Small Business SMS Rules and Best Practices

Our Engage product allows you to communicate directly with your customers through text messages.  Text messaging is an easy and efficient method to communicate and engage with your customers in a way convenient for them.  However, when not carefully executed, text messaging campaigns can create a poor customer experience and even risk liability. 

 

This document reflects accepted industry best practices, including the CTIA Messaging Principles and Best Practices, which, if followed, can help you provide a good customer experience.  These practices also can help you reduce the risk that your messaging campaign might be found to violate applicable law, including the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA.  In that regard, please note that this document does not constitute or convey legal advice.  Also please note that this document reflects best practices as of May 2020, and legal requirements applicable to text messaging campaigns may continue to change over time.  You should consider obtaining legal and regulatory advice before undertaking a specific messaging campaign.

1.    Consent Is Key

You must have permission from your customer to send them a text message before doing so.  The type of consent you need varies based on the type of message:

  • Informational Messages: Informational messages are messages providing customers information that they requested.  For instance, if a customer signs up to learn when you will open your business after COVID-19 closures, sending a text about an opening date and hours is an informational message consistent with that customer’s consent.  For these messages, customers can give permission over text, on a form, on a website, or verbally.  Informational messages should never contain any advertising or promotional content, and never call on the customer to buy something, go somewhere, or otherwise take an action.
  • Promotional and Marketing Messages: Messages containing promotional or marketing content, such as coupons or alerts about special offers, require a heightened level of customer consent referred to as “express written consent.”  For these messages, customers should sign a form or check a box on your website explicitly consenting to receive automated marketing messages at the number they provide.  They also should be informed that their consent is not a condition of purchasing any property, goods, or services. 

When you ask for your customer’s permission, you should be clear about why you need their number and the messages you plan to send.  You should also let the customer know whether you will send a one-time message or send messages more frequently.

 

2.    Document, Document, Document and Keep Your Messaging List Up to Date

Keeping careful records can help you avoid mistakes and protect you in the event of a dispute.  You should keep records of when you obtain consent for a particular number and what exactly that consent covered, including when you obtain verbal consent. 

You should always create your own list of numbers, rather than use a list that has been rented, sold, or shared.  And you should do your best to keep that list up to date and accurate – even when they had consent, businesses have faced liability for sending automated text messages to wrong numbers and numbers that changed hands.

 

3.    Stick to the Script

You should only send messages consistent with what the customer signed up for and expects.  For example, if you ask for permission to send texts about the hours for one particular store, you should not send text alerts about the hours for any other stores, even if affiliated.  You can make your requests for permission broad to give you some flexibility, but they should also be clear about their purpose and what they cover.  And you should never send promotional and marketing messages to customers that only asked for informational ones. 

 

4.    Make Sure Your Customers Know You and Recognize Your Messages

Any messages you send should be clear that they are coming from your business.  They also should be clear about the reason they are sent, and never include any misleading information.

Also, if you are planning to send regular messages to customers when they opt-in – as opposed to a one-time message – you should send an opt-in confirmation that includes information about (i) why you are sending them messages; (ii) how to contact you; (iii) how to opt out (e.g., by replying STOP); (iv) how often you plan to send the messages; and (v) any associated charges or fees.

 
5.    Listen for Your Customers’ Opt-Out Requests

When a customer asks you to stop sending messages, you should do so immediately.  The Engage platform automatically recognizes and alerts you about your customers’ requests to opt-out by text, but you should make sure you also are monitoring other communications channels, such as your email and through your website, for customers telling you they no longer want to receive your text messages.

 

6.    Keep it Safe and Secure

You should limit access to the Engage platform to those in your business that you trust and will be responsible for sending messages through the platform.  And you should make sure that the platform is never used to send messages that are deceptive, abusive, harmful, harassing, or otherwise unlawful.