Texting prospects is a point of controversy for many business owners. Some entrepreneurs argue that you “should not text your customers unless you’ve met their family,” while others go to the opposite extreme and only allow customers to make purchases via SMS.
Luckily for you, there is a middle ground. In this article, we’ll discuss some ways that you can get started texting existing customers. We’ll also encourage you to consider two-way texting as a modern and personalized customer service strategy.
Clients Want You to Text Them
Texting is not a new technology – the first text message was sent in 1992. But for some reason, businesses are slow to add texting to their marketing arsenal.
Companies that have implemented business texting boast of great success. One retail company, Tee Public, found a 25% conversion rate from their SMS marketing, versus only 9% conversion for email marketing. A Global 500 company started sending feedback surveys via text and had 96% of recipients respond within 24 hours.
Take a cue from these businesses and don’t be unwilling to change. Meet customers on the platforms they are already using and you are likely to get better response.
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Texting is Easy and Instantaneous
Everyone knows how to text, even your grandma (though, she does still sign her name at the end). Because of this, there is no learning curve for your customers. While using a chat box may still intimidate some clients, texting is very non-threatening.
Clients can receive and send texts with little frustration and the messaging is instantaneous. In fact, 95% of people who have opted-in for texts from a business will read those messages within three minutes of receiving it. If you can make your texts valuable and relevant to your customers, they will be considered a benefit not a nuisance. Tee Public found that even after a year of sending texts to clients, 80% still opted-in to receive them because they added real value to their brand.
Texting also gives you the benefit of urgency. About 60% of users turn off push notifications for social apps, while 82% of customers keep notifications on for Native SMS. If you have a limited-time promotion, SMS is a great way to reach your customers and convey the sense of urgency that closes sales.
If you are looking to start texting your clients, here are some ideas of types of messages to send:
- Order confirmations
- Appointment reminders
- Product announcements
- One-day sales
- Welcome texts
- Delivery notifications
- Exclusive events
- Feedback surveys
- Incentive contests
- Coupon redemption
A Two-way Conversation
Many businesses are already texting clients with appointment reminders, security codes and special offers. If you want to take it to the next level and really engage with customers where they are, you should start offering two-way texting.
A recent report by Twilio on consumer messaging, found that 9 out of 10 people would like to use messaging to communicate with business. However, less than half of today’s businesses – only 48% – are equipped to message with customers.
As a business, you are working hard to create a great product and show your prospect that it has value. When you ignore customer preference, you are letting your product down.
Messaging apps already include the two-way function and many younger audiences use messengers more than texting. However, while messaging apps are popular for personal communication, texting is still the preferred method for business. 47% of people say that they prefer using the Native SMS app for contacting businesses (the next highest app preference is Facebook Messenger at only 21%).
In our business (accounting software), we’ve used texting and other more modern forms of communication to get out of the Quickbooks vs. Xero debate and create a new category of user-friendly accounting software. If you communicate via text rather than just email and phone, you’re more likely to be seen as different, more modern, and more customer-focused than more traditional competitors.
Inviting the two-way discussion via text will help you serve your clients better. In fact, people are likely already trying to contact you via text for customer service concerns, so implementing two-way texting will help you find inquiries you’re currently missing.
Better Serve your Customer
As explained, messaging was not built to be a one-way communication channel. 85% of consumers not only want to be able to receive information but also reply to businesses or engage in a conversation. This can be a great customer service tool if you take the time to implement it.
Recently, Hawaiian Airlines tested a program inviting their customers to ask questions and give feedback via two-way text. While they were concerned some communications would need to be transferred to a more secure channel (payment data, loyalty, etc.), they found that about 70% of the 200 daily texts received were simple question-and-answer. Most clients were curious about traveling with infants, seat changes, luggage, etc. Hawaiian Airlines has since adopted their texting trial as a permanent program.
Two-way texting increases the efficiency and scope of your customer service. While you can only be on the phone with one customer at a time, you can easily – and quickly – respond to multiple texts simultaneously.
Shifting customer service encounters away from the telephone call also keeps your customers happier. When they have a two-second question, they can get a two-second answer, rather than waiting on hold for twenty minutes only to get redirected to another department. This reduces the client frustration of rehashing concerns to each new support person and saves your company money and time wasted on phone calls.
What Not to Do
Texting customers is a great way to promote your business and service customers, however, there are some things you’ll want to avoid.
- Don’t Text Without Permission: If you don’t have written permission, you can’t send automated texts (think TCPA). Subscribers must opt-in (texting a keyword to your shortcode counts) and you must include disclaimers (i.e. “msg & data rates may apply”).
- Don’t Cold Call: “A text is more personal than an email, so if you’re contacting the user and they’ve never heard of you… you’ll likely be considered spam.”
- Don’t Text at Inappropriate Times: Stick to business hours.
- Don’t Text Too Long: Get to the point, keep it around 160 characters.
- Don’t Text Too Often: The common consensus is around 2-4 texts per month.
- Don’t Use Shorthand: It can confuse and isolate digital non-natives. Use as a last-resort.
- Don’t Be Pushy: Don’t try to close a deal via text. Phone calls are still a better option for sales.
- Don’t Be Stuffy: Less formal is okay when texting – be conversational, not buttoned-up.
- Don’t Cross the Line: Offer necessary information and be wary of becoming too personal.
- Don’t Trap Your Customers: Make it easy for customers to opt-out. Knowing that they can opt-out at any time, makes them more comfortable opting-in from the start.
Since almost every adult in the US has a cell phone (and even basic cell phones are equipped with SMS), texting customers is a no-brainer.
Start with automated texts that offer value to your customers and then graduate to customer service texting. At least 50% of consumers say that companies do not make it easy to contact them. Don’t be one of these companies – get used to texting your customers.
Jaren Nichols is Chief Operating Officer at ZipBooks, free accounting software for small businesses. Jaren was previously a Product Manager at Google and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.
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