trends and to stay on top of all the different methods of marketing. But small businesses may not have a huge budget or a lot of people in their marketing department. In fact, you might have only one or two people who work on marketing. So how are you supposed to keep up? Here are some marketing tips to follow, so you can stay in the game.

Mobile marketing

With smartphones being so prevalent in our society, it is easy to directly advertise to your customers through mobile. There are also a lot of strategies through mobile that can be used. For example, you can do location-based marketing where you send ads to customers that are near your business. You can also do text marketing. Even using texting for customer service interactions is a very valuable tool.

You might want to consider creating an app if you don’t have one yet. It is a great way to give customers a portal to your business and their personal accounts with all the information they need. Along with this, In-app payment systems make it easier for customers to make purchases as well.

Social media focus

A super easy tool for small businesses to use is social media. It is a place where you can interact with your customers for free in most instances, and you only need one person to stay on top of it. It is especially easy for a small business where you are likely to have fewer social interactions to stay on top of.

You can run promotions for Facebook fans, partner up with small businesses to take advantage of their fan base, and run ads for future customers. People spend a lot of time on social media these days, and being where they are will give you an edge in reaching them.

Blogging and video content

You may already have a blog on your website and post content to it occasionally. But you need to do more than just post an article every few weeks. For SEO purposes, you should be blogging at least a couple of times a week. And articles on your site need to be valuable to the consumer. Provide them with information about your product or other things in your industry.

On the same note, videos are becoming more and more valuable to consumers who prefer to see things being done than read about it. Posting how-to videos and troubleshooting videos may seem like a lot of work, but it is worth it. It also gives you the opportunity to have more transparency, which is what customers expect.

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Everything these days focuses on marketing online, which is definitely important. It is a very easy and inexpensive way to reach your customers, and most of them can be reached online at all times. But there is definitely something to offline marketing efforts still. Here are five different ways you can market to your customers offline.

1. Hand out business cards

Still the fastest and easiest way to give your information to someone is through a business card. While you can send your information through a digital business card to people you meet if you get their phone number, it is very easy to just hand a business card over instead of typing in numbers and hoping everything was done right. Most people are on the go when they are out and about, and they don’t have time to set down everything and get their phone out to put in your contact information. It is much easier to get a card and look it up later on their own time.

2. Attend a conference

Conferences have a built-in audience of people who want to know more about your products or services. It is a very good way of getting new customers that are within your audience and specifically interested in what you have to offer. It is one of the best offline ways of building a new customer base. The best part is that people want to stop and listen to your sales pitch since that is what they came for.

3. Text marketing

One way to really market to your customers and get to them regardless of whether or not they are online is through texting. It is one of the best methods of offline communication because it is directed at specific customers and it is guaranteed to get to them. And since text messages are usually opened within a couple of minutes, you are also getting the information you sent opened pretty quickly.

4. Local mailers

If you want to get some new business, you can send out mailers. This only works if done locally, and it is most effective if you provide a coupon for services. Someone who is already thinking about getting a new dentist or putting up a new fence but hasn’t done a lot of research on it yet might just try you out because they saw your mailer.

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A big part of your business model is providing amazing customer service. But what many businesses don’t grasp is the concept of proactive customer service and using that to solve a problem before it ever happens. Not only will you end up spending less time fixing problems, you will also end up having much more satisfied customers who are more willing to refer you to their friends. Here are some ways you can provide more proactive customer service to your customers.

Easier communications

One way to be proactive with your customers is to give them easier access to contacting you. Customers get extremely frustrated when the only way they can get help is to call your business and then they come to find out you have extremely limited customer service hours. Rather than wait on hold or trying again at a less convenient time for them, they will simply leave your company and go to someone else. Allow them to send emails, text you, call you, contact you through social media. The more channels you have readily available and the more hours you can be around to answer, the happier customers will be.

Add more technology

Technology improvements are necessary to a more proactive customer service staff. They will be able to more easily answer questions and get back to the customer faster if they have the right tools available to them to get the answers they are looking for, according to Forbes. It is also a good idea if you can use AI Chatbot to answer repetitive customer questions, so you don’t waste time. Not only will your staff be able to get to more customers and help more people, but your customers will be much happier about it as well. Chatbot will answer their questions more clearly than phone calls and will answer much faster than a real person since the program can identify the question and answer it immediately.

Stay on top of it

Many times, customer service agents will need a couple of days to resolve a customer complaint. In these situations, it is very frustrating for the customer to have to call back and ask for an update. Even if the representative doesn’t have one yet and feels like it is waste to inform the customer without any new information, the truth is that the customer would much rather know they haven’t been forgotten even if it is with no news than to hear nothing and wonder if anyone even cares about their issue. Follow-up communication is extremely important and should not be forgotten.

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