A study of texting habits has found that 68% of businesses are now communicating with customers via text—and that number will likely increase.

The report comes from the business communication company Zipwhip, which concluded that consumers are beginning to expect text communications with businesses to be a standard option. In fact, 40% of consumers say they proactively text business numbers without even knowing whether the number can receive texts.

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The bottom line, said Zipwhip CEO John Lauer, is that businesses need to accept that customers want to text them instead of calling. “Texting is the form of communication that people know the best and prefer to use, so if you’re not letting your customers text you, you’re sending them to a competitor.”

How to talk to customers

There are a couple of caveats to business texting that the report mentions: First, texts need to come from a human. Second, don’t do it from a cell phone.

Chatbots have been pretty hyped up for the past few years, and recent news even supports the idea that consumers are warming up to them. That doesn’t necessarily reflect what consumers think, though: 74% said they would rather speak to a human, a number that Zipwhip said is consistent with last year’s numbers.

A steady dislike of chatbots doesn’t mean they don’t have their place: They can be great for answering basic questions, but in the end most people want the option to connect with a human if needed. Only 51% of businesses that currently use chatbots say their bots have a way to connect customers with a human, which the study said is far lower than what customers would like to see.

“Two-way texting enables consumers to communicate quickly, conveniently, and discreetly with a company’s representative,” The report said. In other words, if you’re using a bot, make sure it can easily get customers to a human.

As for how to text customers, Zipwhip said it shouldn’t be via mobile device, which can be a security nightmare. The study found 88% of businesses that text customers report using mobile devices despite the possibility of the device being stolen (along with customer data), an employee leaving the company and retaining access to business lines via BYOD devices, or possible violation of the telephone consumer protection act (TCPA).

It’s important to note that, while not using a smartphone for business texting is good advice, Zipwhip’s main product is a software platform for business texting.

So, if your business is doing everything right, what kinds of messages should you be sending? Consumers rate the most effective communications as reminders, delivery changes, and updates/changes to existing appointments.

“This data highlights the value consumers place on getting reminders from businesses. An email could also be sent with the same information, but how many people check their email as often as their texts? … Texts skip the preamble and get to the core of the message right away,” the report said.

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