Here’s one way to avoid wasting time dealing with customer service

Here’s one way to avoid wasting time dealing with customer service

The texting option can help save you money, too

You’ve heard of calling, emailing and even live chatting customer support. But what about text messaging a store’s customer service department?

For some retailers, you can.

Here’s how the feature works and how you can get the most out of it.

What it is

Instead of calling, being transferred and potentially getting placed on hold, you can text your questions to a representative who will text you back. Keep in mind that standard messaging or data rates may apply.

Retail stores like The Home Depot HD, -0.33% and Lowe’s LOW, -0.25% offer a texting option for customer service — in addition to a more traditional 1-800 number. Beauty brand Mac Cosmetics allows customers to text questions to their artists.

This service is meeting a customer need, according to Peter Fader, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

“If we look at the younger generation, a lot of them never want to talk on the phone,” Fader says. “They never want to fill out forms on a website. They never want to send emails. They’re just so comfortable using text messaging.”

When to use it

Customers of all ages can turn to text messaging. Consider it for questions regarding topics such as order status, price matching, price adjustments, return policies and product information.

You can text at your own pace, says Derrick DeRavariere, the general manager of online customer operations and strategy at The Home Depot.

In fact, he says the average texting conversation length at the home improvement store is roughly two hours — a number that is indicative of the back-and-forth between customers and customer service associates.

“We don’t lose the conversation or the context,” DeRavariere says. “It’s there for you to pick up when it’s convenient for you.”

In some cases, texting can save both time and money. For instance, imagine you purchased an item online, only to see it go on sale a few days later. If the retailer you shopped at has a price adjustment policy, you could text to request a refund for the difference.

What to have ready

If you want to text message a business, you can look for the number on the retailer’s website. Check the customer service or contact page to see if there is a texting option.

And just as you would with any other customer service interaction, arm yourself with your order number, billing address and any other relevant details about the order. You’ll likely need to verify your identity, and an order number will help the customer service representative locate the purchase you’re inquiring about.

What you can’t do

Texting a customer service representative works best for requests with an obvious objective or answer, Fader says.

It’s a simple way to get answers to questions like, “Did this order go through?” or “What’s the status of my order?” as opposed to something potentially more complicated like, “How can you fix the negative experience I had at your store?”

Texts won’t fulfill certain other requests too. For instance, DeRavariere says, you can’t place a new order with The Home Depot via texting. You’ll have to go online or call customer service for that.

For those inquiries that are a fit for text messaging, this convenient mode of retail communication can be beneficial, especially for busy shoppers who are on the go.

“It can be a nice way to kind of multitask and give something the lower priority it might need as opposed to sitting and waiting on the phone and kind of being held hostage because you can’t get anything else done,” Fader says.

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