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15 ways businesses use SMS (with examples)

SMS has been embedded in most companies’ communication plans for years. It’s low cost, easy to set up and more responsive than any other channel.

So how are businesses and organisations using SMS?

This article pulls together 15 ways that SMS is being used and provides an example for each one.

Have we captured all the use cases for business SMS? If you use SMS for something that’s not in the list below, please make touch and we’ll be sure to add it.

Here’s a brief summary of the business SMS ideas

1. SMS Delivery Notification
2. SMS for 2fa (2-Factor Authentication)
3. SMS Appointment Reminders
4. SMS Order Confirmation
5. SMS to Highlight Important Emails
6. Promotion, Sales and Marketing
7. Respond to advertising by texting a keyword to a short code
8. SMS Tips and Advice
9.SMS Surveys and Polls
10. SMS Server Alerts
11. SMS Job Availability Alerts
12. SMS Billing / Payment Alerts
13. Customer Support by SMS
14. Connecting landlords and tenants by SMS
15. Drip SMS Campaigns

1. SMS Delivery Notification

SMS is the perfect way to notify customers that a letter, packag, parcel or any type of document has been delivered.

The instant nature of SMS means that if there are any problems such as incorrect delivery address, the customer is immediately notified.

It also allows you to have an audit trail of customer communications, should anything go wrong or there is any type of dispute.

It’s important to include as much detail about the delivery as possible, so mention the item, date and time of delivery etc. Be specific, so there is no danger of your text delivery notification being misinterpreted.

As this is a simple one way delivery alert ,there’s no need to include a reply option. Doing so would only invite further an unnecessary interaction.

SMS delivery alert

2. SMS for 2fa (2-Factor Authentication)

As account hacking and fraud increases, companies are deploying new ways to make their customer accounts more secure. 

SMS 2fa is the most common two factor authentication method available. It’s quick, low cost and relatively easy to implement.

From Dec 2020, all banks in the EU are being required to use 2fa for all their card transactions and SMS will be the dominant choice.

While transactional SMS is not as secure as other 2fa methods it’s certainly much more secure than having no additional security.

SMS 2fa typically delivers a code to the customers’ mobile that they then use to authorise the transaction or gain access to an account.

Users of SMS 2FA services need to make sure that the web forms that generate the texts are safe from SMS pumping attack by fraudsters 

See below for an example SMS 2fa text.

SMS 2fa

3. SMS Appointment Reminders

Text appointment reminders is one of the most common uses of an SMS API for good reason. Sending appointment reminders can reduce the number of the ‘no shows’ by up to 70%.

Further optimising of the exact content of the SMS appointment reminders can also dramatically improve response rates and drive down no shows.

nhs logo

In the UK, The National Health Service tested a new text message reminder which told the patients the specific waste to the NHS of not attending and reduced missed appointments by 23% compared to the standard text message.

It’s more effective to keep the message as a one way text reminder, rather than giving the option to reply. If you invite the user to confirm or change their appointment, you’re likely to prompt people to make last minute changes.

Below is a typical SMS appointment reminder.

SMS appointment reminder

4. SMS Order Confirmation

Sending an SMS order confirmation is a great way of giving customers the reassurance that their order has been received.

Unlike email which can frequently be caught in spam filters, over 90% of text messages are read within the first minutes.

Sending customers a text order confirmation can reduce additional support and improve customer satisfaction.

Companies that adopt this approach to customer communication enhance their image as being professional and efficient.

text order confirmation

5. SMS to Highlight Important Emails

Compared to SMS, Email open rates are poor at just 22%.

Our inboxes are stuffed full of email spam and our junk filters are having to work even harder to keep the volume of email down to manageable levels.

Even the emails that we actively want to see are buried in the daily avalanche of crap.

SMS by contrast has very very low spam levels and 90% of SMS messages sent are read within 5 minutes.

That’s why SMS can be so effective at highlighting important emails. Open rates can be improved by 82% simply by sending an SMS as the email lands, so that the user has less chance of missing it.

SMS to highlight email

6. Promotion, Sales and Marketing

This is definitely the highest use case of SMS for businesses. According to The SMS Works, 47.6% of all text messages sent are for sales or promotions.

This shouldn’t be a surprise as the open rate for SMS is about 95%. I can’t remember the last time I ignored or missed a text.

Although response rate to bulk SMS campaigns are often wildly overstated, the average response rate is approximately 15%. Compared to that of email which is less than 1% and you can see why SMS remains so popular, despite the emergence of new messaging channels such as RCS messaging.

The sales SMS below is a typical one, sent from the fast food sector.

SMS pizza offer

7. Respond to advertising by texting a keyword to a short code

Adding a text response option to an offline advertising campaign can uplift response by as much as 31%.

In fact, if you give people the choice, around half of all responders will choose the text response option.

It’s particularly effective on poster advertising campaigns where consumers are less likely to want to visit a mobile website.

Responders simply text a keyword to a 5 digit short code. They are then sent an automated response which tells them what will happen next.

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The responder’s mobile number, message and date and time of their text are all captured for follow up.

Here’s an example of a typical automated text response.

example SMS autoresponse

8. SMS Tips and Advice

SMS has traditionally been used for 2 main things:

1.Transactional alerts, e.g. delivery notifications, appointment reminders
2. Sales and marketing promotions

What’s often missed is the opportunity to build stronger relationships with customers with SMS. 

One way to achieve this is to use SMS to do more than sell. Providing tips and advice, delivered by text, can give something useful back to the customer.

One automotive dealer for example, used SMS to deliver a series of winter driving tips to its customers.

SMS Tips and advice

9. SMS Surveys and Polls

SMS is very well suited to gathering customer opinions and customer feedback.

The immediate nature of SMS means that you can generate far higher response rates than you could by email.

Most customer surveys are long tedious affairs that suffer from huge drop out rates. SMS by contrast is nimble and by its very nature, responses need to be concise.

SMS surveys can be very sophisticated, deploying AI systems to decide upon the flow of questions. They can of course be very simple where a customer is asked to respond to just one simple question.

Most SMS surveys run to between 5 and 7 questions.

SMS Survey

10. SMS Server Alerts

When a crucial server starts to strain or worse still stop responding, then alerts need to be sent out immediately in a way that they are going to get noticed and responded to fast.

SMS is the perfect communication channel for server alerts. The alerts will be received by the relevant people immediately, so that they can take appropriate action.

Many of our customers use our SMS API for server alerts. They hope to never use it but having them configured and tested is great for peace of mind.

SMS server alert

11. SMS Job Availability Alerts

SMS has been used to let candidates know about potential jobs since the late 90s. It’s particularly common for use with a recruitment CRM system.

Nursing and medical recruitment agencies are particularly heavy users of SMS as they often need to recruit large numbers, often at short notice.

Within just a few minutes of a job becoming available, hundreds or even thousands of potential applicants can be made aware of the opportunity.

SMS job alerts are fast, efficient and low cost. There’s no app or software to download. Every phone ever made can send and receive SMS, out of the box.

Text job alert

12. SMS Billing / Payment Alerts

With the threat of fraud never too far away, consumers seek reassurance from vendors that they are legitimate and can be trusted.

Sending an SMS payment confirmation is a great way to demonstrate to your customers that you take their data protection seriously.  It’s low cost, easy to implement and helps build trust and credibility, particularly for new customers.

Include as many details as you can in the SMS billing text.

SMS payment confirmation

13. Customer Support by SMS

SMS is not really the right tool for detailed and lengthy customer support. It’s just too clunky and being limited in the number of characters you can use makes it too restrictive.

But if you’re just responding to simple queries, then customer support by text could be a great option.

For example, you could easily send a reset password link by SMS, or perhaps send simple instructions on using a specific part of a website.

If you keep it simple, then SMS support could lower your costs by reducing the number of incoming calls to your support team.

As well as using SMS for support, you can also integrate SMS into your business workflows.

Customer support by SMS

14. Connecting landlords and tenants by SMS

Tenants often have tense relationships with their landlords.
This is most frequently caused by disagreements on damage or maintenance issues with the property.

In most cases this could be easily resolved by SMS which can take the emotion out and give clear and simple information to let tenants know exactly what to expect.

Using SMS to keep tenants informed or ask for feedback can give tenants the reassurance they need and help landlords improve their service.

Tenant SMS Service

15. Drip SMS Campaigns

To keep your customers informed of your latest offers or events you can automate an SMS drip campaign.

Customers receive a series of SMS at set intervals. The idea is to keep a steady flow of offers and interest without the need to set up the individual SMS campaign each time.

The key is to keep the text offers varied and don’t send offers too frequently or your texts could come across as spam.

Send one SMS offer every 14 or so.

SMS drip campaign

Related articles

A guide to bulk SMS Bulk SMS has been around since the late 90s. This comprehensive guide will give you a thorough grounding in how to make the most it.

SMS 2fa SMS is the most popular choice for organisations using 2 factor authentication. This article explains how to use it and highlights a few weaknesses.

5 SMS marketing blunders to avoid These mistakes are so common and this article will show you how to avoid them.

What time should I send my SMS marketing offer to customers?


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The Editorial Team The SMS Works