Why should we send an introductory message to our members/customers?
TextPower allows its clients to upload a list of all phone numbers in their customer database so TextPower can identify which numbers are mobiles and can receive text messages. These mobile numbers are then added to your TextPower database and you are immediately able to send texts to them and receive texts from them (once the numbers are in the system we know that they should get routed to you).
Before you send your first message, however, we strongly recommend that as a “Best Practice” for TCPA compliance, not to mention good customer service, that you send an initial text to all the customers/members you have added. This message should explain that you are launching a new text messaging service that will provide them with notifications about outages, storm alerts and other important information. It’s also a “Best Practice” to tell them that if they do not wish to receive future texts they can simply reply “Quit” or “Stop” In this way, you benefit from announcing directly to customers that you are improving your communications with them while ensuring they understand that they have control of whether they want to receive future texts.
Special note about obtaining numbers:
The mobile numbers must be obtained either through a proactive opt-in process or, for utilities in particular, through the normal course of doing business. For example, if a member or customer gives you their mobile number when they sign up for service or in response to a request for contact information, then that qualifies as through the "normal course" of business. Note that numbers obtained through the "normal course of doing business" can only be sent messages of an informational or emergency nature (the typical messages usually sent by utilities regarding outages, storm warnings, disconnect notices, etc.). Messages containing any other content, in particular marketing content, cannot be sent unless the member/customer has given you express prior consent (called an "opt-in") allowing you to send marketing messages to them. For more information on the specific guidelines for utilities upon which the FCC made a declaratory ruling in 2016, CLICK HERE.
This initial text is also important because it identifies you. When you send text messages in the future, the recipient will know the message they are receiving is from a trusted source. They might, in fact, add the number and your utility/company/municipality name to their contacts so that when a message arrives it will show your utility name instead of a short code or toll-free number.
What information should an introductory message contain?
First and foremost it is important to identify your utility/company/municipality as the sender. Then you will want to notify the recipient that they will be receiving other messages from you in the future for particular issues (such as outages, storms, etc.). Finally, you will want to provide recipients with an option and instructions to unsubscribe themselves so that no more messages will be sent to them (called an "opt-out").
Remember that all of this should be done in 160 characters or less so that only one message is received by the recipients and you will only be charged for one message. (Smartphones can easily receive messages of more than 160 characters and assemble the multiple segments properly into a single message but carriers charge TextPower, and we subsequently charge you, for each 160 character segment of a message. A message, therefore, of 350 characters would incur charges for three separate messages. Standard "feature" phones, also called "flip phones" or "dumb phones" will display each segment as a separate message.)
When should introductory messages be sent?
Introductory messages should be sent before you send your first informational or emergency message. This way the recipient will know from whom those messages are coming and will have the opportunity to opt-out if they prefer not to receive your notifications by text.
Be sure to send your introductory message at an appropriate time of day so that you do not annoy or wake up the recipients. You can expect opt-out rates to be significantly higher if the very first message recipients get from you is during dinnertime or at 4:00 AM! If you are using TextPower's AlertManager application you can schedule a message to be sent sometime in the future. See THIS for instructions.
What should we expect when we send an introductory message?
If done right and in accordance with these guidelines you can expect an overwhelmingly positive response. The vast majority of recipients will neither opt-out nor reply in any way, thus indicating their acceptance of the process. Most utilities experience a 95%+ retention rate (i.e., <5% of recipients opt-out by reply "STOP" or "QUIT" as directed in the message to unsubscribe). Many times utilities tell us that customers respond with a message indicating their approval or anticipation of receiving more information (e.g., "Great!" or "This is a wonderful service" or "I'm so glad you will text instead of call"). In addition, many utilities find that their members/customers proactively give them their mobile numbers after the initial service begins because they want to receive the text alerts that their neighbors are getting.
What messages work best? Can you provide examples?
Here are some examples of messages that have been successful for TextPower's utility/municipality customers that contain the appropriate information and are less than 160 characters:
Welcome to Acme Electric text service 4 outages, storms & other important alerts. Reply HELP for more info or QUIT to unsubscribe. Msg&Data rates may apply.
Welcome to Acme Electric alerts. Important info sent this way in the future. Reply HELP for more info or QUIT to unsubscribe. Msg&Data rates may apply.
This is Acme Electric. Important info and emergency notices sent to you via SMS. Reply HELP for more info, QUIT to unsubscribe. Msg&Data rates may apply.
Welcome! Important Acme Electric SMS notifications will be sent to you in the future. Reply HELP for more info, QUIT to unsubscribe. Msg&Data rates may apply.
Hello from Acme Electric. Notifications will be sent from this # about your service. Reply HELP for more info, QUIT to unsubscribe. Msg&Data rates may apply.
We hope that you find this information helpful. If you need further assistance email <Support@TextPower.com>.