In September, my husband and I moved to Texas. He had built a home there before we met and, upon moving for work, has since rented it out. As his new position would require constant travel, we could now live anywhere. So we decided to quit paying rent and move back into the home.
But first we needed to have a bit of work done to it, like repainting the interior, replacing the carpet, and a few other fixes we didn’t feel comfortable doing ourselves. Thus began our search for reputable contractors.
Admittedly, it has been quite some time since I’ve had the need to reach out to independent entrepreneurs like me because I’ve been renting for more than 10 years. So, I was a bit surprised that, though I had submitted all of my inquiries online, a large majority responded by text. It got me wondering…is this the new way of doing business?
As a freelance writer, 99% of my client contact is via email. In fact, I think I’ve only received texts from my customers a handful of times, and that was simply to notify me that they were running late for our pre-scheduled phone conference. For most, I don’t even have a phone number so it never occurred to me that texting would be an option.
This makes texting as a form of business communication fairly foreign to me, so I reached out to a few others to learn when they use texting to communicate with their clients, as well as what their “rules” are when it comes to keeping in touch. Here’s what they had to say.
Texting is Integral, As Long it Is On-Topic and Business-Based
“Texting is integral to our business,” says Mike Stewart, founder of Vancouver New Condos, “and is extremely efficient when used with voice-to-text while on the move. Being a realtor in a booming market like Vancouver, we text our clients all day and every day for every reason under the sun.”
Stewart goes on to explain that these reasons include not only basic communication, but also sharing of property photos or features, texting instructional screenshots for signing necessary documents, and more. “Basically, every facet of our real estate business can be shared via text to expedite the urgency of some transactions and situations,” says Stewart.
That said, his company does ask for permission before using text as the preferred method of contact. “I never assume they’re comfortable with it,” says Stewart, “so I’ll initially ask if the client is able to and/or comfortable with texting. If they are not comfortable or cannot text, we will call or email instead and establish the relationship in that manner.”
Stewart has also created a few “rules” around texting with clients, such as not sending texts before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless the client requests otherwise. “It’s about customizing your communication to assist the client as best possible,” says Stewart.
Another rule that Stewart has is that the text also has to be in the correct context and relevant to the business. “As licensed realtors, we are held to a higher standard of behavior,” Stewart says, “so we are always professional with our texts and keep them on topic and business-based.”
Texting Provides Customers Discreet Communication in Real Time
A factor I hadn’t really considered was how texting clientele may also vary from one industry to the next. For instance, Daniel J. McBride is a private investigator and president of American Eagle Investigations, and he says that the number one reason he texts clients is privacy.
“Many of our clients are having us investigate someone close to them,” says McBride. “Whether that’s a partner or spouse displaying suspicious activity or a business partner they work with day-to-day, it’s not that easy to have a lengthy phone call about someone who’s sitting right next to the client. Because of this, I’d say most our clients text us. We even have the message app for our Google My Business listing, so a lot of clients will reach out from that platform and begin their correspondence with our firm via texting.”
McBride also agrees that texting is a great way to share photos. Except, in the case of private investigation, the images being sent aren’t of properties for sale. Instead, they may be pictures of someone entering a business or home they shouldn’t be visiting. Or maybe it’s a pic of a person clearly interacting with someone they say they don’t know.
Like Stewart, McBride lets the client dictate whether texting is a good method of communication. Yet it isn’t so much about preference as it is about keeping in touch in a way that offers the necessary privacy. “If a client prefers phone calls or emails, maybe because their partner has access to their phone and their text messages, we operate to suit their preferences,” says McBride.
Also, because of the nature of the business, texts may be sent at odd hours. “Long story short, texting is very useful for our industry,” says McBride, “and allows us to keep our clients fully integrated in our work in real time. I love it!”
Texting Offers Quick Communication, But Can Sometimes Lead to Issues
“As an immigration lawyer, I view SMS text messaging as, in most instances, the best way of communicating with current and prospective clients,” says Joshua L. Goldstein, Esq. of Law Offices of Joshua L. Goldstein, P.C. Still, there are some times when texting with clients does lead to issues.
“Clients begin to communicate excessively with me instead of working with my support staff,” says Goldstein. “And of course, it’s difficult to record or track texting conversations, which is important to do when handling legal matters and assessing my marketing channels.”
Scott Warrick, JD, MLHR, CEQC, SHRM-SCP, employment labor attorney, HR professional, author, and public speaker agrees that, while texting is almost expected by customers in this day and age, it can present some issues. Issues that can potentially be mediated with the establishment of a few rules.
First, “you need to remember that once you have sent someone a text, it is no longer yours,” says Warrick. “That person can send it on to anyone they like. Even if you delete it from your own phone, not only might it still be there on your phone somewhere, but anyone else anywhere in the world might still have it. Therefore, you never want to put anything in a text that you would not be proud to see on the front page of USA Today.”
Warrick also warns that your texts can actually be manipulated to make it appear that you said something else. How do you deal with this? “If you are sending texts as part of your business, it might be a good idea to download those texts into a computer just in case you need to show that someone altered an innocent text,” Warrick suggests.
Additionally, it’s important to realize that texts lack nonverbal cues that are shared when you’re speaking on the phone or communicating face-to-face. “As a result, texts can be seen as offensive if they are not carefully worded,” says Warrick. “Therefore, if you are using texts, you need to keep them short, sweet, and as unoffensive as possible.”
“Like it or not, texts are now part of the world,” says Warrick, “and that includes the business world. Get used to it and evolve.”