SMS marketing is integral to many businesses' marketing strategies around the globe. Through the humble text message, it's possible to build strong relationships with customers and deliver outstanding service, leading to increased customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Phone call customer support often involves lengthy queue times to speak to an agent. And being kept waiting frustrates most consumers – in one study, 60% of consumers said that even one minute is too long to be put on hold.

SMS messaging is fast and convenient – customers don't need to wait for long to get a response to their question, especially if a text chatbot is employed behind the scenes to field enquiries. This article explains what an SMS chatbot is, how to make an SMS bot for your business and why doing so is a worthwhile investment.

What is an SMS chatbot?

An SMS chatbot facilitates a two-way conversation between a business and its customers via text message. But instead of the customer texting an actual human being, they text a computer, which then sends an automated response. Text message bots enable businesses to leverage SMS as a truly interactive marketing channel and help bump up engagement rates.

How do SMS bots work?

SMS chatbots usually follow fixed scripts that tell them exactly what to say when a customer asks a specific question. Some SMS bots that are more advanced are powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP).

AI and NLP give SMS bots the ability to understand text, i.e., language, similar to how human beings do. This means they can independently figure out not only what a person is saying but also what would be an appropriate response to their message. An AI SMS chatbot can thus simulate human-like conversations such that the customer feels like they are, in fact, texting with a real person.

SMS chatbots provide instant, simple answers to questions being asked by a customer. They can even automatically ask follow-up questions or take a certain action based on the customer's request, instruction, or need.

You can also use a text chatbot on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or Viber. But with SMS-powered bot texting, you'll benefit from this particular channel's incredibly high open and response rates, in addition to a horde of other advantages.

Why does your business need a chatbot for SMS messages?

Your business may already be tapping into the SMS channel to reach customers quickly and directly. Using an SMS bot to facilitate certain communications will give your business several advantages, such as the following.

1. The ability to simulate human-like conversations

SMS chatbots help to provide two-way messaging, i.e., a natural back-and-forth with customers. So customers can not only receive SMS messages from you but also respond to them. Unlike mass text messages (where you'd send a blanket text to multiple customers simultaneously), conversational messaging is more meaningful and personalised to each customer.

Here's an example:

  1. A customer sends a text message from their mobile phone to an SMS chatbot asking for prices on beauty treatments.

  2. The SMS chatbot recognises the words 'prices', 'beauty' and 'treatments' and sends back a question asking the customer to specify a treatment type from a list of options: eyebrows, lashes, facials, waxing or nails.

  3. The customer texts back the word 'nails'.

  4. Then the SMS bot text messages the customer with a list of all nail treatments and pricing.

Example SMS chatbot conversation

2. Better quality customer support

A conversation powered by chatbot messaging can take place at any time of the day, making your brand available 24/7 (even when your human agents are offline). Because chatbot text message systems are automated, responses are sent almost instantly, meaning customers won't have to wait after each response they send throughout the support process.

3. Improved workforce efficiency and productivity

SMS messaging chatbots can help several departments across a business with customer interactions. For example, they can navigate to landing pages, capture leads and qualify potential customers, sign up delegates for an event, send out personalized messages for appointment reminders, and even sell products conversationally.

4. Better cost-efficiency

Using an SMS bot potentially means saving money on hiring costs because you may not need as many customer service agents. It can be a massive financial strain to have a round-the-clock live agent available for each customer support request that comes your way.

You can send messages via SMS affordably, too – typically, the price is based on the volume of text messages you need to send. So the costs will scale up or down according to demand.

5. Improved time efficiency

SMS chatbots can field and answer common questions, and for a customer service team, this can save a lot of time. Instead of handling FAQs, support agents can focus their time on more important or complex customer inquiries, such as those better handled over the phone or via email.

6. Gauge performance via customer engagement

By monitoring the customer conversation initiations and responses happening through your text message chatbot, you can get a pretty good idea of how your business (and customer service function) is performing.

For example, you'll get insights into which products are the most popular, which parts of your offering cause confusion and whether customers are satisfied with your business in general. You can even use SMS bots to conduct surveys and polls, such as those for collecting post-sales feedback or information on recent trends.

Some common SMS text bot use cases

Let's go over some examples of the ways in which a company such as yours could consider turning to an automated text bot.

Placing an order

A customer wants to place an order via SMS. Your SMS bot can easily guide them through each step of their purchase and record their responses. With more elaborate automation, you can also authorise your text messaging bot to take further action and directly update your order management system.

Seeking information

A customer wants to learn more about a product or service. Your SMS chatbot can smoothly guide them through the sales funnel, from initial expression of interest to conversion, with smartly phrased follow-up questions and responses.

Order tracking

A customer wants to know the status of their order. Your text message bot can ask the customer for their order number, order ID, or other unique identifier. Integrated with the right systems, it can then easily check your order or shipping data and fetch the correct response for the customer.

Post-sales followup

Customers always appreciate a brand that stays in touch at the right times. SMS messaging is a great, non-intrusive, low-pressure way to reach out to customers without making them feel overwhelmed. With an SMS text bot, you can send a gentle follow-up text after an order has been marked delivered in your system. In the text, you can start by asking if the customer needs any further help. Depending on their response, the conversation can segue into you asking for feedback on the product. This can also be a great way to keep customer engagement levels up.

How to make an SMS bot for your business

Building an SMS chatbot is relatively straightforward. The first step is applying for a dedicated SMS chatbot number via a text messaging service provider. Then comes integrating the provider's SMS software into your CRM system. With Messente, you can do this one of two ways:

  1. Directly integrate Messente's SMS API using our API keys. This involves a bit of basic coding and is something a developer can do in a few hours.

  2. Use Zapier to integrate Messente into your system – this is the easiest option but is limited.

Once integrated, all you need to do then is create automation rules based on your CRM's capabilities. Finally, test the SMS chatbot thoroughly, making sure it submits the correct responses to a wide range of questions before making the bot live for customers to use.

SMS bot for live chat concept

SMS chatbots help businesses achieve more

An SMS chatbot can enhance your SMS marketing strategy and customer communications by keeping your business 'open' around the clock and providing speedy, tailored responses to engage and satisfy customers. An automated conversation can not only help cut costs but also keep customers happy by minimising wait times.

The most advanced chatbots can understand the context of a question thanks to Natural Language Processing and can therefore emulate an almost-real conversation with customers.

Finally, an SMS chatbot will make your workforce more productive, saving customer service agents' time so they can help resolve problems, deal with complaints, or answer more detailed enquiries.

To explore Messente's SMS software, sign up for a free account today.