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SMS has come a long way. From simple beginnings, SMS is now used by businesses to make commercial transactions smoother, obtain data, and build meaningful relationships with customers.
It was Neil Papworth who sent the world’s first text message on 3 December 1992.
‘Merry Christmas’, the then-22-year-old British engineer wrote on his Orbitel 901 mobile phone. A lovely sentiment, and one which coincidentally set off a chain of events that would revolutionise how we communicate.
(And if you’ve ever thought that you’ve waited a long time for a response to one of your texts, spare a thought for Neil, who needed to wait until 1993 to hear back!)
Who would have thought that an application first used as long as 29 years ago would still be used today? In fact, that it was not only still being used but is used to such an extent that its popularity is growing in numbers on a global scale?
It has now become so entrenched with daily life that we could hardly exist without it.
In 2005, the Eurovision song contest included SMS votes for the first time, creating the biggest ever moment in ‘televoting’. Three years later, Nielsen reported the average US mobile user sent and received more texts per month than phone calls – 357 v 204. with the release of WhatsApp in 2009, SMS numbers began to decline, but the format remains strong and a constant presence in peoples’ lives in 2021.
How SME generates business
The SMS, humble as it is in its domestic usage, leads naturally to its use in business applications. This field is where the veritable flood gates opened, with alerts, reminders, delivery confirmations, and every other potential application of the SMS format being used by corporations to make commercial transactions smoother and easier to access for their customer base.
At a certain point, businesses realised that SMS could be used – and optimised – as a conversation tool with their customers. By making the tool one for accessing customer support, a wealth of resources, time and money are being saved by not having live customer operators being ‘hijacked’ on the phone with the one call – that one particular customer who keeps them online with particulars, repeat questions, details that don’t further the transactions… or any number of cost-consuming reasons.
By using SMS, companies can manage multiple conversations at once. But it’s not a winning situation solely for the companies: customers, too, can come and go at their convenience, continuing the transaction when it best suits them; down to confirming details via SMS when with a customer service operator on public transport, or any other of previously unimaginable scenarios.
At a certain point, smart SMS providers realised that a simple text is more than just words; it is data. Data can be manipulated using AI-based responses, keyword triggers, ‘spoofing’ and other such techniques.
Born was the term “Conversational Marketing”, companies having a conversation with the customer on their channel of choice is now being touted as the next marketing silver bullet. The data alone is gold but building a personal relationship and establishing trust is nirvana.
Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Google Business Messenger and associated platforms saw a veritable explosion in these messaging platforms, each with its own special functions and unique features. The smarter operators enable all these applications in one interface, meaning customer service teams can manage conversations, regardless of the messaging application. The saying has perpetually been that the customer is always right. This is a ‘truism’ that many, if not most in customer service would acknowledge as being more of a polite thing to say than something based in fact). But whatever it takes to best cut through to the customer is most helpful.
The technology and methods used by Jeeves. Plus, which empowered a translation engine in their platform, enables customer conversations in 109 languages, and takes the SMS and makes transactions and service provision more accessible to a broader swathe of the community. Communities without English as their first language have a more expansive array of services at their disposal. Businesses and community services can better communicate with these communities as well, knowing that their transactions and interactions will not, have too much ‘lost in translation’.
From humble beginnings – wishing someone a merry Christmas – to opening up the lines of dialogue, commerce and community interaction, the short message service has come a long way. And thanks to businesses enhancing it for their – and their customers’ – benefit, it doesn’t look like it is going anywhere too quickly.
As stated, “Talk to your customers on their device and in their language.” What more do you need to say?
Read more: The real value of SMS for your business