In Part 1 of this three-part series, we described a Smart Customer Automation strategy for local businesses as a way to meet increasingly demanding customer engagement and service expectations, while reducing the time and cost in doing so. In Part 2 we outlined the use of Facebook Messenger Bots and related tools as one of the platforms to implement that strategy. In this article, we’re going to provide an overview of the business texting platform and related tools as a second powerful local business automation platform.
Note: I use the generic term “customer” to include more specific terms like “patient”, “client”, and nonprofit “supporter”.
If a business text app was talking with a messenger bot app, it might say “anything you can do, I can do better!” – well, that’s true in many cases and not true in others. Many businesses use both platforms to give their customers choices in the way that they want to interact with the business.
Everyone uses text messaging, and as you’ll soon see, business text systems offer more than just SMS capability – it’s a platform that can integrate or complement other apps that make sales, operations, marketing, and customer service more efficient for the business and better for the customer. Tools like these can be integrated into a business text automation strategy:
As in the case with Facebook Messenger Bots, and website bots, most local businesses can gain significant benefit from just one or two of the tools in the chart above. Larger organizations can justify adding more automation features.
In local business marketing, it’s important to meet your customers where they are, and for today’s consumers, that’s on their mobile devices.
Why Business Text Systems Can Power A Customer Automation Strategy
A 2019 study by Avochato revealed some compelling data regarding business texting:
- 75 percent of respondents said they find it helpful to receive texts for appointment reminders
- 72 percent of respondents are more likely to purchase from a shopping site communicating with them about their products in real-time, with a real employee, via chat messaging
- 60% of survey respondents said they would rather schedule their hair care appointments via text
- 65% would rather use a financial service that communicated about accounts, bill, and payment reminders
- 72% of respondents would rather book their travel with a company that communicated travel plans, reminders, and updates via text message and 69% would switch from a travel company to one that offers these services
- 70 percent of respondents would prefer that a vacation rental manager texted them with updates and instructions instead of calling
- (75 percent) prefer a rideshare service texting rather than calling when they arrived to pick them up
- The survey showed that across all age groups, 69 percent) of respondents would prefer an unfamiliar company to contact them via text rather than a phone call
Consumers expect personal communication from the companies they are doing business with, yet with the high incidence of scam calls, three-fourths of respondents don’t answer phone calls from anonymous numbers. At the same time, people are tired of bloated email inboxes. It’s never been harder for businesses to reach their customers.
If your business doesn’t create a business texting automation strategy, it will miss an opportunity to attract the growing number of people who would rather text or receive a text from a business.
Know And Follow The Rules of Engagement
A business texting automation strategy can be used for both marketing and non-marketing functions.
Just as Facebook messenger bots need to follow strict requirements for sending marketing messages to protect their user’s privacy, marketing text messages must meet strict privacy requirements as well. Fines for violating the U.S. Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA ) rules, enforced by the FCC can be hefty.
Non-marketing text messages such as appointment reminders, payment updates, and account information are excluded from these restrictions.
Fortunately, most business texting platforms are set up to include safeguards and opt-in systems to prevent businesses from getting into trouble. Nonetheless, using this platform for marketing demands that the business has a basic understanding of customer privacy rights.
Here are general TCPA guidelines to be aware of:
- Non-marketing customer service messages with no ads, transactional messages, and messages sent to a consumer with whom the texting company has an established business relationship are excluded from marketing message requirements.
- Marketing messages require written permission – via email, website form, voice recording, text message, or telephone keypress. Your business texting system can archive this information.
- In every message, provide opt-out information such as – “Reply STOP to opt-out”. It’s a good idea to mention “Msg rates may apply” to let the customer about possible reply back costs.
In simple terms, if you use business texting for marketing purposes, be sure you have permission from the customer to send marketing messages, and that they understand what messages to expect from you. Always use a text messaging platform that tracks and manages any customer permission and “stop” messages.
An example of express permission is when a customer opts in to a VIP program that provides coupons or discounts delivered via text. In this case, the business can text as many promotional messages as they want as long as the customer doesn’t opt-out.
Business Text Message Automation Platform Benefits
Now that the scary stuff is out of the way, let’s get on with the magical business text message platform and why both businesses and customers want this mode of communication.
Benefits For The Customer:
- For a growing number of people, text messaging is the preferred communication mode. Over 2/3 of smartphone users say that checking, sending, and answering text messages are the activities that they’re most engaged with on their phones throughout the day.
- People like the convenience of short, quick, personalized two-way text messaging, and they don’t have to be logged into Facebook or WhatsApp – their mobile phones are always close by.
- Text messages can be customized and feel very personal.
- Customers and prospects frequently try to contact a business landline via text. They receive a response only if the landline is text-enabled.
Benefits For The Business:
- Business text messaging enables conversations that create more engagement and sales by providing the customer or prospect with a better, faster, more convenient, more personalized experience.
- Business text is affordable and offers a high ROI.
- Business text messaging is fast and reliable. A “Text Us” website widget Converts website traffic into more engagement and sales.
- Resolves customer issues and increases productivity with lower call volumes and faster daily operations.
- People always have their mobile phones with them and text messages have an unmatched open rate.
- Two-way texting means the business will be in the customer’s mobile contact list.
- When customers or prospects engage with your text, you can keep the conversation going with messages of value – they’ve opted in.
- Share information critical to customers and followers. For example, emergency protocols, special opening/closing hours, pandemic policies, payment reminders, etc. More than 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of being received, so your audience will almost always see your messages.
Business Text Software and Phone Numbers
Business text automation platforms are built using computer communications software that connects the internet and the global telecommunications network. Twilio and Txtria are examples of these platforms.
Software developers have integrated customer engagement features into the text management system, producing an easy-to-use application that doesn’t require coding. It’s managed by the business from a dashboard on their PC, laptop, or mobile device.
A business text automation system will require a phone number that integrates with the software in order to run the text messaging platform.
Many local businesses launching their automation strategy are reluctant to get a brand new phone number for texting because of the existing phone number legacy. In this case, the software can text enable the existing landline, and the business gets to keep its existing phone number and voice carrier.
The Power Of The Text Chat Dashboard
When the business signs up for its text automation platform, it gets access to the automation management software and a management dashboard. The dashboard manages and tracks all communications, integrated apps, and support, in one easy-to-use interface. It’s customizable with logo and colors, and accessible by authorized employees from their PC, laptops, or smartphones using individual logins.
There might be a temptation for smaller companies to use personal smartphone accounts for business texting – don’t! Personal phone accounts have limited business text functionality. They can’t track, organize, or share each customer’s chat history, and they can’t reliably handle the customer “stop” instruction.
A business text manager can use their personal smartphone to access the business text dashboard on their smartphones. That way, every text message, customer management feature, and integrated app can be used, tracked, and stored in history – and available for other authorized company users.
Integrated into the dashboard are optional sales, customer service, and marketing functions. Some of the most widely used are:
- Text chat features
- After hours autoresponder
- Double opt-in management
- MMS (send images via text)
- Text to “keyword” creation
- Preset replies to common questions
- Setup of specific departments – e.g. service, sales, billing, etc.
- Transfer of customer text management to other team members
- New chat notifications
- Appointment scheduler & reminders
- Payment reminders
- Broadcast information or marketing messages to opted-in customers
- Customer tagging for marketing identification
- Facebook messenger send/receive integration
- Web page “Call or Text Us” widgets and buttons
- Automated building and segmenting a marketing list, using keywords texted to their landline
- Email integration
- Contests, events, sales, and campaigns
- Prevent leads from going cold by integrating texting into your CRM
- Text enabled landlines
- Chat history
Again, these functions can be as many or as few as the business needs them to be.
In this article, we’ve given you an overview of a text automation system. Although it doesn’t come with the social media capability of Facebook Messenger Bots, business texting has as much – if not more – customer engagement capability.
It’s fast, reliable, flexible, and affordable customer engagement that customers of all ages prefer and use without having to log in or put another app on their phone. There’s no learning curve for customers to use it, and there’s a wealth of business-building features that can be implemented to match the needs and budget of each business.
Next Level Local Business is a reputation, marketing and advertising agency dedicated to helping local businesses create an effective online presence. Learn more at nextlevellocalbusiness.com. Our automation systems provide local businesses with text automation options. Call or text us at 941.867.4520.