Article

Business texting for customer service

From SMS to WhatsApp, here's everything you need to know about text messaging with customers.

By Jesse Martin

Published May 21, 2021
Last updated May 24, 2021

There’s an oft-cited stat that text messages from businesses have a 98 percent open rate, but there’s a lot more to business texting than just outbounding customers.

Customer service has been transformed by messaging. In 2020, support requests surged over messaging apps, with WhatsApp seeing 101 percent growth from the previous year. Only 15 percent of surveyed customers said they preferred to use SMS as a customer support channel when available.

The lesson? The definition of business texting is expanding to mean more than SMS: If businesses want to provide better CX, they have to reach customers where they are—on social messaging channels.

business texting stat

What is business texting?

Business text messaging is leveraging popular mobile communication channels, including SMS and chat apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which billions of people use to provide a better customer experience.

Business texting is often thought of as a marketing channel—77 percent of customers opt-in to receiving texts for coupons or deals—but it's a great customer support strategy, depending on which channels and customer engagement tools you're using.

Benefits of business text messaging

During the pandemic, support requests over WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger spiked, while more traditional service channels like email, SMS, and the phone plateaued.

  • Customers prefer messaging with businesses because it’s convenient and personal.
  • SMS and social messaging have high CSAT.
  • SMS and social messaging have high engagement.
  • Social messaging preserves the conversation history, so customers don’t have to repeat themselves and agents have the context they need.

Business texting channels: SMS vs. social messaging apps

Can I use messaging apps for business texting?

Of course. SMS is only part of the story. When businesses adopted SMS to send reminders, notifications, and updates to their customers, there wasn’t an expectation that the channel would be used to have a conversation. An agent who receives a reply may not have the context of the original conversation, creating a disconnect that could be easily remedied when messaging channels are connected to your customer service software.

Popular messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger changed the way businesses have conversations with customers. Not only is it possible for businesses to set up verified profiles—boosting credibility and authenticity among customers–it’s also possible to preserve the entire thread of the conversation for later. This includes previous interactions customers had with the brand (as well as conversations with bots, reminders, updates, and notifications), giving support agents more context and enabling them to deliver a more personalized customer experience.

International business texting: SMS or WhatsApp?

In many regions, including across much of Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Indian subcontinent, as well as immigrant and diaspora communities North America, WhatsApp is the de facto mode of communication. While SMS works over your phone network, WhatsApp works over the Internet.

Network coverage and data plans vary from region to region, but WhatsApp, like other social messaging apps, works anywhere with an Internet connection. WhatsApp generally does not use too much data, which is why it’s popular in areas with scattered infrastructure and among populations who have not had access to affordable phone plans and fast Internet until recently. In Europe, where Android mobile phones are more common, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app because it offers a consistent, rich experience across many different devices.

Communities and businesses have been organizing informally on WhatsApp for years before the technology to carry out conversations at scale was available.

For example, Mexican fintech company PayJoy used multiple WhatsApp accounts on individual mobile phones to provide service for their customers. When they integrated WhatsApp into Zendesk, they were able to carry out customer conversations from a single place, alongside the rest of their support channels, cutting down first response times and allowing them to provide true conversational experiences.

SMS

Popular messaging apps

  • Send text only with a character limit
  • Customers receive notifications and updates from an unknown number rather than a verified business profile
  • Used mostly for outbound mobile marketing
  • Pay international rates in order to send SMS business texts across borders
  • Send multimedia messages, like images, files, and even GIFs to customers
  • Two-way communication means customers can reply, and businesses need right tools to reply back
  • Ideal for customer service and conversational commerce
  • Boost your credibility with verified business profiles on all major apps
  • Rely on apps with end-to-end encryption so customers feel secure with their data

Using WhatsApp for business texting? Here are some best practices:

business texting on whatsapp

Add a WhatsApp button

Businesses can direct their customers to text them on WhatsApp by placing a “Message Us” button anywhere on their websites, ecommerce stores, and mobile apps. This opens a conversation in the app, and the customer can get straight to the question.

Use message templates

Businesses with a large customer base on WhatsApp can use templates to send messages to customers at scale. These templates usually have character limits and can only be sent within a certain window of time after engaging with a customer, so as not to spam them. Templates are great for communicating details like shipping confirmations, support ticket updates, or surveys.

Set up a verified business profile

An official business account has a green checkmark badge in its profile and at the top of the conversation. The display name is visible even if the user hasn't added the business to their address book.

Set expectations and reduce volume with bots, automation, and autoresponders

Businesses on WhatsApp can use Zendesk to integrate bots that improve the overall customer experience. Bots can be crafted with simple conversational flows to address FAQs, route customers to the correct department, and connect customers to help desk articles. For more sophisticated use cases, businesses can partner with companies that specialize in bots for a more personalized, intelligent touch.

Business texting pitfalls and how to avoid them

SMS has long been considered a great channel for mobile marketing because texts have a higher open rate than emails, yet it’s important to ask yourself as a business: Do my customers really want me popping in their inbox unannounced?

If you’re going to use a conversational channel for marketing, you should be inviting the customer into a conversation rather than subjecting them to an impersonal, random text. When customers can respond, support agents can add a personal flair to their texts, so that customers don’t feel like they’re speaking to a robot.

Is outbound marketing considered spam?

Here’s the thing: Nobody loves receiving texts from businesses out of the blue, and it has become common for spammers and scammers to send phishing links in SMS messages. This has led to a general suspicion of unheeded SMS messages.

Social messaging apps, on the other hand, have strict rules about spam, and whether or not a company can message a user first. If automated responses are repetitive and frequent, a business might temporarily lose the ability to use the channel.

On WhatsApp, companies cannot outbound customers with messages—the user has to engage first. Companies can, however, send notifications to customers if their customers opt into receiving them. From there, companies have a 24-hour window to send notifications. If they miss the window, they won’t be able to message the customer until the customer replies again. Because businesses on WhatsApp can have verified business profiles, they have more credibility with customers than SMS text messages, which usually come from random, unknown numbers.

Do I need a customer engagement platform for business texting?

Absolutely. SMS and messaging can both be integrated with help desk software for better customer service. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report, companies with excellent CX have one thing in common: When they provide customer support, all of their channels are connected in a unified space, so that conversations and customer data aren’t fragmented across their other systems.

Learn more about texting on

Instagram Messenger WhatsApp

Apple SMS Android

Social messaging apps at your service

Connect WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and more to the power of Zendesk.