Why Are Your Messages Getting Blocked?

It's frustrating to see your messages getting blocked. Whether you have an application-to-person (A2P) system sending automated messages or your support staffing is sending person-to-person (P2P) texts, you need those communications to go through uninterrupted. It's likely essential to your business functions.

So what's going on? Are your users blocking your number? Are wireless carriers filtering your messages?

Why Carriers Filter Messages

There are many reasons carriers might filter out messages before they reach consumers. In particular, messages not in compliance with a country's spam laws will be automatically filtered out.

This summer, CTIA, a U.S.-based non-profit trade association with increasing influence in Canada, released new best practices for eliminating the threat of unwanted messages. According to CTIA, the high trust and open rate associated with text messaging is due, in part, to the channel's relatively spam-free environment.

CTIA defines unwanted messages as:

  • Unsolicited bulk commercial messages.
  • Fraudulent communications.
  • Messages that the user did not opt-in to receive.
  • Messages with inappropriate content.

In the U.S., message senders must comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. In Canada, senders must adhere to Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). Following these guidelines is the best way to avoid getting filtered or blocked.

The Importance of Opt-In and Opt-Out

CTIA recommends that message senders provide clear and conspicuous calls-to-action (CTA). In other words, it should be easy for consumers to opt-in to receiving messages as well as to opt-out when they no longer want to be contacted.

A good CTA ensures consumers are aware of:

  • The long- or short-codes from which they will receive messages.
  • The identity of the organization or individual sending the messages.
  • Any fees or charges they might incur.
  • All applicable terms and conditions, such as how to opt-out.

If consumers opt to receive recurring messages, they must be made aware of that fact. Likewise, message senders cannot assume that consumer opt-in to one campaign acknowledges consent for all campaigns. In almost all cases, consumers must opt-in to each unique campaign.

Why Customers Block Numbers

You can follow all of the appropriate guidelines and still encounter scenarios in which users manually block your number. Android and iOS devices make it simple for consumers to blacklist numbers with a few taps.

Once a customer blocks your number, there's not much you can do to remedy the situation. Often, your best option is to learn why users block your number and then make the necessary changes.

For example, if you notice that users opt-in to receive recurring messages and yet still block your number, it may indicate that your opt-in agreement was not clear enough about the frequency of message delivery.

To learn more about how to ensure your messages are delivered and received, sign up for a free demo of Swift SMS Gateway today.

Where is SMS Headed in 2020 and Beyond?

SMS has been around for a long time, but it has evolved a lot over the years and continues to do so. From simple text messages to media-rich communications, SMS has remained a staple form of communication for nearly 30 years.

Text messaging is so popular today that 75% of millennials prefer it over voice calls. But does the technology have the staying power to last into the 2020s? As long as SMS continues to evolve alongside other mobile technologies, it's likely to remain one of the most useful forms of communication.

The Rise of 5G Wireless

The next generation of cellular technology is already here – for some people. In the U.S., 5G networks have arrived in a handful of major cities across the country, and the technology is still pending in Canada. However, many service providers are aiming to roll out 5G coverage on a greater scale in 2020.

5G technology has a theoretical peak speed of 20 gigabytes-per-second (Gbps), compared with 4G's peak of 1 Gbps. That means that more information can be sent to users faster than ever before. That could mean almost non-existent wait times for images and other rich media SMS.

Emerging Uses For A2P

Application-to-person (A2P) messaging has a proven track record and companies continue to invest in the technology. In fact, the global enterprise A2P market is expected to grow to over $100 billion by 2025.

A2P has many potential uses in the financial, transportation, employment and health care verticals, as well as many others. Common and emerging use cases include:

  • Account security.
  • Customer engagement.
  • Customer nurturing.
  • Internet of Things notifications.

Automation is a key aspect of A2P, and it's one of the reasons the solution can help businesses control costs. By automating messages, organizations can reserve human resources for tasks that require more nuanced solutions.

Group Messaging for Teams

Connecting business teams via mobile is easier with group text messaging. Compared to internet-based messaging apps, which require a Wi-Fi connection, users can transmit SMS anywhere there's a cell signal.

Group messaging services enable organizational stakeholders to manage SMS communications in a highly intuitive manner. Administrators can create multiple groups, add contacts and start sending messages immediately.

Other group texting features include:

  • Cross-network functionality.
  • Scheduled texts.
  • Recurring texts.
  • Web-to-cell messages.

Considering the high open rate of SMS, group texting can be a powerful collaboration tool that helps teams get more done.

SMS Chatbots For Hire

Chatbots have become common on the web. They answer simple questions for customers and can automatically escalate advanced queries to human customer service representatives. This strategy saves time and conserves valuable resources.

Though less ubiquitous, SMS chatbots are gaining in popularity thanks to their many benefits, such as the ability to measure traditional advertising. For example, adding a unique "Text us" call to action to TV commercials, billboards and radio ads gives you the power to measure engagement with those assets.

Plus, chatbots provide a conversational and intuitive communication channel. Customers can get the information they need immediately, rather than waiting for a representative to pick up the line.

Sign up for a free demo of Swift SMS Gateway to learn more about how to extend the reach of your business.

Why Mortgage Lenders Need SMS-Enabled Fintech

Mobile banking has improved by leaps and bounds over the last decade. Compared with 2009, customers in 2019 are more likely to bank online and conduct their personal finances from a mobile device. SMS is already built into many of these service offerings. For example, the majority of banking apps use SMS tokens for two-factor authentication.

One area of the banking sector that has been slow to digitize is mortgage and home equity lending. Until 2018, the majority of mortgage applications were still filed on paper, requiring borrowers to make the trip to their lender in person.

As a new decade quickly approaches, lenders are finally giving their customers more digital options and the trend is likely to explode in the coming years.

Big Changes are Coming to Mortgage Lenders

Why is the mortgage industry just now digitizing? In the U.S., the main impediment has been the Uniform Residential Loan Application (URLA), the standard package of loan documents required by the government-sponsored entities (GSEs) Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. First established more than 20 years ago, the current incarnation of URLA hasn't changed much – it doesn't have a space for the applicant's email address or mobile phone number, for example. But that's about to change.

In 2020, the GSEs will rollout an updated URLA designed for the 21st century. While still available in paper form, the new URLA is also accessible via dynamic point-of-sale software. SaaS mortgage solutions won't just be static capture forms, they'll be platforms from which loan officers can closely collaborate with borrowers.

This major digitization effort is coming at the right time: The U.S. home equity market recently surpassed pre-2008 levels. U.S. lenders have the opportunity to tap $14.4 trillion, according to CNBC. At the end of the day, paper-based systems just aren't efficient enough to keep up with the potential rise in demand.

Customer Engagement Requires a Multichannel Approach

A 2018 report from EllieMae revealed that 51% of mortgage applicants upload at least some of their financial information to their lender through an online portal. The study also found that younger borrowers were more likely to shop for mortgages online. These customers don't just want digital experiences, they expect them.

To keep these customers engaged, lenders need digital solutions that make it easy to apply for a loan, submit documents, verify their income and communicate with loan officers. To do that effectively, lenders must be able to reach borrowers by their preferred communication channel, whether that's email, phone, chat or text. Considering text messages have a much higher open and read rate than email, they represent a good option for communication, especially when lenders need documents within a specific timeframe. The easier it is to communicate and collaborate, the more satisfied mortgage customers will be.

To learn more about how to integrate SMS functionality into your financial technology software, sign up for a free demo of Swift SMS Gateway today.

Understanding Your A2P Delivery Options

Application-to-person (A2P) text messaging is quickly becoming the new standard for how businesses communicate with customers. Compared with person-to-person (P2P) messaging, A2P allows for greater scalability and a much wider variety of use cases. Businesses use A2P solutions to send customers alerts and notifications, authenticate user identities, deliver coupons and much more.

Globally, the A2P SMS market is expected to reach $108.2 billion by 2025, representing a significant growth opportunity for corporations of all sizes. Implementing this technology isn't always as easy as selecting a provider, however. Stakeholders must carefully consider the delivery options available for high-volume A2P applications.

Short Codes

Typically five to six digits in length, short codes represent the original A2P delivery option. They're convenient and practical for marketing campaigns because they're easy to remember. In the past, short codes represented an affordable option for businesses to scale up customer outreach efforts, but newer technologies are beginning to encroach on this space.

There are two types of short codes: shared and dedicated. Shared codes are used by multiple businesses and specific keywords trigger automated responses from the appropriate business. For example, if a pizza restaurant and a coffee shop share the same short code, customer messages containing pizza-related keywords would go to the restaurant. In the U.S., shared short codes are being phased out, though dedicated codes remain a viable option.

10-Digit Long Codes

A 10-digit long code (10DLC) is a phone number like any other. While they are not suitable for marketing campaigns, 10DLC represents a good option for individual customer responses. For example, text-enabled 10DLCs allow customers to seamlessly transition between text and voice conversations with customer support representatives.

Businesses can leverage 10DLCs to capture customer service requests that may be slipping through the cracks. A good strategy is to integrate an SMS API with an existing business service number to capture clients who are attempting to contact the business at that number. In the U.S., some carriers are introducing new 10DLC fees in response to greater utilization of A2P SMS.

Toll-Free SMS

The ability to enable texting on an 800-series number empowers businesses to send and receive higher volumes of text traffic. Corporations can integrate SMS APIs into an existing toll-free number or adopt a new number.

As with other types of 10DLCs, toll-free numbers allow customers to switch between voice and text just as they would when communicating with a friend. Plus, the carrier-approval process associated with 10DLC is much shorter than that of short codes. Businesses that want to establish and scale up their A2P efforts without introducing new liabilities should definitely consider the benefits of toll-free SMS.

A2P provides corporations with many benefits, including better customer experiences, improved scalability and more. Sign up for a free demo of Swift SMS Gateway to learn how to get these benefits for your organization.

A2P SMS in the Enterprise: What’s Driving Growth?

Globally, mobile phone users send more than 18.7 billion text messages every day. In addition to people texting their friends, family and colleagues, modern applications are getting in on the fun, too.

Application-to-person (A2P) SMS has already proven to be a valuable tool for business growth, customer engagement and more. Industry experts agree that we're still only experiencing the beginning of what A2P has to offer.

In fact, an analysis from QyReports forecasted the global enterprise A2P SMS market to reach $108.2 billion by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of 6.1%. Another study from Juniper Research corroborated this projection, estimating that the number of delivered A2P messages will reach 3.5 trillion by 2023, representing 40% growth over 2019 figures.

Not only do smartphone users prefer to communicate with businesses via SMS, but the technology also holds other benefits, such as the ability to collect useful data to optimize message relevancy.

Enterprise A2P Can Deliver at Scale

One of the major differentiators between enterprise-grade A2P SMS and mid-market solutions is volume. Enterprise organizations must manage messaging needs across global jurisdictions and among segments of their target audiences.

As consumers use software for everyday tasks, there will be a growing demand for A2P services. Enterprise A2P can give organizations the ability to comply with various regulations between countries while gaining the ability to send a high volume of messages at an affordable cost.

Enterprise A2P SMS can help organizations reach customers across the globe.Enterprise A2P SMS can help organizations reach customers across the globe.

Short Codes Are Going Away

Today, many businesses utilize short codes to send high-volume A2P messages. Many of these messages are simple alerts and notifications, such as appointment reminders. But what if the receiver of the message has a question or needs to communicate some new information to the company? In this case, they would have to call a separate phone number.

By replacing short codes with toll-free numbers, companies can retain the functionality they enjoy with their current solution, but gain the ability to seamlessly transition between alerts and conversations. Plus, toll-free numbers are cheaper to acquire and easier to establish. These benefits also come at an important time, as U.S. carriers are beginning to abandon shared short codes.

A2P SMS Drives Growth

The use cases for enterprise A2P SMS are widely varied, which makes the solution a viable growth strategy. For example, service providers can leverage the technology to deliver timely messages and support to technicians in the field. Medical facilities can utilize automated messaging platforms to make and manage appointment schedules. And marketers in almost every vertical can find ways to engage their target audience with hyper-personalized messages.

If businesses aren't using A2P SMS solutions today, there's a good chance they'll need them tomorrow. Adopting the technology now can help organizations meet their business and customer goals in a timely manner.

To learn more about how enterprise A2P SMS can help your organization reach its growth targets, sign up for a free demo from Swift SMS Gateway today.

Why Toll-Free SMS is Better Than Short Codes

High-volume text message services can be costly to maintain, but that's the price of doing business, right? Not necessarily.

Compared with short codes, toll-free numbers can help your organization's stakeholders save time and money.

Shared Short Codes are Disappearing

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons companies are shifting away from short codes is that access to shared codes is dwindling rapidly as more carriers discontinue the service. Previously, shared short codes made financial sense because their costs could be spread between multiple businesses. For example two businesses could use the same short code with unique sets of keywords. However, because one business could use the code send non-compliant messages, every organization using the code could be subject to penalties.

AT&T has already announced its plans to end shared short codes, and more carriers are likely to follow suit.

Toll-Free Numbers Have Lower Costs

Though shared short codes are going away, dedicated short codes are still an option, albeit an expensive one. Due to the limited nature of short codes, it can cost around $500 per month to lease a non-vanity short code and more than $1,000 per month to lease a vanity short code with digits specifically selected by a brand.

That's a significant, ongoing expense that does not include the cost of actually sending messages. Toll free long-codes are much more affordable and easier to procure.

Toll-free numbers provide the ability to switch between text and voice seamlessly.Toll-free numbers provide the ability to switch between text and voice seamlessly.

Short Codes Aren't Convenient

Unlike short codes, organizations can use toll-free phone numbers for text messaging and voice calling. That means financial stakeholders can further streamline their costs by unifying their phone services from a single vendor.

Likewise, a toll-free number can reduce the amount of time customers spend attempting to reach a business. If a company uses short codes for texts and long codes for voice calls, customers have to find two numbers. A toll-free solution reduces this burden, and improves the customer experience.

Toll-Free Numbers Can Make Your Teams More Productive

Text message campaigns must comply with regulations which can vary by jurisdiction. So, when companies spend out campaigns on their short codes, they need to get their messages approved by each of their short code carriers. This process can take weeks or months to accomplish, which can feel like an eternity in the modern marketing landscape.

Toll-free numbers have a much shorter approval process, so companies can requisition their number and start sending messages in a short period of time.

Long Codes Are Right for A2P Messaging

Today, businesses use application-to-person SMS for a variety of functions ranging from customer outreach to technician management. Toll-free numbers can give organizations the ability to scale these functions as needed, while also gaining the ability to switch between voice and text on the same long-code.

For example, if a customer service representative is communicating with a customer via text message, and they need to switch to a voice conversation, a toll-free number allows this movement to happen seamlessly. From the customer's perspective, it's no different than calling or texting one of their friends.

If your organization sends a high volume of calls and text messages, you may be able to significantly reduce costs by switching from short codes to toll-free numbers. To learn more, schedule a free demo of Swift SMS Gateway today.

How SMS Can Support Patient Engagement in 2019

Digital patient portal technology has been around since the turn of the millennium, but many physicians' offices and hospitals are still facing barriers to optimized patient experiences. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 9 out of 10 office-based physicians had an electronic health record system by 2017. The Canadian Medical Association reported similar levels of adoption in the same year.

If the majority of care providers have digital solutions for record keeping and patient communication, what's preventing them from optimizing engagement rates?

Digital Isn't the End of the Road

Having digital health solutions isn't the end-all, be-all of patient engagement. Many physicians' offices have very basic EHR systems with limited functionality and few data integrations. For example, a 2016 report from MedScape revealed that most providers saw their clinical workflows slow down after EHR implementation, with 48% of patients being affected by these problems.

In 2019, EHR developers have had time to iron out some of these initial kinks, but there's still room for improvement. For example, many EHR systems track patient data effectively, but lack communication tools to achieve optimal engagement levels.

In an interview with Patient Engagement HIT, Dr. Fareed Elhaj noted that phone systems often cause a bottleneck in patient communication.

"Phone calls were not very efficient because a lot of patients don't pick up the phone and then we leave a message," Dr. Elhaj said. "But how much information can we really leave on that message? So then patients call back and then they can't reach us or they leave a voicemail. It's a lot of back and forth."

SMS enabled EHR systems can save valuable internal resources.SMS enabled EHR systems can save valuable internal resources.

A Better Way to Communicate

Text messages solve two problems at once: internal resource utilization and patient engagement. For one thing, SMS saves internal resources by cutting out the back-and-forth phone calls that often answer redundant questions that would otherwise be covered during the actual visit. Furthermore, text messages are quick and allow patients to confirm or cancel appointments as needed.

When Dr. Elhaj's team implemented text messages as part of its EHR strategy, the benefits were felt almost immediately.

"There was no back and forth in terms of if we wanted a confirmation text sent out," Dr. Elhaj noted. "Essentially, if the patient is on our schedule, she gets a confirmation text message. It's virtually no work for us."

Not every patient-physician exchange can happen over text message, but by using the channel for appointment reminders and quick informational notes, staff members can reserve their resources for more in-depth conversations. Plus, patients won't have to wait on hold for long periods, which everyone can appreciate.

Building SMS functionality into your EHR system is easy when you choose a partner who understands text messages inside and out. Schedule a free demo of Swift SMS Gateway today to learn more.

3 Ways to Take Advantage of the A2P Boom

Application-to-person messaging has grown to be a significant communications channel in recent years and the market shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, a recent report from Juniper Research estimated that 3.5 trillion A2P messages will be delivered by 2023, representing 40% growth over 2019.

A2P messages sent over SMS are highly effective for a number of reasons. All types of mobile phones can receive SMS messages, they don't require an internet connection, and they have significantly higher open rates compared with email.

Customers like them and businesses benefit from them. Here are three key ways to use A2P messaging at your organization:

1. Keep Customers Engaged

Organizations can leverage A2P messages at various points throughout the customer relationship to keep engagement levels high. From sending order confirmations to delivery notifications, the A2P SMS channel is a great way to keep customers informed.

Compared to other channels like email and push notifications, SMS makes more sense because it's easy to use and customers are likely to be familiar with the technology. In fact A2P 10-digit long codes are highly effective because they look and feel just like texting with a friend. Compared with shared short codes, which lack privacy features, 10-DLC feels more personal. Plus, they tend to be much more affordable thanks to the greater quantity of available numbers.

A2P SMS messages keep customers engaged.A2P SMS messages keep customers engaged.

2. Add a Layer of Security

One of the most common ways to implement A2P messaging is in the form of two-factor authentication (2FA). To combat the global rise in cybercrime, 2FA makes it harder for criminals to break into user accounts using publicly available information.

For example, if a fraudster gains access to a user's name, address and phone number – which may be freely available online – they could use that data to gain access to sensitive information such as financial assets.

To combat this malicious behavior, 2FA-enabled systems can send an authentication token to the user any time a login attempt is made. This way, the user can verify their identity using their phone. It's a great addition to the limited security a password can provide.

3. Extend your Marketing Reach

Marketers can take advantage of the growing A2P trend to make deeper connections with consumers. A2P offers speed and affordability that marketers need. In fact, VentureBeat reported that the average SMS message is read within three minutes. Those same customers may take days to read an email – if they open it at all.

These messages don't always have to be sales-focused. The A2P SMS channel is useful for sending news about product updates and new features. When you want your message to be seen as soon as possible, A2P just makes the most sense.

If your organization's apps don't utilize A2P SMS, they're missing a crucial piece of functionality. To see how easy it is to get started, sign up for a free demo of Swift SMS Gateway today.

4 customer engagement tips for SMS marketers

Customer engagement is a measure of how users interact with your brand. Engaged customers are not only more likely to respond to marketing messages, but also to make purchases. Gaining high levels of engagement can be a challenge.  However, a Bond Insights survey found that 95 percent of customers who sign up for loyalty programs want to interact with brands via emerging technology such as mobile and other integrated technologies.

To enhance your brand's customer engagement rates, your interactions need to be transparent, non-intrusive and relevant to user needs. Here are four tips to get you started:

1. Offer exclusive deals

In Canada and the U.S., customers must opt in to receive marketing messages via SMS. To encourage participation, your brand can offer deals exclusive to SMS subscribers. Depending on the nature of the business, these incentives could include coupon codes, subscriber-only sales or early access to new products, features or services.

After sign up, a steady drip of exclusive offers can keep existing customers engaged and loyal to your brand. These incentives can encourage shoppers to return to your brand during slow phases of the sales calendar.

2. Implement automated replies

One of the reasons high customer engagement levels are difficult to achieve is the time and resources necessary to keep in contact with users. Enticing customers to sign up for your SMS mailing list is just the beginning of the relationship – and the work. As a marketer, you need to develop content to send out to various sub-groups within the mailing list.

To keep subscribers engaged, consider using automated tools to send replies and timed messages to the buyer personas on your mailing list. Employing a chatbot can make these interactions even more natural.

Exclusive deals incentivize customers to subscribe to your SMS mailing list.Exclusive deals incentivize customers to subscribe to your SMS mailing list.

3. Use calls to action

When you want your customers to take a specific action, sometimes you just need to ask. Understanding how and when to implement calls to action (CTAs) can improve your response rates.

For example, rather than writing "Here's a 10 percent off coupon for your next purchase!" you could better engage customers by saying "Tap here to use your 10 percent off coupon!"

In the first option, users are informed they have a deal waiting for them, but there's not necessarily a clear way for them to take advantage of it. In the second, the user is encouraged to take an action: tap on a link that will take them to the store page.

4. Run a contest

Contests can be a quick and simple way to engage your subscriber list. People love the chance to win something, and you'll gain an opportunity to talk about a new product or service. For instance, instead of sending an SMS blast telling customers you have a new product for sale, you could tell them about the exciting chance to win one of your new products. The effect is the same – everyone learns about your new product – but the reaction is different, because you're offering the chance to win.

SMS is an ideal channel for engaging your customers because text messages are more likely to be read than emails. To optimize your SMS marketing strategy, connect with a consultant from Swift SMS Gateway today.

What’s Next in the Future of SMS Chatbots?

A chatbot is a program designed to mimic conversation with users. Unlike the digital assistant on your phone or the robots you see in movies, chatbots typically have a limited range of subjects they can discuss.

You've likely encountered chatbots online as a little speech bubble that pops up to ask if you have any questions about a product or service. For example, the Whole Foods chatbot, which users can access via Facebook, can provide product descriptions, share recipes and help users locate their nearest store.

Many chatbots are limited by their dependence on third-party platforms like Facebook Messenger, but developers can overcome these limitations with SMS. In fact, users can speak with SMS chatbots on any cell phone – even old flip phones. This ubiquity greatly increases the value chatbots can bring to organizations.

SMS is an Ideal Engagement Platform

According to data from Statista, more than 304 million North Americans own some type of mobile phone. Considering that the vast majority of these devices are SMS-enabled, an SMS chatbot deployment makes a lot of sense. Furthermore, an OpenMarket survey found that more than 75 percent of millennials prefer texting over talking on their phones.

SMS chatbots can be a powerful engagement tool because they utilize a communications platform, with which almost everyone is familiar and comfortable using. The convenience of SMS cannot be ignored, either. For instance, if a user wants to connect with a customer service representative on a weekday, he or she may have to duck out of work to make a call. SMS could allow them to send a few quick messages to get the information they need.

Chatbots make it easier for users to quickly get the answers they need.Chatbots make it easier for users to quickly get the answers they need.

Exciting Chatbot Use Cases

As chatbot technology becomes more sophisticated, it will be able to take on greater responsibilities, saving valuable human resources for in-depth interactions with customers. Many businesses have already deployed chatbot solutions to great success. Here are a few examples of use cases you might encounter today:

Customer service: Today, many companies utilize chatbots as first-line customer service to answer frequently asked questions and provide answers to simple questions. These solutions are just beginning to take advantage of machine learning algorithms to become 'smarter' over time, as they interact with customers. In the future, chatbots connected to databases could answer even more complex queries.

Customized experiences: Organizations that offer many types of products and services can identify returning customers by their phone numbers to provide highly personalized experiences. While a human representative may take a few moments to pull up customer data, a chatbot could recognize users instantly and immediately provide assistance.

Audience engagement: No likes waiting on hold, but companies can only afford to employ a finite number of representatives. Chatbots could engage customers while human operators are busy. Additionally, fields that require frequent communication, such as recruiting, can use chatbots to engage prospects when recruiters are otherwise engaged.

Chatbot solutions can support your businesses' other customer-facing functions, and SMS is an ideal way to deploy this intelligent technology quickly and effectively. To learn more about Swift SMS Gateway and how it can benefit your organization, sign up for a free demo today.