Skip to content Go to Homepage
Insights: Blog
SMS isn’t the saviour of customer communication
by Euan Matthews

We’re all used to it — give a company your mobile number and they’ll use SMS messages to update you on the progress of your order, confirm an appointment, or simply ask you for feedback on a recent purchase, repeatedly!  So, would you be surprised if I told you that a mobile phone number is the most popular contact detail for a customer to give a company?  Probably not.  Would you be surprised if I told you that, even though the most popular, it’s only around half of people that give it to companies?  I expect so.  These are just some of the findings from a consumer survey we ran in the UK, US and Brazil.

The next logical question is what the next most popular contact details to share with a company after mobile are?  No real surprises in the UK and US — email address (around a third of respondents) followed by landline phone number (around a quarter of respondents.  Yes, people still use landlines!).  The story was different in Brazil though, where WhatsApp was the second most popular contact method (one-third of respondents), followed jointly by email and landline (one-quarter of respondents, respectively).  Why the anomaly in Brazil?  Well, when WhatsApp came on the scene, text messaging in Brazil was prohibitively expensive compared to the UK and US, so Brazilians naturally jumped at the opportunity for free messaging and it grew into the primary mobile communication method in the country.  It’s also evolved into a business communication tool, facilitating two-way communication with consumers.[1]  WhatsApp clearly has potential for customer communication, but we face an uphill battle to get people to accept it in the UK and US where only around 10% of respondents would be happy to communicate with a company via WhatsApp.  That hill is even steeper for Facebook Messenger, with only 6% of respondents happy to communicate using it — results for other forms of social media communication were similarly low.  This probably reflects individuals keeping social media social and not wanting companies to intrude on their personal space.

So, we know that no single method is the ‘silver bullet’ of customer communication — some like SMS , others email, other landline, etc.  But, even when you’ve got their contact details, will the customer respond to a communication?  Our survey suggests that the answer is no, in all three countries over 50% of respondents said they don’t always respond to a communication, even when it’s about an appointment for a company to come to their home.  This leads to an interesting question — what do you consider a successful communication?  Is it successful delivery of the message to the customer, or is it also receiving a response?  If you’re in the business of scheduling appointments, then it surely has to be the latter unless you want to attend an appointment only to find no one is at home!

Now let’s put this all together and ask what it all means for customer communication right now?  A few things:

  • You can’t rely on one form of communication — SMS is not the saviour of customer communication
  • You must adapt your communication approach according to geographical nuances — WhatsApp in Brazil being a prime example
  • Landlines aren’t dead — they’re still a popular communication preference!
  • Despite the dominance of Facebook and other forms of social media, customers of all ages don’t want to use them for communication with companies.

This shows just how important it is for companies to gather as many contact details as possible from a customer and adopt an omni-channel communication approach.  Perhaps it sounds a tad difficult to get a call-centre to contact customers via all or one of text message, email and landline in a co-ordinated and timely manner ahead of, say, an appointment?  Well, it is, but it doesn’t have to be.  ContactEngine takes the contact details you have for your customers, combines them with your appointment schedule, and automatically sends communications to your customer in a timely manner ahead of the appointment.  What makes us really special?  We get much higher response rates because we use all the channels available to us in a logical way that avoids bombarding the customer, but does make sure they receive and respond to the communication.  The end result for you?  Fewer missed appointments, less wasted time and money.

Successful communication with customers isn’t just about the medium used, and the more we can take consumer preference into account at an individual level (medium, time of day, etc.), the more likely a successful communication with them is.  Our next survey asks consumers what their preference is for the time of day a company communicates with them.  I’ll share the results from that with you just as soon as we have them.



[1] Saboia, F. (2016) The Rise of WhatsApp in Brazil is About More than Just Messaging. Harvard Business Review online, April 2016.

Solutions in your sector


Enabling a differentiated experience throughout the end-to-end customer journey for the world’s largest telcos


Reducing churn with better customer engagement across sales, onboarding, retention and regulatory compliance

Icon Book Demo

Isn’t it time you stop assuming? Book a demonstration with us

Thank you, we will be in touch shortly!

Error Submitting Form

Back to top