Featuring

How to Use Texting to Reach Customers During the Coronavirus Crisis

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

As more state and local governments take proactive measures to slow the spread of the Coronavirus, businesses are searching for effective ways to reach their customers. Whether you’re navigating new hours, or operating under totally new circumstances (such as restaurants offering takeout services only), texting can help you reach your customers with vital updates.

Join Zipwhip chief marketing officer Scott Heimes for this 30-minute live webinar and to learn how your business can use texting during this challenging time.

You’ll learn

  • Why texting is more effective than email, especially during this crisis
  • How to use Auto Replies to ensure customers always get a response
  • How to use SMS Keywords to automate responses to FAQs
  • How to ensure consistent customer communications with text Templates
  • And more!

Scott will also share anecdotes we’re hearing from businesses about how they’re using texting effectively during this situation.

Featuring

Scott-Heimes-1
Scott Heimes
CMO at Zipwhip
Bill Higbee Headshot
Keith Hitchcock
Digital Content Producer

Keith Hitchcock: 

Hello, and welcome to another webinar at Zipwhip in Seattle, Washington. I’m your host, Keith Hitchcock, digital content producer at Zipwhip and Zipwhip is a company that helps businesses communicate with customers the way their customers prefer and that’s texting. So let’s get right to it, I want to introduce Scott Heimes, our chief marketing officer at Zipwhip. Scott, are you there? 

Scott Heimes: 

I am indeed, Keith. 

Keith Hitchcock: 

All right. Well, we’re all working from home today and I imagine our attendees are as well. Tell us a little bit more about what you do at Zipwhip. 

Scott Heimes: 

Well, hey Keith, I’m the chief marketing officer here at Zipwhip, so I lead the marketing organization and figure out ways that we can help our customers engage and grow their businesses via business texting. 

Keith Hitchcock: 

Great. I’m so glad you’re here with Scott, it’s an important webinar that we’re doing today and it’s chock full of information and you are the person to deliver it. So you’ve gotten to know us just a little bit, I want to let you know that we have some moderators helping behind the scenes as well and we also want to take a moment to get to know you. So we’re going to launch a poll here, which is always fun. We like getting a sense of who we’re talking to today, so take a moment and engage with our quick poll here. How does your company currently text with customers? So seems like we are going to have a lot of our customers online today. Some people maybe not texting yet and curious about adding that to their communication arsenal. And I’ll give just a couple more moments for you to complete that poll, if you wish to and then we’ll take a look at the results. All right, last chance. Let’s take a look. 

Keith Hitchcock: 

Indeed we do have a lot of customers online, glad you’re here and glad you’re a customer. Thank you for your business. And other folks are using, a few other folks are using a few different things and some people don’t text. All right, let’s do one more poll, Scott, we added this special one for this webinar. What have you needed to urgently communicate about with customers in the past month? Give you a few moments to engage with that. We’re charting new territory here, so it’ll be interesting to see what people say here. Okay, I’ll give you just another moment to engage here, then I’m going to close this up. Last chance. All right, let’s take a look at what people see. What do you think of this, Scott? 

Scott Heimes: 

I think this is pretty cool. A lot of people on. 

Keith Hitchcock: 

A lot of people said, all of the above, they had to communicate changes of hours, the changes in service and/or products and/or putting some proactive communication out there. Great, okay. Thanks for playing. You’ve gotten to know us, we’ve gotten to know you. Just another couple more moments of housekeeping, if you’re new to the GoTo webinar tool, I want to call your attention to the question window there and we think of it as a question and comment window, feel free anytime you have a question, toss it in there, we do have some dedicated time at the end of the webinar, where Scott will be able to answer some of your questions. And for ones that we can’t get to, or Scott can get to, the moderators will do their best to answer your questions. 

Keith Hitchcock: 

At the end of the, I should say, all registrants will get a video recording and the slides sent to them from me, so you can stay tuned in your email box for that. Other than that, oh, I do want to note, let’s go to the next slide, that we are showcasing our text line here, this is our keyword feature. We do have some links where you can go deeper with the content. And if you want to text the word COVID to this number, we’ll send that to you via text. So feel free to try that. And with that, Scott, I’m glad you’re taking a drink because I’m going to hand it off to you for our main presentation. Take it away. 

Scott Heimes: 

All right, great. Thanks Keith and welcome everybody. I’m broadcasting from my home in Seattle, as we’re under a shelter in place order here in town and a lot of businesses, thousands of them, thousands of our customers, are navigating through the same challenges of trying to continue to operate their business remotely, continuing to engage in building relationships with their customers and make it through this difficult time. And so today we’re going to talk about why texting is such a powerful communication medium, particularly during a time like we’re going through right now. We’re going to dive deeply into a handful of use cases, nine of them actually, of ways that we’re seeing our customers and other businesses use the texting medium to continue to stay in communication with their customers, to create new ways, frankly, to communicate, even new business services that are centered around texting, so we’ll talk about all that. And then we’ll close with just a few thoughts around Zipwhip features and best practices on how to use them so that you can make sure you’re getting the most out of our technology as you drive your business texting program. 

Scott Heimes: 

So a company’s communication strategy during this really difficult time is more important than ever, it’s the time to be helpful with your customers, to work to build a relationship with them by offering them value. And that could be value that you can deliver today, but we’re reminding them of value that you delivered in the past and soon again in the future. And there’s really no better way to build that kind of relationship than texting. It’s so hard to reach customers today, their email inbox has increasingly been polluted with spam or of late, just this endless stream of messages, emails from businesses on how they’re addressing the COVID-19 crisis. 

Scott Heimes: 

The average consumer has almost 100 unread emails every day in their inbox. Phone calls are increasingly less effective than they’ve ever been in the past. This is largely due to robocalls, which have again, polluted the channel, I’m sure like me, you rarely answer your cell phone unless the caller is a known entity in your contacts. And in fact, interestingly, our research shows that almost 60% of people have received a phone call and decided not to answer it, but then tried to text that number back. And so if you’re not using business texting today, you may be missing a large amount of customer outreach. And then lastly, the idea of downloading yet another mobile app that businesses can use to communicate with their customers, is really not a successful strategy. Most users already have over 80 apps on their phone, and they’re unlikely to download another business branded app just to communicate directly with that customer. 

Scott Heimes: 

Instead, texting for business, it is so powerful. It’s about simplicity, relevance, and universality that makes texting for business so attractive as a communication tool. It’s not only fast, easy and convenient, it’s such a simple communication medium that we all relate to it, it’s also universally accessible, every smartphone has a texting app built into it, there’s no need to download another one. It’s also very effective, the majority of us respond to texts in less than an hour and we almost always respond. And then perhaps most importantly, it’s the preferred channel for communication, it’s the one that we use with our closest people in our lives, our friends and our family, and we’re more likely to add businesses to that and allow our most important business vendors to communicate. And in fact, here’s what one of our customers, the chief business development officer at a marketing company called Madwire, just posted on LinkedIn saying that Zipwhip texting is one of the four essential tools that are allowing their 600 person company to work from home, without a major drop in performance. 

Scott Heimes: 

So we’re excited about the platform and it’s use today and it’s a dark time right now in our country and in the world, but businesses are finding ways to continue to engage with their customers, using texting during this medium and it’s actually, in many ways, been an increasingly effective tool for them. So let’s dive into a couple of use cases about how people are using business texting today to manage through the COVID-19 crisis. So I’m sure all of you have experienced the use case of appointment rescheduling. So much rescheduling is happening right now and texting is being used more and more frequently by businesses to reschedule appointments, whether it’s emergency doctor’s appointments or pushing a haircut back until social distancing is done. This is a very effective way to reach customers and to reschedule as needed and we’re seeing that happen a lot. 

Scott Heimes: 

On the medical service provider side, we’re seeing an increasing number of medical services asking patients to actually wait in their cars versus come into the waiting room. Your car becomes essentially a private waiting room and then texting them to come in when the doctor’s ready to see them. We also see retail customers, like garden centers and pet stores use the same approach when customers call to phone in an order and want to pick it up at the front. Here’s a medical services customer story, Scott Mah, who’s the director of communications at the University of Washington Medical Center, right here in Seattle, right here in the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, they’re texting tele-health instructions and Zoom links for virtual patient visits, using our API. They’re also using our software to enable contact center personnel and clinics to text patients timely info, appointment details, reminders, safety instructions, and they’ve text enabled nearly every landline across their system to be able to do this because patients prefer to text over a trusted phone number that they can also call. So seeing some real powerful use cases in the medical services space right now. 

Scott Heimes: 

Shifting gears to the use case of high volume service inquiries. We’re seeing service providers, like travel companies, here’s an example from Expedia, but also airlines, technology providers and other large service providers that are experiencing long wait times because of call cues, they’re using proactive text messaging to set expectations around wait times. A text alert delivered at the right time can save a customer minutes or even hours of waiting on the phone, so it really becomes another opportunity to build a relationship with that customer by offering them value. Notifications of new services is also on the rise, we’re seeing an increasing number of especially small business customers, finding creative ways to continue offering their services, in this case, a yoga studio offering a virtual class. Businesses are also using texting to promote new services, to schedule virtual appointments and to follow up afterwards to see how it went. If you’re a small business, communicating with your customers, staying engaged with them is so important right now during this crisis, finding ways to stay in touch is really important. 

Scott Heimes: 

Obviously we’re seeing customers and businesses, especially those deemed essential during this crisis period, are using texting to update their customers on new safety procedures or protocols. This is especially true as I referenced earlier in the medical provider space, but also childcare providers are finding this very useful, restaurants for their policies around pick up and take out and retailers. And many of those same businesses are also using texting to drive promotions, across the spectrum seen businesses get creative about trying to drive revenue that may have disappeared during the crisis, coming up with unique promotions and marketing ideas. Here’s a restaurant promotion for half off with a gift card. Gift cards are obviously a great way to help businesses that they love. It’s also a great way to promote discounts, buy one get one free offers or other creative ways to get customers to engage and come into the store, again, via this preferred medium. 

Scott Heimes: 

Internal communication has become a real strong use case, as more companies move to work from home situations. We’re seeing texting being used to overlay email, or replace it as a more direct communication channel. Here’s an example of an IT department communicating with their internal customers to get help, but we’re also seeing churches and schools and sports teams and other communities finding ways to leverage texting, to keep their communities up to date and connected during this crisis. Many are asking their groups to sign up for text alerts as an alternative to email, which many consumers prefer. Here’s an internal communications customer story, this one from Emily Schmitt, from a manufacturing company in Iowa called Sukup Manufacturing, they make green bins. Few of their employees actually have computers at Sukup, So they use Zipwhip to do all of their company communications for hundreds of employees. 

Scott Heimes: 

And during the crisis they’ve been updating employees on their coronavirus policies, they’ve been sending out links to more information, they’ve been using a texted form for employees to track childcare challenges, or even whether they’re displaying symptoms, so they can monitor that across their hundreds and hundreds of employees. It’s a really, really powerful use case, internal communications being able to use that preferred texting medium as the communication platform versus an alternative, like a phone tree or email. Pick up and delivery of all types is starting to happen via texting, is particularly valuable during this contactless delivery situation that we’re in. Of course, restaurants are a power use case here, super hot as we’re seeing lots of our restaurant customers text to tell people their orders are ready and to come to the door to sign the bill, but also for delivery services and other providers in the space, being able to text a customer that you’ve just dropped it off at the door and they can go pick it up or that their orders ready. You can see the relevance of that in this time. 

Scott Heimes: 

And then I’ll close with just a general call to action around just innovation. Some of our customers and businesses out there are building whole new services based on texting customers. Here’s an example of a fitness provider thinking outside the box by launching a virtual fitness challenge, again, to stay engaged, to stay relevant to their customers, so that when this crisis passes, they come back to the studio to continue to work with them. Churches are finding innovative ways to keep their congregations engaged, seeing texting of reminders and even prayers and thoughts throughout the week as a way to stay engaged between the actual congregation. We’re also seeing and working with lots of nonprofits that are working on the front lines here to get aid to those who need it most, whether it’s food banks, childcare centers, healthcare workers, even government agencies, trying to coordinate care or financial assistance. 

Scott Heimes: 

In fact, we are offering free texting to those nonprofits and agencies out on the front line. And if you’re out there listening, go ahead and text nonprofit to (347)772-3529, we’ll repeat that later at the end of the webcast as well. So those are the use cases that we’re seeing, just a handful of them frankly, we continue to see new ones every day as businesses get creative in ways that they can use texting to communicate and engage, stay relevant, deliver value, and helpfulness to their customers during this crisis. And a quick reminder on some of the features and capabilities inside of Zipwhip that really enable you to execute this plan. Our offering of both cloud software and API solutions for businesses can be configured in ways that really help support what you’re trying to do here. 

Scott Heimes: 

One of the most common ones is auto reply, where you can set up an auto reply to ensure customers get a response, whether you’re closed or busy with other customers, you can set expectations for the reply and make sure you notify customers around changes and this is a great way to share information about how your business has been impacted by COVID-19. You can set up both after hours and during hours replies, so you can manage the way that you’re auto replying to customers via text, this is very helpful for businesses that are remaining open during this time. Keywords is another extremely powerful capability inside of our platform. You can use keywords to automate responses to frequently asked questions or notify customers of new services. You can promote keywords like safety on your website and social, to tell customers at scale, how you’re handling the crisis, you can run keyword promotions. There’s just an endless array of creative ways to leverage keywords. 

Scott Heimes: 

Templates are another really powerful way to ensure consistency across your communications, making it easy for your employees to respond to inquiries, reducing the time it takes to respond and making messages feel more personal, which is a really important part of texting, personalizing that experience, making it a strong human to human experience is really a best practice around business texting. And then lastly, group messages, when you’re trying to reach many customers at once, it’s powerful to be able to send a message out to as many as 50 customers at one time, makes messages feel more personal by pulling in your customer’s first names, which you can do. And this is a great way to text at scale as you’re striving to reach your communities and engage with them and make sure that they’re aware of what you’re doing. 

Scott Heimes: 

So let me close with a few best practices around business texting, and then we’ll open it up to questions. I think it’s a wise time as a business to review all of your marketing messages right now, to make sure that they’re still appropriate, don’t feel out of touch based on what’s going on with the crisis that our country and our world is experiencing. I know here at Zipwhip, we’ve done a pretty extensive audit of all of our automated email engagement, all of our text engagement, even website and other messaging, looking for ways that we can make sure that we’re being super relevant and not in any way tone deaf to what’s going on. I think it’s important that you be sensitive to customers, if you’re receiving a ton of inquiries or you’re slammed as a business or that you’re going dark for a while or whatever it might be, it’s important to be sensitive to your customers, to communicate with them in a clear and concise way, strive to be helpful and offer value as much as possible, which builds the relationship with them. 

Scott Heimes: 

And hopefully get you through on the other side of this for a continued relationship. And if you’re going to share information about COVID-19, be sure to share some of the most valid sources out there, like links from the CDC or the WHO. It’s always important to get permission to text with your customers before you reach out. This is a golden rule of business texting, is always to be texting to a list of opted in customers. And don’t forget that it’s best practice to market the fact that customers can text or call your number. Every time you publish your number, you ought to be publishing the fact that they can text or call that number, whether it’s in your advertising, on your website, your business cards, on your in store signage, in virtually every communication that you do out to customers. 

Scott Heimes: 

And then make sure you’re following regular best practices around communication when it comes to texting. You want to make sure that you’re mindful of time of day that you’re sending, don’t send texts at 10:30 at night, send them during regular business hours as much as possible. Introduce yourself and personalize your message, make sure that they understand that this is a human on the other side that’s reaching out to them via their preferred medium to engage. As always, you want to keep it short in the business texting space and know your audience and your tone. Particularly during this time, you have to be very thoughtful about messaging as it’s a time of great worry and concern for a lot of consumers. And then, make sure you spell check your text messages, it’s surprising how many times that can trip you up in your business texting strategy, and always strive to respond quickly and be as clear as possible in your texting. 

Scott Heimes: 

And so, as we shift into questions here, I’ll leave you with the thought that it’s a challenging time for a lot of businesses. I know that businesses all over Seattle are striving to maintain momentum and to get through this time period. I encourage you to think about business texting as a way to continue to engage and to build relationships and to communicate with your customers, it is their preferred medium, and they’ll respond very positively to it. And for those of you that are leveraging strong programs today, I encourage you to keep it up and keep going. So I think we’ll shift over into Q and A mode now, is that the right Keith? 

Keith Hitchcock: 

Perfect. Yeah, you’ve covered a lot of ground here, Scott. I’m sure there’s some questions coming in. I’m already seeing a few. So Scott and I will be watching all these questions and do our best to get as many of these answered for you before we have to sign off. Let’s dive right in Scott. Here’s one coming in it’s, can you talk more about getting a customer’s permission to text them? 

Scott Heimes: 

Sure. Well the best way to do that is just ask them, whether it’s a widget that you put on your website to encourage people to sign up for text updates or information, or it’s building it into your terms of service, that you’re going to collect their phone number and be able to text them, or just simply making it easy for them to opt in into all different ways. But you do have to obtain their tacit or implicit approval to text them before you do, it’s inappropriate to just broadcast texts to numbers that are not known, or have not opted into your program. 

Scott Heimes: 

The challenge is as a business building a program to acquire those opt ins, whether that’s on the website, which is a frequent best practice, every time you set up a new customer into your CRM or your system, ask if they’d prefer to receive updates from you via text, make it easy for them to opt in to text alerts from a preference center on your website, there’s just a whole array of different ways to do that and you can check out our blog actually for a number of different posts on best practices in this area. 

Keith Hitchcock: 

Yeah. I would add to that and I’ll plan to do this actually, I’ll follow up with a link to our TCPA ebook, which is a helpful reference in this area as well. 

Scott Heimes: 

It looks like there’s a question in here about text enabling over landlines and interest in understanding that. Yeah, so that’s a big value proposition that a business texting service provider like Zipwhip or others, can help you with. We were the original pioneer to text, we text enabled the first land lines in the United States. And what that means is that if you’ve got a business landline, whether it’s an 800 number or a 10 digit number or a VoIP number that you run off of your business, we have the ability to text enable those numbers so that they can both take voice calls, as well as handle texts back and forth between yourself and the customer. And that’s a really powerful scenario. When you, as a business, invested lots of money in building awareness around your phone number, to be able to now suddenly be able to text on it or call on it, is a really powerful proposition. 

Scott Heimes: 

And those texts show up in the software and they allow you to manage multiple conversations and apply some of the automation and tools that I talked about a few minutes ago, really a home run for businesses that want to present one number that customers can text or call. Sometimes businesses will call a customer and the customer will text back, as I talked about earlier, and they have the ability to respond and start that relationship and that engagement over the landline and what you need to get it text enabled is to have a partner to help you do it and once you’re up and running, software that allows you to manage hundreds and hundreds of conversations with thousands of customers over, your landline. 

Scott Heimes: 

[inaudible 00:27:24] in the group text blinds so that everyone in the group doesn’t get every response. Yes, you can, basically in the same way you CC a group text on email, you can do the same thing in group texting and allow, everybody to see just who the sender is. Let’s see, Keith, what else have we got here? 

Keith Hitchcock: 

Here is one, how often should I send texts to customers? 

Scott Heimes: 

That’s a great question. I think that you need to take a filter request or filter thought process when you’re building a texting program, about the experience that you would like to have as a consumer from a business. Usually we don’t recommend sending more than a text or two a week, depending on your program and your service. If it’s a notification of a class or a fitness experience, that’s a transactional text that’s alerting to an upcoming commitment that you’ve made as a customer or an offering. That’s different in terms of frequency than a promotional text that might be promoting a 10% off or a buy one get one free, or a special class that you’re offering and so you have to be really thoughtful about finding that cadence of acceptability. 

Scott Heimes: 

I would think that in general, contacting customers outside of that transactional space more than a few times a month, is generally considered not best practice. You want to keep it to three or four or five a month at most. And then the transactional ones that are more day to day, can occur with higher frequency because you’re delivering something of immediate transactional value to the customer, they’re expecting. 

Keith Hitchcock: 

Great. I think we have time for about one more question here. Scott, let’s see. Here’s one. Do you think our texts should still be asking our prospects for the sale [inaudible 00:29:32] or just build relationships with updates, given the current situation? 

Scott Heimes: 

Yeah, that’s a great question. I think you probably need to find a balance there. It’s my opinion that now is the time during this crisis, to be more focused on building relationships with your customers, by offering them something that’s helpful or valuable during this time. Certainly part of that is alerting them to the, if you’re a restaurant and you’re staying open for takeout and delivery, you need to make sure that they’re aware of that and they want that information. Including, some promotional elements about offers that you’re having to try and entice people to come in and buy, I think that’s okay too. I think you want to find some value or some balance between being too hard sell or too transactional and recognizing this time for what it is, which is a really scary time for a lot of people, a lot of businesses. 

Scott Heimes: 

And there are ways that you can offer value or help to your customers during this time, that’s going to help you build a relationship with them, which at the end of the day, is more valuable than anything. 

Keith Hitchcock: 

Great. I think that’s a good one to end on Scott. As we begin to wrap up things here, I want to show you our text line, our keyword text line again, we mentioned the COVID before, we’ll send you some links to go deeper with the content. Scott mentioned the nonprofit keyword too, if you know someone or you’re part of a nonprofit who is on the front lines of fighting in this virus crisis, texts that keyword in to that number and we’ll give you some more info about that. And if you’re not currently a customer, and you’re curious about discussing our product, feel free to text chat, and we’ll connect you with someone. 

Keith Hitchcock: 

So with that, one last slide to say thank you, to both Scott, this was wonderful, thank you for all your time and energy around this. Thank you for joining us today in this crazy time that we’re in right now. As the webinar closes, if you would take just a few moments to engage with our survey, we appreciate it. And it as a thank you for engaging with that, again, I’ll send along in a followup email, a video recording of what we just did, a PDF of the slides that you just saw and some other links that we’ve been mentioning along the way and other helpful resources that I hope will be helpful to you. So thanks again and take care, be well. Bye, bye. 

Scott Heimes: 

Thanks everybody. 

 

Sign up for Zipwhip's best tips