Communication is vital to developing, nurturing, and maintaining relationships, and providing that type of help to Members is the foundation of every Credit Union. With so many ways to communicate today, it can be challenging to know which method to choose.
Text messaging stands apart from email and phone because of its immediacy and ability to deliver information succinctly. Email gets lost, and phone calls can be ignored or cut short before the caller’s intention is recognized by the receiver. And then, there’s online (or “virtual”) chat.
When available on web pages, online chat, as well as chatbots (also called interactive virtual agents or IVA), can usually be found at the bottom right corner of the screen, and is typically identified by a speech bubble icon. Web visitors can easily ask questions by selecting the icon. Some chat solutions are staffed by agents, while others rely on a “bot,” which is programmed to respond appropriately. That approach, however, requires launching the chat from a website, and is one-way communication, i.e., from the visitor to the agent only.
Text (also called SMS) Messaging is two-way communication that Credit Unions can use to effectively communicate with members. It does not rely on a member being on the Credit Union website, as chat does.
Credit Union associates can directly inform members of special loan rates or membership enhancements, for example, or provide personalized messaging tailored to the specific account needs of Members. The message is immediately visible to members, who can then easily reply using the app on their phones. Analysts report that SMS open rates can be as high as 98 percent, with an average response time of 90 seconds, compared with an average response time of 90 minutes for an email.
While Text Messaging is a highly effective standalone solution, it can also provide a complementary solution to existing email or IVA systems. For example, Text Messaging can remind members to read a Credit Union email sent hours or days earlier. A follow-up SMS asking, “Have you read our email?” can help to substantially increase email open rates. In addition, when a chatbot cannot answer a specific question, it can often send a short code via SMS to a mobile device that can satisfactorily close the loop.
What Members Want
Chat solutions provide some information about members, but they do not generally facilitate messaging that originates from the Credit Union. Furthermore, chat solutions that are proactive – for example, a box that pops open when a page is launched, asking, “May I help you?”– are often criticized for being intrusive.
Conversely, most people are familiar with receiving Text Messaging from local services including dentists, doctors’ offices, hairdressers, etc., making those communications feel far less invasive.
Text Messaging can help Credit Unions understand their members’ needs by identifying those that engage using SMS and tailoring content appropriately. By capturing and analyzing such data, Credit Unions can create programs that are meaningful for members, which in turn motivates them to continue the conversation, both within the branch as well as when they are on-the-go.