SMS: More than a Notification Channel.

Successful brands leverage SMS as the universal go-to messaging channel, securely reaching over 5 billion users – easily surpassing all other messaging apps.   Unlike email, SMS is more like voice.  It’s a “real-time” channel with an open rate of 98% within the first 12 seconds of being received.  That’s conversational!

The question is, why do most CX and Contact Centers today still view SMS as only a notification channel?

Today’s customer-focused brands know how universally accepted SMS is.  They realize that its effectiveness as a conversational channel between individuals, also translates as a conversational channel for business.

It makes sense, SMS is the universal messaging app preinstalled on every consumer’s mobile device.  And consumers use it extensively to converse between friends and family members.  So, why do so many companies struggle to open SMS as a conversational engagement channel?

The answer, it turns out, has more to do with the SMS ecosystem itself and the backlog in your own IT organization.


There is a plethora of SMS providers available today.  Just Google, SMS vendors, and you’re overwhelmed with the number and variety of SMS companies.

Typically, these companies provide a simple Application Programming Interface (API) that will allow you to send an outbound SMS.  You can send a single SMS notification or broadcast an alert to a list (bulk SMS).  These vendors differ in price and features, such as the need to specify a carrier or confirmation of delivery.  However, most SMS vendors are just a “dumb pipe” with an API.

It sounds easy enough to select a vendor and connect your CX or enterprise system to the API and now you are sending SMS notifications.

But here’s the problem. What will your customers do when they receive a SMS notification?  They all want to reply.  That’s what they’ll want to do.  It’s the most natural and effortless solution for them.

This is where SMS begins to get tricky and why brands tend to avoid it as an engagement channel.

Let’s say, for example, you sent your customer an automated alert reminding them of an upcoming appointment.  But the customer wants to reschedule or perhaps needs directions to the appointment.  What will any customer with high expectations want to do?  They’ll want to reply to your notification. 

Unfortunately, you can’t receive inbound replies because your SMS vendor only provides a SEND API.  Or, more likely, they charge a separate fee to receive inbound messages.  Queue frustrated customer!


When you elect not to implement the ability to receive a SMS, you force your customer to switch channels to reply.

Channel switching means the customer must now spend more time, navigating your contact center IVR and waiting on hold in the call queue.   The context of their issue is lost, and you have closed off the most seamless way for them to contact you!

When the customer eventually reaches an agent, they must explain their issue taking up valuable agent time.  Not to mention the impact on the agent experience (EX) for that matter.

Forcing the customer to channel hop wastes their time and erodes their loyalty simply because you didn’t implement two-way SMS.


With a bit more Google searching you’ll find SMS vendors who provide both inbound and outbound SMS as well.  Some will want to charge you a separate fee to receive inbound messages.

WARNING:  if your SMS vendor is charging you for both inbound and outbound messages, you should find a new SMS vendor.

Remember most SMS vendors are simply a dumb pipe with an API.  In fact, many will force you to use one API for outbound messages and another, separate API for inbound messages.  This is a technical challenge, because the dumb pipe does not associate inbound and outbound messages in a conversational thread.

Cielo’s SMS platform is more intelligent.  Cielo maintains the conversational thread and allows you to associate it with the customer’s issue, ticket, or request – asynchronously.

Without Cielo, the SMS ecosystem assumes you, the brand, will develop the capability to correlate messages by customer, issue, and conversation.  Developing this capability in house can be a lengthy, expensive effort.

Even large enterprises, with sophisticated IT organizations, are stymied by the backlog of development projects.


Every IT organization presents a backlog of application development requests which must be prioritized against its need and impact on the company’s bottom line.  As a result, customer service organizations, eager to open SMS as a conversational channel, are faced with delays until their IT backlog prioritizes (if ever) their request.

There is a solution.  Cielo’s CX platform is designed, out of the box, for true two-way conversational SMS.  We provide a scalable set of SMS engagement applications to help you rapidly deploy new journeys with no impact on IT resources.

Let’s say you send a SMS notification regarding the arrival date of your customer’s order – a glass wine decanter.  Your customer receives the decanter, but it is shattered.  Now they want to contact you to request a return.  SMS notifications sent using the Cielo CX Platform allows the customer to reply directly to the notification SMS and begin their return/replacement journey.

The return experience can be entirely automated with a two-way Product Return SMS Chatbot.  The customer does not have to switch channels and their context and order information is retained.  You have elevated the customer experience with a frictionless order return process tied seamlessly to the order notification.

Cielo is focused on SMS as an engagement channel.  Since 2014 we have been helping companies immediately service their customers with applications that leave them feeling their issues matter and that they’re valued as a customer.

Book a free consultation today to find out how Cielo can help you deliver CX excellence.

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