Texting came into our lives with the advent of cellular phones over two decades ago. It remained a convenient way to communicate between friends, family, and acquaintances for quite a while.
Over a period of time, however, businesses began to uncover the benefits of simpler and faster communication through instant messaging. Mass messaging became the first real deployment of texting by businesses.
Today, texting is the preferred way of communication for businesses due to a variety of customer engagement options, from marketing to customer support.
In addition, with collaborative work across geographies becoming a reality, messaging has become a tremendous enabling tool for internal communication as well.
Texting in business environments has many benefits. Before diving deeper into how to drive professionalism in this space, let us review these advantages.
Benefits of business texting
Some merits may be seen as common knowledge and are often taken for granted in today’s connected world.
Yet some businesses still do not have a policy around the use of instant messaging in their communication model. It is crucial that businesses implement some guidelines before they adopt texting:
Texting is not necessarily dependent on an active Internet connection. Hence, it is always available for both the team members as well as customers.
Speed and personal touch are both inherent to texting, and they both convey a sense of professionalism. The sense of personal touch brings a sense of being looked after.
Recipients, including customers, tend to read and respond to messages faster than emails. Speed translates into responsiveness and adds to a better experience for sure.
Texts are more likely to be delivered to the recipient only.
And there are a plethora of situations where privacy matters, such as when sending an OTP, or when banks send you an update on your account. Texting becomes the preferred choice of communication in many such instances.
Ease of use
Some forms of communication are not age-friendly. For example, a section of the population may find the use of email rather difficult or effort-intensive
On the other hand, texts are basic. With the advent of voice-to-text and vice versa, this mode of communication has become easier than ever.
Low on costs
Texting is inexpensive. For all the benefits it offers and the costs at which it comes, the value proposition of business texting becomes rather alluring.
While reviewing the benefits, it is also pertinent to note that the form and flavor of messaging in professional environments are very different from personal messages.
This is why it is essential to know and implement the right texting ways. Else, it is easy to flounder on the basic etiquettes that are so important.
Incorrectly drafted messages can be annoying for the recipient and could even be misinterpreted. And all this may actually be happening unintentionally without the sender ever realising the errors in following the basic etiquettes.
Let us look at the proven rules of etiquette, the best practices, and also some common errors that should never creep into a business text.
Rules for professional etiquette
The rules are relatively straightforward and simple. Most of these fall into one of the two buckets – things to do, and things to avoid. The rules and tips compiled below are not in any order of priority; each of them is important.
Be sure that texting is appropriate
Remember that texting is not the go-to mode of communication for everything and every time, especially with customers. It is suitable for short updates, time-bound messages, or crisp text-based information. Texting is an absolute no for conversations or discussions, sharing of confidential information or even sharing big news.
Before initiating a business text, it may be a good idea to evaluate whether a phone call or an email would be a better way to communicate the information. After all, each mode of communication has its benefits. While this is a subjective topic, viewing it from a customer’s perspective can help.
Asking for consent from a customer is considered polite. Permission opens the door for a healthy conversation. Keep in mind that messaging without consent is considered spamming.
Many countries around the world have regulations and frameworks to protect their citizens from unwarranted messages flooding their inboxes. Hence, it is also a legal obligation to seek consent. Such consent can range from a customer sharing his number to receive information to explicit written consent. When in doubt, seek guidance from the manager or advice from your legal counsel.
Everyone receives messages from unknown numbers, and most may be wary of even opening a message from an unidentifiable source. So, until your number is known to the recipient or you are using a cloud-based solution where your number is your identity, it is important to identify yourself in the message to ensure that the communication gets delivered. As a business, it is advisable to use dedicated cloud-based numbers that are inherently identifiable by the recipient. Such numbers are available from cloud service providers.
Like consent, many countries have regulations on the sender’s identity as part of compliance mechanisms. Again, when in doubt, seek guidance from your manager or advice from legal counsel.
Use a greeting or a salutation
A greeting with a salutation is always polite and is inherently endearing. We use them during face to face communication as well as over phone calls, so why not in texting. Addressing the customer by name is also a good idea for personalisation.
State the reason for the message upfront
Every business communication has a reason and an objective. It is a good idea to state the reason upfront. Whether the message is about a status update, a task completion, a request for an appointment or whatever it might be, mentioning the reason underscores the relevance of the message.
Always remember that short is sweet
Long and winding texts can be confusing and annoying. It is best to be straightforward with the content and communicate it in as few words or lines as possible. The recipient does not have the patience to scroll through to get to the point.
‘No more than one’ is another key element to keep in mind for messages that contain a call to action. It is easier to precipitate action from the recipient when there is a single call to action.
Check grammar and use a professional tone
It is best to stick to a professional approach in language and tone. So remember—no use of modern slang or emoticons. These are best left to personal texting. Even the use of capitals in words can be seen as threatening and are absolutely avoidable.
In addition, wrong punctuations and incorrect grammar are completely avoidable. They may generate a sense of fraudulent spam in the recipient or worse, have lent a negative perception towards your business.
As a bottom line, always remember that each communication has implications for the sender’s image and for the business. To reiterate the point, always keep it safe.
Always stick to business hours
Most people like to draw a line between work and personal time. And a message received at odd hours can be seen as intrusive and annoying. It is best to stick to socially acceptable norms and text only during business hours. When communicating with people in different time zones, it is a good idea to be mindful of the business hours of the recipient. Texting may not be the best option in cases of emergencies anyway.
The objective of business texting is to add to customer experience positively. Messaging at the wrong hours is certainly counterproductive.
The core reason for the wide adoption of texting in business is speed. And speed should work both ways. When there is a query from a customer, it needs to be responded to quickly, in the shortest time possible.
Being responsive adds to a sense of gratification in the customer and adds to their experience. From this perspective, each query is an opportunity that should never be allowed to slip.
Respect customer choice
Respecting the other person’s choice is exceptionally relevant to personal and professional engagements.
In a business environment, customers have the choice and retain the option to exercise their choice at all times. Therefore, if a customer opts out of receiving promotional texts, it has to be respected at all costs.
It is evident that some rules of etiquette detailed above are common courtesy while others are professional courtesy.
Still, just knowing them or listing them down somewhere is not going to be enough.
The key lies in the broad adoption of these in everyday behaviour and communication. Let us review the next steps towards implementation.
From rule book to implementation
The cornerstone to appropriate implementation is comprehensive awareness. Everyone in the team needs to know the rules and their relevance to efficient business communication.
Some of the best practices around awareness are:
Create a business etiquette policy
To underline the importance that your business lends to excellence in business texting, it is a good idea to articulate a policy around the same. The policy needs to be shared with each employee. Better still, employees should be encouraged to acknowledge their understanding, or the lack thereof, of the policy.
Communicate the policy
All businesses have their own internal communication systems—from placards in the shop or office floors, physical notice boards, digital boards, and email to intranets.
Together with other important policies like quality or customer orientation, this policy should also be available everywhere for viewing or referencing.
Conduct orientations and trainings
Most good businesses lay strong emphasis on talent development. They have a defined roadmap that details everything, from new employee orientations to regular training.
We also know that employee mannerisms in customer engagements have a direct bearing on the brand image of any business.
It is always a good idea to consistently reinforce the importance of professional business texting and go through the right way to text as a refresher.
Hence, training in rules around etiquette in business texting needs to be a part of all regular training programs.
Enable teams to manage crises
Despite driving sensitivity and all the training, there could always be a situation when something goes wrong.
For example, a batch of messages may go out with incorrect information.
How to recover from such instances is another element that needs to get addressed in the training module.
So, to recover from an embarrassing instance without dishonesty is a learning that is as important as knowing how to do it right in the first place.
While texting comes naturally to most people on this planet, there indeed are differences in personal and business texting.
In the modern world, texting has proliferated in business environments for its benefits. Hence, it becomes crucial to define certain rules of engagement for this mode of communication.
There are etiquettes, rules, and best practices that need to be followed when it comes to engaging with customers or even internal team members. And it is crucial to train employees on these.
After all, the way our employees communicate through texts reflects on the image of the business.
This needs to be done, and there will never be a better time than now.
At Acefone, we assist businesses in elevating their communications to the next level and building strong customer relationships. To know more, get in touch with our experts at 0800-084-3663 or send an email at [email protected].
Acefone provides a broad range of cloud communication services to businesses of all sizes, which includes Hosted Phone Systems, Free Phone Numbers, and Cloud Contact Center Solutions. Being the UK’s leading provider of VoIP service provider, we always strive to provide excellent customer service and high-quality custom solutions to our customers.