Image: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic

Most businesses have a phone number that people can call. That makes sense–most people have phones. As Pew Research Center reported in January: “The vast majority of Americans – 95% – now own a cellphone of some kind.”

But does your business text? An article in Customer Relationship Magazine (Spring 2016) stated that “64% of consumers with texting capabilities would prefer using texting to voice as a customer service channel.”

Globally, I can give you 6 billion reasons to let customers message your business. That’s the number of active users of SMS text messaging around the world, according to Tomi Ahonen, a mobile industry analyst. As he pointed out, more people use SMS than are on Facebook.

With Google My Business, when people find your business from a search, you can let them text you. And once you set up texting for a business location, the messaging option will show up right next to the call option in Google search results.

Importantly, Google My Business messaging protects your mobile number. When someone messages you, the system displays another number entirely. You don’t have to worry that random strangers will have your personal phone number, in case that’s the phone you connected to Google My Business. You may also use Allo to respond to messages, if you prefer.

And if you have a modern phone system (for example, Google Voice) that supports multi-ring, you might share customer messaging responsibilities. For example, you could configure two phones to receive messages, so that messages appear on all devices connected to that account. So whichever employee is available first can respond to a customer message, reducing the response time.

To receive messages, you’ll need to make a few changes to your Google My Business settings. Here’s how.

1. Access your Google My Business location

Visit in your browser or open the Google My Business app (from Android or iOS). If you haven’t already claimed ownership of your business location, go ahead and complete that process.

Go to your business’s listing with Google My Business — either on the web or in the app.

2. Manage Messaging

Select the three-line menu in the upper left and choose Messaging.

Add a phone number that can receive text messages. You’ll need to verify it.

3. Add a phone

Add the phone number on which you want to receive messages for this location. Google will send a code to the number you entered. Type in the number to confirm the connection.

Add the text you want customers to receive after they message your business.

4. Add a welcome message

Next, enter a welcome message. When someone texts your business, they’ll automatically receive this message. You can return to the same Messaging menu in Google My Business to modify the message or disable messaging at anytime.

The updated listing will now show a ‘Message’ option. Now, customers can choose to call, text, or travel to your business.

For a local retailer, small business, or services company, adding messaging with Google My Business takes only a minute or two. And it gives customers one more way to get questions answered–in addition to phone, a website, and email–that can lead to a sale.

Do U TXT w/customers?

Does your business respond to texts from customers? If so, what system do you use to handle this? Is the feature part of a customer relationship management system, or does your phone system support texting? Let me know what your experience with texting customers has been! Add comments below or let me know on Twitter (@awolber).

Author’s note: Google announced that SMS support for Google My Business will end in November 2019. After that date, Google My Business customer messaging will require use of the Google My Business app on Android or iOS devices. See Google’s support page for details.