Text Messaging Best Practices

Don’t launch a SMS campaign before brushing up on these text messaging best practices

Bad texters: we all know them. Maybe we are them. Bad texters write long, rambling messages. They annoy you with too many emojis or too much punctuation. Or, they’re completely toneless, leaving you wondering if they’re mad. They blow up your phone. They take days to respond… or don’t at all.

And guess what? Bad texters aren’t just grandmothers and irresponsible friends from college. Sometimes they’re insurance agencies or banks or healthcare providers.

More enterprise brands are launching a mobile customer engagement strategy, and for good reason. SMS is a cheap channel for communicating quickly with thousands of customers. If done correctly, it can drive impressively high engagement rates.

But those bad texting habits that crop up in our personal lives roll right over to brand-consumer interactions.

So, if you’re an enterprise with an SMS channel, here are three signs of bad texting behavior to watch out for—and three text messaging best practices to use instead.

Bad texting habit #1: Ignoring SMS compliance

This is first in the list because it’s the absolute worst habit you could develop. Why is it the worst? The others might annoy or confuse your customers, but ignoring text message regulations is downright illegal.

The reason you don’t get telemarketing calls in the middle of the night is thanks to FCC text message regulations called the Telephone Consumer Privacy Act. The TCPA controls what kind of content and conversational methods brand can use when communicating with consumers over phone, email and text.

Honoring customer consent is the throughline of TCPA regulations, which you can read in full here. For example:

  • You have to receive explicit, written, subject-bound consent to text customers. If a customer only opts in to receive messages about promotional deals, you don’t have permission to text them about product updates
  • You have to message customers between the hours of 9am and 9pm in their local timezone
  • You have to deliver on marketing offers, i.e. if you promise a deal for opting in, your first message should fulfill that offer.

Best practice #1: Follow text message regulations!

The TCPA is a good snapshot of general SMS regulations, but it’s certainly not the only standard you should know. You may also have to comply with country or state-level rules, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

While not requirements, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association offers a list of best practices worth a review.

If following the law seems like common sense, then good, because brands do get this wrong. In 2013 Papa Johns agreed to pay a $16.5M class action lawsuit after sending 500,000 unsolicited texts advertising pizza deals—violating SMS opt in regulations. Customers reported getting spammed with 15 to 16 texts in a row, even in the middle of the night, despite not opting in to receive promotions. Yikes.

Bad texting habit #2: Sounding like a robot

If you send customers a message that says, “Your appointment is on Feb 5th at 3:00,” they might have some questions. Among them: “Wait, what appointment?” and “Who dis?”

Customers will hesitate to interact with your messages if you don’t provide any context. Worse case scenario, they might think the message was sent in error and simply ignore it.

Best practice #2: Be clear, but be friendly

You absolutely should keep your messages short and sweet, but remember that they need to very clearly explain the offer, update or reminder.

The content of your message should introduce yourself and address the customer by name. That helps customers identify that the message comes from a legitimate source and is intended for the right person.

See example below:

“[HappyInsurance] Hello Bob, we’d like to remind you of your upcoming appointment with Agent Joe on Feb 5th at 3:00 PM”

However, you can use direct language and still keep a friendly tone. Like this:

“Hello from YourInsurance! Alice, we’d like to remind you of your upcoming appointment with Agent Joe on Feb 5th at 3:00 PM”

Bad texting habit #3: Leaving customers guessing <p>

Are customers leaving you on read when you’re expecting a response? Maybe that’s because you’re sending messages like:

“Hi, We need more information for your application.”

Without a specific action requested, customers won’t understand what you’re asking them to do or how to do it.

Best practice #3: Give them a call to action

When you need customer to complete a task, your message to them should contain:

  • The reason they’re being contacted
  • What they need to do
  • How they should do it

Compare the message above to this second message:

“Hi Jane, please upload your driver’s license using the following link to complete your insurance application.”

Ushur’s customer engagement mobile app helps bad texters get better

Did you see your brand in any of those bad texting habits? We’ve got four more signs you’re a bad texter (plus four more text messaging best practices) coming up in part two. Tune in to 4 More SMS Bad Habits + 4 Mobile Customer Engagement Tips to learn what customers find creepy, how to combat ghosting and the dangers of triple-texting.

For a customer engagement mobile app that provides everything you need to be a good texter, try Ushur’s Invisible App. The Invisible App automates inbound and outbound customer communications, combining advanced natural language technology, sophisticated process automation and a UX designed for large brands.

Sample Ushur features every good texters should use include:

  • Customizable opt-in/opt-out messages
  • Foolproof opt-in/opt-out preference management
  • CTA engagement that supports rich media (image, voice, video, document uploading and consumption)

See you in part two!