Cue the applause because you’ve wisely made the decision to purchase business-texting software for your business. Choosing to text your customers may have been easy to do, but here comes the tricky part: researching providers.
While cost will likely be a frontrunner in your decision making, there are other not-so-obvious factors you should absolutely take the time to understand.
Below, we offer 10 questions you should either ask yourself or direct to SMS software providers. These questions will help you understand whether you should purchase a one-way or two-way texting service, what texting features you’ll need, compliance practices to consider and much more.
1. Would you prefer to offer conversational texting to your audience?
There are two main categories of business texting: one way and two way. One-way texting is most commonly used with short codes, allowing businesses to send messages to their recipients, but the recipient can’t text back. Short codes are a five or six-digit number that businesses must lease from the CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association) and are mainly used for alerts, two-factor authentication and keyword use.
If you’d like your customers and leads to engage in a back-and-forth texting conversation with you, two-way texting is the way to go. Based on most companies’ needs, we encourage businesses to consider two-way texting because it’s a preferred customer experience and something that customers expect: Zipwhip’s State of Texting report found that people expect two-way texting as an option: three out of four consumers find it frustrating when they can’t reply to a text from a business.
Many two-way texting services come with features commonly used with short codes, such as keywords and alerts. However, you’ll get more bang for your buck with a two-way texting service because you’ll have access to additional features that will help you grow your business.
Download our free e-book The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers to learn more about the benefits of two-way texting.
2. Can you use your existing business phone number to text?
This question addresses two concerns: customer convenience and branding.
Customer convenience. Nearly 60% of consumers have tried to reply to a missed call with a text message. Your customers are likely already texting your business regardless if you’re able to receive text messages or not. Our own customers, for example, are always surprised at the backlog of texts that appear when we first enable their phone number.
It’s so much easier for a customer to reach out to a business by texting their existing business phone number because it creates less confusion with no additional phone number to look up. Simply add “Text or Call” next to your business phone number on marketing materials once you’re up and running with texting software.
Branding. Your existing business phone number is a part of your brand, and it’s a number your customers know. Instead of purchasing a separate phone number for texting, maintain brand equity by enabling your existing, recognizable phone number.
3. What kind of texting automation features are available?
Texting will undoubtedly improve the way you communicate with customers, but a huge benefit to business-texting software is having access to automation tools that will save your teams time on tasks they perform every day.
Look for business- texting software with features, such as schedule messaging, keywords, auto-replies and templates, that will help your team become more efficient in their day-to-day communications.
4. What are the texting provider's safety protocols?
Ask about safety and deliverability standards. You’ll want peace of mind knowing your messages are actually being delivered to your audience and that messages are being sent over a secure network.
Consider asking about encryption technology to ensure that the content of your text messages (which may contain private customer information like full names and home and email addresses) stays between you and the recipient; spam-blocking technology that protects customers from receiving spam, scams or fraudulent messages; and delivery indicators that confirm the day and time that our messages are being delivered to the recipient.
5. Does their software integrate with your existing CRM?
If you’re concerned that you already have too many tools to manage, look for texting-for-business options that can integrate with software you currently use. Many texting providers can be merged with popular customer relationship management (CRM) systems, such as Salesforce, MINDBODY, Zapier, SalesLoft and Clio. Doing so will help you cut down on adoption time and create a truly efficient workflow for your teams.
An added benefit to integrating texting software features into your existing CRM is that you’ll have one less thing to keep your eye on. Your customer communications will stay centralized and good texting software should have notifications to keep you in the loop for every new text message, so you don’t have to worry about manually checking in throughout the day.
6. Do they offer mobile applications or browser extensions?
The software you choose should be accessible from almost anywhere throughout your workflow. A desktop app is a must, but look for a web app, mobile app and browser extension, too.
A web app and browser extension will let you log in to your account from anywhere and never miss a notification. A mobile app is much needed if your team works on the go and wants to keep their business contacts and personal contacts separate on their phone.
7. Is the texting software compliant with TCPA texting regulations?
If you’re going to text your customers, you should get familiar with the TCPA, or the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Congress enacted the TCPA in 1991 to protect consumers from robocalls and has since evolved to include texting best practices.
Look for texting software with tools that help you comply with texting regulations, like supporting the STOP command keyword at the network level. The TCPA is very clear that businesses must respect a consumer’s request to opt out of text messages at any time. Texting software that supports the STOP command will block employees from accidentally reaching out to those customers again unless the customer opts back in. When compared to manually managing opt-out requests, having software that automatically handles it for you will greatly reduce liability.
8. Do they have educational material to help get you started?
There’s a lot to learn when you’re just getting started with texting for business: Is there etiquette to follow? How long should texts be? How do texting, phone calls and email work together?
The good news is that it’s all fairly easy to pick up and begin implementing; you just need a centralized space to find everything you need so you can always reference when the time comes.
Look for an active blog, webinars, podcasts or any other content that educates users on how to use the software and best practices to carry out with every message. If a software provider doesn’t have thoughtful, well-researched supporting material to help your business hit the ground running, you may want to look elsewhere.
9. Is their software able to grow with your business?
Scalability is important when your business is growing. Look for software that lets you send high-volume, programmatic texts with help from an API (Application Programming Interface), and inquire about SMS throttling practices, which affect when your customers may receive your messages. Throttling can be troubling when you’re sending time-sensitive messages such as alerts.
10. What’s the company’s reputation in the industry?
Of course, look at what existing customers say about their experience with the texting software you’re looking into, but also research how the company makes an impact elsewhere.
Do a little digging online and check out what’s being said about them in tech publications, look for major accomplishments and what impact they have on the industry. You’ll want to choose a provider that understands the dynamics of the business texting space and stays on top of its evolving guidelines and best practices.