By Danny Chan
Question: Do the majority of Australian customers prefer to interact with businesses by phone or email? According to a recent business survey on customer communication trends, the answer may well be neither.
Results of the 2021 Local Business Messaging Trends Report (Australia Edition) show that almost 66% of consumers agree that having the option to text businesses would significantly increase convenience.
Most Australian consumers still call or email their local businesses as they are the predominant modes of interaction that businesses offer. Tellingly, the same survey found that only 12% of local businesses use text as a marketing tool.
Closing the gap
According to Dave Schiene, the Australia Country Manager of Podium, the company behind the survey, dental practice owners have much to gain from closing this gap in service.
“Today, so many of us live and work via our smartphones. For local businesses, this presents a significant opportunity,” he says.
“According to our report, Aussies on average open text messaging within three minutes. Our research also found that 95% of texts were opened in that time and overall texts have an open rate of 98 per cent.
“These statistics are important factors for businesses within the dental industry as it’s proof of how customers prefer to communicate and are looking for channels that offer convenience and speed.”
Podium is an SMS-based platform that helps local businesses receive reviews, collect payments, send SMS campaigns, and centralise their communications. Podium’s centralised platform even aggregates communications from channels such as Google, Facebook, Instagram and TripAdvisor.
Launched in 2014, the business serves more than 100,000 local businesses in the United States, Canada and Australia. Schiene says their customer base in Australia has almost quadrupled to over 3,000 local businesses since the start of the pandemic.
“Locally, we have over 70 employees in Australia and want to significantly expand our headcount to almost double that over the coming 12 months,” he adds.
Numbers don’t lie
Whether disseminating the latest teeth whitening offer, new patient promotion or announcing a new branch opening, many dentists are turning to EDM (electronic direct mail) and other SEO-driven, web-based campaigns to keep their patients informed.
Yet few are aware that SMS open rates are as high as 98%, compared to the email’s average open rate of 18% and click-through rate of just 2.6%. On average, it takes 90 seconds for someone to respond to a text as compared to 90 minutes for an email.
“It’s evident from our research that consumers want personal conversations with a business. Over half (56%) of mobile messaging is done through SMS texting (or iMessage) while the remaining 44% is done via third party apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger. Text has a 209% higher response rate than phone, email, or Facebook,” Schiene says.
“In terms of promotional messaging, our research revealed that 75% of consumers welcome SMS messages, when opted in. Consumers also redeem SMS coupons or promotions 10 times more than other types of coupons.
“When consumers were asked which channels they would like, but do not currently use, to learn about promotions from local businesses they frequent, text messaging was the top choice – higher than email, website or social media.”
More than just text
Some businesses underestimate SMS due to the common perception that it is less versatile than email marketing, which has the benefit of displaying colour, pictures and even animated content. Did you know that, apart from sending out appointment reminders and the occasional promotional blurb, SMS can help to increase your lead generation, conversion rates and feedback gathering?
Those are some of the practical benefits realised by Cairns Dental Precision Group via Podium’s turnkey messaging services. Built around text messaging, Podium offers a range of communication services aimed at helping the practice more effectively connect with their patients: Reviews, Payments, Webchat, Feedback, Teamchat, Inbox, Videochat and Campaigns.
“By using the ‘Campaigns’ tool, the practice was able to use SMS for customer service, updates and promotions,” Schiene says.
“Customers also used SMS to contact the dental practice directly which simplified scheduling appointments and gave patients the opportunity to opt-in to be notified for upcoming promotions and offers.”
Since working with Podium, Cairns Precision Dental Group’s opt-in list for text communication has grown to over 3,300 subscribers. By streamlining the process of leaving a review, the Group saw its average star rating increase from 4.47 to 4.85 and over 100 reviews were posted within the first month.
“Reviews is a great tool that can streamline the review collection process. Reviews automatically sends patients an invitation to leave a review via text message after their appointment, encouraging them to share their experience,” Schiene explains.
“This way, patients have an easy and convenient way to leave a review. Webchat allows them to engage with the business instantly, with a human-to-human interaction, rather than through email.”
The message is clear
While the phone and email are still utilised for customer interactions, Schiene says the trend is unmistakable if you pay attention to what customers really want.
“Our research shows that messaging has taken over. Customers use the phone and email only because they think that’s how local businesses are set up to interact.”
For businesses that offer alternate channels of communication – such as calling, emailing, website chat, texting and Facebook Messenger – Schiene says consumers are almost twice as likely (1.8 times) to prefer texting to any other communication method.
“Through text messaging, patients can be kept up-to-date with the latest updates and promotions as well as a more simplified way to coordinate upcoming appointments,” he adds.
“Customers want convenience today, and text messaging is exactly that.”