The average wireless subscriber sent 357 text messages per month in the second quarter of this year, and only made 204 cell phone calls, says Nielsen Mobile research. As text becomes the preferred method of contact for many consumers, enter SoundBite Communications' Intelligent Communications Platform, available to banks and card issuers as a hosted service offering interactive, multi-channel communications that includes text messaging, email and voice, and boosts response rates by more than 300 percent in some cases. SoundBite began in the collections business but has made a big name for itself among issuers with its multi-channel approach; eight of the top 10 issuers use the Intelligent Communications platform in some way, says SoundBite chief marketing and business development officer Mark Friedman.

The platform has two basic pillars: the first allows institutions to create communications strategy and design content; the second is the multi-channel communications component that delivers these messages via voice, text and email.

Integrated communications strategies aren't new, but finding all the channels in one platform is more of a challenge. What's innovative about SoundBite's product is both its integration of free-to-the-end-user text messaging into the package, and the fact that consumers can respond instantly to the messages via text or voice, enabling the bank to take immediate action on an account if necessary.

"As an example, let's say your issuer suspects fraud on your credit card because your card was suddenly used in Shanghai. If they have your mobile number they can send you a text asking 'Did you just have a $2,000 transaction in Shanghai? Press 1 for yes, press 2 for no,'" says Friedman. "That whole interactivity and giving the consumer choice is going to raise response rates and deepen relationships."

Friedman isn't blowing smoke when he talks about the ability of multi-channel campaigns to raise response rates. In one client example, a top-five bank wanted to test the strategy on 250,000 accounts that were in a collections state. The group that received two voicemail messages and one text message tallied a 117 percent lift over the group that received three voicemail messages. That bank, "subsequently went full-steam ahead on our text messaging offer," he says.

Ken Paterson, director of credit advisory services at Mercator Group, finds similarly impressive numbers among the users of multi-channel communications, with best-practices cases realizing more than 300 percent improvement in activations and more than 100 percent in collections. And while lots of vendors offer messaging capabilities of one sort or another, SoundBite is one of few that ties them all together, Paterson says.

"I think a lot of vendors have pieces of the solution; as a major issuer you could buy all the pieces and try to integrate it yourself, but the integration challenges get steep," Paterson says. "The attraction of a SoundBite capability is it does integrate multiple channels and can serve as the platform for multiple functions."

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