Text-based communication, also known short messaging service (SMS), has become the most popular form of communication, surpassing phone calls back in 2007.
Evaluating the Importance of Incoming Texts for Business
Today, an estimated 20 billion text messages are sent daily to friends, family, colleagues, and companies, and has become the preferred mode of contact for many. Instead of dialing a telephone number, consumers are much more likely to text a message, which is typically quicker and much less intrusive than a phone call.
Therein lies an opportunity, says Bob Bentz, president of ATS Mobile, a mobile marketing agency based in Pennsylvania.
“The key for businesses is to offer as many different touch points [ways to communicate] as possible," says Bentz. “And more and more young people don't want to call." To win their business, you need to engage them through texting, the medium they prefer.
Yet only few businesses are equipped to accept text messages, since many still operate using traditional landlines — not wireless service.
Setting Up Text-to-Landline Services
In order to accept text messages from potential customers, companies have to set up and share a cell phone number to be used. Most haven't, which means any text messages they do receive they are unaware of; consumers may send them but the business never sees them. Fortunately, “the technology has become available to text-enable your landline phone," says Bentz.
What that entails is paying a service to create a web interface to collect any messages that come in to your landline. Then, explains Bentz, when someone texts your landline phone, you receive the sent message on your computer screen and can text back, much like live chat on retail websites.
Doing a Cost-Benefit Analysis of Text-to-Landline Services
In 2015, ATS charged companies $99 per month for up to 1,200 messages into or out of a particular phone number. According to Bentz, 1,200 messages “is usually more than companies need now, but over time their needs may increase." And “businesses that promote the use of text-to-landline service get more messages," he says — messages from potential customers who are often ready to buy.
Typical users include auto dealerships, who can encourage interactions about available cars, or apartment complexes, which can respond to requests for information about unit availability and whether pets are permitted. Restaurants that want diners to check on availability or hours before stopping by also utilize this service. Using the text-to-landline service, dealers, property managers, or restaurants can respond quickly and engage the customer when they are most interested. That engagement can increase the likelihood of a purchase.
Seeing the Long-Term Advantage
Another advantage of text-to-landline, says Bentz, is that it reduces the need for salespeople to share their personal cell phone numbers — which they frequently do — in order to communicate with customers. By establishing a way for potential customers to connect with the business (and not an individual) directly, the company maintains that relationship. And if an individual salesperson leaves the company, they won't leave with all of the customer contact information. This information and a record of all conversations can also be entered and tracked in a customer relationship management system to ensure customers don't fall through the cracks if an employee does leave.
While text-to-landline service is relatively new, says Bentz, it's gaining ground quickly. And any business that appeals to consumers in the 18-34 age bracket — the largest texters — should be using it, he says. Those companies that aren't equipped to receive texts from customers are likely missing out on additional business.
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