Image of Oisin Lunny, Chief Evangelist at OpenMarket

How Brands Can Harness Empathy Marketing To Create Customer Connection

Our host Peggy Anne Salz from MobileGroove catches up with Oisin Lunny, Chief Evangelist at OpenMarket, a leader in mobile messaging, to discuss the rising importance of empathetic marketing and how brands can harness this key capability to create real and lasting customer connection in our digital age. They walk through the checklist of seven Empathetic Moments, times and places where text messaging lets you connect with customers more effectively than any other channel–and they give you a ton of examples of how you can do it. From customer service to asking for feedback, Oisin outlines the opportunities and explains why text messaging trumps email and voice every time. Listen in and learn how to identify those moments in your own business so you can start taking advantage of the opportunities SMS offers.


Hello and welcome to Mobile Presence.  I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz, Content Marketing Strategist at Mobile Groove, where I plan, produce and promote content that allows my clients to reach their performance goals and scale growth.  And here, on Mobile Presence, we talk a lot about mobile growth and we’ve focused a lot on apps and maybe, who knows, that’s probably because I’ve written a couple of books about mobile apps but that is not all there is.  We always want to remember that apps are not the format that fit with every stage of the user journey.  I mean, there’s a lot of mileage in them but there’s also tons of value in text messaging.  You know, it is the high touch in the mix of high tech, and it’s the way that your company shows that it listens, understands what your customers want and need in that magic mobile moment and beyond, and of course text is where I personally don’t just welcome a personalized message as part of it, you know, Hi Peggy, or whatever – it’s my personal device, I would say I even demand it there.

So it’s all about empathy in marketing, personalization, the rules of engagement and our guest today is Oisin Lunny, he is Chief Evangelist at OpenMarket.  Oisin, it’s great to have you.

Hey, Peggy, it’s lovely to be here, thank you for the invitation.  I’m a big fan of the podcast.

I’m a big fan of what you’ve been doing in empathy marketing, I have to say.  I was thrilled just to see the two words together on a page, right, because we all do marketing but we’ve all forgotten what it’s really about and a big part of it is exactly that – understanding what the other person wants and needs.  That’s a great title to start off with – Chief Evangelist at OpenMarket – so what do you do there, what do you evangelize about, where does empathy fit into all of this?

Sure, so OpenMarket is a technology company and we connect with some of the world’s biggest brands, we connect the world’s biggest brands with their customers through uniquely tailored mobile messages at the moments that count.  And the way we look at the whole sphere of messaging is about providing these empathetic connections because we do live in a digital age, consumers have the ability to shift markets and define a company’s success in a matter of seconds.  So in this age of the customer, corporate empathy has never been so important.  But the two words, corporate empathy – to some people this would be an oxymoron, when you have a look at examples from United Airlines and Dr David Dao last year etc – you know, the worst CX ever possible.  Companies are still not getting it right.

So, my role as Chief Evangelist at OpenMarket is really to bring this message of the power of text and the power of empathetic connections in a digital age to the global stage so I do this by speaking at a lot of events, I did a TEDx talk last year which is online and I’m also speaking at events around NWC, like IOT Stars and I do a lot of “thought leadership” and contributing articles to various publications and these are linked from the OpenMarket website, of course.

So, it’s a really fun role and it’s actually the ideal role as champion for a personality-type such as mine which is ENFP – which is literally the champion.

I mean, that is a lot that you do, create, you know, the speeches, the thought leadership and I wouldn’t say quote-unquote ever Oisin on that one…

Thank you…

Ever, ever, and that’s why I have you here on the show because that’s a lot of resources and they’re all, as you said, over at OpenMarket and we’ll have that in the show notes so people can check out that link and go there.  I’m just wondering if we just take a step back for a moment, you know, it wasn’t too long ago I was writing articles about how text messages just celebrated their 25th anniversary, which is a shock for most people and millennials in particular.  I get it but I’m wondering how you get it to your brands, to your clients, you know, that they have to harness text messaging – that they don’t say “Hey, isn’t that old school?”  What do you tell them?

Well, the thing that we believe through and through is the power of text messaging and its power to connect, to communicate and to seize the impactful opportunities that exist to engage with customers.  So, for CX, it’s kind of unparalleled, we’ve kind of evolved to a species of what I like to call Phono Sapien where we’re doing pretty much everything on a mobile device – we’ve reached the 100% global penetration for mobile devices and a text is now, because of this huge adoption of mobile devices over the past 20 years, a text has become this universal communications channel and it’s actually the most trusted communication channel in the world today, the most trusted form of written communication.

So, we kind of help companies on this journey towards providing empathetic interactions, what we call empathetic interactions by leveraging text messaging in the moments where it really counts for their customers and getting empathy right is now – in 2018, it’s business critical, it isn’t nice to have, it isn’t fluffy, it is absolutely critical in terms of how the Phono Sapien expects and demands to be communicated with by major global companies.

So, we’ve gotten away, up until this point, of always talking about the mobile moments, that’s when you’re on your phone, that’s when you’re in the right context, in the right need state, whatever and you’re talking about empathetic moments.  So, when are these?  If I’m a marketer, are there certain stages in that mythical user journey where, you know, text has to arrive at a certain time to do a certain thing?

Yes, well, it’s all about kind of defining these empathetic interactions along the customer experience journey so these are really all about businesses seizing the countless invisible opportunities to surprise and delight their customers by giving them things like information, engagements, experiences and alerts that they’ll really value at precise moments in exact places.  It’s about a business using what they know about the individual customer and the situation they’re in right there and then actually anticipating what might make them happy.  And the kind of cool thing is when the customer’s needs and the business’s needs can be met in a single moment, these empathetic interactions are really valuable and the kind of power of empathetic interactions is down to the phenomenal ubiquity and incredible open rate of text messaging.

So we’ve reached 100% penetration in terms of mobile devices on the planet, and SMS has an open rate of 98%, something that 83% of millennials will open it without 90 seconds.  So, there’s no real better way to connect with the Phono Sapien than using a text message.

So I’d like to know more about those contexts, those empathetic interaction moments.  It used to be that you could away with just personalising the message a little bit or give me a couple of options that sound like they’re relevant to the moment that I’m in but I’m sure we’ve gone beyond that and you certainly, Oisin, with all the work that you’ve done in that area, maybe you can give some really good examples of how this can shine?

Yes, absolutely.  Well, a small number of companies, like you say, do personalised experiences – Amazon is an incredible example but actually personal interaction, which is what the Phono Sapien demands are informed by empathy and understanding and they’re about being in touch with the consumer and with their thoughts and emotions in their moment of need.

So, some really practical examples of this, and this is again on our website, we have empathetic interactions ebooks and guides etc to kind of help you define this, but we define it as 7 key empathetic moments.  We send billions of text messages every year for the world’s biggest brands and we analyzed all of the traffic and we boiled it down, we boiled all of the traffic down to the 7 most useful empathetic moments that a company should know about and should deploy but sadly a lot of them don’t at the moment.

So, I’ll take you a few examples of these so pause at any time if you want to deep dive.

No, no, I just want to do it like some sort of late-night show – let’s go through the 7, I want to hear this – I wasn’t aware of this myself so, yes, 7 of them.  Let’s do it.

Right, the 7 empathetic moments.  Well, the first is delivery and arrival moments.  So, there’s nothing more frustrating than ordering something online and maybe working from home or taking the day off work so you’ll get the delivery and you don’t know when the delivery’s going to come, you go and make a cup of tea, you’ll have your headphones on, you’ll miss the delivery etc – it’s very frustrating, people hate it, and I think there is something to be said around the customer experience that you have last with any company is the one you expect from every company moving forward.

So, if one of your delivery companies sends you a text message to say Hey, your package is going to be delivered tomorrow at quarter past one and quarter past two, make sure you’re home – text back if you want to reschedule.  This is fantastic, you can get on with the rest of your day, you can reschedule it in a couple of seconds by a text message and, you know, what you will find I think as a consumer, if you order packages from people who don’t offer these delivery and arrival moment messages, it’s frustrating, because that’s now your best level of customer experience.

And this works for things like delivering packages for installing satellite dishes – one of our clients is a very large broadcaster and they’ve managed to save many, many millions of Pounds in terms of missed deliveries for engineer visits because engineer visits are very expensive.

So, just enabling the consumer to reschedule or confirm they’re going to be in is just one of these win-win situations – it works for the business and it works for the company as well.

I’m going to say absolutely – so we agree on that, arrival and delivery.  Give me another one.

Sure thing.  Well, trigger moments is the next one and this is all about a customer response and getting the customer response at the exact moment they’ll be thinking about you or your product or service.  So, a great example of this is a company called Club Mahindra, who are an enormous Indian resort company with many tens of, if not hundreds of thousands of customers who come back year on year to these beautiful resorts.  And what they found was they were emailing surveys after people had left the resort saying How did you feel about your visit, was everything OK, anything we can do?  So really valuable, mission-critical feedback and they found that people were eventually finding their way to the email, maybe two or three weeks after the holiday, so the feedback wasn’t fresh, you know, and then, of course, they’re back at their desk and it’s a long time since the holiday and they’re not in the best mood.  So the feedback isn’t really that valuable.

So, they changed this survey over to a simple text-based survey where somebody would get a text to say how would you rate your stay at the Grand Hotel, text back between 0 and 10, and that starts a kind of chain of just a few simple text messages that say how was your stay on a scale of X to Y, and what can we do better?  And what they found was that the response rate, I think, increased by 120% and the net promoter score increased by over 100%.  So, the kind of business results from just putting yourself in the shoes of the customer and saying would our customer like an email that’s largely going to get ignored and if we’re lucky, it’s going to be answered in two weeks – or would they like a text message the instant they leave the hotel, when they’re feeling really good about their stay and they have some really valuable feedback?

So, that’s a nice example of a trigger moment, because you get a response when it’s at its freshest.

Well, I have to say I couldn’t agree with you more because I am totally guilty of coming back from trips and not answering that email because it takes me off to some stupid link somewhere that is often working and then they don’t tell you, they don’t want your feedback, they want about 4, 5, 6 questions, maybe a couple of comments about the hotel where you were – it’s a drag and I’m not a very good one for feedback, so I can fully understand this use case. 

Oisin, this is great because I didn’t expect we were going to be doing like the top 7, we’ve got through 2, I have to go to a break right now but when we get back from the break, I want to hear all the other 5.  So, listeners, don’t go away, we’ll be right back.

And we are back.  Welcome back to Mobile Presence.  I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz with Mobile Groove and our guest today is Oisin Lunny, he is the Chief Evangelist at OpenMarket and before the break, I was so excited, we were going through the top 7 or the only 7 sort of empathetic interaction moments, those moments when a text message is really going to seal the deal or really engage me at that magic moment.  We got through 2, let’s go through the other 5, Oisin.

OK, so at number 3, we have behavior moments.  So this is when a customer interacts with your brand – it doesn’t happen in the vacuum, there’s a wider context of things going on that could be making your customer feel good, bad, happy, angry, stressed, frustrated, whatever, but really good customer experience means that the company will anticipate the things that might be negatively affecting their customer’s mood when they’re interacting with the brand and then actually doing something about it.

So, texting can help you sooth customer anxieties right in the moment they’re happening.  This example I like to use is a lady who is going for her flight, she’s stressed out about getting through a busy airport on time, but what if you, as the airline, texted her details to check-in to the check-in desk before she arrives, so once she’s checked in, you also text her gate number plus a voucher for a pre-flight drink?

So, if your flight is delayed, as a customer, instead of being ignored by the airline, if you got a note to say here’s your check-in desk, here’s your gate number and here’s a free coffee, it totally dissolves that frustration and the customer will know that you value them and you can feel in that scenario already the stress is just melting away because it’s such a good customer experience.

So, we can do this stuff with text because it has this 98% open rate – everyone on the planet has a mobile phone that can send and receive text messages – no training needed and it’s ubiquitous, it is this ubiquitous hotline so you can design these new vectors of customer engagements around it.

And I would imagine you can find those moments because of everything else coming in, all those other data signals and everything else that you know, this is the moment of frustration, this is it.

Absolutely, yes.  So, text is kind of the hotline, the communication link to provide these empathetic interactions but what actually informs the need to provide these empathetic interactions is all the other data you can access is business and that includes data from a mobile phone, data from your CRM system, from your communications stack, from the tech stack you have in your company.  So, yes, we know more about people than we ever have before and this amount of data is only going to increase but the communication channels that we use to reach out to people are largely broken – email has 20% open rate on a good day, 2% click-through rate on a really good day, apps are wonderful of course but, you know, the number…

But they’re expensive, for one thing.

They’re super-expensive, absolutely, you know, they’re good for some things but for other things, they’re not so good.  And we’re sort of reaching a bit of app-fatigue in the market, some apps are growing but a lot of them have reached a saturation point.

Absolutely, and we also have that other problem that when you get to the point that you’re going to look at an app and download an app and use an app, well, that’s because someone has engaged with you enough up to that point that you’re going to buy into an app in the first place.  So, can’t agree with you more.  That was number 3.  Let’s go to number 4.

Right, well, number 4 is purchase moments and this is the golden opportunity to influence a potential customer at exactly the right moment.  So, they might be thinking about your brand when they’re online looking at your product or when they just happen to be near one of your stores.  So, SMS provides an amazing opportunity to slice through all of the noise and give your customer the extra push or an empathetic nudge, if you like, that they need towards making a purchase.  So, this could be a coupon, an offer, some extra information about the thing they’re interested in.

So, for example, an existing customer is at the mall and you send him a text offering 25% off his favorite sneakers.  So, your store would be his next stop and the thing I really like about this is the cut through of SMS, the incredibly high open rate is really what means you can design this particular empathetic moment – it wouldn’t work getting a call from an unrecognized number, it absolutely wouldn’t work getting an email.  It might work with push notification if you had the native app and if you had them switched on but an SMS – it just works.

  1. Couldn’t agree more, again, I’m loving this list – number 5.

At number 5 we have payment moments and this is really about using text to make sure the payments happen.  So, an example for me when I was over at South by South West a few years ago and I was buying myself a little upgrade to see more of the event and I was there in Austin, Texas with my company AmEx and the payment didn’t go through but I got a text message instantly saying “Hey, did you try and make this payment to South by South West Incorporated for this amount of money?  Text back 1 for yes or 2 for no”.  I texted back 1, we tried the payment, it went through immediately.

Now, if that had been a phone call or from an unrecognized number, I never answer phone calls from unrecognized numbers, I always send them to voicemail, so that entire scenario would have been terrible, it wouldn’t have worked with an email as well, because email is 70% spam, I might have got to it in a few weeks.

So, the ability to provide these payment confirmations by text is incredibly powerful.  One of our clients is a company called FICO and they provide fraud prevention tools for most of the world’s major financial institutions and they found that when they introduced a text messaging solution for payment authentication, so is this payment yours – text back 1 for yes, 2 for no etc – they achieved, I think it was a 35% drop in credit card fraud, which is huge for their business and at the same time they experienced a 20% rise in their net promoter score in customer satisfaction.

So, it’s that nice win/win scenario where you’re providing the customer experience at the Phono Sapien demands, you’re saving a ton of money on things like call centers and you’re also kind of saving that relationship with the customer because you’re giving them that empathetic moment that they really value.

And of course you’re building on that behavior that we already have through 2-factor authentication – we know what it is, we can deal with that, we’ve done that many times, we respect it, we think it’s working and there you are, again, it’s payment, it’s something where security is paramount and you can trust this form of communication in that scenario, I think, is what the message is.

Yes, I totally agree.  Now, I think 2-factor authentication is a really great example – it’s actually the next empathetic moment is authentication moments and this is when you use your mobile device as the secondary authentication so you get sent a 4 or 6 digit PIN that you then use to log back into a service.  So, a lot of companies now, like Mail Chimp, they’ll actually offer you quite a big discount if you use 2-factor authentication because it cuts down on the amount of fraud and the amount of customer experience issues that they have with accounts getting hacked etc.

So, it’s incredibly powerful and at OpenMarket we power SMS-based 2-factor authentication to improve IT security and also do it cost effectively without creating unnecessary barriers for the customers.  So, 2FA, if you have any kind of a service, particularly with GDPR coming, if you’ve any kind of a service which stores customer details, you really have to be offering 2-factor authentication to keep those accounts even more secure.

  1. Well, let’s have another example in your top 7 here.

OK, so now we’ve actually come to number 7 which is a request for info moments.  So, once you’ve got a customer on a buying journey, the last thing you want to do is let them go cold or put obstacles in their way.  So, if they need information from you to move to the next stage towards making a purchase, you need to get that information to them as quickly as possible.  So, this is a great example of a nice empathetic nudge and you could only really do it by text because of the speed of answering and the open rate.

So, you don’t want to make your customer wait for a call from a service team, which I for one probably wouldn’t answer, or an email they probably wouldn’t read immediately, or it ends up in a spam folder, so an automated text message to their mobile straightaway gives them the information they need and keeps them moving forward on the purchase cycle.

So, for example, if your customer needs to get a car serviced and they’re shopping around for the best price, but while she was waiting for their competitors to call her back or send her an email, you’ve already texted her a quote, something along the lines of “Your exclusive car service price is $99 – text yes to make a booking”.  So the great thing about this example, again, it kind of shows how the empathetic moments’ will kind of match a business needs and a customer needs in a single interaction.  It’s available on any handset in the world and also it’s two-way, so it’s not just a broadcast channel, it’s kind of saying here is our kind of empathetic nudge towards completing your order – would you like to complete it?  All you have to do is text back yes and then we’ll take it to the next stage.

So, it’s that kind of immediacy and ease of use that I think is incredibly powerful for the modern consumer.

So, these are the moments, I’m just curious if when you’re working with your clients, is there an approach that they have to take, do they ask you to help them map out that whole user journey and pick out these moments for these interactions using text messaging?  Is there a blueprint for this?

Yes, absolutely.  We have a number of resources online – just to give you an idea of the kind of service that we provide to our existing customers and new customers as well, which is really to help them identify where the whole customer journey can be improved by deploying these key empathetic moments throughout the customer experience.  And we have a number of templates on our platform that will help provide kind of readymade solutions to these key moments, like 2-factor authentication etc, alert and response, that kind of thing.

And we also partner with some of the leading experts in the field of customer experience to provide in-depth workshops and this is quite a new and exciting thing that we’re doing, so this is where we kind of parachute in an independent expert who is one of the absolute global leaders in their field, and we have a workshop with our clients to really help them deploy all these fantastic empathetic moments throughout their business.

So, there are structures in place that we follow as a business, there are guidebooks online, there are processes for all of our account managers to make sure our customers are getting the most out of the platform and also that their customers are getting the most from the incredible power of SMS that they have access to once we’re working with them.

So, it sounds really interesting, you parachute them down, you deploy them, something like the James Bond here or others of engagement…

Oh, I like that!

I’m just imagining that visually right here.  Well, we do have to go to a break but don’t go away, listeners, because when we get back we’ll finish up with some top tips and some ideas about how you can deploy your James Bond from OpenMarket should you engage with them or whomever and how you can get the most out of those empathetic interaction moments.  Don’t go away, we’ll be right back after the break.

And we are back.  Welcome back to Mobile Presence.  I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz with Mobile Groove and our guest today, Oisin Lunny, he is OpenMarket Chief Evangelist and Oisin I’ve just been enjoying this immensely, this is not going to be the last time that you’re on the show.  It’s opened my eyes really to – I mean, I’ve always been convinced that SMS, it’s there, it’s part of it, it’s high touch, you cannot replace it and I’ve seen enough companies fail trying to just sort of automate everything in the sense that Oh, we’ll just have emails and we’ll just have apps and lots of push – I mean, push fatigue, come on. 

So, all resonating with me, and great to know about those interaction moments but when you look ahead, you say OK, I understand all of the utility here, I understand the empathy but also, you know, everything moves, everything gets faster, everything gets smarter, everything gets harder in marketing all the time – how do we get smarter about text messaging?

That’s a great question.  The interesting thing about text messaging, given it’s the most trusted communication channel on the planet today is that it was never designed to be a global communication channel for companies to connect to their consumers and for people to text other people.  It was initially kind of an engineering tool.  Now, so, with that in mind, it’s incredibly successful and it’s phenomenal in terms of its global domination.  But, what if text messaging was redesigned with the consumer experience right at the center and I’m really excited to say this is exactly what’s happening now.

So, at OpenMarket one of the things that we really believe in is the future involving smart text messages and this leading to a new age of customer empathy.  So, I’m talking about a technology that you’re very aware of as a mobile expert which is rich communication services, or RCS, and these are really smart texts for the smartphone age and they deliver the most impactful, intuitive and empathetic interactions you can imagine.

So, at OpenMarket, we’re pioneering smart text messages with some of the world’s biggest brands to enable richer and more conversational messages to increase customer engagement and provide added value at the moments that count.  And, the simplicity of RCS, it works on – it’s a carrier kind of format, if you like, it’s something that the carriers and the handset manufacturers just have to switch on, it’s a carrier protocol so it’s not something that will be like the next WhatsApp or the next push notifications which is this kind of hose of advertising and notifications – it’s as tightly managed and regulated, if not more so, as SMS, so it is kept to be this premium channel and it’s really an advanced form of text messaging and it’s totally going to disrupt how businesses communicate with their customers.

It’s a bit like having an app-like experience but from the most used, from within the most used feature of your smartphone which is the text messaging application.  So, what this means for brands is that if you want to give somebody a kind of rich media experience, say, if they’re booking a flight or a hotel, if they’re doing some mobile shopping, they have images, they have videos, they have a button navigation, they have kind of carousels of options they can flick through for different purchases or choosing a sea or a sports venue etc, and for brands to offer this to a consumer, they won’t need to ask them to download an app, they won’t need to ask them to do anything – it will just work within their native text messaging app.

So, this is really upgraded SMS, it’s been called SMS 2.0 or upgraded SMS, and we really think this is smart text messages for the new age of customer empathy, so we’re really honored to be working with some of the main brands in the field, just Google and Vodafone, to demonstrate these empathetic interactions through the capabilities of this new smart text messaging.

So, this is very much almost like a dedicated possibly even for your premium customers type of channel where it’s like this is where you’re going to get the full experience, this is beyond text, this is with images, this is with richness – is that the way it’s being used?  Is that the way marketers should see this?

Well, I mean, I guess how marketers should look at this is it’s a channel by which you can give the best possible experience on a mobile device because, I mean, apps are great – I’ve way too many apps on my phone but, you know, those are for specific use cases like, you know, a banking app or a photography app.  In terms of the interactions that I as a consumer, and most of us as consumers, want to have with brands, it’s not all that complex – we want to be able to buy stuff, have information, see images, videos, make selections, intuitively navigate and have some kind of conversational commerce options, maybe underpinned by artificial intelligence through the smart device and you can now do all of this in the text messaging app.

It’s super-upgraded SMS, it’s an app but in your SMS channel, it’s something you kind of have to see.  Now, we do have some videos on and we actually have an RCS early adopter programme as well so if you want to find out more, head over to our website and there’s plenty to check out there.  It’s super exciting and we’re at Mobile World Congress this year in partnership with Google and Vodafone to demonstrate some of this amazing capability.

Well, I have to check that out because I want to see that user experience and you got ahead of me there a little bit – I wanted to ask you how to stay in touch with you but you’ve got all those resources and of course we’ll be sharing some of them as well on our website but, you know, Oisin – how about yourself, you are eclectic – if you’re not out there spreading the word about interaction, you are sharing some amazing mixtapes, so on that note, how do they keep in touch with you?

Oh sure, well, I’m on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, all the social media.  I have my own personal website at so if you want to join my email list, I will send you a mixtape and some cool news about tech every month, come and join me there.  And I do a lot of speaking at conferences for OpenMarket which is a real privilege, so if you are attending any of these mobile tech events, you can see a list of them on my website and please come and say Hi.

Absolutely, and it’s been inspiring and very interesting to have you here – time just flew by so I definitely want to have you back again, Oisin.  And, listeners, if you want to keep up with me throughout the week or find out more about how you can be a guest or sponsor on Mobile Presence, then you can email me,, that is Mobile Groove where you can also find my own personal portfolio of content marketing and app marketing services. 

And that, my friends, is a wrap, of another episode of Mobile Presence.  Until next time you can check out this and all other earlier episodes of our show by going to or you can find our shows on iTunes, Stitcher, Spreaker and iheartRadio simply by searching Mobile Presence.  So until next time, remember, every minute is mobile, or maybe I’ll just say mobile messaging, for you, Oisin, so make every minute count.

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