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Texting 101

SMS tools: the 13 best features and how to use them 

Fatima Puri
4
minute read
Table of contents:

In a mobile-first, it’s no surprise that texting is a popular communication tool that helps businesses connect with their customers. 

Many customers also expect companies to have SMS services, especially with work from home blurring the line between personal and professional communication. A study found that 78 percent of customers say they want to text with a business. 

To help you better meet your customers’ SMS needs, we broke down the different SMS tools, also known as SMS features, to show you what each one does and when best to use them.

icon of a phone and 78%
78 percent of customers say they want to text a business.

13 best SMS features and how to use them

1. Mass texting

One of the most valuable features of SMS is mass texting. Mass texting allows companies to send bulk messages to multiple contacts. It works great for businesses that need to communicate with a large group of people, no matter how small they are. 

In most business texting platforms, like Textline, you can upload a CSV file of existing customers that you want to text. You can also segment that list with tags or through Textline’s open API. 

Mass texting works great for companies to share promotional marketing materials, like sales, events, promo codes, or coupons. They’re also an excellent place to provide important updates or reminders to customers or employees. In recent years, many news companies have begun to use business texting to share daily news highlights to educate consumers with little to no time on their hands.

2. Scheduled Messages

You can write and send messages at a later time with message scheduling. Textline users can frequently send scheduled messages, which we call announcements, if the messages meet texting guidelines.

Scheduling messages allows you to organize your communications ahead of time for better planning. You can use announcements to share essential updates, shift reminders, events, and more with multiple customers at a time.

announcement scheduling
Scheduled messages allow you to set your announcement for a certain time.

3. Automated messages

Automations, as the name suggests, are automated messages that companies can trigger when a customer texts them. We previously referred to them as auto-replies in our platform.

In the Textline app, you can have an automation trigger based on different conditions, also known as actions. Some common actions are unavailable agents or current business hours.

That makes automations a great tool for sharing OOO messages, alerting customers to slower response times, or updating them on any technical issues.

text conversation about business hours
This automated message informs the customer of the business hours.

4. Address Book

With an address book, you can easily save your contacts’ information to text them in the future. You can add clients one-by-one or upload a CSV file to mass import a list of numbers. 

Contact details, including a name, photo, email address, tags, and other necessary information, can be added to your address book. Using tags makes it easier for you to segment text messages. Textline users on the Standard plan or above can add custom fields to their contact list to include relevant information for their company.

Textline users can also use our API to add contact information. 

5. Shortcuts 

Every company has a list of frequently asked questions that they have to answer constantly. Or, they have a protocol to send a specific response to customers depending on the conversation type. It can be exhausting to memorize and type out the same messages, so shortcuts are there to help!

Shortcuts are pre-written templates you can search for and send to customers. You can create endless shortcuts in the Textline app. From introductions to sending FAQs, shortcuts save your team tons of time. 

inserting a shortcut
Shortcuts allow you to quickly answer frequently asked questions.

6. Surveys

Surveys are a powerful tool that helps companies gather crucial customer data to improve metrics and customer service. Business texting is a great place to send surveys because it has an average open rate of 98 percent and a response rate of 45 percent, higher than email at six percent. 

Links in texts also perform better than email since texting has a click-through rate. Companies can text survey links to customers for a better response. The surveys available to send on most texting apps include CSS, CES, NPS, and custom surveys.

Like those in the customer service space where a good experience is critical for repeat clients, businesses benefit from sending and receiving customer surveys to improve their customer experience continually.

7. Internal communication

It’s not just customers who prefer texting — texting is convenient for quick internal communication. 

Textline has a specific Whispers feature that allows agents to communicate privately within active customer conversations. Whispers can help your employees ask clarifying questions or help from leadership when handling conversations outside their jurisdiction. That makes it an excellent choice for training, too.

Textline's Whisper feature
Textline's Whisper feature makes internal communication possible outside of the customer's view.

8. Transfer and routing 

Did you know that you can transfer and route text messages, similar to how you deal with phone calls? Customer support and sales teams can use transfer and routing features to provide the best service possible. Transferring allows you to get the message to the right representative, while routing automates who receives the message to save time.

In the Textline app, you can set up different types of routing, like round-robin, to ensure your sales team gets an equal opportunity to pursue new leads. Support agents can also transfer conversations to a specialist or more experienced team member. 

9. Analytics

Analytics is a crucial part of any software, and it’s no different for business texting. You can use your texting analytics to establish baseline SLAs and create goals to improve those metrics. 

Some business texting software, like Textline, automatically pulls SMS analytics for you. That way, you can keep track of response rates, texting volume, and individual agent activity.

Textline analytics
Analytics harness important data and help improve proficiency.

10. Consent

Unlike phone and email, cold texting is illegal, so you have to gather an opt-in before texting anyone. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act sets the rules for what kinds of texts are acceptable for businesses to send. Failure to comply with TCPA can result in fines up to $500.

Gathering an opt-in is also basic texting etiquette that can help you earn customer trust. Some business texting platforms, like Textline, automatically allow users to collect consent before sending or accepting a message from a new contact. 

text message asking for consent
Businesses must receive consent in order to text their customer.

11. HIPAA

Business texting is a popular tool for the healthcare industry, but security and privacy are essential due to HIPAA. Textline offers top-of-the-line security and has secure HIPAA features and plans for our customers.

With Textline, healthcare companies can use HIPAA to protect themselves from liability by ensuring that automatic opt-ins are sent to customers before they text with your business.

You can learn more about HIPAA and how to meet compliance by reading our article “What is HIPAA compliance? Rules and strategies for compliant patient communication.”

12. Emoji keyboard 

At Textline, we love emojis and understand that they add personalization to text messages. With the emoji keyboard, you can add character to your messages to customers the same way you do while texting friends or family.

emoji keyboard
Emojis convey a friendly tone to business texting.

13. Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS)

Multimedia messaging services, or MMS, allows you to add images, videos, or file attachments to your text messages. Using MMS can help you communicate more precisely with your customers or teams because some things are better seen than said. 

For example, if you work in the home service industry, you can ask customers to send you a picture of the project to understand better how long it will take to complete the task and how much you will charge them. 

The bottom line

While you might buy a business texting solution to solve a single problem, you might be surprised by the many other things you can use texting to accomplish. When used in conjunction, these tools can help you unlock the full benefits of business SMS to run a smoother operation.

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