Etiquette when Texting Customers

“Customer service saves time. When you do it right the first time, you don’t have to fix it the next time.” – Shep Hyken

Despite being one of the ‘traditional’ means of communication, texting or SMS (short message service) continues to be popular. Companies continue texting customers as a means of two-way communication – customers can even place orders or get service via text messages. Some companies use text messages to solicit information and data from people on various topics and issues. Some companies allow customers to troubleshoot some system related or other service related problems via texting. With so much happening via this mode of communication, there is bound to be trouble, especially if companies tend to blur boundaries and forget etiquette when texting customers. Text messages are easy to write and go across even without an internet connection, making it accessible to all. However, when texting customers, companies must remember that the messages must be clear, readable, and worth the customer’s time. Following etiquette when texting customers, becomes essential.

When sending a text message to a customer, a company must not only remember to make it easy for the customer to respond, but also the message should be efficient. Efficient messages would be those that clearly explain to the customer what to do post receiving the information from the company, the data the customer would need to send the company, and the best channel through which to send the data. Texting customers with incomplete information could lead to ambiguity, misunderstanding, and annoyance on the part of the customer. Consistency in the terminology, giving the customer fewer options in terms of what they would need to do, and ensuring that the customer has a predictably pleasant exchange of ‘conversation’ with the company via text messages is extremely vital.

Just as consistent terminology is important, the tone when texting customers is also extremely important. The tone must be appropriate to business dealing – using polite, engaging, and an upbeat tone. Finding the balance between a professional yet upbeat tone is hard, but the text message must convey the company’s enthusiasm and willingness to get things moving and remaining connected with the customer. Upbeat and polite tone when texting customers is possible by using courteous language such as sorry, please, thank you, and other such words. The messages would be able to convey enthusiasm and energy, for example, thanking customers for their time, or their rating in feedback surveys, and using words to show a connection and a relationship such. Every company would have a set of customers and must understand them thoroughly, in order to know the best tone to use when texting customers. While there would be some common traits of the tone when texting customers, a company’s customers could have some specific mannerisms and preferences.

It may seem obvious that when texting customers for business, the messages must have correct spellings and punctuation. However, many companies seem to ignore these basics, and end up sounding frivolous, careless, or even outright rude. Correct spelling and punctuation can lift and make even the simplest of sentences sound appropriate and professional. Think about it – as a customer, if you were to receive communication from a company via a text message that was written badly and had incorrect spellings, how would you react? Would you want to respond to the company and receive further communication from them – the answer to both questions is obvious – you would not want to associate with a company that came across as callous.

If your company needs to send a set of communication / messages to its customers, remember to follow a sequence. This is essential since customers are busy and constantly inundated by messages from a number of companies and on a number of issues, and hence may not be able to draw a connection between one message and the other from your company, if there seems to be no correlation between the messages. Without the connection, customers would find it hard to understand what a company would want to convey, and hence the efforts a company would be making, would go waste.

Abbreviations and slangs are a strict no-no when texting customers. Even if a company may have friendly and cordial relations with their customers, it is never appropriate to sound casual and ‘breezy’ when texting customers for business communication. Additionally, it is vital to remember that the name Short Message Service means that messages must be brief, concise, and to the point. If a company does require to convey a longer message, it would be prudent to split the message into two or even three separate ones to maintain clarity and ease of reading, while ensuring that each message makes sense on its own. Abbreviations and slangs are unprofessional, they could mean different things in different cultures and countries – serving to offend sensibilities and annoy customers beyond measure. The thumb rule is that if you would not use certain words in a face-to-face business conversation with a customer, those words must never be used when texting customers either.

As mentioned, even though a customer may also be a friend, using emoticons is never acceptable as they are extremely casual and convey a somewhat lackadaisical approach. Even if a company believes that the emoticons uplift the conversation and soften the tone of the messages, customers would not treat the messages with the seriousness and professionalism required. Instead of resorting to emoticons and abbreviations, it would be better to think smartly about the message to be sent, make a draft of the message, and read it several times before sending it to customers. Even a single poorly crafted message could offend the recipient – for example all caps or bold lettering comes across as shouting and aggressive, and hence must never be used when texting customers. When speaking face to face with customers, a company would never shout or show its temper – the same rules must be followed when texting customers. It is as simple or complicated as that!

While a lot of communication has now become digital and online, texting is still a popular, fast, and efficient method to convey a message. However, making or breaking the image of the company would depend on how well or not the message is crafted – proper grammar, spellings, complete sentences devoid of slangs and abbreviations, and other such business writing ‘decorum’. It is important to proofread the messages before sending them out to ensure that they are free of errors. Ensure that the sentences convey the exact message and that the customer feels inspired and encouraged to respond or act in the way that would be beneficial for the company and the customer. Maintaining etiquette when texting customers, is part of the larger gamut of customer service and communicating with customers. Even one badly worded message could ruin the image of a company and lead the customers away from it – possibly forever.

The bottom line is that any business communication, including texting customers must be free of error, in order to maintain a sound reputation and relationship with the company’s customers. Even though texting may be considered a casual mode of communication, in a number of situations it is one of the swiftest, most convenient and efficient methods of communicating. Given these traits, texting has become an increasingly acceptable mode of communication, but it is also imperative to abide by rules and follow a set of etiquette when texting customers and other business associates.

 

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