Text messaging continues to rank as a top, if not the top, use for smartphones today. It’s an effective channel in customer relationship management and customer engagement. This is why many brands and businesses are rapidly adopting SMS to send both one-way and two-way SMS messages to their customers.
The future of messaging platforms like Viber and WhatsApp is promising, but these are currently fractured platforms, and each has certain limitations as a commercial solution. 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 by utilising two-way SMS.
Further reading: Learn more about SMS API providers.
What is two-way SMS, and how does it work?
Two-way SMS is a type of software or service that lets you send and receive text messages. In the world of business, two-way SMS can be used to text customers and receive responses from them. It’s ideal for building engagement and for when you need your customers to take a specific action.
When customers receive incoming SMS messages from a business, they are given the ability to send a direct response. Meaningful conversations are the bedrock of providing a strong customer experience. Using a conversational SMS service, customers can receive messages (automated responses) from the business SMS service that are designed to elevate customer experiences.
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 with pre-set commands such as ‘Y’ for yes and ‘N’ for no.
Use cases for two-way SMS
Using two-way SMS to engage customers depends on what you want to accomplish with your messages. Think about the actions you want your customers to make 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 SMS sequence. Here’s an example. Imagine your business is a dental clinic that typically uses one-way SMS to send out appointment reminders. How could you take that further with two-way SMS?
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’ or ‘reschedule’.
Consider what should happen next after they respond. If the recipient confirms, you could set up an automated response such as, “Thanks, see you then!”
If the recipient asks to reschedule, you could carry out conversational messaging and send the patient 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:
Send your opted-in SMS marketing list a notification with 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 SMS campaign can be applied to retail, spas, hotels and nearly any customer service oriented business.
Real-life business examples using two-way SMS
Businesses that want to conduct surveys can do 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 this one below to get an idea of what customers think about the customer service they’ve received over the phone or in-store.
Take SMS beyond transactional messaging
With some creativity, two-way messaging can go a long way with your customers. It can be implemented in many different industries with some promising results. So, give it a try!
Vodafone also uses two-way SMS 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’.
Two-way SMS is also used by some brands to provide an opt-out option, for if the customer decides they want to stop receiving marketing text messages. See this example from Dwell, a UK furniture store.
How to set up two-way SMS for your business
To set up two-way text messaging, you’ll need to first choose a reputable SMS API provider. Messente’s SMS API can be integrated into your CRM tool in the space of day. The easiest way to do this is by using Zapier. You may need the help of developer, unless you’ve got some experience working with code.
Follow these simple steps to get two-way SMS set up with Messente:
Create your Messente account (which you can do for free).
Then locate your API key - here’s how.
Next, verify yourself as a sender by registering your phone number or applying for a sender ID through Messente.
Provide your developer with our Quickstart guide which explains how to get started with our API and send your first text message to customers.
To receive text messages, you’ll need to request an ‘inbound number’ from Messente. This is either a shortcode or a long code number and it’s what your customers will use to text you.
Provide your developer with this API reference which sets out the request parameters for receiving texts from your customers.
Once the technical side of things is set up, think about the kinds of two-way SMS you want to send, including how you want your customers to respond.
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.
Use two-way SMS to go beyond transactional messaging
Two-way SMS messaging has great potential for engaging customers and driving revenue. Upon implementing an SMS gateway and two-way SMS service into your marketing strategy, you can engage in two-way messaging to begin building relationships with new customers and clients.
As this article has explained, it can be implemented successfully across many different industries such as hospitality, real estate, healthcare, ecommerce and retail.
Messente makes the process of getting started with two-way SMS straightforward. To see how easy it is to create your first SMS campaign, sign up to Messente here and take a look around for free.