Text Message vs. Email: Which Should Businesses Choose & Which Do Consumers Prefer?

Leor Melamedov

When many companies think of digital customer communication, they think of email. For years now, email has been the default alternative to mail and physical paperwork. But the tides are turning once again, and email is no longer the robust digital channel it was even a decade ago. Text message (SMS), which is more instant and convenient than email, has become the channel of choice for customers. If companies want to maintain their competitive edge, they are going to have to adapt to consumers’ changing expectations.

New call-to-action

Text is Best, Customers Say

According to a recent study in MediaPost of 1,000 consumers and 1,000 businesses, there is a mismatch between the proportion of companies that offer text messaging service and the proportion of customers who would benefit from it.

The study found that only 39% of companies text customers, while the rest rely on other channels.

Yet of the customers surveyed, 74% respond within an hour to a text message from a business, while just 41% say they respond to an email sent by a business within that same time frame.

Text messages are also significantly more likely to be read than emails. 74% of consumers say they have zero unread text messages, versus 41% who say the same about their email inbox. That’s because email is no longer simple, personal, or instantaneous. Inboxes have become a repository for endless unsolicited emails and other non-urgent types of communication.

It’s not just that customers prefer text message interfaces for their business interactions: they have specific requirements for the types of text messages they want to engage in.

First, the text message should allow two-way communication. Around 76% of customers say they are frustrated when they can’t reply to a text.

Second, the company shouldn’t build its own customer chat app. 61% of consumers say they refuse to install a new app to communicate with a company. As the study says, “People don’t want to download another app. And if they do download it, it’s another thing they have to check in addition to voicemail, email, and texts.”

8 Reasons Why Customers Love Text Message

Given that the majority of B2C companies still don’t use text message, those that do have a unique opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Mobile-first customer interactions come with the following advantages:

1. Part of Greater Process

When a customer is on the phone with an agent, the last thing they want is to switch to another channel, such as computer or fax. With text messaging, customers simply click on the text message link and glide through filling out mobile-optimized eForms, co-viewing documents with the agent, getting ID verified, and of course signing without the involvement of any other channel, software, or app besides their smartphone.

2. Instant

When they’re on the go, customers often only have access to their cell phones. With text message-based platforms, companies can collect eSignatures, eForms, and payments from customers in real-time, when their interest is highest. No waiting for emails or downloading clunky software.

3. Mobile-optimized

eSignatures, eForms, ID verification, and more are all easy for customers to complete in a clean interface that’s designed specifically for a smartphone experience.

4. Contextual

It’s much easier for customers to submit forms when there’s a friendly and helpful agent on the other side of the call who can answer questions and provide reassurance. The agent immediately receives the customer’s submissions — with no lags or mistyped email addresses. Time-consuming rework is also avoided as the agent can provide immediate feedback.

5. Secure and Compliant

Many customer-facing solutions add an encryption layer to regular text-message interfaces. Once customers click on the link in the text message, it opens to a secure environment where they go through an easy SSO process. At the end of the transaction, is full audit trail is generated and the forms and documents are safely stored in the company’s CRM.

6. Prevents Fraud

Text message is a surprisingly fitting conduit for ID verification, which is a crucial part of KYC for many industries. Customers can snap a picture of their photo ID, take a live selfie, and upload both into the mobile session. An AI algorithm analyzes the two images and confirms whether there is a match.

7. Intuitive for All

Text message-based solutions are well-suited for all customers, including senior citizens and less tech-savvy individuals. Unlike clunky PDFs that require computer access and special software, text message is an intuitive and familiar channel for nearly everyone.

8. Integrates Into Existing Workflows

Unlike email and other outdated channels, workflows that center around text message can be quickly and easily integrated into companies’ existing workflows, CRMs, agent toolbars, and third-party business applications using an API. The interface can be white-labeled with the company’s brand for a seamless customer experience.

The Takeaway

Email is no longer the gold standard for businesses who wish to capture their customers’ attention, accelerate sales and servicing cycles, improve NPS, and streamline customer journeys. Eventually, email will go the way of the fax machine — the question is, which companies will be leading the mobile-first revolution, and which will cling to older digital technologies that no longer do a good job of serving modern customers? It’s all up to the companies.

New call-to-action

Try the interactive experience

New call-to-action