How an SMS API Can Improve Customer Support for Financial Services

In today’s fast-paced world, there’s never enough time to take care of tasks like calling customer support at a financial services provider and waiting on hold in the phone queue. According to research cited by UC Today, about two-thirds of consumers wish there were a more convenient option. Customer support calls are not necessarily inconvenient, but they have to be completed in real time—within five minutes for 46 percent of consumers—to catch the caller’s active attention. A messaging option powered by an SMS API or social chat API, on the other hand, can be done asynchronously, which is fine by consumers, as long as their “support ticket” is completed within one hour.

Some financial services providers have already moved into the SMS and social chat channels augmented by chatbots, which provide more convenient customer support. TD Ameritrade, for example, uses a Facebook Messenger chatbot that can give customers instant updates on their portfolios and trades, according to American Banker. In addition to on-demand stock market information, TD Ameritrade’s social chatbot increases customer engagement through timelier interaction because it is designed to answer questions faster than a human could. Not only do chatbots provide a better customer experience, they also cut down on calls to the traditional customer support line.

SMS API-powered Customer Support Reduces Errors and Costs

When it comes to human communications, people generally love to talk to one another. Regarding financial services, however, the time-honored principle to “get in writing” bears repeating. It’s happened to everyone—someone misunderstands the meaning of a phone conversation and errors follow.

A messaging channel powered by an SMS API, however, will enable the customer to put her queries in writing and the customer support agent to respond in writing as well. All correspondence can be reread for context, helping mitigate transaction processing errors. With an SMS API integrating customer messages into the enterprise’s digital services, support ticketing functions, and back-end databases, the interaction should be fully documentable, archivable, retrievable, and auditable.

Of course, if chatbots do not answer queries satisfactorily or quickly enough, an algorithm will need human intervention, so keeping customer support agents in reserve to handle complex questions is smart practice. Chatbots can also “listen” in on the support conversation in the background, adroitly evaluating the meaning of the customer’s words and retrieving appropriate responses to display on the agent’s screen, minimizing the guesswork in the exchange.

It’s Easier for SMS-enabled Customer Support

For many enterprise contact centers, the customer support channels of phone calls and emails are firmly established, and it might seem that adding any additional channels would be difficult. To fully enable an omnichannel customer experience, however, financial services providers need to add messaging channels to their bank API integration to compete across any app, any device, anywhere. Using an SMS application programming interface is not as hard as it seems.

Primarily, an enterprise needs to obtain an SMS-capable virtual phone number or shortcode and publish it on their website. If a current customer support number is SMS compatible, the enterprise can use the same number for messaging and be one step closer to an omnichannel customer experience. If the number has been integrated into a customer support system via an SMS API, then a customer’s message will be automatically logged as a service ticket either by a chatbot or directly by the system. If the SMS-enabled number has not been integrated, a customer support agent would have to manually re-enter the information into the support system, running the risk of data entry errors.

If the customer is in a hurry to have her support ticket serviced, and she calls the non-integrated virtual phone number, one of two things will happen—neither of which is good. First, the number could ring through to the contact center without it being associated with the service ticket, which would mean that the customer and agent would need to verbally re-create a second ticket, leading to ticket closure delay or duplication of effort. If the customer requested a new ATM card both by SMS and voice, for example, she could end up with two ATM cards, one of which would already be void.

In the second instance, the call would go to an out-of-order number, receiving a busy signal or immediately being disconnected. Obviously, this is not an ideal customer experience.

But with SMS integration, the incoming phone number would already be in the system, and an agent would know the caller’s identity and current issue even before answering. She could see if a new ATM card had already been ordered and give an ETA on delivery. SMS-enabled customer interactions allows for more effective service and more efficient support systems for financial service providers, minimizing misunderstandings, allowing for ease of communication, and reducing errors and costs.

Alyssa Mazzina
Alyssa Mazzina

Alyssa is a Content Marketing Manager at Vonage. She's an experienced writer and editor specializing in communications technology and software. Alyssa lives in central California with her husband, 2 kids, 4 dogs, 2 snakes, and 2 rats.

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