Communication via texting is rapidly increasing as we all see every day. Now when I dine out at a restaurant and I am waiting for a table, no longer am I handed a device that buzzes when my table is ready; now I receive a text letting me know to be at the lobby in five minutes to be seated. I really like the additional five minutes, just in case I need to pay a beverage tab or use the restroom before going to the table. I also get texts letting me know when a pharmacy prescription is ready or when a prescription needs to be refilled, as well as reminder texts for dentist appointments and payment reminders from my cell phone provider.
Texting is likely the most prevalent form of communication today and deserves a much more prominent role in business communications. For example, we can send mass texts to guests, such as those concerning weather disasters, but we can expand to handle other communications with the immediacy and personalized tone that we do with all relationship-focused communications.
It is important to satisfy today’s experience-seeking customer. If you offer a better—and more immediate—experience than your competitor, consumers will buy from you. Texting is an easy way to give your customers the assurance they are seeking. Are you sending out a text when the home is ready for check-in, or are guests expected to call to see when it is ready? Texting is quick and convenient and can easily provide a high level of service if done correctly. Often, companies are not able to program a specific number that shows who the text is coming from and have a character limitation. Are you stating the company name first, so guests know who it is coming from? Are you using templates that are the correct number of characters and are still coming across as warm, allowing employees to make small changes to customize them? Maybe the notification that a home is ready states, “Hi, Smith Family! Your oceanfront home is ready at 200 Seaside Lane with a door lock code of 3333. Reminder that your sunset view this evening is 8 p.m. Amazing Rentals hopes you enjoy your time.”
Statistics say that eight trillion texts are sent every year with an open rate of 99 percent, and a typical response time of less than three minutes; 33 percent of Americans prefer texting to any other form of communication. It is also the most used form of messaging for Americans under the age of fifty. As an industry, we have already experienced a huge increase in website bookings; for some companies, it has reached up to 70 percent of all bookings. Often, when rental agents ask customers to view the home together on their computer, callers say they will be able to when they are done with the call because they are on their phones. Consumers are not spending the time to open a computer to view the homes together because they rely on their phones so much for vacation rental searching and booking. I recently had a friend tell me she used VRBO for her European bookings because it was easy to access on her phone during travels.
Now that we understand how popular texting is and why we should be using it in our businesses, let’s start off with some basic guidelines for how to text for business purposes.
Spelling, Grammar, and Respect
Spell out words instead of abbreviating like you might when texting to a friend or family member. Even if the person you are texting with starts abbreviating, remain the professional service provider by spelling out your words and using correct spelling and punctuation. Just because they might not capitalize an “i” doesn’t mean you should do the same. Imagine that you are texting a colleague; it often helps to keep it professional. Part of being human is that we are often judged, and texting is another line of communication that guests will make judgments on. Keep in mind the Platinum Rule and treat others how they want to be treated. If I am moving fast when texting—as we all usually are—I might misspell or use the incorrect word, but that doesn’t mean that I am OK with a company doing the same when texting me.
As with email, it is crucial to watch your tone while texting so that communication isn’t misinterpreted. Take time before responding so that you don’t come off as flippant or harsh. Entrepreneur.com recommends using polite touches like “please” and “thank you,” as well as rereading every message before sending it to help double-check your tone.
When to Text and When to Call
Address serious topics with a phone call. If you are talking about cancellations of any kind, finances, or what might be interpreted as bad news, take the time to call.
You can build trust with frequent communication, but if you overcommunicate via text, you could annoy someone. I recall the last time I was interviewing a renter for a studio we own, and we were texting about references and details. The renter filled my phone with long, detailed texts right up to 10 p.m. at night. I finally stopped responding. The next day, he said something about blowing up my phone and I responded with, “Yes, you did.” We both laughed about it, and he never did it again.
On an internal business note, take breaks from technology occasionally. I hear about managers who are receiving texts on their days off and sometimes even owner-relations employees doing the same. I understand we are in the hospitality industry, and it is focused on pleasing people, but I spend a good amount of my coaching time helping people create healthy boundaries so they don’t become burned out or need a month off to rejuvenate. If we are going to give with all of our hearts and build healthy relationships in business, we need downtime so we don’t get snarky or annoyed.
One of the bigger points that I find to be extremely important is to watch when you are sending texts. I recommend 9 a.m.–5 p.m. for business texts. With that said, if you are texting about an update on a maintenance issue that is pressing, I feel it is appropriate to text as late as 7 p.m., but I wouldn’t recommend any later. If you are communicating due to an after-hours call, ask permission for how late you can communicate via text or if the guest would prefer another form of communication.
Inc.com wrote a great article about why texting increased Dirty Lemon’s revenue by 1,400 percent. The first reason was due to personal communication via SMS, which optimized the direct-to-consumer experience. I completely agree with this because I tend to make quite a few purchases through Facebook Marketplace, and I like the quick and easy transactions.
It is said that understanding consumers drives smarter product development. The ability to track what consumers want and the areas that your company is not delivering in allows for business changes that meet and even exceed their needs.
Texting speeds up consumer communication and eliminates lengthy phone calls or email queries that sometimes never get answered or mistakenly end up in the spam folder.
It is time to embrace texting communication in business if you haven’t already.
“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.”