May 22, 2022

What is Two-way Text Messaging? Conversational Business SMS Guide

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A two-way SMS platform is one that incorporates outbound and inbound text messaging

An introduction to two-way SMS for contact centers

A two-way SMS platform is one that incorporates outbound and inbound text messaging into a unified service. SMS is one of the fastest-growing channels for business communication. And it’s no surprise as SMS engagement and costs outperform the more traditional phone and email. Here are a few surprising stats:

  • SMS open rates beat email nearly 5x over: 90% vs 20% – Open rate of SMS compared to email open rates (VoiceSage).
  • It takes the average person 90 seconds to respond to a text message ((GSMA).
  • 75% of people wouldn’t mind receiving an SMS text message from a brand (after opt-in) (Digital Marketing Magazine).

It used to be that outbound SMS-alert functionality alone was enough to hit the messaging mark. Many brands still simply use texting as a means to send messages in real-time to large groups of customers simultaneously. What they don’t realize is that many of those messages are getting responses. This means you could be leaving some serious relationship-building opportunities (not to mention cash) on the table. 

Here is the most astonishing thing to consider: According to LiveVox survey data, 60% of the one-way SMS messages you’re sending are getting responses that go unanswered. That amounts to a huge missed opportunity. 

To help you turn a one-way message blast into a true engagement, in this article, we lay out three core aspects of successful two-way SMS adoption:

  1. Two-way SMS basics
  2. The potential value add of conversational messaging for your organization 
  3. Compliance

These SMS basics will help you get up to speed and scale as your digital engagement grows.

Create a meaningful “hello”

Two-way SMS is almost like creating a conversation with a stranger. You have to make sure you’re saying something interesting and impactful because customers actually want to talk back to you on this channel. This touch goes a long way for customer service. A simple “Welcome” message can translate into some serious NPS points.

In highly-regulated industries like financial services, for instance, these messages can also bolster data security posture and give your customers an added sense of protection. 

To create a meaningful hello, follow these tips:

  • Be clear. Include your brand name so customers have a record of who they’re texting with and spell out exactly what they should expect as your SMS subscriber. This might look something like this: “Thanks! You’re subscribed to SMS messages from Smith & Co. We’ll send product recs we’ve selected just for you about once a week.”
  • Be mindful of tone. Just because SMS marketing messages are short in length doesn’t mean it’s time to ditch your usual tone and style guidelines. Keeping your language aligned with what customers are used to will contribute to a stronger brand.
  • Keep it short. That being said about tone, the length of your business SMS does matter. To prevent your message from getting clipped, keep it under 160 characters. 
  • Offer the option to opt-out. Giving subscribers a simple way to opt-out isn’t just a best practice; it’s required by law. 
Two-way messaging can improve your brand perception.

But make sure it’s compliant…

Compliance is essentially constantly confirming and re-confirming you as a business are engaging with customers on their terms. You can’t just buy a list of numbers and start texting. You have to build an opt-in list that tracks obtained consent by the customer. 

To build your SMS messaging database, you first need consent to engage with a customer. To do so, you need to ask their permission. Obtaining consent for the initial touchpoint is critical, but it’s an ongoing affirmation. 

This is because brand-to-customer SMS messaging is protected by the same regulations as calls to cell phones. Just like there are rules about how you can conduct calls to cell phones that come with some pretty steep fines, TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) governs text messages, too. In broad strokes, TCPA states that organizations must obtain written, explicit consent from the customer before contact can be made on a mobile channel. 

This is why it’s crucial to go for platforms with built-in consent management. That way you can accomplish the following:

  • Acquire the customer’s express written consent to receive messages via SMS. Written permission may include electronic or digital forms of signature (such as a website form, text message, or email confirmation).
  • Maintain a record of each customer’s consent.
  • Disclose useful information and opt-out instructions.
  • Offer the ability to revoke consent and opt-out at any time (e.g., a STOPkeyword.)

Like earthquake insurance and rain boots on a sunny day, TCPA is probably one of the most important things you didn’t know you needed to protect yourself against. Thankfully, making sure you’re on the right side of TCPA isn’t as difficult as reading insurance policy fine print.

Continue the conversation

What makes conversational SMS so desirable is that after the initial point of consent, you can contact customers by text moving forward with information about updates, issues, and promotions, even invitations to join VIP programs, events, or surveys.

This creates a personalized experience by leveraging what you already know they want to know about. You can use the data you collect with each interaction to build on that value and generate new opportunities for more meaningful conversations.

In addition to fraud alerts, customers are more apt to receive texts about payment reminders, low balance alerts, etc. But the data shows they’re receptive to so much more.

SMS provides a twofold benefit because you’re enabling constant contact while also gathering vital intel that can be utilized to better understand customer preferences, history, and intent. With this information, you can then further develop relationships that yield positive ROI benefits for your company’s bottom line

If you do it right… they want to talk back

Consider your own everyday use of messaging as a proxy. You use your personal phone for business, you receive text updates about packages that have been delivered, maybe you even make appointments via text. 

SMS texting is part of our everyday communications. As Deloitte points out in their most recent mobile usage study from 2018, the vast majority of customers worldwide have access to this capability on their mobile phones. People often send more text messages than they place voice calls or email. 

Texting has also changed from a short one-way communication to an ongoing conversation between people, and customers are now expecting this same fast, easy communication with the brands they use every day.

Learn how Eastern lowered the cost of service and increased CX with two-way SMS.

Having two-way text messaging to provide effortless service is essential to keeping customers satisfied. SMS/text notifications are ubiquitous—from doctor appointment reminders to credit card fraud notifications, they’re commonly used to send messages, alerts, and reminders. That is now the status quo. 

All too often the message only goes one way and the customer cannot reply with a question or text back anything other than a confirmation code or a request to stop receiving such messages. Or, the customer is provided a phone number to dial for further assistance. All of this creates friction on a channel that exists for quick and easy interactions. Contact centers that offer messaging have an easier time merging online and mobile channels. They also experience more success with contact rates and higher NPS scores, in addition to breaking down silos that can cause problems.

Why SMS is effective

It’s clear smart brands have adopted SMS but are primarily using it as a one-way service. You may receive an update from your mobile carrier notifying you when you’re near your data limit, or maybe an appointment reminder about your upcoming dentist visit. What many businesses don’t realize is that customers want to respond to those texts, and may already be. With 90% of all text messages read within 3 minutes of being received, the opportunity to engage with a customer on this channel is one of the most impactful.

In addition to being a conversation launchpad, SMS is a far more cost-effective channel when compared to traditional voice. The average cost of a phone call hovers around $15.50 per interaction according to Forrester research vs $1 and $5 for SMS. Optimizing SMS in your call center is a no-brainer. 

Using a two-way text platform is a great way to boost conversions. By including an enticing call to action that’s personalized for the subscriber, you can encourage click-throughs to your bottom-of-the-funnel landing pages. From there, the floor is yours to turn that subscriber into a customer or repeat purchaser or respond to any questions they may have directly in your text conversation. And, as mentioned above, each message comes at a lower cost than other marketing mediums, which increases your ROI. 

Finally, two-way messaging is incredibly nimble. Distributing a push notification that reaches your entire customer base is as simple as tapping out a message in your SMS software and hitting ‘send.’ Plus, your text message platform provides valuable analytics that can be used to optimize your messages, resulting in campaigns that are increasingly effective over time. 

Reasons Why People Prefer SMS over Other Channels

Customers prefer two-way SMS messaging from contact centers because it is less time consuming, more convenient and less frustrating.

(LiveVox 2019 Market Trends Survey Report)

Drawbacks of one-way SMS messaging 

The benefits of two-way messaging are clear. But if you’re still on the fence about upgrading from a traditional one-way messaging platform, consider these drawbacks. 

  • Customers can’t reply to you. This is the most obvious downside of one-way messaging. But the worst part is that many customers will still think they’re replying to you and you’re simply not responding–not a good perception to leave them with.
  • It doesn’t match up with your promise to customers. Somewhere in your marketing, you’ve probably used language conveying how much your customers matter to you. But if they can’t have a two-way conversation with you, how much do they really feel like they matter?
  • It’s bad UX. Modern customers are used to the back-and-forth cadence of a regular text message conversation. If your SMS messages are purely one-sided, it makes for an awkward user experience that can leave customers with a negative perception.  
There are many benefits of two-way messaging for businesses.

How to choose the best business text messaging software 

Because of its convenient and highly personal nature, SMS messaging is incredibly effective at engaging customers. Most customers respond positively to text message communications from brands once they’ve opted in to receive them. 

There are many types of SMS that brands can use for messaging and support purposes, including:

  • Promotions
  • Coupon codes
  • Contests
  • Transactional messages
  • Status updates
  • Service alerts
  • Geo-triggered messages

Choose your SMS messaging provider as part of a unified communications strategy by considering how their offering fits in with your other channels and support strategies. For example, a transaction that happens on your website might then trigger text message shipping alerts, or a support request that begins on text might move to a call with a live agent. The beauty of SMS is that it accommodates these seamless transitions with ease. 

How to scale up your business’s conversational text messaging

Here are three things you can do today to optimize your SMS messaging campaigns:

  1. Target your texts
  2. Set ip triggered events that are personalized based on behavior
  3. Include a call to action.

Another SMS best practice is to Integrate with other channels. Text messaging is highly conducive to integration with other channels, like email and voice. Here are some examples:

  • Allowing subscribers to text to receive a call back instead of waiting on hold
  • Deflecting inbound calls by offering text-based support
  • Texting subscribers to let them know a sensitive document will be arriving via email
  • Emailing subscribers a special offer when they opt in to receive marketing via text
  • Transitioning from text support to a voice call to tackle a complex customer service issue.

One more thing about compliance… 

The expansion to new channels is all about the customer. They want to communicate with brands in the same way they talk to their friends. They’ve driven this change across industries— from retail to finance. It’s a customer’s world out there, and businesses have a lot of boxes to check if they want to cut through all the noise. 

Incorporating SMS into your channel suite not only makes customers happy (win!) it’s practical and cost-effective. SMS is covered under the TCPA, a customer protection regulation that exists to ensure people are reached only when they want to be. 

When looking to implement two-way SMS, or a new channel of any kind for that matter, search no farther than platforms that take the mystery out of a confusing topic like compliance with built-in consent management. 

And trust us on the earthquake insurance.

How LiveVox can help with two-way messaging 

LiveVox offers two-way messaging that helps organizations meet customers on their channels of choice. We provide options for Voice, Email, SMS, Webchat, and AI to exceed their expectations and do more. 


To learn more, schedule a demo today.

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About LiveVox

LiveVox (Nasdaq: LVOX) is a next generation contact center platform that powers more than 14 billion omnichannel interactions a year. By seamlessly unifying blended omnichannel communications, CRM, AI, and WEM capabilities, the Company’s technology delivers exceptional agent and customer experiences, while helping to mitigate compliance risk. With 20 years of cloud experience and expertise, LiveVox’s CCaaS 2.0 platform is at the forefront of cloud contact center innovation. The Company has more than 650 global employees and is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Atlanta; Columbus; Denver; New York City; St. Louis; Medellin, Colombia; and Bangalore, India. To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox or visit livevox.com.

To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox, visit www.livevox.com or call one of our specialists at (844) 207-6663.

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