Text First Services – Part 2: How to Get in Before You Get Crowded Out

This is the second article in a series of three articles. The first explains why SMS is so important for business. This article will cover how to implement text messaging and various use cases and examples of companies doing this successfully.

tl;dr; How do use SMS for your business: Sign up to a service that will enable you have 2-way SMS conversations with customers. The right service will be versatile enough to fit well for a variety of use-cases. If you’re not sure which one to choose, pick Sonar! It is has a fantastic interface, great collaborative features and a solid API – great for eCommerce, inbound sales, support, sending updates and announcements.

Initial setup:

Like having a phone line or email, setting up SMS involves some work up front to get the most out of it as a communication channel. And just like phone and email, your needs will dictate the tools and services you should sign up for.

If you’re a small company, you’ll probably need to:

  • Spread the word about your new SMS number
  • Answer customer requests for sales and service
  • Update customers on their accounts and orders
  • Notify customers of important events

If you have a larger team responding to customers, you’ll need some additional features:.

  • Letting team members reply to customers and other text messages
  • Higher message volume requirements
  • Coordinate replies with team-members
  • Ask customers follow-up questions after service has been provided. Possibly up-sell based on their replies

Outbound communication like order-updates and updates to balances, you’ll want to automate. For the above use cases, as well as many others that are specific to your business, the right tools will help you get setup quickly and affordably and will help you start small and expand seamlessly.

Use Cases:

How will customers know that they can get in touch with my company via SMS?

The simplest ways to inform customers about the ability to text message your business are to give them your phone number or ask for their phone number and send them a welcome text message saying they can reply back anytime.

If you have a website, it helps to display the number prominently. Most businesses don’t have the ability to let customers SMS them, which will set you apart. When customers find out they can text your business they typically prefer text instead of using other channels.

Sonar’s ping widget is another great way to display your SMS number to anyone who visits your website on their phone. With just a few lines of JavaScript, any customer that visits your website from their phone will be able to text you at the press of a button.

Responding to customer inquiries and ask them questions.

People will use the easiest form of communication that they can. As soon as they find out that they can text you, they will. Sometimes you’ll need to ask them questions – a common example is to ask for clarification of a custom order. This is where 2-way SMS messaging comes in. Since people check their phone’s text messages more often than voicemail and even email, asking them questions over text is likely to get you the fastest answer.

Notify customers of important information.

For the same reason why you should use SMS for conversations, you should use SMS for informing people about important events in your relationship with them: welcome messages, account updates, changes in order status, completion of orders. SMS has the highest open and read rates amongst any mobile messaging channel.

Ask follow up questions and actually receive answers.

A great way to gain valuable insight into customer’s satisfaction is to ask them follow up questions after service has been provided. This is often difficult because people tend to lose interest once the transaction is over. This is where SMS comes in. You can send them a quick text asking them how they liked the service, how they’d rate it, and if they’d like the same service provided to them the following week. Even if you’re simply using SMS to get your Net Promoter Score, you’ll see a significantly improved response rate.


Do you sell apparel, or food.. or other items? Is it something that people will want on a regular basis? Is it a category of items that would delight people if they received it on a regular basis? Rather than waiting for them to see it, perhaps you should show it to them? This is where high-touch eCommerce comes in. You can setup a subscription service that uses SMS for all customer communication. You can be a leisure items business that sends customers a few special limited run things on a regular basis. You can even be a specialty goods business that knows what each client likes and sends them a preview of something that would fit their taste. Sending out weekly deals via SMS is another way to increase sales. The right SMS tools, combined with a good online payment gateway will let you set this up so the entire relationship is very high-touch and seamless.

Real companies sending real messages:

StudySoup uses SMS to serve busy university students, who’d much rather text than pick up a call, and get far too many emails. Whenever a student has a question about their account, they just text StudySoup. They also update students on news and information related to their account.

Mayvenn serves hairstylists. Hairstylists prefer to text because they’re always on their feet, and many probably don’t have a computer. Whenever a stylist signs up for Mayvenn, they’re sent a quick text with the address their new website. They’re also kept updated on Mayvenn news, and are able to text Mayvenn whenever they have any questions.

Susie delivers delicious meals to match your dietary preferences. They uses SMS for all customer communication. From onboarding, customer service, delivery notifications, service updates.. everything. Read more about them here.

CareLulu helps parents find the best day-cares and preschools. They use SMS as a channel for notifying parents and daycare managers.

Orivor Coffee is a subscription based coffee ordering service. Like Susie, They start by asking the customer their phone-number or asking customers to text theirs. All customer communication after this step happens over SMS. Customers can just text Orivor’s number if they have any questions or would like to update their order, and Orivor texts them when their order is being processed, on it’s way etc.

Below The Knee Shoes is a sports apparel store in Columbus, Georgia. They’ve been in business since 1972. They recently asked their customers how they’d like to be notified when special order shoes arrive. A large number of customers elected for SMS. Whenever a special order arrives to the store, they notify the customer via text.

Stefan’s Head sends members a new exclusive limited time offer to purchase something fashionable once in a while. Customers sign on to be notified by sending an SMS to Stefan. Then, whenever there’s merchandize to distribute, Stefan notifies his members via text.

Homobiles, an Uber like service that caters to the LGBTIQQ community, takes all orders via SMS. To order service, customers simply text them their name, pick-up and drop-off addresses as well as the number of passengers.

Magic is a high-touch concierge service. Order anything using SMS. Simply text the number, and a customer service rep texts the customer back with any questions they need to fulfill the order. They then remember the customer’s preferences to process future orders much faster.

I hope you found the above useful. Stay tuned for part three, in which I’ll cover best-practices you should keep in mind when deploying SMS for your business.

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