It’s undeniable: online texting from your business has benefits. Business texting, when a company sends SMS text messages to its customers from a business phone number, adds a channel of communication that actually resonates – and gets responses.
Online texting is more personal than email. It’s faster than a phone call. And it’s more flexible than live chat. It lets your customer service team be both reactive and proactive, empowering agents to build a long lasting relationship with your customers.
Why are businesses moving to online texting with their customers?
- Online texting is a reliable way to reach customers. The open rate of a text sent to a customer is 98% versus only 20% with email.
- Online texting is personal. Most people receive texts only from friends and family. When you text them from your business, you’re building a much more personal relationship with them than you can through email.
- Online texting is flexible. Online texting lets your agents and customers have two-way conversations wherever they are using the phone in their back pocket. They don’t need to wait on hold. No more getting timed out on a live chat.
Now, you can’t just add online texting without understanding how it differs from the other communication methods in etiquette, style, and standards. With a good sense of the benefits of online texting under your belt, let’s consider the best practices of business SMS.
We’ve compiled our 10 do’s and don’ts of effective online business texting below:
1. Do send online texts within business hours.
Your online texting needs to be seen as a professional mode of communication — just like phone, email, or live chat. But let me tell ya. You’ll very quickly annoy customers and appear unprofessional if you send texts outside of the texting window — between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. But honestly, customers don’t really want to hear from you after 5 p.m. or over the weekend, unless they reach out to you first. They don’t want to receive a text from you as they’re sitting down to dinner or winding down for bed.
Plus, sending texts to your customers outside of the typical 9 to 5 working hours can be seen as unprofessional and even rude. Don’t damage your credibility or your customer satisfaction by texting during weird hours. Stick to the online texting window when texting your customer base.
2. Don’t send long, ambiguous messages.
Ever get a long text message from a friend and feel a bit overwhelmed? Long texts are a bit of a turnoff, especially when they’re coming from a company. If the conversation starts to get too complicated to handle in short texts, it’s time to move to a different communication channel, like email or phone.
With a standard business text topping out around 160 characters, it’s important that you make good use of the space you have allotted. Don’t fill texts to customers with lengthy links or vague messaging. Instead, keep outbound messages short and to the point. Keep your purpose and motive clear.
You might think — “I’ll just limit my character count with some abbreviations and text lingo!” Resist the urge. Using abbreviations like “Jsyk,” “Lol,” or “Nbd” can confuse customers and are seen as a bit too casual to be professional. Use shorthand texting lingo very sparingly and only when it fits within your brand.
3. Do only send texts to those customers who have opted in.
Always always get permission from customers before sending them a text. Getting opt-in from your customers is one of the most important best practices of online texting. Not only is it good etiquette to get consent before sending a text to your customers, it’s also necessary to stay compliant. According to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), businesses are required to get consent from anyone they text.
Get opt-in from customers through a web form or by email before sending any outbound texts. And, when a customer reaches out to you, get a double opt-in in your initial text to guarantee that they want to hear from you.
4. Don’t overdo it by spamming your customers.
This week, I got the same scam call on my cell phone nine times. Nine! It was incredibly annoying. We all associate that level of contact to be spammy. And, even if the caller was from a legitimate number, I would be real quick to block the number. You do not want to drive your customers away by making them sick of hearing from you. Avoid sending too many texts too often. When you’re sending online business texts, less is more.
Choose the texts you want to send to your customers wisely. Unless you’re providing live updates or carrying on a two-way conversation, keep outbound texts to a minimum to keep customers engaged.
5. Do give customers the opportunity to opt out.
As much as it’s important to give customers the opportunity to opt-in to hearing from you, it’s important to give them a clear exit. I myself go through seasons of needing to hear from certain brands via email and text. But when it’s time to cut the cord, I want to know how to stop the messages. Your customers will appreciate the chance to opt out of texts when they want. So, make it obvious that they have the option to opt out of your online texting campaign at any time.
With each new texting interaction, give customers the chance to opt out by sending a short code — like STOP or END. Or, provide clear instructions for opt-out on your website and in any text blasts you send.
6. Don’t send a text without an introduction.
What do you have your call center agents do as soon as they pick up the phone with a customer? Introduce themselves — of course! It is common etiquette to open a conversation with a stranger by sharing your name. We don’t ignore these manners just because we’re texting instead of picking up a phone. Plus, an outgoing online text is going to be pretty pointless if your customer doesn’t know who it’s coming from.
Whether you’re sending a text about a promotional, a schedule reminder, or a sales campaign, always be sure you’re introducing your brand in initial texts sent to a customer.
7. Do deflect calls using online texting in your IVR.
Why do customers choose online texting instead of making a phone call? Oftentimes it’s to avoid those additional 45 minutes of waiting on hold with customer service. Who has time for that?
Give your customers the opportunity to jump out of line and get direct help by deflecting calls stuck in your IVR system to a text thread. Just think of what this does for your call volume, making room for customers with more complex issues to get help over the phone. You’re lowering wait times for everyone. Internally, your agents have more time to handle those complicated phone calls. And, your customers with simpler issues or questions have direct access to an agent or self-service tool through online texting.
8. Don’t leave customers hanging. Respond quickly!
Customers choose online business texting because it’s supposed to be fast. You want to send a message and get a reply within minutes. Yes, it’s more flexible than phone or live chat, but customers expect a quick response. Some research shows that even waiting 20 minutes to text someone back can make you seem unprofessional.
As a business, it’s important to keep your customers’ expectations top of mind. And if they’re expecting a response to come within 15-20 minutes, it’s vital that your team is ready to meet that. What may start out as a minor inconvenience can turn into a major annoyance if the customer doesn’t get a prompt response. Don’t leave customers hanging. Keep response times as quick as possible to maintain a strong customer experience.
9. Do have a dedicated online text team (and train and coach them frequently).
How do you keep response times fast? How can you make sure that customers that move from the call queue to text will be cared for? You have to have employees ready and able to help customers through online texting at all times. The best way to make that happen is to have a dedicated online texting team on each shift.
Online texting is just not the same style of communication as a phone call or even an email. It takes separate training and a separate set of standards to effectively communicate with customers by text. For instance, agents have to be able to capture a friendly personalized tone while also keeping messaging brief and easy to follow. Plus, when online texting with customers, agents can start and maintain multiple conversations at once. They have to be able to juggle different kinds of interactions simultaneously and fast.
Your call center will benefit from having a separate team devoted to texting customers. And, train and coach them independently to keep the same high level of service for the customers you’re texting with as you would for those who phone in.
10. Don’t offer only one-way communication.
Online texting is incredibly valuable for your marketing and sales team, giving you many unique opportunities to engage customers through outgoing texts. But part of what makes online texting special is the ability for customers to interact with your business on a personal level. These days, a personal connection to a brand goes a long way with customers.
McKinsey & Co. argues that consumers today don’t just want personalization, they demand it. In addition to this finding, their recent research found that companies that excel at personalization generate 40% more revenue than the average brand. How can you know what your customers like about your service and product without establishing a relationship with them?
If you leave your online texting as only one-way communication, you’re missing out on chances to offer quality service and to gather useful feedback from your customer base. If your internal operations can effectively support customers via text, enable two-way communication to boost personalization and build a loyal customer following.