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TrueDialog integration with social messaging apps

Social Messaging: A Powerful Complement to SMS

It’s Business 101: Meet your customers where they are. And for millions of customers, where they are is on social apps.

That’s why TrueDialog enables your business to communicate with customers through Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, and Telegram — all in a single place. These integrations add to the suite of channels you can manage within TrueDialog’s web-based portal, including SMS, MMS, email, and voice messaging.

Scalability with individuality 

By unifying these channels, TrueDialog enables you to communicate at scale while remaining attentive to the individual customer. Send thousands of notifications, reminders, or promotions at once with the ability to answer customer questions, address issues, and provide instant, personalized customer service. 

Previously, in order to support customers across multiple channels, your team would need to juggle separate dashboards or APIs. Because of the time and complexity required to manage these options, businesses would rely on fewer channels, often leaving out a customer’s preferred messaging platform. With TrueDialog, you can set up a single message to be delivered across all the leading channels.

“Our goal is to help businesses enhance their customer experience through more effective communication,” said TrueDialog CEO John Wright. “Customers often prefer chat to schedule appointments, check their order status, or receive special offers. They’re already spending time on social messaging apps, meaning your business should, too.”

Two-way, the smart way

In order to provide a holistic experience to customers, your business needs a holistic view of each conversation. TrueDialog ensures that disparate channels can be managed together in a single, easy-to-use web interface. Your reps will no longer rely on their personal devices or accounts to manage two-way interactions, which creates a chaotic experience on both sides. 

When customers respond to a message, your employees have a centralized place to house conversations. Each team member has better visibility into what’s already been communicated and by whom. No more clunky, frustrating interactions — instead, everyone can maintain the context of the conversation while routing issues to the correct agent. 

Channel prioritization

With TrueDialog, you control how messages are delivered. For example, given that WhatsApp charges per-message fees and Facebook Messenger doesn’t, you might set up your campaign to prioritize Facebook Messenger over WhatsApp. The ability to order your communication channels according to your requirements saves time, hassle, and money. 

Native integrations

When juggling multiple communication channels, interoperability is paramount. TrueDialog has built our applications directly within each social messaging channel’s development environment. Native integrations ensure better compatibility, performance, and security than integrations that rely on behind-the-scenes tools such as Twilio, Zapier, or Boomi that essentially act as middlemen.

Because each inbound and outbound request counts as a transaction, the total cost of ownership using these tools quickly adds up. Each request also becomes another potential point of failure. By eliminating that intermediary step and interacting directly with each platform’s software, TrueDialog helps you minimize vulnerabilities and delays.

In fact, because we built our platform for large enterprises, TrueDialog is better equipped than SMB providers to ensure mass deliverability without competing for bandwidth and processing speed.

US-based service and support

TrueDialog built its own technology to handle enterprise-grade needs. Our team of developers and support agents know the platform inside and out. Whether you need a dedicated installation team or a step-by-step walkthrough, we offer support from our headquarters in Austin, Texas. 

Want to see it for yourself? Schedule a free demo to see our social messaging integration and other features of the TrueDialog platform. 

Higher Education Text Messaging: Everything You Need to Know About TCPA Consent Laws

If you’re planning to roll out text messaging for your college or university, it’s essential to understand consent laws before you hit send. Besides avoiding legal issues, understanding the regulations can ensure a positive experience for your students and alumni. We’ve put together a guide that will help you do both.

We will cover the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), how it applies to text messaging, and what it all means in a higher education setting. Using our examples and best practices, your school can incorporate SMS texting into its communications strategy with confidence.

What is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)?

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) regulates how telemarketers can contact consumers. It also allows for individuals to file lawsuits for unsolicited calls. Since taking effect in 1991, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has revised the rules several times to expand consumer rights and accommodate changes in technology. For example:

  • 2003 – Created the Do Not Call Registry, which allows consumers to opt out of telemarketing calls.
  • 2012 – Established robocall restrictions, requiring telemarketers to obtain consent before robocalling and offer an opt-out mechanism during the call.
  • 2015 – Clarified that text messages are subject to TCPA, just like telephone calls.

Are Non-Profit Colleges and Universities Subject to TCPA?

Technically, no. While the law states non-profit organizations are exempt from TCPA regulations, there are two good reasons to operate under the assumption that your higher education institution could be liable for violations.

  1. Potential Legal Challenges – The language in TCPA says that the rules don’t apply to “non-telemarketing, informational calls, such as those by or on behalf of tax-exempt non-profit organizations…” However, there’s always the possibility that someone will exploit a loophole, especially if you’re messaging prospective students and it’s perceived as promotional. Private plaintiffs can recover $500 for each call or text in violation of TCPA – and that amount is tripled if it’s a willful violation.
  2. Best Practices – TCPA is meant to protect the consumer from unwanted solicitations. By following their requirements, your school can develop respectful texting practices, which will build trust and positive engagement with students and alumni. Obtaining their consent is the first step.

Which Types of Texts Must Comply with TCPA?

First, it’s important to clarify that there are four types of texts: marketing, informational, emergency, and hybrid. TCPA has the strictest regulations for marketing messages. Let’s define each type so you can categorize your text messages correctly.

Marketing Texts

If you’re sending a promotional message about a product, good, or service, it’s a marketing text. For example, “20% off all college apparel this week.” However, it’s not always quite that clear. If you plan to use text messaging in college admissions, you might send a text like, “Schedule a tour of our campus.” That could be construed as a marketing text and should be treated as such.

Informational Texts

A message that conveys information about a product, good, or service is an informational (or transactional) text. For example, you might send the following message to an existing student: “Your spring semester tuition is due Friday.” This is a common type of text message sent by colleges and universities.

Emergency Texts

If the text notifies recipients of hazardous conditions or threats, it’s an emergency text. For example, “The National Weather Service has advised a hurricane warning is in effect.”

Hybrid Texts

Hybrid texts are a combination of marketing and informational messages. For example, “Your textbook order has shipped. Buy two more for 50% off.” Or in the example below, this message is sent to a student that has previously enrolled, but the message can be perceived as marketing as it’s asking the student to enroll in a future class.

How Should You Obtain Consent to Send a Text Message?

The level of consent required depends on the type of text message. When in doubt, always use the guidelines for marketing texts since they’re the most stringent.

Marketing Texts

To send a marketing text, you’ll need prior express written consent. But that doesn’t mean you need the recipient to physically sign a contract. Due to a federal law called the E Sign Act, completing a web form or texting a keyword to an SMS short code satisfies this requirement. In addition, TCPA requires that the opt-in form:

  • Be plain and conspicuous (no pre-checked boxes)
  • Be voluntary (not a condition of the sale)
  • Disclose the sender’s intent to send marketing messages via an automated system

For example, a poster on campus might say, Text PROMO to 52645 for weekly messages about sales and special events at the ABC University Book Store.”

Once they’ve opted in, your first message must:

  • Include the sender’s name
  • Disclose possible carrier fees
  • Mention the frequency of messages
  • Provide a code for help and to opt out

For example, at a minimum, it would say: “Please reply YES to receive weekly updates from ABC University. Standard msg & data rates apply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel.”

Informational Texts

To send an informational text message, you’ll need prior express consent. This means if someone voluntarily discloses their phone number to the sender, they’ve consented to autodialed informational messages.

Although it’s not mandated by TCPA, it’s good practice to follow up with a message that gives them the ability to request help and opt-out of future texts.

Emergency Texts

As long as you have the telephone number on file, there’s no need for consent when sending emergency messages.

Hybrid Texts

If you’re sending a message that’s both marketing and informational, you should always use the strictest form of consent, which is prior express written consent.

How Can Universities and Colleges Manage Risks When Texting?

Keep Records of Text Opt-Outs

According to Adam Bowser, attorney and TCPA expert, higher education institutions should keep records of their text opt-outs for at least four years. That’s the standard statute of limitations for these types of claims. In a recent webinar on Higher Education Texting, Regulations and Best Practices, Bowser spoke with John Wright, TrueDialog CEO, about the importance of tracking text opt-outs. “Having proof of consent is your best defense against a lawsuit.” Bowser also recommended having a “Do Not Call Policy” that explains how your college or university monitors and tracks opt-out requests.

If you don’t already have a system in place to manage your TCPA text messaging compliance, the TrueDialog SMS platform for colleges and universities allows you to easily track consents and opt-out requests. Plus, TrueDialog maintains duplicate opt-out information for extra protection against accidentally texting a contact who has opted-out.

Develop a Texting Policy

A formal written policy can help higher education administrators control how texts are worded, when they’re sent, and who sends them. These steps can all reduce the risk of TCPA violations.

  • Define key terms – As you’ve seen from the examples in this article, it’s helpful to understand the different types of texts and what levels of consent they require. What constitutes an emergency? What’s considered promotional? Check out Western Illinois University’s texting policy, which has a “Categories of Messages” section.
  • Share text templates – To ensure compliance with required statements (such as “standard text & data rates apply), create text templates so staff can simply fill in the blanks. 
  • Limit who can text – You can control quality and compliance more easily when you’ve identified a small group of individuals with the authority to send text messages. You could also create an approval process, as described in the Washington State University Texting Policy. 
  • Require opt-ins for all texts – Even though opt-ins aren’t required for informational texts, you can apply this more stringent requirement for all texts. For example, Western Michigan University has adopted this practice. “Except for emergency communications, only those individuals who have opted-in will receive text messages from the University.” 
  • Prohibit marketing texts – You can avoid TCPA altogether by not permitting promotional texts. Be sure to define them clearly and offer examples.

The Key Takeaway for TCPA-Compliant Higher Education Text Messaging

You may find that by complying with TCPA, you’ll build the foundation for better relationships with your students and alumni. From their perspective, you’re being considerate and helpful. Just remember to:

  • Ask permission before you send a message
  • Identify who you are, how often you’ll text, what you’ll text about, and what it might cost
  • Offer help and the option to opt-out at any time

Learn how we can help your college or university manage TCPA compliance. Sign up for a demo or get a free trial.

 

 

TCPA Compliance for Text Messages and Voice Broadcasting

*Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and is neither intended as nor should be used as legal guidance. Please consult with your legal counsel and/or your organization’s regulatory compliance team.

Before you can send text messages or voice broadcast calls to your customers, you should ensure that your messages comply with the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act, if applicable.

What is the TCPA?

The TCPA was enacted in 1991 to restrict unsolicited telemarketing and calls that are generated by automatic telephone dialing systems. Text messages were added to the TCPA in 2003 to protect consumers from getting spam messages.

The TCPA requires any business that will be sending auto-dialed voice calls and text messages to obtain prior written consent from recipients. Additionally, the TCPA requires varying forms of consent depending on the type of message being sent.

In TrueDialog’s recent webinar on TCPA Compliance, our guest Adam Bowser, a TCPA expert and attorney at Arent Fox, discusses the importance of the TCPA and business requirements to maintain compliance when sending voice and text messages.

TCPA Compliance by Message Category

SMS Marketing and Voice Message Marketing: Messages encouraging the purchase of a product or service, or a message which is intended to lead to a sale or purchase. Autodialed or prerecorded marketing messages require prior express written consent from customers, which can be obtained through physical forms, online forms, keyword opt-in or email responses, among other methods.

Informational Texting and Voice Calls: Messages providing information based on an existing business relationship or transaction, such as a shipment notification of a previously purchased product. Informational messages require prior express consent and is implied when a customer provides a phone number during a purchase or transaction.

Emergency Notifications: Messages that impact the safety and health of customers or employees. No consent is necessary for emergency messages, as the purpose of the message is to prevent danger or harm due to unforeseen circumstances such as hazardous weather.

Hybrid: Messages containing a combination of information and marketing. Prior express written consent is required for hybrid messages, as they are categorized as marketing messages based on an offering of a service or good.

TCPA Text Message and Voice Broadcasting Opt-in and Compliance

As Adam stated in the webinar, most TCPA litigation results from mass SMS marketing or voice messages due to negligence from businesses not having a proper opt-in process. Litigation is rare with informational or emergency messages.

Implementing a rigorous opt-in process as well as setting clear expectations with your customers regarding how and when voice broadcasting and text message communications will be used can help businesses provide better customer experience and safeguard against complaints and lawsuits.

General guidelines businesses should follow when sending voice or text messages

  • Always clearly identify yourself and your business in the message
  • Have a clear and easy way for people to opt out by responding with “X” or “Stop”
  • Keep and maintain a record of opt-ins & opt-outs, and have a Do Not Call policy in place
  • Potentially include terms and conditions containing class action waivers and arbitration provisions

Summary

By carefully reviewing and following the TCPA guidelines and having processes in place to stay compliant, businesses can confidently communicate with customers and employees through mass texting and voice broadcast messages. If you are unclear about any aspect of the TCPA, please consult with your legal team or contact Adam Bowser at Arent Fox.

To learn more about TCPA regulations around voice and text messaging, watch the on-demand webinar.

TCPA

Avoid Falling for Covid-19 Text Message Scams

If you ever get a text message from someone you do not know, never respond or click on the link! Scammers are always on the lookout for new ways to get your personal data and your hard-earned money.

With the current Covid-19 crisis instilling fear in all of us, scammers are taking advantage of this situation masking as government agencies and well-known brands to send out fraudulent text messages to unsuspected people asking them for personal information, money for test kits, offering financial support in exchange for bank account information, and other phony offers.

One example (shown below) of these fraudulent messages notifies people that they have been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 and displays a link. When the link is clicked, it can potentially download a virus on their smartphones that provide scammers access to sensitive information, including personal contacts and even financial information.


(Image Source)

 

Other fraud messages include promising financial support in addition to the government stimulus funds, fake Covid-19 home test kits, as well as bogus offers from scammers masking as large companies like Costco giving away money as shown in the example below from FBI San Diego’s Twitter account.


(Image Source)

 

How to Avoid Text Message Scams

Because scammers do not actually have any customers, they try to compile or build their own phone number lists using their own algorithms, so there is a chance that you may have received a similar message.

If you receive a call or text message from a number you do not recognize, even if it shows that it is coming from a government agency or large brand, follow these guidelines:

  • Do not respond to the text message or call. Government agencies or companies will never ask you for personal information over the phone or text.
  • Never click on any link that is in the text message. This may download malware that can access the information on your phone.
  • If you want to verify the sender, enter the phone number in Google to see the owner and origin. Or you can contact the “sender” from their official website or social media account to verify the message.
  • Do not accept any offers for free Covid-19 prevention or treatment from an untrusted source.
  • Block the phone number on your phone so you do not get the message from that number again. You may need to do this several times as scammers will sometimes use multiple numbers.
  • File a complaint with the FCC (Click here to file a complaint).

 

What TrueDialog is Doing to Prevent Text Message Scammers

Text message scammers will often either build their own software to send text messages or utilize a texting provider. However, we at TrueDialog put security first for our customers and are always improving our safety measures to block scammers from creating accounts to send fraudulent messages.

Using proprietary software, the TrueDialog system can identify and block potential phishers, bots, spammers, fraudsters, and high-risk users for our text messaging service based on several factors. This includes email authenticity, domain history, past scam and spam history, location, and suspicious activity patterns including previous incidents.

These security measures provide many obstacles scammers have to overcome before they are able to create an account in TrueDialog. TrueDialog goes through additional screening processes once an account is created should one make it through our initial line of defense. We have identified and blocked hundreds of suspicious accounts from being opened since the current crisis has escalated, and thousands over the past 12 months. We will continue to improve these security standards to protect US consumers from getting scammed.

Text messaging is an important channel for legitimate businesses to connect with their customers and employees. Our goal at TrueDialog is to keep the integrity and purity of text messaging so everyone can benefit from the experience.

 

To learn more about how TrueDialog can help you improve customer communication with text messaging, SCHEDULE A DEMO or SIGN UP FOR FREE TRIAL TODAY!

covid-19

How Colleges Can Use Texting to Stay Engaged with Students, Staff & Faculty During a Crisis

The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted the higher education industry like never before. This is the first time we have seen a mass closure of campuses all around the U.S. and the world.

With students, faculty, and staff all shifting their classes online and working remotely for the unforeseeable future, it’s more important than ever to have an immediate and reliable channel for communication.

Schools are now shifting their work and curriculum through digital channels. We are very fortunate to be living in a time where we have various options for communication. For colleges and universities, every digital form of communication must be deployed to keep classes going and communication flowing between students, parents and staff.

Text messaging is one form of communication that is essential in our daily lives. This is especially true for the younger generation of students as two thirds of incoming college students and their parents find text messages with key information or important dates helpful (University Business).

Texting can improve communication with students as well as internal staff and faculty. The versatility of texting for one-way mass notifications as well as two-way conversations makes communication quick and efficient.

 

Here is how colleges and universities can engage students, staff and faculty during a crisis like Covid-19:

 

Creating a Text Communication Plan

If a school has never texted with students and staff before, it’s important to plan out how texting will be used for communication during a crisis. By simply sending out a mass text message to students and staff without proper warning and context, it may cause confusion and frustration.

Before sending text messages, identify what information will be sent and how will the recipients benefit from it. By segmenting your audience between students, faculty and staff as well as the different categories within each segment, you can be targeted in your message and not come across as an annoyance.

Promoting your text communication will be an important part of planning. In order for students and staff to know that text communication is available, it needs to be promoted in various ways including email, website, voicemail greeting, and social media.

 

Whether you are planning on using texting for one-way notifications, two-way texting, or both, make sure you use and promote the type of phone number that is appropriate for each as short code phone numbers are meant for mass text messages whereas long code numbers are used for one-to-one conversational messaging. (Learn more about short code vs. long code)

 

Sending Text Updates and Alerts

If you are planning on sending one-way text notifications, using a short code phone number along with a keyword makes it easy for people to opt in to receive your messages. Short codes are 5 to 6-digit phone numbers that are used to send mass text messages.

If you try to use a long code to send a mass message to hundreds or thousands of people, mobile carriers will most likely flag it as spam and potentially block the message from being sent. This will not happen with short codes as they are designated for sending large volume of messages.

 

There are a variety of text message notifications that can be sent to students, faculty and staff to keep them informed. These include:

  • Online class schedules
  • Virtual event reminders
  • School closure updates
  • Assignment due dates
  • Exam dates
  • Learning resources
  • Quarantine tips
  • New Covid-19 case updates
  • Emergency alerts
  • Motivational messages
  • Admissions registration reminders
  • New program announcements
  • Financial aid reminders

 

Having Two-way Text Conversations

Keeping in contact with students and staff can help reduce the effects of social distancing and isolation as everyone is craving for interaction during this time.

Using a long code phone number or enabling your existing school phone number for texting allows schools to have two-way text conversations with students and staff. Long code numbers are traditional 10-digit phone numbers that people are used to calling, but can also be used for one-to-one texting.

By allowing students and staff to text in with their questions and concerns, school administrators can create a more efficient way for communication and get questions answered faster than phone calls or emails.

When utilizing two-way texting, it’s important for school administrators to create a schedule for staff/faculty from different departments to respond. This ensures that when people are texting in with their questions, the right person is able to respond quickly.

For example, you can divide the schedule up with AM and PM shifts where different personnel are monitoring and responding throughout the day. For messages received after operating hours, autoresponders can be set up to reply to messages letting people know their message will be responded the next morning.

 

Two-way texting is beneficial for students and staff looking to get a quick answer without having to call or send an email. Some popular use cases for two-way texting include:

 

  • General school questions: Enable students and staff to ask administrators questions about overall school schedules, online class availability and office hour schedules.
  • Counselor questions: Allow students to ask questions to their counselors about selecting classes for next semester, dealing with financial aid, finding career opportunities as well as general guidance on adjusting to life outside of campus and how to manage this situation.
  • Class specific questions: Students can text professors or their assistants with questions about a specific topic, assignment or upcoming exam.

 

University-School-Text-Messaging-Example-class-questions

 

Having designated office hours for students to have one-on-one engagement with professors is extremely important for student success during this time of isolation. Web conferencing is a great way to achieve this, but it’s limited to how many students can participate at once. By offering texting during office hours, it enables professors to communicate with multiple students at once at a one-on-one level and get more questions answered.

 

Summary

Currently, there is no definitive time for when colleges and universities will open again. However, schools need to continue, and effective communication is critical to ensure the safety and success of both faculty and students during this time. Utilizing text messaging as an additional communication channel can help better inform everyone about updates and create an open line of communication that we all need right now.

 

If you would like to talk a higher education texting expert at TrueDialog, SCHEDULE A DEMO or SIGN UP FOR FREE TRIAL TODAY!

Success Story: Davidson County Community College Increases Student Engagement and Boosts Enrollment with Messaging

Introduction

Colleges and universities are facing many obstacles when it comes to recruitment and enrollment. Rapid growth in free online-based learning courses along with shifts in communication preferences are contributing to these challenges. In this case study, learn how Davidson County Community College (DCCC) increased response rates from prospective students and boosted enrollment with TrueDialog.

 

About Davidson County Community College

Davidson County Community College provides innovative and equitable learning experiences to empower individuals, transform lives, and prepare students for enhanced career and educational opportunities within a changing global community. DCCC is a public community college with campuses in Davidson County and Davie County, North Carolina and awards certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees in more than 50 programs.

 

The Challenge

As a seasoned recruiter and admissions counselor at Davidson County Community College (DCCC), Paul Riley understands the importance of communication and relationship building when it comes to recruiting new students.

“As a recruiter, it’s becoming harder to reach potential students. My phone calls, voicemails and even emails are mostly getting ignored,” said Paul.

 

During one interaction with a prospective student, Paul asked if he received the emails that were sent to him. The student replied, “Sorry but I never check my emails and I have over a thousand unread emails in my inbox right now!”

While working with the head of admissions to develop a plan to increase enrollment at DCCC, Paul brought up the idea of utilizing text messaging as they were exploring different tools to help with better engagement.

Paul had previous experience using texting for school communication internally and decided to test it at DCCC to help improve communication with prospective students and build a better relationship with them early in the recruiting process.

 

 

The Solution

After evaluating several text message solutions, Paul decided to partner with TrueDialog due to the company’s experience working with colleges and universities, enabling DCCC to scale. Paul was also pleased with the platform’s reliability and the ability to send mass notifications as well as engage in two-way dialog with students for Q&A. These were all important factors to Paul as he knew exactly what he needed and TrueDialog was a perfect match.

Soon after launching the texting program at DCCC, Paul encouraged students to give him permission to text them with additional information about DCCC’s programs by having them sign interest cards after giving presentations at high schools. Paul also saw an opportunity to promote texting through other channels including social media ads, billboards and their website.

The flexibility of TrueDialog’s solution enabled Paul to leverage texting in several ways. These include using short code numbers to quickly send out mass text messages about program information, financial aid information, campus events and more.

Two-way texting was enabled for students to ask questions about the school and available programs, schedule campus tours, as well as help prospective students get through the application process more quickly. Paul found that students were more responsive when texting from a local number.

Marketing messages were also sent to high school students (who opted in) informing them of DCCC’s Career & College Promise Program, where qualified high school students can take college level courses at DCCC free of charge while providing credits that can be transferred after graduation.

Overall, both mass texting and 2-way texting has helped Paul answer questions faster and help students get through hurdles in the admissions process by engaging over text messaging.

 

 

The Results

After using TrueDialog for only a few months, Paul has already seen a huge improvement in response rates from prospective students wanting to learn more about enrolling at DCCC.

Through texting with prospective students, Paul is seeing about a 50% response rate from text messages, a 20-fold increase from email response rates of about 1-2%.

“By making the experience quick and convenient with texting, we are seeing more engagement from students which is helping us build better relationships with them”. Paul explained. “Even with newly enrolled students, whenever they have a question, the first thing they do is text me.”

 

In addition to seeing great response rates, using TrueDialog has also improved Paul’s productivity when it comes to student communication. Instead of having to spend hours leaving voicemails and writing follow up emails, texting has reduced the need for those repetitive tasks as students are responding more quickly and more often to the first text messages thus eliminating the need for repeat communications. TrueDialog’s automation and personalization features are also helping Paul create personal connections with students at scale.

After seeing the positive impact texting has had on student communications, Paul plans to expand the usage of TrueDialog to other departments such as Financial Aid.

 

Summary

Students today have many options for college. Texting enables schools to better communicate and provide the necessary resources and assistance that students need to make a confident decision. Schools that develop a relationship with prospective students early in the process can get ahead of the competition and boost enrollment.

 

(DOWNLOAD SUCCESS STORY PDF)

If you would like to talk a higher education texting expert at TrueDialog, SCHEDULE A DEMO or SIGN UP FOR FREE TRIAL TODAY!

How to Communicate Effectively During the Covid-19 Crisis

The Covid-19 pandemic is dramatically impacting businesses worldwide. Companies and governments are mandating that employees work from home, so managers need to implement best practices for remote employees. Thankfully we have the necessary technologies to maintain our daily lives and sustain communication with customers and employees – we need communication more than ever.

Here are three ways your business or organization can communicate effectively during the Covid-19 crisis.

Text Message Notifications

The text inbox is a special place for most people and in times of social distancing and remote workers, it is more important than ever to help people feel connected to each other and their companies.

Remote employees can feel lonely and disconnected. This is a very new development for millions of employees nationwide and companies need to use every available communication tool to reduce anxiety and build connections. A well-written and heartfelt text message can create a much-needed personal connection with other employees and management. Fortunately, sophisticated texting platforms exist today to enable personal communication at scale with 2-way text conversations as well as mass text message notifications.

When you want to update customers and employees on the status of your business, the quickest way is to send text message notifications. With a 98% open rate, text notifications are much more effective than voice and email to reach your audience.

Many businesses are sending text message notifications for:

  • Updates on the impact of Covid-19 on their business
  • Work from home schedules
  • Status of business closure
  • Where to access important information
  • Friendly messages that create a positive feeling of connection to the organization

When sending text message updates, be sure you are prepared to respond to questions. By designating a person or a team as the main source of information, organizations can ensure customers and employees are fully aware of the current situation to help reduce anxiety and create a feeling of connection.

Virtual Phone Systems

Given the rapid expansion of this crisis, many companies have been forced to simply forward business lines to employee personal phones to conduct business calls. This can lead to rising cell phone bills for remote employees at exactly the moment they need to cut costs and can also reduce professionalism for the business.

To maintain remote employee productivity and professionalism, businesses need to implement a virtual phone system where business phone numbers can be accessed through personal smartphones.

A virtual phone system enables remote employees to leverage their business phone number and extension to keep work calls separate from personal calls. Advanced virtual phone systems provide important features such as auto-attendant, call routing, professional greetings, interactive voice response, call forwarding, voicemail to email and many other features to keep businesses running smoothly during this time.

It is critical to separate personal calls from business calls and maintain the professional reputation of businesses as they move to a remote workforce. These systems are very quick to set-up and surprisingly affordable – some at just $12/month. The best platforms are cloud-based, easy-to-use and highly scalable as remote employees continue to increase.

Web Conferencing

Businesses have been using web conferencing tools for years, but during this current crisis, web conferencing is soaring as most meetings around the country have become virtual. It’s even more important than ever to stay connected to your team members. Web conferencing keeps the personal touch of an in-person meeting and enables more collaboration through video and screen sharing.

To ensure your web meetings run smoothly, test your web conference software with colleagues to ensure audio and video clarity. After all, a web meeting is useless if others cannot see you or hear you. Have a backup software in place to ensure meeting do not get canceled or postponed due to technical issues. Free services like Google Hangout is a great backup alternative in those cases.

Some employees may miss meetings for various reasons, so make sure to record your web conferences and transcribe the contents of the meeting so you and other members of your team can access it and review later.

Bonus Tip: Recently, many conference companies have become overloaded, especially at meetings or calls that start at the top of the hour or half-hour. Schedule your call to start at an odd time – like 1:07 pm to mitigate this issue and improve the odds that your event will not experience technical issues due to the enormous increase in the volume of virtual meetings.

Summary

Maintaining solid lines of communication can help all of us get through this tough time. The tools and strategies highlighted in this article will help you manage an efficient remote workforce, create a sense of connection/community with your employees and customers, and keep your business operating as smoothly as possible during this Covid-19 crisis. Stay courageous and careful out there. We all have to do our part to get through this together.

Helpful resources for communication during Covid-19

Text message notification solution: Get a free trial of TrueDialog.
Cloud phone system for your remote employees: Get a free trial of VoiceShot.
Free web conferencing tool: Check out Google Hangout.

covid-19, remote employee communication

How Text Messaging Improves the Customer Service Experience

The rise of the internet and mobile technology have compelled businesses to focus more on their customer experience. Consumers today have more control in their purchasing decisions and the companies that provide the best experiences will succeed in the long run.

Online review websites like Yelp! and Google Reviews are providing the transparency that is necessary for consumers to be more confident with their purchases. Online reviews not only give potential customers insight into the product or service a business is offering, but they also provide a glimpse into their customer service experience.

Consumers hold the power to switch brands faster than ever due to the accessibility of information through their smartphones. A study shows that 49% of American consumers switched companies due to poor customer service. It is becoming more important for brands to concentrate on providing convenient and responsive customer service to gain the trust and loyalty of their customers.

Customer service has always been about solving problems as quickly as possible. Advancements in communication technology have enabled businesses to better support their customers using multiple engagement channels including phone calls, emails, website live chat, social media, and text messaging.

Although it’s not a new technology, text messaging is considered the fastest and most convenient form of communication. According to a Nielson study, 56% of people surveyed would rather message a business than call customer service. This shows that businesses need to meet expectations if they want to stay competitive.

 

Below are ways text messaging can improve customer service for businesses and their customers.

 

Texting enhances agent productivity and efficiency

When a customer contacts a business for support, they want fast communication and quick resolution of their issue.

Texting enables customer service agents to quickly answer multiple inquiries by using templated or automated responses for common questions like “what are your business hours?” or “what is your refund policy?”

Sophisticated texting platforms enable Contact Center teams to improve their productivity by enabling message routing and team collaboration to resolve problems faster. This eliminates the frustration of passing customers off from one agent to another.

Phone and email support are a necessary part of a holistic customer service operation, but these methods can create long wait times. A study has shown that the average response time for a customer service email response is 12 hours! Leading companies are integrating text messaging into their customer service communication tools and allowing the customer to choose their “channel of choice.” When customer service teams utilize texting, it dramatically speeds up response times while enabling agents to focus on more complicated problems.

You may not know it, but people may have already tried to text your business when visiting your website. To make communication more seamless, leading businesses are text enabling their landline phone number(s) to send/receive text messages. Many customers simply do not have the time or desire to call – they want a quick and easy text.

 

Texting builds customer loyalty

To keep customers loyal, businesses need to take a more proactive approach to customer service. This means not waiting until a customer has a problem and contacts you, but getting ahead of the potential problem and avoiding it altogether. Text message notifications and text surveys help businesses with proactive customer engagement.

Text message notifications can instantly tell customers about important and time-sensitive information that often goes unnoticed in a crowded email inbox or voicemail.

When businesses integrate a texting solution with their CRM, it enables them to send personalized notifications to a group of customers based on specific criteria. If a business wants to reduce late payments, they can schedule an automated text message notification for payment reminders. These notifications reduce the need to cancel or suspend a customer’s service simply because they were busy and forgot to pay their bill.

When the power of customer data is combined with the ease of texting, businesses can communicate with customers on a personal level by doing things like sending appointment reminders to reduce no-shows or sending follow-ups messages to ensure customers had a positive experience. Being proactive can help businesses build a stronger and more loyal relationship with their customers.

 

Texting improves customer satisfaction

On average, a one-star increase on Yelp! leads to a 5 to 9 percent increase in a business’s revenue. At the same time, a single negative review can cost a business about 30 customers.

Businesses need to rethink how they collect customer feedback and measure satisfaction to make it more immediate and convenient for customers. Doing so will have two major benefits. First, it enables businesses to get real-time and more accurate feedback. Second, it gives businesses a chance to fix a problem before it gets posted on a review website.

However, getting honest and timely feedback from customers is a challenge. Traditional customer survey methods of comment cards require too much effort and email surveys can get lost in the inbox. Text surveys have significantly higher response rates because they are much more immedicate and convenient for both businesses and their customers.

Sending a short text message survey enables businesses to receive feedback from customers in the moment, right after a purchase or service experience. This will help businesses get a better understanding of customers experience in real-time.

If a customer responds negatively to the survey, customer service agents can try to resolve the problem right away by responding to the text, instead of calling or sending an email later, as it might be too late to recover. The ability to respond and resolve issues quickly shows customers that you care about them and can potentially turn a negative online review into a positive one.

 

Summary

Customers want immediate satisfaction, which is why businesses need to adapt to the preferences of today’s mobile-centric consumers and resolve issues through the fastest and simplest way possible. Texting enables customer service teams to provide a better experience to build trust and lifetime loyalty.

 

Learn how we can help improve your customer service experience with texting by SIGNING UP FOR A DEMO or GET A FREE TRIAL.

customer experience, customer service, text messaging

How Colleges Use Texting to Increase Student Enrollment and Improve Retention

The higher education industry has changed over the last several years and the change is negatively affecting new enrollments and graduation rates. Both metrics impact revenue and are crucial to growth and survival for any college or university.

According to a 2018 prediction by the late Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, 50% of colleges and universities will close or go bankrupt in the next ten to fifteen years and the Dept. of Education recently sponsored a study that concluded that the closure rate for small colleges and universities will triple in the coming years.

To back up the prediction, statistics showed a 1.3% decline in college enrollment in the fall of 2019, a drop of more than 231,000 students from 2018. Add that to an average 40 percent dropout rate, higher education institutions of all types need to find ways to improve performance.

Demographic shifts, rapid growth in online education, free internet-based learning options, industry innovation and a fully mobile-centric student base are all contributing to these challenges.

Leading colleges and universities (both private and public) are attacking these issues head on with strategic investments and operational improvements. These include investing in instructional design to upgrade course content, embracing online educational options, using technology to lower operating costs, and implementing systems that are fully set up for today’s mobile environment including mobile communications with potential and existing students.

Today’s students manage their entire lives through their phones. As a result, text messaging has become an essential tool to engage and communicate with students and prospects in real-time to increase enrollment, improve retention, and produce higher graduation rates. Over 97% of text messages are read in 3 minutes or less – nothing else compares. Universities must implement enterprise-grade, scalable texting systems to effectively interact with today’s students.

The best messaging platforms allow university administrators to create instant 2-way conversations as well as mass notifications to remind students and prospects about deadlines and other important university information. The fastest growing universities use text messaging to increase response rates in admissions, retention, student services, financial aid, career services and alumni relations.

 

Here’s how colleges and universities are using text messaging to increase student enrollment and improve retention.

 

Mass Text Message Notifications

Sending text message notifications and alerts ensures students see urgent or time-sensitive information. According to University Business, two-thirds of incoming college students and their parents find text messages with key information or important dates helpful.

Mass text message notifications require short codes (5-6 digit shortened phone numbers) instead of long codes (normal 10 digit phone numbers). Short codes are special numbers designated by wireless carriers to send large numbers of simultaneous text messages for urgent alerts, opt-in sms marketing campaigns and other mass notifications. Using long codes for mass texting will cause messages to be flagged and blocked as spam.

 

Below are some examples of mass text notifications that colleges are sending to their students. These notifications can be streamlined yet personalized by inserting unique student information (eg. name, appointment date, interests) when a texting platform is integrated with a CRM or SIS.

 

Application Reminders

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With so many applications to fill out and deadlines to remember, it’s easy for prospective students to forget when certain forms are due. Make it easy for students by sending them text message reminders with due dates. Be sure to include links within the message to allow quick access and on-time completion.

 

New Student Orientation Notifications

University-School-Text-Messaging-Example-orientation

Orientation events help newly enrolled students succeed. To ensure new students attend all necessary orientation classes and events, send text message notifications a day or two before, as well as the morning of the event.

 

Campus Tour Reminders

University-School-Text-Messaging-Example-tour

It takes significant effort and marketing dollars to finally get prospective students interested in visiting your school, so it is absolutely critical to make sure they actually attend.  Text message reminders with dates, times and addresses can dramatically increase attendance and reduce no show rates. Keep in mind that prospective students may have signed up for several campus tours, so make sure they go to yours with a quick reminder.

 

Scholarship Opportunities

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Scholarships capture the interest of prospective students. Send prospects a quick text message to show scholarship options and ensure they see the financial incentives available for your university.

 

School Event Notifications

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Build a sense of community with students by promoting school events. Text message reminders have immediate impact and produce proven results to boost event attendance.

 

Career Fair Notifications

University-School-Text-Messaging-Example-career-fair

Accreditors require universities and colleges to publish job placement rates and this has become a critical metric that parents and students review when selecting a college. Set your students up for success by sending them text message notifications for upcoming career fairs & events. Increase attendance and help students can get ahead of the curve by meeting potential employers, learning about the interview process, exploring internships and finding the right job before they graduate.

 

Campus Emergency Alerts

University-School-Text-Messaging-Example-campus-alerts

Student and staff safety is the number one priority for any school. Whether it’s a school closure due to construction or an emergency on campus, make sure your SMS provider can quickly send out mass text message alerts on a short code. When it comes to emergencies, every second counts.

 

Marketing Messages

University-School-Text-Messaging-Example-marketing-promotion

Remind prosepective students who have shown interest in your school by sending them a promotional message that highlight the benefits of enrolling. Keep the message short and allow prospective students to easily learn more by responding to the message.

 

Two-way Text Conversations

Texting is conversational by nature, so leverage this personal communication channel to engage with students and increase their chance for success. A texting research study by Lindsay Page and Ben Castleman on Summer Melt found that 86% of students reported text messages prompted them to complete a task they hadn’t finished.

When texting with students one-to-one, long codes are recommended to enable both voice and text conversations over phone numbers that are familiar to the student.

 

Admissions Questions

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When prospective students research schools, they often have questions. Make it easy by sending a text instead of gettting lost in their email or with an unanswered call. By losing valuable time, prospective students may have already moved on to another choice. Let students know they can text you by promoting your phone number on your website, emails, flyers and other marketing materials. Also, include an easy click-to-call button in your text message.

 

Counselor Check-ins

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Going from high school to college is a big change for students. Counselors who show they care about their students’ success and overall experience can increase retention and graduation rates. Good counselors send frequent text messages to their students to check in and find out if there is anything they can do to help or improve their experience.

 

Class Questions

University-School-Text-Messaging-Example-class-questions

Students may have questions they either forgot or were too shy to ask in class. Enable a more open line of communication between students and professors by allowing them to text specific questions they may have about the class. This can help develop a better relationship between students and professors, and improve class performance.

 

Summary

When it comes to communication, nothing is quicker and more convenient than texting for today’s mobile-centric students. This article provides only a few of the many ways colleges and universities are leveraging text messaging to boost enrollment, improve retention, increase graduation rates, and improve each student’s overall experience.

 

If you would like to talk a higher education texting expert at TrueDialog, SCHEDULE A DEMO or SIGN UP FOR FREE TRIAL TODAY!

Long Code vs. Short Code Texting: Which is Right for Your Business?

If you’re a business looking to meet the demands of today’s mobile-centric consumer, then text messaging must be included in your overall strategy.

Why texting? Because it’s fast and convenient, and everyone is doing it. According to a study by PEW Research, “on average, 97% of smartphone owners send text messages. During a one-week study, 100% of participants in the 18–29 age range texted at least once during that period (compared to 98% of participants in the 30–49 age range and 92% of participants in the 50 and older age range).”

This presents a huge opportunity for businesses to engage with their customers and differentiate their experience from competitors in a more personal and effective way, as 75% of consumers are ОК with receiving SMS messages from brands (after opting in).

Before businesses start texting with customers, there is one important thing to consider to ensure legal compliance and a great experience for customers, and that is whether to use a short code number or a long code number.

As with anything you do in business, you must have a goal in mind when thinking about texting for both external (customer) and internal (employee) communications. By understanding your needs, you can make a better decision when determining when to use a short code or a long code.

 

What is Long Code Texting and When Should You Use it?

 

SMS Long Codes are traditional 10-digit phone numbers (Ex. 512-501-5940) that are mostly used to send and receive text messages between personal mobile phones.

There are a variety of ways businesses are using long code phone numbers to text with customers. Smaller businesses sometimes use their personal mobile phones, but that approach is not ideal because it’s not efficient and it is difficult to manage.

Businesses that are serious about texting often use a software to send and receive text messages from customers and employees.

When businesses use a texting solution, they are often provided with a long code phone number that they can use for texting. Additionally, some texting providers can enable texting on existing business landline phone numbers, making it easy for customers to communicate either by text or phone call.

 

When should you use long code numbers for texting?

Long code texting is best when used for personal communication both internally and externally. Long codes are not meant for messaging a large group of people as long code text messages are capped at one message per second. This means if you try to send a text message to hundreds of people a day using a long code, most will not receive the message, as it will most likely be marked as spam by cell phone carriers.

 

Common use cases for long code texting include:

  • Appointment reminders
  • Payment reminders
  • Customer service
  • Employee-specific notifications
  • Birthday & anniversary messages
  • Order & shipping confirmations

 

The purpose of long code numbers is for businesses to communicate with customers and employees on a personal level. They should never be used for mass marketing as there are stricter regulations when it comes to consent for receiving messages. This is where short codes come in.

 

What is Short Code Texting and When Should You Use it?

 

SMS Short Codes are traditional 5-6-digit phone numbers (Ex. 370370) that are used by businesses to send and receive mass text messages.

The keyword here is “mass”. As stated earlier, long code text messages are meant for one-to-one communication and are restricted to one message sent per second. With short codes, businesses can send and receive hundreds of messages without issues as they are pre-approved by cell phone carriers to have a higher throughput at around 100 messages per second.

 

When should you use short code numbers for texting?

Short code texting is best when you want to communicate a broad message or emergency alert to a large group of people at once. No, this does not mean that you should spam people with a “special offer”.

Although short codes enable you to reach more people, they also come with tighter regulations for opting-in. With short codes, businesses MUST HAVE proof of consent from recipients stating they are willing to receive text messages from them.

 

Types of opt-in consent for short code texting can be:

  • A keyword opt-in (Ex. Text JOIN to 123456)
  • Checking a box on a website form that gives consent (Ex. I agree to receive text messages from Business X)
  • Filling out a consent form (Ex. Enter your number to subscribe to alerts)

 

A couple of important things to note for opt-in consent is that first, it needs to be documented in your business records. This is to ensure that you can prove consent should someone decide to take legal action claiming a text message is spam. Secondly, you should always include an opt-out message in every short code message you send, giving people a chance to opt out at anytime (Ex. Text STOP to Unsubscribe).

 

Common use cases for short code texting include:

  • Marketing & promotional messages
  • Company news and product updates
  • Job postings
  • Emergency alerts
  • Contests
  • Polls & Surveys

 

Summary

There is no doubt that text messaging will become the main channel for customer communication in the near future. However, businesses need to first understand how they want to use texting, and then decide whether to choose a long code, short code, or both depending on the goals of the business and each department within it.

It’s important to select a texting provider that has experience with both long code and short code texting and can provide you with proper guidance on the best solution for your business and scale as your business continues to grow.

 

Want to learn more about short code vs. long code texting? Schedule a quick 10-minute call with one of our solutions experts today. 

 

Long Code vs. Short Code Texting Comparison Infographic TrueDialog (DOWNLOAD)

 

 

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