Text messaging is now one of the most common types of communication among Americans, particularly among the younger set. Yet, many local businesses haven’t found an easy or compelling way to use texting to engage their customers.
A popular app wants to change that.
Path Talk, a private messaging and social networking app, added a new feature on Tuesday called Places that lets users contact local businesses—from restaurants, hair salons to retail shops—to ask questions, check prices, schedule appointments or make reservations. “You’ll never have to wait on hold again,” a company blog post promises.
The tool is free, for now at least. How it works: The Path Talk user finds the business they want to contact on a map and clicks on it. A chat box opens that allows them to type in a question or request (“Can I make reservations for 6 p.m. on Saturday?”). The message is then forwarded to a call center where a live agent calls the business directly and asks the question or schedules the appointment. The agent then texts the user back with the answer.
Re/code tested Path Talk’s Places tool on more than a half dozen businesses last week and found it worked as promised:
We tried various businesses, including setting up reservations, then canceling reservations (sorry, Osha Thai), and we always heard back in a timely manner (our slowest response was nine minutes). Every answer also included additional info. We’ll have to see how it works in the real world when more people start using the app at the same time.
Local business owners may welcome the ability to have more customers schedule appointments or ask questions via text—especially since they won’t be the ones texting them back directly. If the tool takes off, it could mean local businesses get a lot more calls from a call center with questions and requests to schedule appointments. But that’s not exactly a bad thing.
Read more articles on customer engagement.