SMS Self Service Expectations

Find Balance in SMS Self Service and Proactive Engagement

The thing about expectations is they never go down. SMS self service is no different.

Customers are getting exceedingly comfortable navigating digital engagement with brands. And the expectations they have around what service will look like in that landscape continues to rise, whether your organization is ready or not. It’s often said that customers aren’t comparing you to your direct competition, they are comparing you to their last great customer experience. The use of texting or SMS for customer interaction falls under that comparison, whether that’s as a self-service tool or in how you use digital engagement proactively.

In a nutshell, self-service is about your customers finding the answers they are looking for to the questions they have, while proactive digital engagement is your brand making the first step in communicating to your customer to better inform or assist them like upcoming appointments, service updates, etc. (Spammy marketing doesn’t count)

For example:


  • Self-Service: allowing customers to report stolen bank cards
  • Proactive Engagement: reminders when renegotiating mortgages is possible

College and University

  • Self-Service: report a problem with campus facilities
  • Proactive Engagement: alerts when laundry machines are available


  • Self-Service: questions during a stay
  • Proactive Engagement: reservation reminders

It should be noted, before using SMS messaging, make sure to follow the applicable laws, industry standards and carrier compliance requirements for your region. 

If your organization is going to explore SMS in this way, you must understand the expectations your customers are going to have. And they will have them.

From SMS self service, your customers expect…

  • Timely responses – when connecting, they don’t want to see there is a 2-3 day business day response wait. When people text their friends and family, they expect a response quickly. That expectation has moved its way into these digital transactions. They want you to engage with them as quickly as “Steve” or “Amy” would.
  • Solutions to their problems – they have questions, so they want answers. Quickly. You should absolutely show some personality, either from your agents or a chatbot, but get to the point and answer them. This isn’t an opportunity to put up sales-y road blocks and scripted banter, it’s an opportunity to help and be useful.
  • Systems talk to each other – if your customer needs to be transferred to another channel or another agent, whether due to escalation or the nature of their question, they shouldn’t have to re-enter their question, a recap of their issue or their personal information. They’ve done it once, it’s on you and your processes to pay attention.

From SMS proactive digital engagement, your customers expect…

  • Personalization – of course people want alerts that impact all their customers and those in their regions, but also look to provide information impacting them specifically. Providing personally relatable information (an appointment reminder, a service they may need based on their last query or search to your website) will help build a connection and provide real value to your customer.
  • It to be easy – whether it’s to opt into or out of  the service, or the text language used to inform and engage the customer, interacting with your business should never be difficult.

As far as expectations of what customers DO NOT want from their SMS interactions, whether it’s self-service or proactive, is that by engaging over this channel, they are giving permission to be spammed with marketing. Text messaging tends to be a much more personal medium for many, as it’s the same channel their friends and family use to interact with them. So engagement must be personal while constant texts about the latest contest or 20% off sale will only be irritating.

To meet the SMS self service expectations of your customers in 2021, consider…

  • Using SMS/texting as a relationship tool – check-in to strengthen the overall relationship, send them a gift to improve loyalty
  • Continually seeking out opportunities to improve your customer self-service – are people being dropped? What is the percentage of resolved interactions? Don’t just launch it and forget it. Make sure to monitor and improve the customer experience.
  • Using the SMS data to improve products/service – look at the feedback and trends acquired through this voice of customer channel. This is a valuable resource to learn about your customer, what they want and how they want to use your product or service. Improve accordingly.

Customers have strong expectations about the kind of service experience they want from organizations they engage with. And whether your organizations think they are high or not, is irrelevant. You’re either meeting them or you’re not. Make sure your SMS service is far more the later than the former or someone else will.

This post was originally included as part of 8×8’s Contact Center Trends to Watch in 2021 ebook.

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