As many as 97% of Americans own a cell phone, with U.S. cell phone adoption nearly doubling over the last 17 years. Over 2020 and 2021, smartphone usage specifically has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with most people relying on texting to stay in touch. Businesses have taken notice. More and more companies have adopted business SMS to reach their customers.
But it’s incredibly important that businesses stay compliant with their use of business SMS. Customers expect that you respect boundaries and follow best etiquette… and the law requires it. We’re here to help you stay in line with standards, help you follow best practices, and ultimately, help you retain more customers.
If you reach out to customers via phone, you have to be compliant through the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Ultimately, this law covers what types of interactions need written consent from your customers. But still, it can be pretty daunting to figure out what is or isn’t appropriate when using texting for your business.
To help you wade through the specifics of the law, we’ve put together some helpful guidelines and advice so you can stay compliant with your business SMS and grow a healthy relationship with your customers.
The Basics: Some Do’s and Don’ts of Business SMS Etiquette
How do you want your company to be perceived by your customers? Follow texting etiquette to protect the customer relationship and maintain customer satisfaction. Stay conscious of how your texting is being received by your customers. For instance, sending a text to customers every day would likely leave them with a bad taste for your brand. Respect basic standards to avoid driving away your customers.
Before you even start texting, you have to get permission from your customers. According to the TCPA, customers must give businesses “express written consent” before that business sends them a business SMS message. Even the first one!
Make sure customers opt into texts from you before sending anything. Use a basic keyword response or a web form to receive permission from customers. Consider getting a double opt-in by giving customers one more chance to confirm they want texts from you within your initial text to them.
For instance, in your initial text to your customer, send them a reminder like this: “You’ve opted into SMS services. Please reply with YES to confirm. Text STOP to unsubscribe.” This lets customers know exactly what they’re signing up for. Opt-in doesn’t need to be complicated, but it is essential.
Once you have permission to text, give them a heads up of who they’re interacting with. Not only is it just courteous, but it’ll help you keep spam away from your name. Your customers may see a text come from an unknown number and feel very wary of responding to it. Introduce your business in texts to customers to ensure a better customer experience. Some state laws even require it.
When you send an initial text, include your business or program name. Maybe even have the exact employee who’s interacting with a customer include their name for a personal touch. In addition to stating your name, it’s also a business SMS compliance guideline to include your contact information. If your customer has a question about a promo text or a sale, always make sure they know they can call you to verify the text.
We get enough dishonest design and marketing in the world. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked on an email, only to then have to sign up for a newsletter or fork over my credit card info just to get the promo. How often do you get spammy sales calls to your phone? If you’re like me, it’s almost daily. We’re all a bit wary of being duped by companies trying to sell us things over the phone. You don’t want your company to be seen as one of these dishonest brands.
Your customers want to know that they can trust you to be honest with them. To stay compliant and trustworthy, be honest and clear with your customers over business SMS texts. Be especially careful to avoid certain sales and promotional information sent over text.
For example, don’t hide a sales pitch within a text giving an appointment reminder. And, don’t share inaccurate information over text to get a customer to call you back. Stay honest and your customers will rely on you.
Respect Boundaries: How to Not Annoy Your Customers
Staying compliant with business SMS requires you to respect your customers’ personal boundaries. No one is going to like getting a telemarketing phone call at 10 p.m. And, no one wants a business to text them more than their best friend or their mom does. That’s for sure not going to make a sale. Staying compliant includes avoiding annoying customers. Find the balance with your customers to keep them interested in your brand.
The Texting Window
It may seem common sense, but your customers don’t want a text from you in the middle of the night about an upcoming appointment or an issue with their order. According to the TCPA, companies can only text customers between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. This is what we call the “texting window.”
Regardless of where your company is located, you can’t text customers outside of this window. In some states, there may be even more limitations as to when you can and can’t text customers, so verify the specifics to make sure your business’s SMS stays compliant.
Don’t be clingy with your customers. Always respect the customer’s desire to opt out of texts with you. In order to stay compliant, you have to give customers the option to stop hearing from you. And then, you need to leave them alone. With every text sent, give customers the chance to text a keyword at any point to take them off your lists for future text blasts. Perhaps let customers text a variety of different keywords — like STOP, CANCEL, OPT OUT — to make opt-out as simple as possible.
After that point, those customers who have opted out shouldn’t receive any texts from you unless they give consent again. So, it’s really important that you keep records of everyone who has opted out. Some business SMS platforms, like Textel, manage the opt-out list for you and won’t even let you send a text to a customer on that list, even if you accidentally try.
Business SMS compliance doesn’t need to be tricky. Respect your customer, keep it simple, and seek a healthy customer experience for success.