Text Messaging Guide for Trades & Field Service Businesses
Text Messaging Guide for Trades & Field Service Businesses
Jul 31, 2020 - 20 min read time
Everything you need to know about texting your customers. Learn how to take your business text messaging to the next level.
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Everything You Need to Know About Texting Your Customers

Communities don’t function without service-based businesses and tradespeople. Plumbers, HVAC techs, contractors, cleaners, landscapers, and many more represent the army of people who get things done.

Owning and operating a field service business also takes guts and determination. You do everything from completing the job to promoting your business and making sure that you and your people get paid.

You already do everything and there’s still so much to do.

No doubt, communicating with people is one of the hardest parts of managing your business.

The good news is, text messaging can help.

To get you started, we’ve built this three-part guide. It’s all about text messaging for tradespeople and anyone with a service-based business. We walk you through why text messaging works for service businesses. We also show you how to start texting your customers and what you need to do before you send your first message.

Here’s What You’ll Learn in this Guide:

I. Why text messaging?

  1. Why texting works for service businesses
  2. Texting vs email
  3. Texting vs calling
  4. How to know if you’re ready for a business SMS platform

II. How to start texting your customers

  1. General text message etiquette and best practices
  2. Use texting for marketing and sales
  3. Use texting for customer service
  4. Send private 1-on-1 text messages
  5. Send group text messages
  6. Schedule appointments and send reminders
  7. Get more Google reviews and customer feedback

III. What you need to do before you start texting

  1. How to choose the best texting app for your business
  2. TCPA opt-in and opt-out compliance
  3. Short codes vs. long codes
  4. Using a text-enabled, 10-digit, local phone number
  5. How to manage multiple team members
  6. How to organize, manage and segment contacts

IV. Final thoughts and next steps

Chapter 1

I. Why Text Messaging?

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I. Why Text Messaging?

Email campaigns and voice calls will always have a place in your business. Emails work great for drip campaigns, and long-form marketing messages. Voice calls are immediate and essential to day-to-day communication.

So why should your business start texting? Text messaging fills the gap between email and voice.

It gives you the best of both worlds with more immediate, more efficient messaging. It also typically nets higher open and response rates.

Customers even prefer texting to email and voice. 67% would rather text than talk with a person at a service business. This is especially true for updates, “on my way reminders”, appointment reminders, scheduling, billing, and more.

Many businesses have already recognized this shift in communication preference too. Some 39% of businesses already use text messaging to reach their contacts and customers.

1. Why Texting Works for Service Businesses

  • 77% of Americans already own a smartphone.
  • Texting is the most widely adopted communication channel next to email.
  • 98% of text messages get opened and read.
  • Texts are 7x more likely to get a response than talking on the phone.
  • Texting allows you to send links for payment and review collection.
  • Texting allows you to send pictures and videos.
  • Texting makes your customer service faster.
  • Texting works great for promotions and mass updates.

2. Texting vs Calling

Phone calls used to be the only way to talk to customers. But today, customers don’t pick up the phone or engage in face to face conversations. They’d rather send and receive quick messages, especially texts.

This efficiency also applies to businesses. Compared to voice, texting is a faster, more efficient way to send a message to a lot of people.

Customers prefer texting and they respond better. Around 58% of customers will try to text a phone number back after missing a call from a business.

Suggested Article: Texting vs Calling vs Email | Pros and Cons

3. Texting vs Email

Email is the most widely adopted form of communication. Nearly everyone has an email address.

However, emails don’t typically get high engagement rates. Many emails wind up in the trash before they even get opened. Emails usually get around a 20% open rate and about a 6% response rate.

Text messages typically perform better. They get a 98% open rate and a 45% response rate.

This means texting works better for things like appointments and billing reminders with more timely and targeted messaging.

Here’s an example: If you sent an email to a group of 200 engaged customers you’d get maybe 12 responses (6% response rate). If you sent a text you’d potentially get 90 responses (45% response rate).

4. How to Know if You’re Ready for a Business SMS Platform

What kind of messaging technology do you already use to reach contacts and customers? Are you using a field service management software or cloud-based CRM?

Does your business or organization only use email and voice? Does your website have a chatbot? Do you use a burner phone? Or maybe a messaging app like Facebook Messenger, GroupMe, WeChat, WhatsApp Line, or even Slack?

Regardless of how you connect with your customers the above solutions have limitations. You’ll need a text messaging platform to help you do the following:

  • Schedule messages
  • Save messages as templates
  • Send more personalized messages
  • Send group messages without “reply all”
  • Send recurring scheduled messages
  • Send invoice and payment reminders
  • Improve customer service
  • Send marketing and promotional messages
  • Send appointment or service reminders
  • Collect more Google Reviews
  • Collect more customer feedback

You perform a lot of hands-on work in homes or businesses. You do a lot of face-to-face communication out in the field. But your business won’t flow as seamlessly as it could if you have to deal with reminders and scheduling mishaps.

You don’t have time to fix scheduling conflicts, payment failures, collect reviews, and take care of other administrative messes.

You’ve got enough to do just dispatching employees or contractors and fulfilling jobs.

Business text messaging helps with all of the above scenarios.

A business text messaging platform allows you to send automated text messages at scale to your entire customer base. With platforms like MessageDesk, you can send a text in just a few clicks.

You Get These Features with a Business Text Messaging Platform:

  1. A dedicated, 10-digit, text-enabled phone number
  2. Automatic TCPA opt-in and opt-out monitoring
  3. 1-on-1 conversation management and oversight
  4. Group text messaging without reply all
  5. Reusable, saved, text message templates
  6. Text message scheduling
  7. Automated responses and campaigns
  8. Message personalization tools
  9. Multiple users
  10. Access from any device with a web browser
  11. Cheaper messaging rates
  12. Integrations with other apps and services

Suggested Article: Are You Ready for a Business SMS Platform?

Chapter 2

II. How to Start Texting Your Customers

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II. How to Start Texting Your Customers

1. Text Message Etiquette and Best Practices

There are some best practices you’ll want to be aware of before texting your customers. “LOL”, “OMG” and emojis are fun and easy, but they may not leave your customers laughing out loud.

Be careful of sending and receiving confidential information

Sending and receiving confidential information can be a liability. If this is a necessity, consider encryption or secure messaging platforms like Signal.

Move complex conversations to a different communications platform

Some conversations that require a lot of explaining don’t work over text. Zoom meetings, phone calls, or emails may be a better solution for handling more complex issues.

Personalize messages with tags and be courteous

Letting customers know who you are is the first step in being courteous. You’ll also want to take advantage of personalization tools like tags. These give you the ability to insert customer information like {{ FirstName }} automatically into a message.

Write clear calls to action (CTAs)

CTAs are simple and direct calls to action. They typically start with a verb. Many look like this: “Start 7-Day Free Trial”, “Schedule Appointment”, “Learn More”, Connect with Us” or “Pay Bill Now”.

Respond quickly

Customers expect immediate responses when they text your business. Good text messaging platforms make it fast and easy to respond from any device.

Keep text messages short, simple and to the point

Text messages for notifications, updates, and promo offers work best when kept short and to the point. Text messaging isn’t a platform for lengthy messages. Most platforms have a 160 character limit per text.

Utilize text message templates

Drafting frequently asked questions into a template saves you from typing the same message over and over again. Templates make it possible to type a message once, apply personalization tags and, save the message to send later.

Send and schedule texts for delivery during business hours

Sending texts at the right time makes text messaging incredibly effective. However, early morning, late night, or weekend may annoy your customers and cause them to opt-out.

This all depends on your organization or the type of business you conduct. Bottom line: you want to know your customers and understand their messaging preferences.

Limit message frequency when possible

Don’t spam your customers with non-relevant mass text blasts. Only send communications when it's important and relevant to your business and your customers. Let communications happen in customer time.

Send group text messages without “reply all”

Think twice about your group texting etiquette before pressing send. If you can’t disable “reply all” in a group text, then every contact in the group will see every message. Messaging apps like MessageDesk come with this feature as standard on their messaging platform.

Use emojis sparingly

Use emojis to personalize your messages, soften your tone, humanize your brand, encourage engagement, and add humor. Just don’t overdo it. Be sure to “read the room” and understand your audience.

Sign off properly

You don’t want your customers thinking they need a response when a conversation is over. Just be clear when ending a conversation. You want to make sure all important customer questions get answered.

Get the right kind of permission, and stop texting when asked

This is an essential aspect of text message etiquette. Depending on the type of messages you’re sending out, you need consent first. This is all part of TCPA guidelines and best practices.

Suggested Article: 10 Step Guide | Text Message Etiquette for Business

2. Texting for Marketing and Sales

It takes a lot of energy to generate leads and perform outreach. This is why there will always be a need for digital marketing and sales reps. Someone has to send emails and make phone calls.

But texting can help automate some of this. You now have different ways to nurture leads and close deals.

How to use text messaging for marketing and sales:

  • Nurture leads by sending them links to relevant resources and marketing material as well as pictures, videos, and documents.
  • Send segmented, personalized, promotional messages to groups of contacts.
  • Use clear CTAs that allow customers to take action and move down the sales funnel.
  • Send leads and prospects scheduled, automated, follow-ups for meetings, appraisals, estimates, and more.
  • Create urgency with text messages that promote a limited time offer.
  • Get immediate answers and feedback for things like proposals, contracts, and more.

Suggested Article: Guide to Text Messaging for Marketing and Sales

Marketing and sales text message templates:

Discount Offer:

Hey {{ FirstName }}, thanks for being a great customer! To say thanks, here's a coupon for 15% off your next order [offer].

Promo Offer:

Hey {{ FirstName }}. Book your [service] in July and get $10 off! Reply to this message to redeem your offer! - {{ OrganizationName }}.

Thanks for Joining List:

Hi {{ FirstName }}! Thanks for joining {{ OrganizationName }}’s VIP text list! Get $5 off your next purchase when you show us this text. Expires [date].

Happy Birthday:

Happy birthday {{ FirstName }} from {{ OrganizationName}}! We'd like to offer you a 10% discount with your next purchase.

3. Texting for Customer Service

67% of consumers would rather text than talk or email with a business. They want simple, personalized experiences with your business and they want it on their time. This is where text-based customer service can help.

How to use text messaging for customer service:

  • Use personalization tools like tags to stay on a first-name basis with all of your customers.
  • Customers want you to make things right, regardless of the question or problem they have. Texts can save you and your customer time during this communication process.
  • Automating your responses to frequently asked questions with text message templates improves your customer service process and team productivity.
  • Instead of having to compose the same message response over and over, you can click and send.
  • Customers want issues resolved on their time. The faster you can respond to customer needs the better.
  • Fast response time makes your customers more likely to use your service again and tell their friends about you.
  • Texting helps you take a more proactive approach, helping you send automatic appointment reminders and updates conveniently in a text.
  • Texts allow you to collect customer experience feedback with minimal effort from your customer.

Suggested Article: Guide to Text Messaging for Customer Service

Customer service text message templates:

Hours of Operation Response:

Hey there {{ FirstName }}, thanks for reaching out to {{ OrganizationName }} with your question. Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday 9am-5pm. You can stay in touch with us by responding to this text or give us a call at (XXX-XXX-XXXX).

Location Response:

Hey there {{ FirstName }}, thanks for reaching out to {{ OrganizationName }} with your question. We are located at [organization location]

Support Request Follow Up:

Hey there {{ FirstName }}, thanks for reaching out to {{ OrganizationName }}. We received your request for support and we’re following up.

4. 1-on-1 Private Text Messaging

Text messaging platforms like MessageDesk make it easy to send personalized text messages to contacts and customers.

Private messages work just like your normal text messaging. These are 1-on-1 conversations you can have with customers regarding their service, scheduling, billing and more.

How to use 1-on-1 private text messaging:

  • Provide customer support and give your customers the individualized info they need to schedule a service.
  • Share “on-my-way” texts alongside your dispatching.
  • Customers are ready for you on-site when you arrive, saving you and your field technicians time.
  • Send appointment reminders to prevent scheduling and dispatching conflicts and limit no-shows and cancelations.
  • Provide customer service updates and work orders regarding their specific job or project.
  • Send an invoice or a link to Google reviews once the job is complete.

1-on-1 private text message templates:

“On My Way” Message:

Hey {{ FirstName }}. Your tech, {{ UserName}} is on the way and should arrive in 20 minutes. - {{ OrganizationName }}.

Service Updates:

Hey {{ FirstName }}. Your tech, {{ UserName }} completed your service at [time] today. Everything should be good to go. Feel free to get in contact if you have questions. - {{ OrganizationName }}

5. Group Text Messaging

Group text messaging can help you reach a lot of people, fast. Many business text messaging platforms will also help you organize and segment your contacts for group messaging. This helps you reach specific groups within your customer base with just a few clicks.

However, business group messaging is different from the group text messaging you do on your phone. Business text messaging allows you to turn off “reply-all”.

Customers only see an individual message with you and your organization. You may send the same message to a bunch of people, but each text message stays separate from the other. Each response comes back to you as a single, individual, and private reply.

How to use group text messages:

  • Send marketing and sales messages with promotions, special offers, and deals.
  • Share promos, discount codes, or even offer a monthly special.
  • Alert your customers of inclement weather and other service updates.
  • Update your customers on new company info, such as changes in location, hours of operation, or holiday hours.

Suggested Article: How to Send a Group Text Without Reply All

Group text message templates:

Inclement Weather:

Hey {{ FirstName }}. Due to inclement weather, we are going to have to reschedule your service tomorrow. Please reply to this text and we’ll get you booked. - [Company Name]

Company Updates:

Hey {{ FirstName }}. We wanted to let you know that our business hours have changed to 8 am - 5 pm effective immediately. - {{ OrganizationName }}

Hey {{ FirstName }}. From Dec 23-28 our office will only be open until 2 pm. Happy holidays! - {{ OrganizationName }}

6. Appointment Scheduling and Reminders

Business owners face many day-to-day challenges. Out of everything, most struggle with appointment and service no-shows and have difficulty getting paid on time.

Scheduling text messages and automating your messaging process helps solve these problems. With a business text messaging platform you can schedule payment reminders, appointment updates, event invites, notifications, and more.

Some text messaging apps like MessageDesk will even help you manage your invoices. MessageDesk integrates and syncs with software services like QuickBooks Online and Xero to send invoices and payment reminder links via text.

How to use appointment scheduling and reminders:

  • Send invoice reminders to select customers with a link to collect payment immediately or once the job gets done.
  • Sync with a calendaring or appointment scheduling software like calendly.
  • Copy and paste your scheduling link into a text message template.
  • Once you have your template with a calendar link you can send the template as a scheduled text message.

Appointment scheduling and reminder text message templates:

Appointment Scheduling:

Hi {{ FirstName }}, Are you available next week for the repair of your [project/item]? Here’s my calendar link: [Insert Link Here] — schedule whenever works best for you!

Appointment Reminders:

Hi {{ FirstName }}, this is {{ OrganizationName }} confirming you have an appointment on [date] at [time]. Thanks for scheduling your appointment with us, and if you have any questions please reply. Otherwise, we’ll see you then!
Hey {{ FirstName }}, just a heads up about your scheduled appointment tomorrow at [time]. See you then! - {{ OrganizationName}}

Invoice Collection:

Hi {{ FirstName }}, {{ OrganizationName }} thanks for your business! Your balance of {{ InvoiceBalance }} is due on {{ InvoiceDueDate }}. Follow link to pay: {{ InvoicePayLink }}

7. Review Collection, Feedback Surveys, and Polls

Google Reviews and feedback drive a lot of business for service-based businesses. Over 60% of customers check Google reviews before they even visit a business.

If your business has a bunch of negative reviews, you’re likely to suffer for it. What’s more, if there is a problem, you will need a way to survey and poll customers regarding their experience. In both instances, text messaging can help.

How to use texting for Google Reviews, surveys, and polls:

  • To help your chances of getting those 5 stars, you need to make it as easy as possible for your customers.
  • Don’t make your customers go out of their way to leave you a review.
  • 85% of consumers are usually willing to leave a review, but few will actually do it.
  • To make things as easy as possible, send customers a link with clear directions.
  • Tell them exactly how to leave a review or submit feedback in the text message.
  • With a text, all you need is to include your Google Review short link.
  • With the link, your customers can visit your Google My Business page to leave a review.

Suggested Article: The Ultimate Guide to Google Reviews (2020)

Suggested Article: Guide to SMS Text Message Surveys and Polls

Review Collection and Feedback Text Message Templates:

Google Reviews:

Hi {{ FirstName }}, Thank you for your business! We pride ourselves on great service and it’s your feedback that makes that possible! Take a minute and let us know what you thought! [Insert Google Review Link]

Business Feedback:

Hi {{ FirstName }}. Thanks for using {{ OrganizationName}}. If you have some time, please feel free to leave our team some feedback. Here’s the link to the quick two-question survey: [Insert Link Here] Thanks!

Customer Satisfaction Poll:

Hey {{ First Name }}, On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your last service from {{ OrganizationName }}? Let us know your thoughts by following this link: [Insert Link Here] Thanks!

Chapter 3

III. What You Need to Do Before You Start Texting

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III. What You Need to Do Before You Start Texting

1. How to Choose the Best Texting App for Your Business

The best text messaging apps will save you time, increase your messaging efficiency, and help you scale your operations. They can also help you integrate with other software services.

Is your current messaging solution easy for you and your team to use? Does it save you time through automation? Does it integrate with any other services? If the answer to any of these is no, then your current solution won’t work in the long run.

Good text messaging platforms are versatile. They allow you to start sending text messages for customer support, marketing campaigns, invoice collection, reminders, notifications, updates, and more.

Look for these features in a business text messaging app before you buy:

  1. Easy to use and get started with
  2. Accessible on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices
  3. Supports adding multiple users
  4. Uses a local 10-digit phone number
  5. Has call forwarding features
  6. Saves text messages as templates
  7. Has personalization tag features
  8. Creates groups and lists of contacts and customers
  9. Sends texts to multiple recipients without reply all
  10. Schedules text messages for sending later at any time
  11. Manages opt-in, opt-out and consent
  12. Integrates with other apps
  13. Provides good customer service and support

Suggested Article: How to Choose the Best Texting App for Small Business

2. TCPA Opt-in and Opt-out Compliance

The FCC regulates texting and businesses aren’t exempt. This is especially true when it comes to marketing and promotional messages.

The Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) outlines the FCC’s boundaries, restrictions, and policies regarding business text messaging.

All you need to know is that there are three different levels of consent (implied, expressed, and expressed written). Each applies to all forms of business messaging. The level of consent you have from your contacts determines the kinds of messages you can send to them.

Businesses must have express written consent for promotional messages - this is the highest level of consent.

If you’re texting existing customers, you have an existing business relationship. This means you have implied consent. You can at this point send messages regarding their current service.

Regardless, your customers will need a way to opt-out of text messaging from your business by texting STOP.

Text messaging services like MessageDesk manage and automate much of this process. They’ll keep track of who opts-in and out of your text messaging.

For the complete guide on TCPA compliance, check out our Complete TCPA Compliance Checklist and Guide.

TCPA Compliance Checklist:

  • Conversational messages require implied consent.
  • Informational messages require express consent.
  • Promotional messages require express written consent.
  • Don’t purchase lists of phone numbers containing contacts who haven’t opted in.
  • Don’t use spammy technology like shortcodes, artificial voices, or recordings.
  • When possible use a business messaging service that offers local 10DLC messaging.
  • Don’t text or call a contact before 8 am or after 9 pm, local time.
  • Don’t text or call anyone on the National DNC Registry.
  • Maintain a “Do Not Contact” list for all of your business contacts.
  • List your business name, message frequency, and applicable messaging rates when contacts opt-in.
  • Provide contacts with an “opt-out” like “STOP”.
  • If calling, disconnect if no one answers after 15 seconds or 4 rings, whichever comes first.
  • Don’t send messages pertaining to alcohol to non-age-verified numbers.
  • Don’t send messages with anything that’s graphic, hateful, violent, or confidential.
  • Stay aware of updates to messaging regulations.

Disclaimer: Please note that our advice is for informational purposes only. It’s not meant to substitute for advice from qualified legal counsel.

3. Short Code Texting vs Long Code Texting

Short codes and long codes give you two different ways to text. A short code is a 5 or 6-digit phone number like 222333. These numbers are a more expensive option used by larger corporations for high-volume, mass text message marketing.

For field service businesses, these numbers aren’t the best because they’re not conversational. Short codes only work for simple one-word replies (yes, no, etc.). They aren’t personalized with local area codes, and they don’t support voice calling.

Short codes used to be the only option for sending texts to big lists of people. Now many text messaging services allow businesses to text customers using normal 10-digit phone numbers.

These are 10-digit long codes that are tied to local area codes.

The advantage of long code text messaging over short code text messaging is personalization and real-time conversation support. A long code allows you to text with customers in the same way you text your family and friends.

Short Codes (555-666) Long Codes (123-456-7890)
Great for high volume text messaging Less volume, but more personalized
Doesn’t support voice, only limited responses Full voice and conversational responses
More expensive and exclusive Less expensive and widely available

4. Texting from a 10-Digit Local Number

Why does texting from a 10-digit number matter? People respond more frequently to texts from known numbers with local area codes.

When you text customers using a local phone number, you’re starting a familiar 1-on-1 conversational experience. This helps establish trust and builds brand loyalty.

Long codes help you build a more personalized customer service experience. A message that comes from a standard, 10-digit number feels like it’s coming from a person, not a bot.

Many text messaging services will allow you to text enable your existing phone number. This is the ideal situation for older, existing businesses with well known, established phone numbers.

5. Managing Multiple Team Members

Having oversight of conversations across your company becomes important when you work as a team to complete a service.

Imagine working in the field or on a job site to complete a service for a customer.

You’ll want to know what your customer and your office are telling each other. Everyone will want to be on the same page regarding the service, arrival time, payment, scheduling etc.

You’ll also want to message customers directly with updates and know that your office saw the response too.

You can’t accomplish this next level text messaging without a business-grade text messaging platform. You’ll need support for adding multiple users to a single 10-digit text messaging number.

These systems give you and your team accurate timely responses with oversight. Everyone can see and respond to text messages in your company and get the job done.

6. Upload, Segment and Group Your Contacts

MessageDesk and other business text messaging apps help keep your customer information consistent and actionable for better customer service.

Working from your truck means you need to access your customers from anywhere. Keep in mind, not all business texting apps will allow you to do this from any device.

Adding, editing, and updating customer information from any mobile device and your computer is a next-level feature.

If you work from the field you’ll need this feature to keep your records consistent. De-duplicating contacts, and syncing across all your platforms in real-time will lead to time-savings.

Upload Your Contacts

Many SMS platforms have built-in, guided CSV import and export features that make it easy to upload and update contacts.

Make sure you have a list of customer names and mobile phone numbers stored in a spreadsheet as a CSV file. You’ll need this list before you start creating SMS campaigns.

Segment Your Contacts

Organizing your customers and contacts into a list is essential. This is especially true when you want to send a group text.

You’ll also want to include additional attributes for customers in your CSV file. Things like name, email, and personalized notes. Many SMS text messaging platforms also offer custom fields.

These allow you to store unique data and organize customers in specific ways.

Group Your Contacts

Once you have your contacts uploaded, you’ll want ways to manually and automatically add customers. You can do this with simple static lists and more complex automatic groups.

Most business text messaging applications will allow you to create simple lists by manually adding customers.

Other platforms like MessageDesk have smart groups. These automatically group contacts and customers together based on their attributes.