Nearly 85 percent of Americans use text messaging every day, with two-thirds preferring text messaging rather than phone conversations. However, less than 40 percent of businesses are using some type of text messaging to communicate with customers, according to ZipWip’s “State of Texting 2019” report. The future of customer communications is the native text messaging capability built into every smartphone. The businesses that haven’t embraced texting are either unaware of the significant advantages or worry about the costs (both time and capital) associated with adopting new tools. As more businesses discover how easy it is to integrate texting-for-business software, more customers will benefit.
How People Prefer to Text with Businesses
A majority of people – 76 percent – report receiving text messages from businesses. And 67 percent of people would prefer to communicate by text messaging than over the phone. So the concept of business texting is commonplace. Companies that aren’t texting need to consider how to integrate it into their communications strategy quickly. The probability that your competitors are one step ahead of you is increasing daily.
Currently, most people are getting the kinds of texts they prefer from businesses. When asked what they’re presently texting about, the overwhelmingly top response was appointments and scheduling.
23% – alerts and notifications
21% – customer service & support
13% – sales inquiries
11% – billing & collections
9% – marketing & promotions
6% – employment & recruiting
While the numbers are encouraging and show consumer preferences, we see many missed opportunities for exceptional customer engagement. We see several advantages of text messaging across fourteen industries. Where does your company fit?
Let’s take a look at some of the trends in each of these 14 industries, along with some best practice use-cases for increase customer engagement through text messaging.
Utility and energy companies are a prime category for adopting text messaging. In some cases, gas and electric utilities need to comply with increased regulatory demand to improve customer communications and satisfaction. Overall, this category is seeing moderate adoption of text messaging, primarily for scheduling (28%) and customer support (20%). Room for improvement includes:
- Meter reading submission: “Smart meter” adoption is slowing, and many older homes in established suburbs have gas and water meters inside, presenting a problem for a post-COVID19 meter reading.
- Important alerts: Outbound text alerts of water main breaks and other service outages would be vital for many people. Alerting residents to boil water or put medical equipment on generators.
- Billing: Consumers that receive reminders of payments are likely to take care of that balance due sooner, a win for the customer, and a win for the provider.
Text messaging adoption is strong among pharmacies and medical equipment providers, while slow among healthcare practitioners and other care providers. Key areas where texting-for-business can improve the patient experience are:
- Appointment reminders: People appreciate reminders and are the most common request among consumers when asked about business texting.
- Medication & equipment recalls: The FDA has reported more than 100 prescription and over-the-counter recalls in 2019. Keep patients well-informed of this essential information.
- Resupply: Text messaging is a rapid way for home care patients to receive supplies and upgrades for their medical equipment.
- Instructions: For out-patient procedures, there are usually instructions for the patient before the appointment. Texting is a great way to remind patients as the date approaches. Additionally, most practices have adopted new policies around on-premise arrivals due to COVID-19, and texting provides clarity to the patient and their families.
- Pay by text: People prefer privacy when it comes to healthcare and the associated bills. A pay-by-text solution offers the ultimate in privacy.
- HIPAA compliance: Be sure to consult your legal counsel on your texting plans before launching.
Retail adoption is strong in some sectors, such as tools, beauty products, and consumables, but inconsistent in others. Loyalty programs are among the most common use of business texting among retailers, but not broadly used. Consider texting for:
- Special promotions: Keep loyal customers coming back with product promotions and other incentives. People like to feel part of an exclusive group.
- Updates: Let people know about changes in store hours, important web or social media updates, new employees, and more.
While text messaging adoption in the banking and finance industry is relatively high, actual use-cases are inconsistent across many institutions. Some may be using loyalty programs while missing out on transaction alerts, and visa versa. People most expect text messaging for:
- Real-time alerts: Notify customers of transaction activity, necessary payment due dates, and fraud alerts.
- Confirmations: Provide an extra layer of comfort by sending confirmation notices when customers make changes to their accounts.
- Two-factor authentication: Give customers this added security when they log-in through a new device or after a period of inactivity.
While not an “industry,” dealing with local, state, and federal government agencies is a common occurrence for people. Overall adoption of text messaging is low, with larger municipalities generally leading the way. For government agencies, text messaging represents a more cost-effective way to communicate. Typical use cases include:
- Urgent alerts: As COVID-19 continues to cause disruption, text alerts regarding any changes to procedure and other information is a significant need.
- Information updates: Keep citizens informed of weather-related delays and closures.
- Pay by text: Most municipalities and agencies have stopped or restricted in-person payments as part of COVID-19 controls. A pay-by-text solution is convenient and secure for paying necessary bills, fines, and other taxes.
Hospitality & Travel
Travel and hospitality are among the early adopters of texting-for-business. Flight status, room availability, and confirmations have been in use for many years. While scheduling and customer service are well-established by texting, there is room for added engagement through loyalty programs. Consider the following:
- Frequent stays: Offer return guests exclusive perks in your lounge and restaurants. Send these out as, “On your next stay, enjoy a cocktail on us,” coupons by text.
- Nearby events: Increase loyalty by keeping upcoming guests aware of special events and entertainment in the area. Combine this with exclusive benefits for those engaging by text.
- Confirmations: Offer guests the option to receive their confirmations by text rather than email. This tactic is the ideal path to receiving permission to send other messaging.
Overall, text messaging adoption in the real estate industry is moderately high. However, most of the activity is from listing agents and their agencies. Along with Hospitality & Travel, residential real estate agencies are among the early adopters, rapidly adapting to consumer preferences. Landlords and homeowners associations, on the other hand, lag far behind. Vital areas for texting with residents include:
- Rent due notices: Yes, many people benefit from reminders to pay their rent. Reminders are especially beneficial as payments become late, and additional fees may apply.
- HOA fee due notices: The need to remind also applies to homeowners associations. Some collect dues on a quarterly schedule, so proactive reminders can prevent late payments.
- Pay by text: You can make it especially convenient to provide a “text PAY” to pay rent or other fees in your reminders.
- Events: Send out notifications of parties, open houses, facility changes, and other activities.
- Perks: Many HOA and renter portals now integrate community perks such as specials and coupons with nearby establishments to increase loyalty. Most residents don’t use these portals regularly, so it makes sense to send out text notifications of new perks.
The adoption of text messaging across the self-storage industry is moderate, with newer facilities typically leading the way. Most facility management portals offer the option of text messaging, make sure you’re using it for:
- Payment due notices: Not everyone has a credit card on file for automated payments. And just like residential renters, reminders are a welcome communication.
- Pay by text: Make sure you include a pay-by-text option in those reminders.
- Unit availability: This rapidly growing industry is experiencing waiting lists for many different sizes of storage units. Don’t wait for an email response, or leave voice mails, send a text message to the next person in line. Include an expiration timeframe so that you can send another text to the next person, reducing vacancies.
- Schedule access: Many urban facilities require tenants to schedule access to their units. Manging unit access over text messaging is more efficient than an app or company portal for your customers.
- Two-factor authentication: If you use a portal for your facility, confirm tenant changes with two-factor authentication by text.
Construction & home services
Construction and home services such as plumbing, HVAC repair, and others have adopted texting with customers at a slightly higher than moderate level. The majority of communications focus on scheduling and customer service. Some added improvements to engagement include:
- Status updates: Longterm construction projects can seem, well, longterm to the homeowner. Regular status updates by text will keep the customer engage positively.
- Pictures: Along with status updates, include photos of either construction progress, or repairs.
- Proximity notices: Send text notification as your service personal approaches the customer’s address.
Overall, the retail repair sector of the automotive industry is slowly adopting text messaging. The primary use by consumers is during the early stages of the purchase journey. The customer management and service portions of the industry are still primarily email focused. Consider using text messaging for:
- Recall alerts: With the high open rate of text messages, there’s a much better chance your customer will see and respond to it. Make sure you provide a way to schedule service in your text message.
- Service status: Push out notifications when a customer’s car is on the lift, when off the lift for testing, and when the repairs are complete.
- Emergency service: When roadside assistance is necessary, regular text messaging helps the customer know when to expect help. Make sure you also provide messaging that advises on staying safe until help arrives.
Students in universities and colleges prefer that nearly all communications come as a text message. And parents of children in primary schools appreciate the immediacy of text messaging for critical notifications. Despite the preferences of students and parents, this industry has been slow to adopt text messaging fully. Beyond the basics of texting for scheduling and support, consider:
- Weather delays & closures: The quickest way to notify students and parents of delays or closures through text messaging.
- COVID-19 & health notifications: As students return to school after the shutdown, send regular notifications on health-related issues and social distancing reminders.
- Emergencies: Rapidly inform everyone of campus emergencies that would either require a shelter-in-place or evacuation.
Confirmations: As students or parents make changes to their schedule or other web portal data, confirm the changes with a text message.
- Events: Remind parents of open houses, fundraisers, or meetings.
- Two-factor authentication: Higher education students may use more than one computer to access their school’s student portal. Use two-factor authentication via text message for rapid confirmation.
Insurance companies rank among the lowest for the adoption of business text messaging. While individual agents typically are prolific texters, few companies have an enterprise-wide integration strategy. So the opportunity to take a leadership position in this industry is ripe for the taking. Some key considerations to stand out and engage policyholders by text are:
- Policy notices: Proactively inform policyholders that their plan is up for renewal. Your message should include any perks or benefits for renewing early, and a simple “text RENEW” to automatically confirm.
- Payment due: People appreciate reminders. Send out a friendly text message to alert that their payment is due soon.
- Pay by text: Like other industries, provide a simple pay by text to automatically make the payment with save credit card information.
- Alerts: Before predicted inclement weather arrives, text your policyholders with safety information. Remind them not to assess any damage until it’s safe to do so.
- Accident/damage reporting: Provide a text service to start a claim process. A relatively simple chatbot can walk them through the necessary questions.
The adoption of text messaging in the non-profit space is moderate. As the donor and supporter base continue to shift into younger age groups, an integrated text messaging strategy is critical. Nearly all activities can benefit from a texting strategy:
- Donations: Many wireless service providers have the option of texting to donate, with the amount given appearing on the monthly statement. Let people save their payment information so they can set up recurring gifts, or text to donate at any time.
- Pledging: Offer your donor base the ability to pledge by text during important funding campaigns and other events.
- RSVP: Allow people to affirm their attendance to live or virtual events.
- Volunteer: When you’re organizing an event, or calling for volunteers, allow people to volunteer by text.
- Petitions: When championing a specific cause, you can enable people to sign petitions by text message.
- Membership: Increase your supporter base by offering a simple text to join option.
- Surveys: You can rapidly canvas opinion with a text-bases survey.
- Resources: For those you serve, provide a simple way to get resources, instructions, and directions by text message.
- Encouragement: Send daily or weekly inspiration and support to the people you’re serving.
Last on our list is collections companies. While technically part of the financial services industry, for our list, it stands alone. Collections agencies can benefit from improved and compassionate engagement with consumers using text messaging. Tactics include:
- Payment due: For those on a payment plan, reminders can prevent a lot of late payments. In this category, proactive reminders help to preserve the consumer’s credit score.
- Pay by text: Accept regular or partial payments by text, using saved payment information.
- Tips: Depending on the collected debt, send out weekly tips and pointers for helping people rebuild their credit scores.
Texting Isn’t The Future; It’s The Present.
Text messaging has rapidly disrupted our prior methods of communicating with consumers. As you look to engage some of these strategies, it’s essential to make sure you are TCPA compliant. Ensure you have the recipient’s permission to send text messages and provide a clear way to opt-out.
We can help. If you’d like to learn more about how texting for business can help improve your customer engagement, contact us.