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5 questions you should ask before choosing your SMS API provider

Choosing an SMS API should be pretty straightforward. There are perhaps 50 or more companies offering a reliable SMS gateway at a reasonable price.

Most SMS companies have clear documentation and allow you to set up a free test account. 
You’ll even be given a few free SMS credits so that you can test the service before spending anything.

But there are some crucial questions you need answers to before you dive and commit. Integrating with an SMS API is something you only want to once. Once you made your decision, you’ll probably be living with it more many years, so it’s important to get it right.

To help you make that decision (and somewhat predictably steer you in our direction), here are 5 questions you need to ask your potential SMS API provider.

1. Do you have to pay for texts that are undelivered?

Since the business SMS industry began, back in the late 90s, SMS companies have always billed customers for all messages that they submit through their API, even if a proportion of them are undelivered.

It’s just how the industry has evolved. But this blanket approach to pricing unfairly overcharges customers as the SMS gateway companies never have to pay for undelivered texts. It’s a hidden profit that the industry’s been quietly taking advantage of for about 20 years.

So, make sure that the SMS company you choose, refunds undelivered texts, it could save you as much as 18% on your overall spend. 

2. Does the SMS provider use Tier 1, direct to network, connections?

There are hundreds of routing options that business sms companies could choose to deliver text messages to handsets. They vary widely in price and reliability.

The most reliable, are UK, tier 1 connections. This simply means that the messages sent to UK numbers are piped directly to the relevant UK network, rather than being sent round the world.

Non-direct routes are known as grey routes and tend to be lower cost than tier 1 providers. Grey routes tend to suffer reliability issues with messages being delayed or not being delivered at all. 

Other issues often include a lack of delivery reports or the inability to set who the messages comes from.

Using grey routes is a real false economy, it’s a simple case of getting what you pay for.

3. Is the SMS pricing clear and concise?

Some providers’ pricing isn’t a s clear as it could be. Most companies display their prices in SMS credits. You might reasonably assume that 1 text credit would equate to sending 1 text in the UK. But this isn’t always the case.

Some SMS providers use more than 1 text credit to send a message to a UK number, so instead of using 1 text credits, 1.3 text credits are used for UK SMS traffic. 

This is less common than it was a few years ago but it’s still something to watch out for.

This SMS cost calculator makes comparing SMS provider costs much easier.

Does the provider offer some sort of automated text credit top up facility, so if you run out of credits, then your account is topped up.

As well as low cost pricing, what sort of cost saving tools does the provider offer. Most companies waste over 18% of their SMS credits. The SMS Works has a range of SMS cost saving tools that help our customers keep their cost under control.

4. Do SMS credits expire?

Some SMS service providers remove SMS credits if they haven’t been used a after a year or so. This unfairly penalises those customers that don’t use all their credits for a specific campaign. 
They may do sporadic campaigns which means that their account remains dormant for some time.
Make sure you choose a company that has no expiry on its text credits.

5. How good is the SMS API documentation?

Most developers have a simple list of requirements to consider when choosing new suppliers. At the top, or near the top of the list, is clear, concise easy to follow documentation. 

Ideally, they want copy and past code snippets in their chosen language that minimises the amount of code that they need to write.

They need everything to organised in a logical way that answers their questions quickly and efficiently.

Before shortlisting a Uk SMS provider, ask the person who’s going to be implementing the integration whether the documentation is up to scratch.

It’s good to ask questions

Before you settle on an SMS API company, have a good poke around, ask them lots of questions and give them a thorough testing.

After integrating, the last thing you need is to have to unpick your work and go through the hassle and expense of finding someone new.

By asking the questions above, you’ll avoid some of the most common pitfalls and set you on the right path to a happy client – supplier relationship.

If the new SMS provider is offering tangible benefits then try and avoid the procrastination trap. It’s easy to come up with plentiful reasons why this SMS migration project can wait for another day.

Changing SMS providers is a bit like switching energy providers. It feels like it’s going to be a real pain but turns out to be reasonably straightforward.

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Henry Cazalet Managing Director
Co-founder and Director of The SMS Works, a low cost and powerful SMS API for developers. About Henry