With more than 6 billion texts sent every day, worldwide, you’d assume we have this texting thing down pat. But a text to your spouse asking, “What do U want 4 dinner?” is different from a business text. A business text, like any communication from your company, must convey professionalism, reflect your brand and address the customer’s need. In other words, it requires a bit more thought and intentionality.
If your small- or medium-sized business is considering adding Business Texting to your voice line – and you should, since more than 80% of consumers want to text with their favorite brands and businesses – it’s worth refreshing yourself on what those texts should, and should not, include. Here are some Business Texting etiquette guidelines to get you started:
1. Respond quickly
Consumers are used to waiting for a call-back or return email from a business, but when they text with you, they expect a quicker response. That means less than 20 minutes if it’s an immediate concern, or certainly within 24 hours for all other matters.
There will be times of the day when you have to step away from the phone to handle other matters. Or, you may receive texts after you’ve gone home for the day. In that case, make sure your Business Texting service offers text auto-replies, which allow you to send an automated response to the customer letting him or her know you received the message and will respond at the time you designate. Text auto-replies can also be customized to include helpful information like business hours or links to FAQs and pricing on your website.
2. Skip emojis and acronyms
People either love or hate emojis, so it’s best not to take a chance in your business communications. What one emoji means for one person may represent something much different to another. Plus, emojis convey familiarity in a way that’s not typically appropriate for a customer or client. The only gray zone is if you know your clients well or serve a particular population but, in general, emojis don’t belong in business texts.
It’s a similar story with acronyms such as LOL or IMHO. You may use those as a time-saving device in personal texts, but they come across as too casual for a business conversation.
3. Personalize texts
When you text with a friend, you already use personalizing information that reflects the relationship, like “Hi, mom. How’s the new car driving?” or “Hey, neighbor. I just left a package on your front porch.”
You can get that same warm tone with a business text by using an appropriate salutation (“Hello, Ms. Jones” or “Hi, John”). Then let the customer know who is writing (“This is Susan from Harvey’s Auto Repair). Throughout the message, try to keep the tone warm and friendly – as much as you can in a few words (“Hope you got the estimate. Let me know if I can answer any more questions.”) In general, you want your text to sound like a human being is sending it, not a robot.
4. Time it right
As a general rule of thumb, texts should be sent before the end of the business day, or shortly thereafter. Barring any emergencies, avoid sending a customer a text after 8 p.m., when most people are relaxing and may get annoyed by the buzz-buzz of too many texts.
If the customer texts you at that late hour, a response is appropriate, but so is a text auto-reply saying you’ll respond the next business day, as discussed above. One benefit of having a separate Business Texting service is the boundary it sets between work and home life. Every SMB owner knows what a slippery slope that can be when you use your cell phone for both.
5. Know when to take it offline
Texting works for many business conversations, but not all. Never use texting if the message would contain personal information. There are privacy laws around SMS that businesses need to comply with and discussing personal information is best done over the phone.
You should also avoid texting if the issue is complicated or requires explanation or documentation. For instance, you might discuss specifications of a job by text but confirm those specs in a formal estimate or invoice by email. If the customer has multiple questions, it might be much easier to clarify and explain over the phone.
Use your judgment, but the general rule is to keep texts to two to three sentences. If it would take longer to explain something, use another medium like phone or email.
The Value of Business Texting
When you communicate effectively by text, your SMB accesses a new avenue to communicate with customers. A recent consumer survey found that three-quarters would be more likely to frequent small- to medium-size businesses that use text messaging, and two-thirds would switch to shopping local if the business offered text messaging.
Cloudli TalkNText offers a single-subscription, app-based solution that’s perfect for the SMB environment. It includes plans with unlimited calling, text auto-replies, shared numbers and more, for as low as $15 per month per user. You can layer it on an existing landline, or swap it with your existing service to save on those costs.