marketing on mobileEveryone knows what a toll-free number is. You’ve dialed one to reach a business. You’ve received a call from a company using one. But did you know you can send a text message to a toll-free number?

We affectionately call them TETFNs (for Text-Enabled Toll-Free Numbers), and they’re quickly becoming a desired way for companies to enable both inbound and outbound communications with their customers. When used effectively in an omnichannel world, TETFNs can greatly enhance customer service and NPS scores and also improve a company’s bottom line.

TETFNs provide consumers a fast, convenient, and consistent way to interact with companies over the text messaging channel—on a company’s existing 800 number. For businesses, TETFNs enable a variety of marketing and customer support uses, but are more cost effective and quicker to enable than traditional, more restrictive short codes.

I recently sat down with John Larson, Chief Marketing Officer at Zipwhip, a pioneer of business text messaging services in the cloud. As a Genesys partner and the premier aggregator of TETFN services in the US, we speak frequently about what we’re hearing in the market from businesses wanting to understand how to enable texting to a toll-free, landline number and the benefits of implementing this type of solution. I asked John to answer the five most frequently asked questions about TETFNs.

Q: How do TEFTNs work?

John Larson: Zipwhip can connect with virtually every mobile subscriber in the US and Canada. When a business wants to text-enable their toll-free number, we have a provisioning process to turn that on with each carrier without affecting the voice provider. It’s like two different lanes on the same highway. In this case, it’s voice and text messaging. 

Once an 800 number is activated for the SMS channel, customers can text a company’s toll-free number for customer support. Simple questions such as balance inquiries, outages updates, or appointment times can be completely automated and self-service. More complex issues and questions can be routed to an agent for live assistance. TETFNs are also used by companies to send proactive customer communication. If the company has received express consent from consumers (which is a requirement in the US before contacting a customer on their mobile phone), outbound reminders, confirmations, marketing messages, status updates, surveys, and more can also be texted from the toll-free phone number.

Q: Do consumers want to text 800 numbers? 

Larson. Yes, there’s a growing demand. According to our numbers, 150 million text messages are being sent every day from wireless subscribers to non-mobile 10-digit numbers, which includes toll-free. Many customers prefer using text over voice, especially if the question or issue requires a simple, fast answer. The International Customer Management Institute conducted a poll showing 79% of companies believe customers want text-based support. From the customer point of view, a recent survey by HeyWire Business showed that 52% would prefer to interact with customer support using text messaging versus other channels.

Q: Has the trend toward providing text options in the contact center reached a tipping point?

Larson: Not quite, but we’re getting there. Our vision of consumers being able to “call or text” every phone number is rapidly taking form. At this point, if you aren’t providing the SMS text channel in your contact center, or at least have it as part of your strategic plans, you’re behind the proverbial eight-ball. According to Dimension Data, 48% of contact centers currently offer SMS and 22% have plans to add it in the next 12 months. You no longer need to source different numbers for voice and text—one toll-free number does it all.

Q: Does it have to be a toll-free number? Can I enable texting on my non toll-free landline?

Larson: While it is technically possible to text-enable a landline number that isn’t toll-free, you won’t get the benefit of enterprise-level throughput. If you want a safe and reliable way to reach your consumers quickly and efficiently over high-speed routes, definitely use a toll-free number.

Q: How does offering a TETFN help my contact center metrics as well as my bottom line?

Larson: Although there is an initial, small cost to text-enable your 800 number, there is quick ROI. Text-enabling your toll-free numbers will translate quickly into reduced on-hold wait times and fewer inbound phone calls by servicing customer requests via text messaging. Agents can handle multiple text conversations at the same time instead of longer and costlier one-on-one phone conversations. You can also use the TETFNs to send automated proactive reminders, confirmations, and status updates, which also reduces the number of inbound support calls and increases customer satisfaction. All of this lowers customer effort and improves the overall customer experience and NPS scores. Have no doubt: TETFNs have a positive effect on the bottom line. 

Your Customers Are Texting You… Are You Listening?

These days, customer preferences are definitely trending to self-service. Gartner predicts “by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with enterprises without interacting with a human.” A growing number of consumers now expect toll-free numbers to be able to send and receive text messages. In fact, many of your customers are likely texting you already without a response, but you don’t know it, which leads to poor satisfaction and missed opportunities for your business. By implementing TETFNs, you can get ahead of the curve and provide benefits to both your customers and your business.

Text messaging is a key part of an omnichannel contact center strategy. Genesys can help.  We’re the global omnichannel customer experience and contact center solution leader and can easily help you turn your toll-free numbers into a new and exciting channel of text communications.

Read the Ovum white paper to learn more about how to mobilize your customer engagement, and when you’re ready to turn your 800 numbers into a rich channel experience, text keyword “TETFN” to 888-GENESYS (888-436-3797).

Lindsay Frazier

Lindsay Frazier

As the Global Solutions Director, Outbound at Genesys. Lindsay is responsible for creating and packaging new Outbound Engagement services and solutions that enable clients to create great customer experiences, drive revenue, and reduce costs. She focuses on the strategic direction...