Ever received a text message and thought that maybe the sender is upset or angry with you – only to realise later that you interpreted the message incorrectly, and actually, there was nothing to worry about?
Around 50% of texts are misunderstood. They can get lost in translation for several reasons, and while text miscommunication might not be a big deal in your personal life, it can become very problematic if you're using text messaging for business.
Read on to learn why it's easy to misinterpret texts and how you can avoid miscommunication with business text messaging.
Why do people misinterpret text messages?
Digital communication is a whole different ball game compared to communicating face-to-face with someone. In one survey, 69.8% of people agreed or strongly agreed that it's easier to misinterpret written messages than face-to-face. Here are five reasons why:
1. No context
When we receive a text message, we don't know what the sender is experiencing at the time. Perhaps they're texting on the fly while rushing to catch a train. Maybe they're ill and can only manage a brief message. Or they could be tired and are struggling to concentrate. In which case, their message could be misconstrued as being short, snappy or cold.
2. No emotional cues
We often rely on facial expressions and tone of voice to pick up on emotional cues and get a sense of how someone is feeling and reacting to our communication. If you can't see or speak to someone in person, it becomes much harder to 'read' them and gauge whether you're on the same page.
3. Lack of body language
Again, we can tell a lot about how someone is feeling by noticing their body language. Folded arms indicate resistance, raised eyebrows signal disbelief or discomfort, and fidgeting denotes anxiety. While smiling usually conveys happiness, humour and friendliness. With a text, you have no clue about the other person's body language.
4. Language style differences
Different generations use their own digital language. For example, older generations tend to use proper grammar, spelling and punctuation, whereas younger people seem to use abbreviations and emojis. In the first case, texts can come across as stiff and formal, while in the latter, they can be seen as the opposite.
5. Communication time-delays
Texts are sent and received virtually instantly, however, we don't respond to many messages in real-time. We might be talking on a phone call, in the middle of a task, or travelling from A to B when a text comes through. We could even be asleep! But if we don't reply quickly, the sender might wonder why we're not responding and end up getting impatient or think we're ignoring them.
Text message miscommunication tips for businesses
There are many benefits of using SMS for business – as a communication channel, it's impactful, direct and gets fantastic results. However, it's important to be mindful of when to communicate via text messaging, and when you're better off sending an email or speaking to customers on the phone.
Texts are ideal for :
Order and delivery updates.
Answering quick questions.
Brief conversations with colleagues.
Phone calls and emails are more appropriate for:
Customer complaints (some people prefer to talk to a human being to get problems resolved).
Providing customer support.
When you need to communicate detailed or lengthy information.
When you do send out business texts, there are several ways to ensure you convey the right tone of voice. Ensure you do the following before hitting send:
1. Use concise, straightforward language
Considering the two language style extremes mentioned earlier, try to aim for somewhere in the middle. Leave out acronyms and abbreviations as these can cause confusion (unless you're targeting a young, hip audience). Opt for full sentences, but consider informal language so that the tone of voice doesn't appear unfriendly.
2. Proofread your message
Always read over your message content before you send it. Check for typos in particular, because incorrect spelling looks unprofessional and distracts from the information you need to relay.
3. Be aware of punctuation
An exclamation point says a lot about a word or sentence. It can show excitement, surprise, happiness or anger – use it as a tool for setting the right tone. See how switching out the full stop for the exclamation mark adds excitement and urgency to this sentence?
‘Order now before it's too late.’
‘Order now before it's too late!’
4. Use emojis (wisely)
Emojis don't replace emotional cues as such, but they can help, as long as you use them sparingly. They can add a sense of fun to SMS marketing campaigns and can make internal business conversations seem friendlier. For instance:
‘👍 Can you include last month's sales figures in your report next time, please?’ reads like you did a good job and additional content will make it even better next time.
Whereas ‘Can you include last month's sales figures in your report next time, please?’ without the 'thumbs up' emoji sounds more like criticism.
5. Be friendly and polite
Finally, like with all communications, use manners. Say 'please' and 'thank you' when making a request. Say 'no problem' when something is being asked of you (as long as you don't mind!). If a customer thanks you, say 'Always happy to help' or 'You're welcome'. Never assume that customers don't need to hear appreciative phrases.
Avoid miscommunication in business text messaging
Text messaging can empower your business, providing you pay attention to the type of content you're sending out and how it's likely to be perceived.
Be conscious of the fact that you don't have access to facial expressions, emotional cues and body language. Only use text for purposes where a quick message will suffice, like promotional campaigns, simple customer service messages, alerts and certain types of internal communications.
When sending out business texts, follow the tips mentioned above to ensure you set the right tone, stay professional and satisfy your customers.