Too often when we think of texting, we imagine Millennials and Gen Z customers clutching their phones and typing strings of emojis. Even Google’s results are full gaffs and screenshots of seniors misusing texting acronyms.
And that’s not quite fair. Seniors make up a huge part of the population—over 47 million Americans—and they’re consumers with mobile phones.
It may come as a surprise, but the increased accessibility, security and technology behind business texting has made it one of the most effective ways to reach American seniors.
Texting isn’t just for young people
There’s a misconception that only young people text. While younger generations are likely to stay on the cutting edge of the newest apps and social media trends, texting remains a steady foundation that Gen Z and Baby Boomers use.
Cellphones are practically ubiquitous. The Pew Research Center reported this year that over 90% of Americans aged 50-65+ own cellphones, with the majority of those being smartphones.
And these phones aren’t collecting dust. Our consumer survey on generational texting habits found that Baby Boomers check their phone notifications at comparable rates to Gen X. The majority of each generation, including 64% of Baby Boomers, wish more businesses would use texting to communicate with them.
This bodes well for business looking to add texting to their communication strategy to keep up with customers in the long run. As the overall population ages, the current younger generations will keep high expectations for responsive, real-time service. Baby Boomers’ preference for businesses communicating via text will eventually be the overwhelming preference and eventual norm for connecting with Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z.
Responsiveness is a superpower of texting, one that seniors are leveraging. AARP reported that text messaging overtook email as the tech tool most used by Americans aged 50-69 to stay connected to others.
Is it just grandparents trying to keep up with their kids and grandkids? That is definitely part of it, but there are a few more reasons why texting is an effective way to communicate with seniors.
Texting is accessible and mainstream
If someone has hearing or speech difficulties, phone conversations may not be an option. Specialized devices and technology like Text-to-Voice does exist, but text messaging is already mainstream and popularized, which can offer more seamless access to conversations—especially for those who are hard of hearing or deaf.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), around one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 have some level of hearing loss. The numbers jump up to an estimated half of the population over 75 years old.
Texting technology has a history of growing alongside the deaf and hard of hearing communities, in part because it offers more autonomy. Being able to better communicate is empowering for both customers and business owners. For Sara Dukart, a deaf dog groomer, texting for business allowed her to schedule appointments and answer customer questions without needing to enlist the help of her friends or family.
Likewise, the customer doesn’t need to depend on another person to make or take a phone call, enabling them to enter contests and reschedule appointments themselves. If someone has speech impairments or difficulties, texting can also offer more time to give their responses without relying on voice communication.
For seniors who are also struggling with hearing loss or impaired speech, text messaging can offer more opportunities to connect with businesses on their own terms. It’s faster than email, and more likely to be answered promptly on either side.
Seniors’ business accessibility can be furthered by the fact that customers can text businesses from their homes. If a customer has difficulty with mobility, or no longer drives, they can still ask questions or troubleshoot problems without having rearrange their day to get to the business’s physical location.
Security and privacy protection
Unwanted and illegal robocalls are a nuisance to the public, especially as their rates skyrocket. Robocalls and spam are some of the leading factors discouraging consumers of all ages from picking up the phone.
Seniors are one of the most vulnerable demographics to communication scams, fraud and phishing attempts. Older Americans were estimated to be scammed and financially exploited out of nearly $3 billion dollars in 2018, with the IRS phone scam as the highest offender, according to a report by the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
That’s why compliance and data encryption are so important for business texting. Data encryption keeps messages safe in transit and in the archives, which can be especially important for industries handling clients’ Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
Complying with regulations like the Telephone Consumers Protection Act (TCPA) with opt-outs and user consent can help keep seniors’ data and identity safe and keep businesses out of hot water. Not only that, but compliance can help your business’s marketing efforts by keeping texts welcome, wanted and helpful. It’s a hearty subject, so we made a crash course to help guide you through the basics of text message spam, fraud and compliance.
Common use cases for senior customers
Business texting isn’t an employee occasionally using their personal phone for customer outreach, it’s a scalable piece of your overall communication strategy.
Alongside compliance and security benefits, Texting for Business software can integrate with the CRMs you use every day.
There are a few areas where texting for seniors can seriously improve their experience and responsiveness:
- Appointment reminders to reduce no shows
- Medication management (including prescription refills)
- Billing questions
- Cut down on phone tag and follow up calls with clients
- Payment reminders
- Expedite claims process with ability to text photos and documentation
Texting is meant to be an open and accessible platform for all ages.
Businesses pushing into this new frontier and text enabling their landline, VoIP or toll-free phone numbers have the opportunity to tap into a huge adult consumer base. Not only that, but they can improve their customer connection—and responsiveness—with America’s senior population.
For more information on texting demographics, consumer phone behavior and business texting, check out our 2019 State of Texting Report.