Back in 2017, a study in the UK found that text messaging was the top use case for smartphone owners. That statistic holds true even today, globally. According to Statista, "chatting" or texting is still the number one activity among mobile phone users.

This is why text messaging is an effective channel in customer relationship management. It's also why many brands and businesses have continued to invest in this medium for sending both one-way and two-way SMS messages to their customers.

The future of instant messaging platforms like Viber and WhatsApp is promising, but these platforms are still far from perfect and have certain limitations as commercial solutions. On the other hand, as simple as the technology is, SMS offers businesses an almost failsafe way to reach their customers.

An SMS API is a must-have tool for businesses that want to relay one-way transactional information to customers. Examples of transactional texts include notifications, reminders, confirmations and PIN codes. However, there is much potential beyond transactional messaging that can be unlocked by utilising two-way conversations.

Further reading: Learn more about SMS API providers

What is two-way SMS, and how does it work?

Two-way SMS is simply text messaging where you can send messages and also receive them. In the world of business, a two-way SMS API can be used to text customers and receive responses from them. It's ideal for boosting engagement, especially when you need your customers to take a specific action or give a particular response.

When customers receive incoming SMS messages from a business, they sometimes want the ability to send you a direct response. Meaningful conversations are the bedrock of providing a strong customer experience. Using a conversational SMS service, customers are able to not just listen to you but also express their own thoughts.

This form of SMS messaging is a bit different from traditional texting. It's performed using an API and uses shortcodes, long codes, or a sender ID to deliver the SMS. Customers can respond to two-way SMS messages in ways as simple as with pre-set commands such as ‘Y' for yes and ‘N' for no.

Use cases for two-way text messaging services

Using two-way texting to engage customers depends on what you want to accomplish with your messages. Think about the actions you want your customers to take and what you need from them as input. It's as simple as asking yourself (or your team), “What's next?”

When you've decided what you need, you can then set up the optimal two-way SMS sequence.

Here's an example. Imagine your business is a dental clinic that typically uses one-way SMS messaging to send out appointment reminders to all your existing customers.

How could you take that further with two-way SMS messaging?

  • Firstly, think about what you want the customer to do next after receiving their appointment reminder. Let's say you want to ask them to respond to either confirm, cancel, or reschedule.

  • Consider what should happen next after they respond. Whether the recipient confirms or backs out, you could set up some automated responses such as, “Thanks, see you then!” or “That's unfortunate [Name], would you like to reschedule instead?” to save time.

  • If the recipient asks to reschedule, you could carry the customer interaction even further and send the patient a text message listing some available times within the next week.

  • What's next after this? Well, dental clinics usually see their patients once or twice per year. So you could book the next appointment on the spot and use SMS to send them a notification the next day, with a link to add the appointment to their calendar.

Two-way SMS is also ideal when you need to drum up business through marketing campaigns. Let's say that you run a restaurant and are offering a special meal deal during a slow time.

  • You could start by sending your opted-in SMS contacts list a notification with details of the special offer, along with a link to your website.

  • What's next? In the same message, ask if the subscriber would like to book a table.

  • If they say yes, the next step is to confirm the number of people the reservation is for.

  • Next, send available times for the table.

  • Using the responses you've told the subscriber to use, they could send a text back to book a table at the time they desire.

This kind of two-way SMS marketing campaign can be applied to retail, spas, hotels, and nearly any other customer service-oriented business.

Real-life business examples of two-way messaging

With some creativity, two-way text message campaigns can go a long way with your customers. It can be implemented in many different industries with some promising results in many different scenarios. Let's go over a few real-life examples of two-way communication via SMS.

Feedback collection

Businesses that want to conduct surveys can do so using two-way SMS. This is exactly what Vodafone does to find out how the company is doing in terms of customer satisfaction. Vodafone tends to send out texts like the one below to get an idea of what customers think about the customer service they've received over the phone or in-store.

Feedback collection two-way text message example

Customer service

Vodafone also uses two-way messaging channels to administer certain customer service requests. For example, if customers are planning to switch to a new mobile provider, they can request their PAC code by texting the word ‘PAC'.

Customer service two-way SMS example


Two-way texting is also used by some brands to provide an opt-out option for when the customer decides they want to stop receiving marketing text messages. See this example from Dwell, a UK furniture store.

Opt-out two-way SMS message example

How to set up two-way texting for business

To set up two-way text messaging, you'll need to first choose a reputable two-way SMS service provider that caters to businesses similar to yours.

Messente's two-way SMS integration into your CRM tool can be executed in the space of a day. The easiest way to do this is by using Zapier. You may need the help of a developer unless you've got some experience working with computer code.

Follow these simple steps to get Messente's two-way messaging service set up:

  1. Create your Messente account (which you can do for free).

  2. Then locate your API key - here's how.

  3. Next, verify yourself as a sender by registering your phone number or applying for a sender ID through Messente.

  4. Provide your developer with our Quickstart guide, which explains how to get started with our API and send your first text message to customers.

  5. To receive inbound text messages, you'll need to request an ‘inbound number' from Messente. Here you have two options: short codes or long codes. Whichever number you choose is what your customers will use to text you.

  6. Provide your developer with this API reference which sets out the request parameters for receiving texts from your customers.

  7. Once the technical side of things is set up, think about the kinds of two-way campaigns you want to send, including how you want your customers to respond.

  8. When you're ready to create your SMS campaigns, you'll be able to do so directly from your CRM tool if you've integrated Messente's API. You can also use Messente's online dashboard to send texts.

Using two-way SMS software to go beyond transactional messaging

Two-way SMS messaging has great potential for engaging customers, driving revenue, and adding value to customer conversations. Upon incorporating a two-way SMS service into your marketing strategy, you can build meaningful relationships with many customers and clients in a way that one-way text messaging could never.

As this article has explained, a two-way texting platform can be integrated successfully across many different industries, such as hospitality, real estate, healthcare, eCommerce, and retail, for many different business use cases.

Messente makes the process of getting started with SMS two-way messaging super straightforward. To see how easy it is to create your first SMS campaign, sign up to Messente here and take a look around our two-way text messaging software for free.