Although texting is simple, it’s easy to send the wrong message, have your message lost in translation, — or worse, annoy your clients. Before jumping on the business-texting bandwagon, read these SMS texting etiquette tips and tricks to keep your texting professional, considerate, and friendly.
Top 14 SMS texting etiquette tips
Every form of communication comes with its own best practices. When you follow these core tips around business texting etiquette, you can impress your customers, avoid faux pas, and comply with SMS laws.
- Get consent from your clients before texting them.
- Identify yourself in your first text.
- Keep your text messages on brand.
- Personalize your business texts.
- Proofread every post (and don’t rely on autocorrect).
- Refrain from texting confidential information.
- Don’t use abbreviations.
- Be concise.
- Stay within business hours.
- Respond promptly to incoming texts.
- Be patient.
- Transition difficult conversations elsewhere.
- Set the right expectations.
- End your text conversations gracefully.
Keep reading to learn more about business text message etiquette and dive deeper into these tips.
What’s considered a professional response time in SMS texting etiquette?
When it comes to customer service etiquette, responding to your customers within 24 hours is always a good rule of thumb. Though faster responses are always better — especially for urgent matters — this turnaround is short enough to appease your clients but long enough to be doable for most businesses.
However, once you send your initial response, avoid delays in your follow-up responses.
The vast majority (95%) of people read incoming text messages within three minutes, so there’s a good chance that you’ll get a fairly immediate response. Your clients will likely expect you to do the same once you’ve shown you’re available by texting back. Be prepared for a real-time text conversation once you reply the first time.
Should you use emojis in business texts?
Emojis aren’t always appropriate for business texts, but including them can be an effective way to humanize your brand and lighten up your tone of voice. Before you add an emoji to your text message, consider if using one sends the right message. Just as you wouldn’t laugh at a funeral, it’s inappropriate to use emojis — which tend to be fun and light-hearted — when delivering bad news. Some emojis (like the woozy face 🥴 ) have dual meanings that others may get the wrong idea after seeing.
The bottom line: Keep your emojis relevant and avoid them altogether for serious conversations.
How to become a pro at business texting
When texting your customers, there are a few ground rules to follow. There are strict legal requirements about texting customers, and you can be fined up to $1,500 for every text sent that violates guidelines. One-to-one text conversations are perfectly ok. If you’re using SMS for marketing campaigns to people who haven’t explicitly opted in, you could get in trouble.
Here are some SMS texting etiquette guidelines you can follow to ensure your business texting is not only compliant but delivers value to your customer base:
1. Get their texting consent
Before you start texting your clients, make sure you get their permission or they reach out to you first.
For customer support, they likely messaged you first, asking for assistance. Nonetheless, it’s never an invitation to start sending them marketing texts, ads, or messages outside of their customer support concerns. Unless a customer specifically agrees to get marketing messages from your business, they shouldn’t receive those.
Even if a client gives you their consent, they may change their mind at any time. Making it easy for your clients to opt out of your marketing messages is key to creating a great customer experience and avoid being flagged as spam. With a text messaging service like OpenPhone, your clients can opt out by texting “STOP.”
2. Identify yourself in your first text
Just because you called or texted someone in the past doesn’t mean they have your number saved on their cell phone. Avoid confusion by stating clearly who you are each time you start a text conversation with your client.
3. Stay on brand
Your brand likely consists of dozens of digital channels. It’s easy to overlook texting, but you can ensure your team stays on brand through documented writing guidelines.
If your company uses a lot of “fun” language, your guidelines may state it’s ok to use emojis and send GIFs in your replies as an MMS message.
If your company has a professional image, it’s better to use complete sentences and answer more formally. The tone of your texts should match your other communication channels.
4. Personalize your message
You don’t want to make it sound like the text came from an automated robot. For starters, use the name of the person you’re talking to in your texts. Break the ice and set an approachable tone by addressing your clients by their first name.
Professionalism also means avoiding too many exclamation marks or emojis. The occasional smiley face is ok, but don’t overdo it.
What not to do: “Thanks so much for your feedback today! 😃 We are soooo glad you are enjoying the service! Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions! 😃”
The message is friendly. Still, it is off-putting and unprofessional due to each sentence ending with an exclamation point and too many emojis.
What to do: “Thanks so much for your feedback. We are so glad you are enjoying the service. Please feel free to reach out to us whenever you have any more feedback or with questions you may have! We are happy to help. 😊”
We said the same thing here but scaled back the emojis and exclamations. Still friendly, but professional.
5. Don’t be sloppy
Texting is prone to errors. There are plenty of cases where texts go to the wrong person or you may send group texts that accidentally include your personal contacts. When texting, keep an eye out for the following:
Beware of autocorrect
Autocorrect can be your best friend when sending personal texts. For business purposes, however, not so much. That’s because autocorrect changes aren’t always correct and are easy to miss, especially when the glaring “red underline” isn’t there to catch your attention. Because businesses have their own unique acronyms and spelling for a few words, autocorrect can miss these. Make sure to double check texts before hitting send.
This goes right along with being professional. A text full of spelling and grammar mistakes makes you look careless and rushed.
Consider using Grammarly to help automatically flag spelling and grammar errors as you draft texts. Grammarly has a Chrome extension, so texting from your computer is the best bet. (Here’s how to text from your computer.)
6. Refrain from texting confidential information
Text messaging isn’t quite as secure as other communication channels. While your text messaging platform can help you secure your texts as much as possible, it’s still smart to avoid texting confidential information. Although you can send appointment reminder texts, keeping credit card information and other personal data out of texts is the best way to protect your clients and avoid liability. On the other hand, business phone etiquette allows you to communicate sensitive information — as long as you’re not doing so on speakerphone — and follow any industry-specific regulations.
In the healthcare industry, refraining from texting confidential information — including all medical records — is legally required. Not doing so isn’t just poor SMS texting etiquette. It’s a HIPAA violation that can lead to massive fines.
7. Don’t use texting abbreviations
You can still come off as easy-going without using jargon and abbreviations. Avoid “lol,” “brb,” or using abbreviations such as “tmr” instead of “tomorrow” — you get the idea. Abbreviations usually aren’t detected by spell check because they’re so common to use via text message.
You should be checking for them with every text because we instinctively use these with our friends and family, who we could be messaging between business communications. Avoid the possible mix-up!
8. Be concise
A long explanation doesn’t make it look like you know what you’re talking about. It does the opposite. You should be able to take complex information and simplify it for your customers. You only get 140 characters — use them wisely. Avoid long-winded explanations and unnecessary words.
Here’s a good rule of thumb for deciding on the number of texts to send. If the answer requires a longer response, shooting off one to three shorter text messages instead of one long one is a better bet. A long paragraph could get cut off at the end and lost in translation.
Also, longer paragraphs have lower readability and can often confuse the reader. If you find your reply to be longer than two or three short messages, it may require a call or an email response. A customer doesn’t want to spend all day talking to you. If you know the answer is long-winded, let them know and arrange a call or email.
If you have a call-to-action or question for your client, make it clear — ideally by placing it in your first text or writing it in its own message.
9. Stay within business hours
Do you appreciate getting a text at 3 a.m. when you’re trying to get an adequate amount of rest for a big workday? We don’t think so. Treat your customers the same.
If you were unable to get to their message within business hours, that’s ok! They’ll appreciate getting a reply from you at 8 a.m. rather than in the middle of the night.
This may be tricky if your customers are across different time zones. However, some providers let you schedule texts based on your recipient’s time zone to improve the customer experience for all your clients.
10. Respond promptly
Speaking of timing, don’t wait more than 24 hours to respond. If the matter is urgent, a quick response is necessary. The purpose of text support is to get quick help, so make sure you meet that standard with your clients too.
Since consumers’ average text message response time is 90 seconds, getting back to customers as quickly as possible is always ideal in SMS texting etiquette.
However, not all texts require an immediate response. If they did, you’d be spending most of your time texting! Learning to differentiate what is pertinent and what can wait is key.
Don’t have an answer for your customer right away? Just let your customer know with a quick reply: “That’s a great question! I’m looking into this right now for you.”
Sometimes, we get sidetracked with a lot of work. If you took longer to respond than you planned or lost track of time, you can say:
“Hey Stephanie, sorry about the late reply. It’s been crazy over here! Yes, we can certainly do that. Mind providing more details so I can let the team know? Thanks.”
11. Be patient
Don’t expect a response right away. After all, your customer is as busy as you. Try not to dominate the conversation by blowing up your client’s phone with text messages. If you do require a timely response, be friendly.
For example: “Hey Stephanie, we noticed you haven’t responded to our last message. Do you still require assistance? If not, that’s great! Let us know if you have any more questions.”
12. Transition difficult conversations elsewhere
It can be easy for miscommunication to occur over text. When you’re having a hard conversation — perhaps one that’s complex or filled with negative emotions — it’s best to move it to another channel. Phone calls and face-to-face meetings (virtual or in-person) are better for lengthy, difficult discussions.
13. Set clear expectations
If you’re busy when you get a text or receive a message outside of business hours, you can send auto-reply texts to help inform clients when they can anticipate a response. If your company will respond the next business day, let them know.
Of course, if you say you’re going to do something, do it. It’s easy to say you’ll have an answer for someone soon and that reply slips through the cracks.
Make sure to leave your messages “unread” until you’re ready to respond and follow up before your promised response time ends. It never hurts to underpromise and overdeliver when it comes to impressing your clients.
14. Sign out gracefully
The end of your conversation is just as important as the start. Don’t forget to sign out of the conversation tastefully after you’ve successfully helped your client. Ghosting clients can be unprofessional.
A simple “Thank you for reaching out to us and have a delightful day,” is an example of a way to gracefully end the text exchange.
However you choose to communicate, always remember to be empathic and helpful towards your clients. That’s what all great businesses thrive on — making the experience with your clients a delightful one!
Start texting customers with OpenPhone
We built OpenPhone to be the phone system for modern businesses. With OpenPhone, you can easily send text messages to clients and customers. Maintaining your business relationships has never been easier because of OpenPhone.
With OpenPhone, you can also manage your business contacts separately from your personal contacts to keep things organized (and prevent texting mistakes).
With OpenPhone, you can also do the following:
- Get local and toll-free numbers for your business in the U.S. and Canada
- Send texts from your computer or mobile phone
- Share phone numbers so multiple team members can provide support from the same phone number
- Set business hours to ensure you’re not getting calls in the middle of the night
- Set up auto-attendant and route calls
- Record calls
- And benefit from many more features
Ready to get your business number and start offering text support to your customers? Get OpenPhone today.
Austin, TX-based storyteller with a background in support operations that’s helped businesses for 3+ years navigate virtual phone solutions. Passionate about sharing best practices for calling and texting.