Why We Love SMS


(Photo of beautiful San Francisco because…why not)

SMS is a Monster

SMS (text messaging) is not a new technology. In fact, SMS (short message service) was invented in the 1980s. Even though SMS is three decades old, SMS usage is still massive. Over 2 trillion SMS messages get sent every year. But it’s not only the volume that is unbelievable, engagement rates are insanely high when compared to email: 98% of SMS messages are read (!!) compared to 22% of emails. Most text messages are read within the first few minutes of receiving them too.

Text messaging is still mainly reserved for communication with friends and family though. However, given the option to text message with a company, many people would gladly say yes. This is how Sonar got started.


How We Got Started

Before we started Sonar, I was working as a user acquisition consultant for startups in San Francisco. One of those startups communicated with their customers almost entirely over text messaging. However, as their business grew it became very cumbersome to send the large volumes of text messages they were sending by typing each message out on a cell phone. After searching around for a solution, there was just nothing out there that fit their needs well. This is when we started building the first version of Sonar.

The Results Were In

Of course, it wouldn’t make sense to build an entire company around a product built for one customer. So we started doing research and it turns out we were able to find so many examples of businesses using SMS to communicate with their customers. From customer service to sales to notifications, text messaging was a way to form a closer relationship with a business’s customers. We found examples of widely varying businesses using SMS to improve customer satisfaction including real estate agents, marketplace startups, eCommerce stores, brick and mortar stores and more. But all of these businesses were just using cell phones and typing each message manually. That doesn’t work well.

Why SMS Works For Us

For me personally, there are tons of situations where I would prefer sending a quick text message to a company rather than having to call or send an email. For example, when the iPhone 6 was about to be released and I was about 2 weeks away from a free upgrade and wanted to find out if they would let me upgrade early, I was forced to sit on the phone with AT&T for about an hour. The call went something like this:

  1. Dialed AT&T (5 seconds)
  2. Navigated through the automated menu system (3 minutes)
  3. Waited on hold (35 minutes)
  4. Gave my information to the customer service rep (2 minutes)
  5. Explained my situation to the customer service rep (2 minutes)
  6. Transferred to another department (3 minutes)
  7. Gave me information (again) to the new customer service rep (2 minutes)
  8. Finished call (3 minutes)

This entire process took about 50 minutes, which is ridiculous. I was sitting on the phone and couldn’t do much else during this time. While I was on hold, I put the phone on speaker and tried to do other things. Had the call got disconnected, I would have had to start over.

The solution with text messaging is much easier:

  1. Write up my question and press send (2 minutes)
  2. Wait for a reply (0 minutes because asynchronous)

There are so many situations just like this. A simple text message would be perfect when a phone call would just be annoying.

That’s where Sonar comes in. If you’re looking to do sales, customer service, marketing, notifications or anything else with SMS, Sonar might be the solution for you. Start building closer relationships with your customers today.

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