Growth and Complexity in the SMS Channel: 2022 Outbound Contact Center Trends

Ask any contact center manager, and they’ll tell you: those dreaded Spam Likely labels and call blocking are taking a toll on outbound dialing success.

As David Stodolak, President of Solar Direct Marketing, puts it, “This is a contact sport. If you can’t get the person on the phone, or make contact with them by SMS, you’re not going to convert that lead.” 

That’s why reaching out to leads over multiple channels is essential.

SMS technology isn’t new, but as a trend in outbound marketing tools, its ability to drive more conversions, is certainly shaking up the industry. In 2022, outbound contact centers will need to take notice—or risk falling further behind their competitors. 

In this guide to outbound text messaging in 2022, we take a closer look at how you can gain a competitive edge with stronger SMS marketing. Here’s what we cover:

  • The reasons call centers should use outbound SMS
  • The latest data on SMS performance and perceptions
  • Why compliance experts think SMS might be the safest channel right now
  • Best practices to deliver SMS success for your call center

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Why Call Centers Need Outbound SMS in 2022

With blocking and flagging putting downward pressure on contact rates, call centers need other tools in their outreach arsenal. 

Many lead generators and marketers tout the relative effectiveness of email. That’s because if contact rates for outbound dialers are typically in the single digits, email open rates tend to hover around 20%. That might seem like a huge number—and, in relative terms, it can be. For instance, one 2018 study found that 73% of marketers rate email as their number one channel for ROI. 

A closer look at the numbers behind SMS performance, however, offers a little evidence behind why text-based marketing continues to grow rapidly —and why it may offer even greater ROI than email. 

 

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SMS Marketing Outreach by the Numbers

The first draw of SMS marketing is that typically more people read their texts than their emails. Remember that 20% number for email open rates? For texts, open rates are as high as 98%! And when that’s the case, businesses can be nearly certain that their messages and offers are reaching their customers. 

And from there, the likelihood of customers taking action only increases (along with potential ROI). According to VoiceSage, as many as 90% of texts are read within 3 minutes of receipt. In turn, about one-third of recipients react to the CTAs in messages, with 47% of those resulting in a purchase. All told, that amounts to an incredible average conversion rate of 13%.

So, it’s no wonder why businesses are drawn to SMS’s potential. But that doesn’t mean that interest is a one-way street. Consumers themselves, particularly those under age 45, consistently report positive opinions about texts. Indeed, nearly 80% of consumers like receiving offers via text.

SMS Is the Safest Outreach Channel in 2022

Of course, performance potential isn’t the only reason that outbound contact centers should leverage outbound SMS solutions in 2022.

While it has the potential to be a top-performing channel, compliance experts also believe that SMS is likely the safest channel for lead gen and sales call centers right now.

In the current regulatory environment, as courts are still considering the implications of 2021’s landmark Facebook v. Duguid case, Eric J. Troutman of TCPAWorld says contact centers should move away from pre-recorded calls toward the use of texts.

There are, of course, a couple of important caveats here. For one, this safety really only applies when practicing outside the state of Florida. Since the Sunshine State enacted its own “Mini-TCPA” law, a number of class-action suits related to texting have been filed in the state, meaning that call centers should exercise extreme caution.

Not only that, but, as Troutman points out, the discussion of safe SMS outreach does not include blast texting. “We’re talking about AI texting, interactive texting, and triggered texting.” These types of messaging, Troutman says, were validated and strengthened by the Facebook ruling, which centered on the issue of messages directly triggered by customer actions.

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How to Implement Outbound Text Messaging in 2022

The benefits for businesses looking to bolster their SMS approach is clear. But how can your contact center ensure that it unlocks the full potential of outbound SMS marketing? Support SMS success in 2022 with the help of these best practices.

Follow TCPA Compliance Best Practices

As always, keeping up with call center trends is a must for businesses dialing leads and customers in 2022. And it’s no different when it comes to using outbound text messaging. According to Textedly, businesses can help support compliant outbound texting by implementing a simple compliance checklist:

  • Obtain express written consent: To add customers or leads to a list and send them texts, call centers must receive explicit written consent. It’s also critical that this consent is documented and saved using a solution like ActiveProspect’s TrustedForm.
  • Provide proper disclosure with an opt-in message: After receiving permission to text a customer, businesses must follow up by providing a comprehensive disclosure message, which includes information like your business name, the purpose of your text messaging, an estimation of message frequency, access to terms and conditions, as well as instructions for help requests and opting out.
  • Communicate only during state-by-state business hours: The TCPA restricts customer contacts to between 8:00am and 9:00pm. However, many individual states have separate requirements for when businesses can attempt to reach customers. Reference this complete list of state calling restrictions for more info.
  • Include your business name in all messages: Every text you send should disclose your business name or the name of the sender.
  • Always include clear opt-out instructions: The TCPA requires that businesses provide a clear method for businesses to opt out of receiving messages. Include clear instructions (e.g., “Text the word ‘STOP’ to stop receiving messages.)
  • Scrub against the national Do Not Call Registry and respect all opt-outs: As with outbound dialing, texting any number included on the National Do Not Call Registry is illegal. Maintain an internal do-not-call list as well, and be sure to frequently scrub all data against these lists. Contact Center Compliance also recommends that businesses minimize risk in SMS by scrubbing for litigators.

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Use a Toll-Free SMS (A2P) Platform

A number of different platforms are available to businesses trying to reach their customers via text. However, Toll-Free SMS, or Application-to-Person (A2P), platforms were designed specifically with commercial traffic in mind. Compared with Person-to-Person (P2P) platforms, for instance, A2P platforms have much greater filtering and volume thresholds. In addition, Toll-Free SMS offers the following benefits:

  • Relatively inexpensive, easy to acquire, and easy to set up quickly
  • Handset delivery receipts enable businesses to know when messages were delivered successfully.
  • Send a message to multiple contacts at one time
  • Toll-free numbers support one-to-one conversations.

Leverage 2-Way SMS

According to SimpleTexting, 75% of consumers are particularly frustrated when they can not respond to a text message from a business due to limitations with certain kinds of texting tools. That’s why utilizing a two-way messaging solution is critical for success. 

Whether for outbound or blended call centers, two-way texting not only helps meet customer expectations, but it also helps agents drive sales and conversions: Agents can send personalized texts to leads with promotions, or they can easily work with customers to schedule appointments or callback times.

Understand Where Texts Fit within Your Automated Workflow

Giving your agents another channel in sales toolbox can deliver improved results. But the beauty of outbound text messaging is that it doesn’t always need to be directly controlled by an agent.

SMS drip campaigns, which consist of an automated series of messages, can automatically respond to customer actions or send specific offers. That means you can deliver timely messages with workflow automation, and your agents don’t even need to lift a finger. 

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Use SMS as Part of an Omnichannel Approach

While triggered text messaging can be both safe and highly effective for outbound contact centers, it’s simply never going to replace your other channels. Instead, it should be used as part of an omnichannel marketing approach that meets customers wherever they like to be contacted best. 

Call center expert Heather Griffin says that taking an omnichannel approach is important to cater to the needs of all kinds of customers. “Millennials and Gen Z—they don’t like talking on the phone,” Griffin says. “So that’s where SMS and omnichannel come in” and have an important role to play in keeping contact rates up as market demographics change. In the meantime, of course, older leads are still more likely to pick up traditional phone calls.  

In the end, the equation is pretty simple: more marketing channels means more opportunities to drive even more revenue.

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Strengthen your SMS channel in 2022, and choose a powerful cloud-based dialer software that can tie together all of your channels—delivering maximum efficiency and maximum ROI at your outbound contact center.

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