The Do's and Don’ts of Professional Texting
Tommy Keeter, owner of Christian Brothers Automotive in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has spent lots of time working to craft effective messages to his customers, including over text.
Texting has quickly woven its way into business practices with no shortage of benefits. When Keeter first adopted text updates at Christian Brothers Automotive, one of his best service advisors was quick to embrace the new technology.
Before, he’d have to call customers with updates, which often led to him having to “resell” the job. Text updates allowed the shop to keep customers updated without having to discuss the car repair during every single phone call update.
That was an issue Keeter said he never would have thought of, and he was happy to see it resolved with the adoption of text updates. But as with everything, crafting effective messages over text took some trial and error, and there’s been a number of lessons along the way as Keeter has embraced the art of professional texting.
Here are some tools available over text, including those Keeter has found successful at Christian Brothers Automotive, and some tips and tricks to professional texting.
Power of Texting Tools
Logan Wooden, a product marketing manager at Podium, a platform powered by text which provides businesses, including automotive shops, an array of resources that include marketing and online message and reviews services, said they believe texting is a tool underutilized by local businesses.
Podium conducted research that found that text messages have an open rate of 98% and texting has a 209% higher response rate than phone, email, or Facebook. Additionally, consumers are nearly twice as likely to prefer texting to any other communication method.
Perhaps that’s why Podium’s online chat feature, which transitions to text so you don’t need to keep your computer chatbox open, is among its most popular services.
Keeter partners with Autotext.me, a similar platform, and uses a variety of tools over text.
Every customer that checks in at Christian Brothers Automotive receives a text message, and the goal is to keep in touch with their customers as much as they can over text.
A key tool Keeter uses is digital vehicle inspections (DVIs), which allow customers to see over video exactly what repairs are done to their vehicles. Keeter says DVIs have been a “game changer.”
“I think people believe what they see way more than what they hear,” Keeter says. “That’s kind of one of our training tools that we talked about as a company is we always make sure we provide a digital vehicle inspection.”
Similar to the DVIs, Christian Brothers will also text customers educational videos that explain what certain parts do and why a repair is needed. Keeter said if they are recommending replacing an alternator, they’ll send along a short video explaining what an alternator is and what it does.
“If somebody wants to watch that, it’s super helpful,” Keeter says. “We want to educate them enough to where they understand.”
Rules of Engagement
Keeter learned early on it’s key to get a response to your initial text, something he said they learned the hard way.
One time, Keeter thought they were effectively messaging a customer, but when that customer came in to pick up their car, they hadn’t received a single update.
Come to find out, they were using the wrong number.
That prompted Christian Brothers to craft pre-built texts that ask for an action and to make sure the customer responds to their initial message.
Wooden says that a call to action is an important tool. He also said some best practices include addressing the customer by name and identifying yourself and the business so they know it isn’t a spam text.
“From there you can use pretty conversational language in texting,” Wooden says. “It’s a more personal communication channel, just like talking on the phone. We suggest using a very similar language (to) when you’d be talking on the phone.”
Wooden adds that emojis and GIFs also tend to increase engagement rates. Additionally, Wooden recommends keeping texts to near tweet length (about 160 characters).
If they get too long—Wooden says 240 characters are typically the cutoff—carriers may split the message into two texts, which can cost the customer if they pay per text, they can arrive out of order, and Wooden says it also tends to not look as pleasant to customers.
Let ‘Em Know What’s Coming
To help the response rate at Christian Brothers, Keeter says they use DVIs as that call to action, letting the customers know that it’ll be on its way. They’ll even tell customers at the counter to expect the DVI and perhaps a phone call. Keeter says that’s been a successful tool at getting customers to respond to the initial text. Christian Brothers is also proactive in letting customers know its business and shuttle hours, over text messages.
“We’ve even built a message in there that looks something along the lines of, ‘If you’re going to need a shuttle make sure you have the scheduled by 2 p.m.’ Because it eliminates people calling [at] 4 p.m. and they’re on the other side of town,” Keeter says.
Keeter says he’s learned a lot along the way, but being proactive and letting customers know what’s coming has helped avoid hiccups and created a more positive customer experience.
Find a Balance
Keeter and his team spent countless hours working to craft effective messages for their customers, but they’ve also made a goal of not overdoing it.
“There’s a balance of overwhelming people and losing your platform that you’ve gained with them,” Keeter says. “I think you want to make sure you’re sending very effective messages.”
But Wooden says customers are actually more comfortable with a lot more text messages than you’d think. He said they tend to be more comfortable with it than business owners.
“Consumers are saying they would rather get text messages from local businesses that they know as opposed to like a national chain or a big block store,” Wooden says.
Wooden says just under once a week tends to be as much as a customer wants to hear from a business from a promotional perspective. Wooden recommends once a month as a best practice but said that customers are comfortable with up to two or three times per month.
If There’s an Issue, Pick Up the Phone
Texting certainly isn’t always the best method of effective communication. In the case of miscommunication over text, things might get testy and arguments may get out of hand in a hurry.
Keeter says the second any communication over text gets awkward, testy, or weird, they’re quick to pick up the phone.
“Texting is only like friendly, informative,” Keeter says. “We never would sell a job over texting. We would never deal with customer complaints over texting.”
Wooden has seen customers’ traffic, and sales, increase as communication has increased. Texting converting directly to purchases. And that communication betters the customer experience as more and more people tend to prefer communicating over text.
“I think in general, people prefer text messaging,” Keeter says. “When it comes to dates and communications, I think that it’s a game changer for your customer experience. Also for your staff.”