Considering the different channels available to customers, phone and email are…well, not so popular. In recent years, live chat has become the leading digital communication method for customers, with 42% of customers preferring live chat compared to just 23% preferring email. And, chat has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel, at 73%, compared with 61% for email and 44% for phone. 

But, what about texting? Being so similar, texting and chat can get mixed up. Is there really any difference? Do you really need texting if you already have chat functionality? Don’t they meet the same expectations for customers? Not quite.

To save you time, we’ve made up a comparison of the two to see how they are similar and how they differ. Then, your team can assess where to invest to meet your customer’s preferences.

Chat vs Text: Similarities and Differences

Chat vs Text: let’s cover some of the ways chat and text are similar:

Both channels offer asynchronous communication styles (sort of…I’ll touch on this more later):

With both chat and texting, your customers are able to take natural pauses in the conversation. They aren’t obligated to sit on hold for who knows how long, and then obligated to sit through a phone conversation. With chat and texting, customers have more flexibility to multitask — and so do your agents!

Both channels let agents manage multiple conversations at the same time:

Like I said, multitasking! With both channels, agents can talk with a handful of customers, making for a more productive contact center

Both channels invite a more casual tone of conversation:

Unlike email, chat and texting cut through the traditional formalities of customer service interactions. Short snippy messages and fewer salutations and signatures make for an all around more relaxed conversation between brands and their customers. 

Both channels allow for a quick and efficient interaction:

Think about it — both chat and texting offer customers a way to ask a brief question or get a quick update on an order status. No need to wait on the phone holding line or wait for a solid 24 hours while their email sits unread in someone’s inbox. 

Both channels create a clear written record of the customer interaction for internal use:

Even more organized than an email thread, both chat and text provide your team with a clear record of how the customer interacted with your agents, what questions they asked, where communication struggled. All in text form!

Chat vs Text: how are chat and text distinctly different: 

Chat and text aren’t really both asynchronous: 

This one falls into both camps. Live chat and text both offer asynchronous communication when compared to a phone call… until the chat session times out. Chat, more so than texting, requires much more real-time participation. 

Both the agent and the customer have to maintain the conversation in a given window of time and then the timer starts counting down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a chat conversation and as I’m waiting for the agent to answer my question, the chat ends. 

Text, on the other hand, is truly asynchronous. It lets the customer flexibly participate — initiating and re-initiating a conversation without losing their place. Sessions live indefinitely, always able to restart.

Chat is bound to a place, texting is much more mobile: 

With texting, customers aren’t tied to a computer screen the way they are with chat. Instead, customers can respond straight from their mobile device wherever they are. Whether out grabbing groceries, hitting the gym, or sitting in the school pick up line, customers can send a question at any point, anywhere. 

Chat is more formal, texting is much more personal: 

I’m not sure about you, but I don’t text many (if any) people I haven’t met personally. Texting is a much more personal form of communication than live chat. Partially, this is because chat is typically done through a company’s website. With chat, there’s always this question in the back of my mind — am I talking to a real person or just a robot? But, when you text a brand directly, agents can add personal flavor to a conversation. 

Chat requires customers to repeat themselves more, texting provides a clearer communication trail: 

It happens — sometimes you think you’ve asked your last question to the customer service team…but then, oops, another one comes up. When a few hours go by and the conversation between agent and customer has dwindled, your customer may have another question for you. 

With chat, the customer would have to re-open a chat, restate their information, repeat the same context as before and then get to ask their question. How annoying! With texting, your customers and the agents can easily stay in the same thread, letting customers and agents alike to see past conversation, gather context, and move onto the new problem with ease. 

With all of these similarities and differences, how can you know when chat vs text fits your customer’s preferences? 

This or That: How to Know if Chat vs Text Fits Your Needs

So, chat and text have some similarities and differences — so what? Which channel do your customers prefer? 

Both channels benefit your contact center. Chat provides your customers a way to immediately reach you through your website. When they seek support, a chat box is ready and waiting for quick help. Because it’s embedded into your website, this lets agents direct customers to pages, help articles, and other resources directly on your site. Chat gives your team a manageable way to juggle multiple customer interactions simultaneously and keep good records about those customers. 

That being said, the benefits of text messaging ultimately provide customers more flexibility in their experience. Firstly, texting is a wildly popular form of communication. Over 6 billion texts are sent in the U.S. every day. And those texts have an astounding 96% open rate. Because texting is so widely used, customers today are incredibly comfortable with its functionality. 

Although text messaging isn’t embedded into your company website, texting lets your team easily send media — like images, links, how-to videos, pdfs — to customers. Customers can also easily snap a photo or take a screenshot of a product issue and send that over text. Agents can even add emojis to messages to boost engagement. The experience overall is comfortable and personalized. 

When it comes to chat vs text — I think we know which one is more preferable. Allowing customers to carry their customer service help in their back pocket with them wherever they go ultimately offers customers a better customer experience