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Using Two-Way Texting for Enhanced Customer Engagement

Sept. 19, 2023
The more you explore, the more I think you’ll find that text messaging can play a larger role in communications than most contractors are using it for.

By Tom Sheahan

Mechanical contractors tap into a number of different communication channels both with customers and with internal teams. Call centers are still widely used to field customer appointment requests. Text messages are sent to confirm appointment times. Emails are sent after service linking to a Google review link. Some shops are still toying with which channel makes the most sense for the right people and different scenarios—and they should. The more you explore, the more I think you’ll find that text messaging can play a larger role in communications than most contractors are using it for.

Typically, contractors are using the same automated text messages over and over again to communicate the same two or three things. This usually includes appointment reminders or appointment time updates. Sometimes it includes things like review requests or invoice reminders. Rarely does it include the opportunity for the customer to actually respond. That’s where two-way texting comes in.

Defining Two-Way Texting

Most business texting is one-way texting, meaning the business sends someone a message that is not intended to receive a response. Messages that include a prompt to respond, like “text END to cancel” is technically two-way texting, but not very personalized. The kind of two-way texting we are talking about enables back and forth conversation between customers and businesses. It’s like texting back and forth with a friend. It can be one, two or several messages. Two-way texting is an underutilized tool within the mechanical contracting field, yet it is a powerful one.

Two-Way Texting Topics to Address and Avoid

Imagine business texting as you would personal texting; some things are simply better said in person. That couldn’t be truer in the contracting industry. It will not be possible to diagnose an HVAC problem via text message. You cannot tell what is clogging a drain by looking at a customer’s picture of the backed-up sink. As such, two-way texting should not be seen as a way to do more contracting work; it should be seen as a way to be of better service to customers that may then lead to more work down the road.

In addition to customers, two-way texting can be used to communicate with employed contractors. Rather than having managers use their personal numbers to text contractors who are in the field, two-way texting through SMS gateway software can be used to keep personal numbers private, and communication professional.

On the consumer side of things, there are many different topics that might make sense for two-way texting. Some topics may be proactive marketing initiatives, like texting all previous customers who do not have preventative maintenance plans a limited time offer for a reduced fee for a new plan. If interested, a customer service professional could immediately text back to answer any questions about the plan and start the sign-up process. Keep in mind no personal information, like address or payment information should be shared via text.

Aside from marketing efforts, two-way texting powers better customer service. If you have a phone number compatible with two-way texting, customers can send a message at any time. Maybe they found a coupon for service online that’s expired, and they want to confirm they could still use it before actually setting up an appointment and then turn around and schedule the appointment via text as well. That question, and other simple business questions related to hours and policies, can easily be answered via text message.

Best Practices for Two-Way Texting

Like any communication channel, there are some best practices to keep in mind for business two-way. This includes:

  • Make sure a real person answers: Unlike one-way or no reply texting, two-way texting for business requires a person to read, interpret and respond to a customer’s request or question. In the future, artificial intelligence may be able to work, as well, but for now, you will need to have trained staff at the ready to respond.
  • Keep private information off text: Make every effort to keep customer and contractor information private by keeping personal information away from text messages (one-way or two-way). This includes customer addresses and payment information. If you’re not sure, keep it off text.
  • Let customers know when to expect a response: One of the greatest benefits of text messages is that they can be nearly instant. Customers will expect that quickness here, too. If someone is not on-the-clock and ready to respond to text messages, create an out of office automated message to inform the customer when they can expect a response. Something like, “we appreciate you reaching out and will respond during normal texting hours tomorrow between 7 and 7” works well.
  • Tell people they can text you: Some consumers have never texted back and forth with a business. If two-way texting is something your business is doing, tell customers about it! This can be information shared on the company website, and contractors can also tell customers about this capability during their in-person appointments.

Text messaging is an accepted and widely used business tool. Adding the capability for people to text you back is something that requires some resources but can pay off in dividends along with the fact that you can help more than one customer at a time. Customers will appreciate passing on hold music and instead relying on the quick efficiency texting provides.

Tom Sheahan is the CEO of Red Oxygen, a leading business SMS solutions provider that is headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. Red Oxygen provides texting services to mechanical contracting businesses across the globe.

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