Schedule messages for later with Textline

Textline now allows you to compose outbound messages and schedule them to be sent at a later time and day. Use the new More icon in the message input box to access the Schedule feature (pictured above). To view, edit, or cancel messages scheduled to be sent in the future, visit Messaging Tools (pictured below).

Our mission at Textline is to make text messaging a business as easy as texting a friend. If your company or organization is ready to start texting with customers, sign up for a Textline free trial.

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What's so magical about 160 characters?

Yesterday, The Guardian's music critic, Alexis Petridis, decried the inventive nomenclature surrounding the latest 22-track release from the artist Drake: "This year has so far proved confusing for anyone old enough to remember a time โ€“ not that long ago โ€“ when music fans knew where they were with new releases. Artists put out singles and albums: occasionally an EP, or a mini-album."

The question of albums versus EPs, or mixtapes versus playlists, conjures a folk tale concerning the capacity of a compact disc. During the 1980s, the compact disc, or CD, became the fastest-growing home entertainment product in history. With a diameter of 12 centimeters, a CD holds 74 minutes of audio (or 700 megabytes of data). Legend has it that the technical specification for CDs originally pegged the diameter at 11.5 centimeters in the 1970s. As engineers from Philips and Sony collaborated on the technology, the size was purportedly increased to 12 centimeters at the request of Sony's executive vice president, Norio Ohga, to fit the entirety of Beethovenโ€™s Ninth Symphony. (What's more, the size of the hole in the center of a CD was determined by the presence of a Dutch coin in the right place at the right time.)

As consumers shifted to digital downloads and streaming music services, CD sales crumbled. But the seemingly arbitrary technical decisions behind such a ubiquitous embodiment of the pre-iPod era are on our minds at Textline HQ as we ponder a more modern question and the fable-like answer:

Why are text messages limited to 160 characters?

Mark Milian answered this question in the L.A. Times back in 2009, in an interview with text messaging pioneer Friedhelm Hillebrand. As the story goes, Hillebrand was the chairperson of a committee setting standards for cellular networks in the 1980s. He typed random sentences and questions on a typewriter, and unscientifically determined that 160 characters would suffice for most postcard-length messages. (Subsequently, Twitter's infamous 140 character message limit was intended to allow any tweet to fit in a single text message, setting aside 20 characters for the author's username.)

For many people, the 160 character limit of SMS has not been an issue since they upgraded from older flip phones to smartphones like the iPhone. Newer devices and many carriers have developed work-arounds that allow longer text messages. In some cases, the carriers break longer messages into smaller segments, and modern phones reassemble the messages so we can't tell they've been split up and put back together.

Still, Hillebrand unintentionally established texting etiquette: messages should be no longer than 160 characters whenever possible. For one thing, texting is not email. Contacts on the receiving end prefer messages short and sweet. And if you send texts to recipients in other countries, longer messages are more likely to be split up. (In some places, Textline's interface limits outbound messages to a strict 160 characters, but we often allow much longer messages, etiquette be damned.)

Our mission at Textline is to make text messaging a business as easy as texting a friend. If your company or organization is ready to start texting with customers, sign up for a Textline free trial.

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(Photo by stuartpilbrow / CC BY / unmodified)

Lessons learned at the Customer Success Summit

This week the Textline team attended the Customer Success Summit presented by Totango in San Francisco, California. If you're not familiar with the concept of Customer Success, in a nutshell, it means that we need to make sure our customers are successful if we want our own business to be successful. The discipline of Customer Success was born at Salesforce around 2005, and has since spread throughout the expanding universe of cloud-based, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies. Customer Success Managers are typically found in businesses who sell software to other businesses, but all sorts of companies have embraced this idea.

Our favorite presentations at this year's Customer Success Summit are listed below. (Videos will be available online in the coming months.)

* Rav Dhaliwal heads Customer Success at Slack for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and previously held similar roles at both Yammer and Zendesk. His keynote presentation, titled "How We Drive Change Management At Slack," explained how a focus on people is key to helping an organization get through the challenge of adopting new technology. (As a self-serving aside, Textline users can connect your Slack accounts to enable an auto-updating #textline Slack channel.)

* Don Peppers, best-selling author of The One to One Future and other business books, gave an inspiring keynote titled "Three Often-Overlooked Customer Success Strategies" in which he implored companies to empathize with their customers.

* Sam Boonin is VP of Product Strategy at Zendesk. His presentation explained that Zendesk's products live in the intersection between what a company wants to achieve and what their customers want to achieve. Zendesk's suite of products has evolved with heavy emphasis on the user's point of view. (Another aside, Zendesk users can add a powerful SMS channel to your Zendesk account with Textline.)

Other excellent speakers at the 2017 Customer Success Summit included:

* Kristen Hayer, Founder and CEO of The Success League, who led an interactive workshop on how to build a Customer Success playbook,

* Dan Finnigan, CEO of Jobvite, who gave a statistics-filled presentation, "The Implications of Changing Workforce Demographics," during which he encouraged companies to think of themselves like universities, and

Brian Merritt, VP of Customer Success at Trustpilot, who taught attendees how to implement a Customer Success program at their own companies.

So, what did we learn at the Customer Success Summit this year? Some of our take-aways were specific tactics we can use to make our software features easier to learn and use. Others were high-level lessons on designing products with empathy. The result is a deeper, continued commitment to making sure Textline's success is aligned with the success of our own customers.

Our mission at Textline is to make text messaging a business as easy as texting a friend. If your company or organization is ready to start texting with customers, sign up for a Textline free trial.

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Emoji, they're not just for weekends anymore ๐Ÿ˜‰

Textline's new emoji picker

The popularity of emojis has soared since Apple added the emoji keyboard to iOS in 2011. Emojis are used by 92% of the online population, according to the Emoji Report by mobile messaging firm, Emogi. The Face with Tears of Joy ๐Ÿ˜‚ emoji was even awarded Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2015.

Textline's new emoji picker (pictured above) lets you add a little personality to your text conversations.

Worried that using emojis is unprofessional? Don't be. Emojis remind your customers that they are talking to a human rather than a robot. They add a positive, friendly sentiment to your messages (depending on your choice of emoji, of course).

Our mission at Textline is to make text messaging a business as easy as texting a friend. If your company or organization is ready to start texting with customers, sign up for a Textline free trial.

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Tacos for 25 at Textline HQ

Last week, Textline welcomed 25 students visiting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Every year, the University's Technology Entrepreneur Center and College of Engineering send a select group of students to Silicon Valley during winter break. The 5 day technology entrepreneurship workshop includes visits to startups and leading technology companies. Textline's CEO, Alan Braverman, earned a BS in Computer Science from Illinois in 1996. At Textline's San Francisco headquarters, the visiting students discussed the challenges of startups, learned about cohort analysis, and enjoyed tacos and cupcakes.

Our mission at Textline is to make text messaging a business as easy as texting a friend. If your company or organization is ready to start texting with customers, sign up for a Textline free trial

Textline is on YouTube

The Textline team published a new introductory video on YouTube.

If your business or organization still relies on phone calls and email to communicate with customers, then it's time to add text messaging to the mix. Your customers are texting everyone but you!

Our mission at Textline is to make texting a business as easy as texting a friend. Any company or organization in the US or Canada can sign up for Textline to start texting with customers. Textline will provide a new phone number in your local area code.

If your team is ready to start texting, sign up for your free trial

6 tips for sending SMS announcements with Textline

Textline allows organizations to send text message announcements to a group of contacts. For example, let's say I plan to host a webinar to demonstrate a new way to link Google AdWords campaigns to Textline. One hour before the webinar begins, I might send this announcement to all my customers who registered for the event:

Alan @ Textline here. Webinar starts in 1 hour: Enhancing AdWords Campaigns w/ Click-To-Text Ads. More @ https://goo.gl/Rf36cM (Text STOP to block these texts)

Here are 6 tips and best practices for sending announcements like this using Textline.

1. Tag your contacts

In this example, I only want to send my announcement to contacts who registered for the webinar. So I need to tag those contacts in my Textline address book with a tag like adwords_webinar. I can create a simple spreadsheet with one row per contact and then upload that spreadsheet to Textline to import contacts with my tag.

2. Introduce yourself

Start your announcement by letting your customers know it's you. In this example, I start my announcement with "Alan @ Textline here." Recipients may not recognize your Textline phone number. (You could encourage your contacts to add you to their address books or even send a v-card, but that will be a topic for a future article.)

3. Include opt-out instructions

All Textline phone numbers honor industry standard opt-out commands like STOP and UNSUBSCRIBE. If a contact replies to your announcement with a single-word text message, STOP, they will no longer receive any texts from your phone number. In my example announcement, I let the customers know they can opt-out of future announcements at the end of my message. An alternate message might read, "Reply STOP to opt out." (To unblock your phone number, contacts can text the word START.)

4. No spam

Textline does not allow announcements to be used to send mass marketing messages (SPAM). Please use this feature responsibly. Announcements should be sent to existing customers or contacts who are expecting communication from your business or organization.

5. SMS is a two-way communication channel

Many businesses that do use text messaging treat is as a one-way channel for notifications. Textline was designed for companies and organizations to converse with their customers or constituents. Do engage with anyone who replies to your announcements. Turn on Textline notifications to make sure you don't miss any replies.

6. Use URL shorteners

Textline announcements must fit in 160 characters or less. You'll often need to get creative to shrink your message. If your announcement includes links, use a URL shortener. In this example, I used Google's URL shortener. Another popular option is Bitly. (As a bonus, URL shorteners will track the number of people who click your links.)

Any business or organization in the US or Canada can sign up for Textline to start texting with its customers. (Textline will provide a new phone number in the company's local area code.) If your team is ready to start texting, sign up for your free trial at https://textline.com

If you already have a Textline account, and have tagged your contacts, send your first announcement here.

(Photo by mbell1975 / CC BY / modified)

Enhance your AdWords campaigns with Google's new click-to-text ad extension and Textline

The Google AdWords team recently launched an ad extension so advertisers can invite consumers to text their brand right from mobile ads. As Ginny Marvin wrote at Search Engine Land,

"Call extensions have been around for years, but the new message extensions give users another option to connect with businesses that will be especially appealing to the call-phobic and those aiming to avoid getting put on hold, listening to a list of menu options or waiting to get transferred in order to speak to the right person at a business."

Advertisers can apply the new message extensions to ad campaigns or ad groups. When a mobile visitor taps the click-to-text ad extension, the user's default texting app will open and initiate a message to the advertiser's text-enabled phone number. AdWords allows advertisers to pre-populate the message text, but visitors can edit the message before sending.

If you'd like to enhance your AdWords campaigns with click-to-text ads, follow these 3 steps:

1. Get a text-enabled phone number for your brand from Textline. Start a Textline free trial and you'll immediately get a new phone number in your choice of area code. (Most area codes in the US and Canada are available, except for some exhausted area codes like 212 in New York, 416 in Toronto, 310 in Los Angeles, etc.)

2. Compose an auto-response that Textline will send back to customers who text your company. Textline allows you to send auto-responses for various scenarios. For click-to-text ads, use an auto-response for the situation "when a contact first texts your number."

3. Add a message extension to your ad campaign or ad group. Those familiar with Google AdWords may recognize sitelinks, callout, and review extensions. The newest message extension only requests a few inputs:

- your business name,
- your text phone number (provided by Textline in this case),
- extension text that will appear under your mobile ad (example: "Text us for more info"),
- message text that your customer will text to you (example: "I'd like to learn more").

5 ways to get your Textline number in front of customers

Your company's customers would most likely prefer to text your business rather than call or email. When Twilio surveyed 6000 consumers worldwide, 89% answered that they would like to use messaging to communicate with businesses. But only 48% of companies are equipped to do so. 

(If your organization or business does not yet accept texts from customers, give Textline a try for free.)

Once your business is text-enabled, you'll need to get your Textline phone number in front of customers. Here are the top 5 ways to do so:

1. Email

Put your textable phone number in your email signature or in the footer of your marketing email templates. Make sure you specify that the number is for texting with a label like "text us." In HTML emails, you can use SMS links so that customers reading email on smartphones can tap to text. (For example, tap here to text the team at Textline.)

2. Mobile web widget

Textline's mobile web widget puts a "text us" button at the bottom of your web site that is visible only to smartphone browsers. Like SMS links, the "text us" widget allows mobile web visitors to simply tap to initiate a text message to your textable phone number. (See the photo above.)

3. Web site header or footer

Put your textable phone number in your web site's header or footer, and on your contact us page. Here's a great example at CandleScience.

4. Voicemail greeting

Are your customers calling but reaching your voicemail greeting or listening to a looping message while waiting on hold? Tell them to hang up and text you instead! (Besides, texting is more efficient for your business and your customers.)

5. Social media

If your business has a Yelp listing, Facebook page, or a profile on Twitter or Linked-in, display your text-enabled phone number there. Messaging apps are the most used apps on smartphones today. You may as well let your fans reach you there!

Decluttering with Delete (no app installation required)

Original photo (modified) by Torsten Scholz / CC BY

Delete is a service that will haul away your unwanted items to be donated, recycled, or dumped for a small fee. They usually show up the same day you make your request.

To get started, refreshingly, you do not need to install an app, nor do you need to create an account. Simply text a photo of your previously loved belongings to (415) 849-4481. Someone from the Delete team will respond with a price quote and to coordinate a pick-up. Delete currently serves the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more at http://www.delete.ly

Besides offering a useful service, Delete is an example of the growing trend of businesses using messaging apps not only to interact with customers, but also as a first class user interface -- a phenomenon Uber's Chris Messina dubbed Conversational Commerce. In Delete's case, the conversations are text messages, and they eliminate the need to install a mobile app or sign up for an account. 2016 saw some of the largest players in Silicon Valley as well as startups jump onto the scene with new and improved messaging apps, digital assistants, artificial intelligence, chatbots, and more. (Read more on Medium.)

"We originally only planned to use texting to alpha test Delete before building out a Delete app," says Katie Gaudin, Director of Operations and Customer Experience at Delete, "but our SMS conversations with consumers were so natural that text has remained the primary way we communicate with customers." 

Behind the scenes, Delete uses Textline to manage these ongoing text conversations. Any company or organization in the US or Canada can sign up for Textline to start texting with its customers. (Textline will provide a new phone number in the company's local area code.) If your team is ready to start texting, sign up for your free trial at https://textline.com

PS. Ken Yeung of VentureBeat wrote a nice feature on Delete and its recent venture financing.

(Photo by Torsten Scholz / CC BY / modified)

5 Textline Metrics to Keep Your Customers Satisfied

We've improved the metrics you can track related to your organization's Textline account. Current Activity lets you see what's happening right now and how well your team is doing today. Insights let you drill down and view progress over time. To measure how well your communications live up to expectations, watch these 5 metrics and focus on improving them.

Contacts Waiting

Your customers expect prompt replies to their questions. How many people are waiting for a response from your team right now? Keep an eye on this number, as well as the longest wait time, to keep your customers happy.

Unresolved Conversations

How many conversations represent active issues right now? Your team might be working to resolve these issues, or waiting for more information from customers. If this number rises, it could indicate different things: Your company might be growing more successful. But it could also mean that complaints are rising. It might indicate that your team needs to improve or grow to meet demand.

(If you and your fellow Textline agents are not pressing the Resolve button at the end of each conversation, then this number will stabilize once you start doing so. Be sure to resolve conversations to keep your Textline dashboard neat and tidy!)

Resolved Conversations Today

Watching the number of issues that your team resolves each day, as well as the average time it takes to resolve an issue, tells you if you are keeping up or falling behind.

Median Time to First Response

How long do your customers wait, on average, before you or one of your teammates acknowledges their first message? Customer satisfaction improves as this metric trends downward. Graph this metric over time with Insights.

Median Time to Respond

If your median time to respond is much higher than your median time to first response, that may signify that you greet your customers quickly, but then leave them waiting a while for answers. Try sending updates to let them know you are still working on their issue, or that the solution is taking longer than expected.

Textline was built for teams. Start your free trial so your customers can text your company or organization today. Textline is currently available in the US and Canada. 

The Rise of Text Messaging in Business

Messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and plain old text messaging are the most used apps on smartphones. In fact, based on monthly active users, messaging apps are even more popular than social networks like Facebook and Linked-in. But most of the 50 billion messages exchanged globally each day are for personal communication, such as text messages sent between friends and family. Why can't we text businesses, too?!

For the most part, businesses still rely on phone calls and email to communicate with their customers. Some believe that text messaging is too informal for business use. However, when surveyed, consumers overwhelming would prefer to engage with businesses using messaging over other communication channels. When Twilio surveyed 6000 consumers worldwide, 89% answered that they would like to use messaging to communicate with businesses. But only 48% of companies are equipped to do so.

Many businesses that do use text messaging treat it as a one-way channel for alerting customers with appointment reminders, shipping notices, and verification codes. It's time now for businesses to allow their customers to reply to these messages and engage in conversations. Successful businesses treat every contact with a customer as an opportunity to delight!

There are myriad opportunities for businesses to message with customers:

- to schedule and coordinate deliveries, pick-ups, and other service calls,
- to notify customers when their orders are ready,
- to remind customers of upcoming appointments,
- and to answer everyday customer service questions.

Some specific use cases we have seen at Textline include:

- an auto body shop that texts customers when their car is ready,
- a property manager who asks tenants to text maintenance requests,
- a nightclub that gives a VIP phone number for texting to their best customers,
- and an insurance company that texts customers when it's time to renew their policy.

Our goal at Textline is to make texting a business as easy as texting your friends and family. Any company or organization in the US or Canada can sign up for Textline to start texting with customers. Textline will provide a new phone number in the company's local area code.

If your team is ready to start texting, sign up for your free trial.

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