Consumers overwhelmingly agree: Business text messaging is a more convenient and less disruptive way to communicate, a recent study shows.
Today, consumers expect to be able to text your business. But before venturing into uncharted business SMS territory, you need to know some basic etiquette. Texting faux pas can end up costing you customers just as quickly as it helps you serve them.
This article helps you stay on track with 11 business texting etiquette rules to keep customers happy while you reap the rewards of this highly effective communication channel.
Why Your Business Texting Etiquette Matters
Texting is growing more mainstream among small businesses — and for good reason.
Text messages reach your audience faster than any channel (90% of messages are read within 3 seconds). SMS messages also get read more often, with open rates averaging 98%.
Your customers actually want to text you, too. In fact, 78% of people wish they could text with a business. That’s because texting is faster, more convenient, and less frustrating than calling a business, and consumers' text apps are less crowded than their email inboxes.
While SMS is ripe with opportunity, the channel also bears some inherent risks. For one, you can quickly rack up fines by failing to comply with SMS laws such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
Texting potential customers is also a delicate balance. One ill-timed or poorly received text message from your business can turn off them off — for good. And unlike texting a friend or family member, your audience won’t be as forgiving.
For these reasons and more, using proper business text etiquette is absolutely paramount. And by following some simple SMS rules, you can avoid customer backlash and steep fines and instead, forge meaningful relationships while deepening your pockets.
11 Essential Business Text Messaging Etiquette Rules
Before implementing an SMS strategy for your small business, keep these important business texting etiquette rules in mind:
#1. Get Consent Before You Text
You might have a list of phone numbers that customers have given you. But according to TCPA regulation, you must get consent before texting someone. If you text people without this consent, you could be susceptible to a lawsuit and TCPA damages cost up to $500 per text.
Before you’re tempted to blast an old list with unsolicited text messages, remember that texting without consent can entangle you in an expensive legal battle.
Numa is a unique solution to this dilemma. The automated text platform only messages customers when they’ve requested information via SMS or opted in to receive a text when calling, safeguarding you from TCPA violations. And even better, the AI engine saves your reception staff time by answering the most common questions for you.
#2. Ask People’s Communication Preferences — And Respect Them
Respecting your customers' communication preference is business text messaging etiquette 101.
Instead of guessing the best way to contact your audience, ask them. Offer text as a communication option for common scenarios, such as appointment reminders, promotions, order updates and more.
Most importantly, adhere to their wishes. TCPA requires separate opt-ins for different types of text messages. For example, if people request order updates via SMS, you don’t have permission to text them promotion information and may be held liable.
#3. Only Send Uninitiated Texts During Business Hours
Respecting your audience’s boundaries also means paying attention to timing.
Be sure to text at appropriate times (like during business hours) when sending unsolicited or promotional messages.
#4. Immediately Respond to Your Audience
When someone texts your business — regardless of the time of day — you should be able to respond.
For example, say someone texts for directions to your restaurant at 7 p.m. on a Saturday. Responding Sunday morning won’t do that person any good.
Make sure your text platform has the ability to automatically respond to incoming business text messages. (Generic responses just aren’t helpful when people have a pressing question.)
#5. Rein in the Marketing
Asking your business a question or requesting more information by text is not an open invite nor an opt-in to receive marketing.
The quickest way to get an opt-out (and a poor public review) is to overload your audience with text promotions.
Professional business text messaging means answering the incoming texts with valuable, accurate information, not selling hard on your next greatest deal.
#6. Keep Your Message Short and Sweet
Text messages are meant to be short. But what’s the right length for a business text message?
Your text should only be long enough to communicate your intended message. While there’s not an ideal character count for a business text message, the rule of thumb is to keep it as brief as possible and fewer than 160 characters.
To cut down on characters, only include pertinent information, and remove all words that don’t serve a distinct purpose.
#7. Focus on Providing — Not Extracting — Value
As an extension of the tip above, use SMS as another channel to convey valuable information and extend the efforts of your employees.
Respect your customers’ time and attention with clear routes to important information. Add value by making it easy to order a favorite meal or schedule an appointment when your phone lines are too busy or your business is closed for a holiday.
The bottom line: Your business SMS communication should be something that adds value, not frustration.
#8. Offer a Self-Service Experience
Just because people can text your business doesn’t mean the experience is automatically stellar.
Winning with business text messaging means giving your audience the information they need as quickly as possible, and self-service helps you accomplish that.
Your business texting app or platform should offer a self-service approach. Meaning, people can access the right information or complete a task through the text conversation. For example, when someone texts your business to schedule an appointment, they should receive a link to your calendar to pencil in their date.
Remember: The better the customer experience, the more engaged and loyal audience you’ll create.
#9. Give Your Audience the Option to Respond
Business text messaging etiquette requires opening a real avenue of communication. This means enabling two-way texting for your customers.
If you text your audience, they’ll assume they can text back — and feel frustrated when that’s not the case.
Make a meaningful connection with your most valuable customers by allowing them to respond to your messages. Not only do you serve those customers better by answering their questions in depth, but you also gain so much value by learning exactly what those customers need so you can better train your AI and streamline business offerings to boost your bottom line.
#10. Test and Improve Your Text Automation
Text automation can save your staff hours per day while addressing more customer requests. But nothing causes a customer to give up on your business quicker than a negative experience with a text bot.
Business text messaging etiquette requires careful attention to what message will be served in response to which inquiries. It’s incredibly frustrating when someone has a real question or problem, tries to connect with your company to solve it and ends up getting a completely out-of-context or unhelpful response.
Customize your messages so that they actually answer customer inquiries or provide extensions of your live services — and test them.
Using SMS platforms like Numa gives you total control over which questions the AI engine answers to avoid potential communication breakdowns.
#11. Don’t Rely on AI for What a Human Should Do
Lastly, don’t rely on business text messaging when a human should do the job. For example, the minute your system recognizes the word “problem” or “cancel,” immediate steps should be taken to have a human contact the customer.
If a question is too complicated, or a preset answer is not available, your business text messaging system should be able to easily send the prospect or customer to the right channel for a better answer.
Proper SMS etiquette means knowing when to take the conversation into a person-to-person context.
With Numa, you can easily route messages to the correct person or department.
Business text messaging should save you and your customers time — not create problems. Following these critical SMS etiquette rules can help make texting a convenient and profitable communication channel for your business.