5 tips for handling customer support during the holidays

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday are coming up, which means your company's customer support team will likely be dealing with a heavy load for the next few weeks. Customers appreciate speedy customer service during the holiday season. Your team can ramp up for the holiday rush with a textable phone number from Textline. Read on for tips on dealing with increased customer support requests:

1. Set up auto-responses

Use auto-responses to let your customers know if response times will be longer than usual during the holiday season. Set up an after-hours auto-response if your customer support team does not work around the clock. You might also link to your FAQ in your auto-responses.

2. Save shortcuts for your top FAQs

Are customers asking the same 3 questions over and over again? Save the answers to FAQs in shortcuts so you can answer quickly. For example, you may get a lot of questions about your refund/exchange policy. Have that information handy and save it in a shortcut.

3. Use Slack as an internal help line

Need assistance to answer a complicated customer support question? If your company uses Slack for internal communication, consider adding a Slack channel where customer service agents can post questions and get quick replies from co-workers. Be sure to check out Textline's Slack integration, too. 

4. Track your Net Promoter Score

Do your customer support interactions inspire loyalty? Find out for sure by sending Net Promoter Score surveys to your customers after resolving their issues. Start tracking NPS today so you can compare how your team performs during the holidays to the rest of the year. (Start now so you'll have metrics to beat next year!)

5. Relax

Remember that your customers are often stressed out during the holidays. Be prepared to deal with angry shoppers, and consider using positive language to offset their negativity. Try taking a meditation break with an app like Headspace or Calm.

Does your business respond to text messages from customers? Sign up for a Textline free trial and get a textable phone number in your local area code, or add text messaging capabilities to your existing business phone number.

How STYLEBEE uses Textline to connect stylists with clients


Working late but need to get ready for an evening gala? Have an early morning meeting you want to look just right for? Need to prep for a sunrise engagement photo shoot? Bring a hair or makeup stylist to your office, home, or hotel with STYLEBEE, a platform that connects beauty professionals with clients in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.

Two lines of communication

As a connector, STYLEBEE relies on two lines of communication: one with clients requesting services and another with the professional stylists it calls upon to provide those services. STYLEBEE uses Textline's business text messaging to communicate with customers “if they have questions the day of, if we need to ask what their room number is, or to let them know their stylist is there and ready for them,” says Natasha Koroleva, STYLEBEE's operations manager.

Textline makes that communication easy and fast, says Koroleva. She prefers texting over calling clients, she says, because “we know they’re busy women.” And texting is “a little easier yet still more personal than email. We can respond quicker, especially if you get a lot of junk mail.”

Personal connections

Most importantly, Koroleva feels the ability to text easily has helped STYLEBEE form strong relationships with its clients. “You don’t get a text from just any business,” she says. “The clients feel a personal connection to the company because of the way they are receiving the communication. Some clients even save the number and know our names.”

Textline has helped STYLEBEE conduct the vital communications at the heart of its success. Sign up for a Textline free trial so customers can text your business today.

Meet us at the 2017 Los Angeles Real Estate Tech Conference

Meet the Textline team at Tech Estate Today's 2017 Los Angeles Real Estate Tech Conference on Thursday, November 16, 2017. If you are a real estate professional in Southern California, come to learn, network, and have some fun. And enjoy 15% off your conference ticket care of Textline by using promo code textline-tet when you sign up.

Textline's business text messaging isn't just for real estate pros, but our cloud-based software is especially popular with real estate brokers and agents, property managers, and others in the real estate ecosystem like title companies. Leasing agents use Textline to communicate with prospective tenants, and building managers use Textline to field maintenance requests from residents.

Read our recap of the 2017 Inaugural Silicon Valley Real Estate Tech Conference, also hosted by Tech Estate Today.

Are you a real estate professional whose clients or tenants prefer texting to old fashioned phone calls or email? If so, sign up for a Textline free trial and get a textable phone number in your local area code, or add text messaging to your existing business line.

How Gametime uses Textline to keep fans happy

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This year Inc. magazine named Gametime, a mobile ticketing app for sports, concerts, and theater, the third fastest-growing private company in America. Gametime, founded in 2013, prides itself as a leader in the experience economy, offering last-minute tickets to people who spend their money on experiences rather than things. The company also distinguishes itself with its customer service, responding to customers quickly to meet their needs.

The problem: clunky texting

Yet in its early days, responding to customers wasn’t as efficient as it could have been. And when customers are trying to get into an event and their tickets are delayed, or they need an update on their order status, communication is critical, says Zach Moore, Gametime’s Fan Happiness Manager. While Gametime has always used texting, email, and phone calls to communicate, its staff prefers text—email can be cumbersome for back-and-forth conversation, and phone calls require customers to pull away or even hang up to use the app.

Texting keeps everything mobile. “If you’re texting you can go back into the app or shoot us a quick response and stay within the app,” Moore says. But Gametime’s original system, a Google Voice number, had a clunky interface and made it difficult to send important announcements to groups or for multiple co-workers to participate in a single conversation. So the company used it infrequently, for last-minute and one-way communications.

The solution: smooth communication

When Textline came along in 2015, Gametime became one of its early users and found it solved those problems. “Once we started using Textline,” Moore says, “it was a two-way conversation, which is more helpful for the customers and for our team.” Now Gametime uses Textline to send updates on customers’ order status or to get more information to complete an order. The company also uses Textline as a tool to combat fraudsters.

With Textline, Gametime can respond to customers’ needs in a matter of seconds. “One of the things our team focuses on is our response-time metric, and Textline has been a big player in that,” Moore says. “Text messaging is mobile focused and Gametime is mobile focused, so the two really go hand in hand.”

Gametime’s ability to text its customers has helped it become one of the country’s fastest-growing private companies. Sign up for a Textline free trial so customers can text your business today.

10 changes coming to text messaging on iPhone X

Last week Apple introduced the iPhone X at the all-new Steve Jobs Theater, along with a new Apple TV 4K, Apple Watch Series 3, iPhone 8, and more. With new hardware and the launch of iOS 11, iPhone owners will soon enjoy several new features while using the popular Messages app.

1. See more with iPhone X

iPhone X features a stunning edge-to-edge OLED screen. The width of the iPhone X matches the 4.7-inch displays of the iPhone 6, 7, and 8 (when held in portrait mode). But the iPhone X gains 20% additional vertical space so you can see more of your conversations.

2. New iMessage App Store tray

iMessage Apps were introduced last year with the release of iOS 10. But the apps were difficult to find and use. In iOS 11, a new horizontal scrolling app dock is visible at the bottom of your conversations. Once you've upgraded to iOS 11, give iMessage apps and sticker packs another try!

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3. Type with one hand

iOS 11 makes it easier to type with one hand. When the keyboard is visible, tap and hold the smiling emoji key or the globe key at the bottom of the keyboard. A pop-up will allow you to select a left-handed or right-handed keyboard. If you prefer typing with a one-handed keyboard, you can make it permanent using the Settings app under General > Keyboard.

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4. Animoji with face detection

Face detection on the new iPhone X unlocks your device. But the same technology also lets you create 3D animated emoji that mimic your facial expressions in real time. Apple calls these Animoji. When you send Animoji using the Messages app on an iPhone X, your friends receive looping animations along with your audio voiceover. Animoji characters include a monkey, robot, alien, panda, unicorn, and of course the infamous pile of poop 💩

5. Mute specific contacts or group chats

iOS 11 allows you to selectively silence conversations in your Messages list. Swipe left on a row in your conversation list to reveal the button labeled Hide Alerts.

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6. New screen effects

iOS 10 introduced animated screen effects in iMessage like Confetti, Balloons, and Fireworks. iOS 11 adds two more effects called Echo and Spotlight.

7. Don't text and drive

If your iOS 11 device thinks you're driving, you'll be prompted to enter Do Not Disturb While Driving mode. Notifications won't distract you, and anyone who texts you will receive an auto-response to let them know you're driving. Don't worry, this feature is optional and highly customizable. Your contacts can still reach you in an emergency by typing the word "urgent."

8. Business Chat (coming soon)

Messages is used mostly for personal communication, but many iPhone users would like to use the same app to communicate with businesses, too. Apple introduced Business Chat earlier this year. As Business Chat rolls out, customers will be able to find businesses and start conversations from Safari, Maps, Spotlight, and Siri. Businesses will be able to use enterprise messaging platforms like Textline to answer questions and resolve issues. (Subscribe to be notified when Textline releases support for Apple's new Business Chat.)

9. Apple Pay in Messages (coming soon)

Text your friends real money along with stickers and emoji. Apple plans to release their own peer-to-peer money transfer service, Apple Pay Cash, later this year. iOS 11 and watchOS 4 users will be able to send and receive money using iMessage. Money will be deposited onto an Apple Pay Cash card that lives in Apple Wallet. 

10. iMessage meets iCloud (coming soon)

Apple will launch iMessage sync in an upcoming iOS 11 update. With help from iCloud, you'll be able to access your conversations from different devices and they'll stay in sync. (Deleting a message in one place will also delete it on all other connected devices.)

And the Hits Just Keep on Comin'

Believe it or not, there are even more changes coming to Messages that didn't make our top 10, like smarter auto-suggestions in the iOS keyboard. Some iOS 11 changes are found only on iPads, like punctuation and letters on the same keyboard. iPad also gains drag and drop functionality, so you can move photos and other files into and out of Messages without lifting a finger -- just tap, hold, and drag.

Does your business respond to text messages from customers? Sign up for a Textline free trial and get a textable phone number in your local area code, or add text messaging capabilities to your existing business phone number.

New integration: Help Scout + Textline

If your organization uses Help Scout to handle customer support email, you can connect Textline to a Help Scout mailbox. Once connected, new inbound texts will land in both Help Scout and Textline. As your team exchanges text messages with customers, the conversation transcript will stay up to date in both Help Scout and Textline. See the Textline Help Center for more details.

Like watching videos? This short YouTube video explains how to connect your existing Textline and Help Scout accounts. 

Get started with business texting: Start your Textline free trial today.

How to conduct NPS surveys over SMS

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a popular metric used by brands to measure customer loyalty. Companies track NPS over time to make sure they're keeping their customers satisfied and always improving. NPS surveys are often administered over email. However, NPS surveys require only one question (a second question is optional) and text messaging has a much higher open rate and response rate than email. So, in this article, we'll show you how to send brief NPS surveys to your customers via SMS using Textline.

Quick history of NPS

NPS surveys were introduced to the business world by the December 2003 issue of Harvard Business Review with an article that went viral: The One Number You Need to Grow by Frederick F. Reichheld. The article explains, "By substituting a single question for the complex black box of the typical customer satisfaction survey, companies can actually put consumer survey results to use and focus employees on the task of stimulating growth."

NPS: The first question

The first survey question is:

On a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being highest, what’s the likelihood that you would recommend us (our company) to a friend or colleague?

Customers' answers are scored as follows:

0 through 6: customer is known as a detractor
7 or 8: customer is considered passive
9 or 10: customer is called a promoter

Your NPS score is the percentage of customers who are promoters minus the percentage of customers who are detractors. Passives are not counted in the NPS calculation. A perfect score is 100 and the lowest possible NPS is -100.

NPS: The second question

The second optional question is a follow-up to the first: "Tell us a bit more about why you chose that score?" Companies use this qualitative data to figure out why they got the score that they did: What makes promoters happy? What is it detractors don't like? Using Textline to conduct NPS surveys by text message, you can follow up with any promoter, detractor, or otherwise (using a different Textline phone number).

How to

If you don't have an account already, sign up for a Textline free trial. Your first textable Textline phone number will be the one you use to close the loop with customers post-survey. (You can also use this phone number to handle any other customer support issues over SMS.) You'll get a second Textline phone number for NPS surveys. There are several options for selecting a list of customers to survey. One option is to create a simple spreadsheet and export it as a CSV file (that is, a Comma Separated Value file). See Textline's help center for complete instructions on sending NPS surveys.

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Your customers prefer to text your organization rather than call or email. Sign up for a Textline free trial and get a textable phone number in your local area code, or let us know if you'd like to add SMS capabilities to your existing phone number.

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Upgrade your old-fashioned landline by adding SMS

Did you know Textline can add text messaging capabilities to your existing business phone number? Once enabled, you and your team can send and receive text messages using your existing number by logging in to textline.com or using our mobile apps for iOS and Android. (Textline won't affect or change your ability to make and answer plain old voice calls.)

Three steps to text-enable your existing business phone number:

1. Sign up for a Textline free trial. During sign-up, Textline will assign a temporary phone number to your account. Once we finish upgrading your existing number, we'll swap out this temporary number and connect your existing phone number to your Textline account.

2. Verify ownership of your number. Once you are signed in to your Textline account, we need to verify that you are the rightful owner of your existing phone number. Our robot will call your existing phone number and ask you to enter a touch-tone code. Once verified, we'll do some work behind the scenes. (Please note that this process typically takes about a week. You can familiarize yourself with Textline using your temporary textable phone number while you wait.)

3. We will notify you when your upgrade is complete. We'll contact you to make sure you are ready to have your old number connected to Textline. Now your customers can call or text your company!

Visit Textline's help center to learn more about enabling SMS on your landline.

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Follow up with Textline reminders

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Textline's new Reminder feature lets agents schedule reminders to follow up with specific contacts at some time and date in the future. Like Scheduled Messages, each reminder is connected to the conversation in view at the time the reminder is created. Unlike Scheduled Messages, however, reminders are private messages that are not shared with your colleagues on Textline. Visit Textline's help center to learn more about setting reminders, or read our recent blog post introducing Scheduled Messages.

If your business or organization can't send and receive text messages, millennials won't like you! Sign up for a Textline free trial and get a textable phone number in your local area code, or let us know if you'd like to add SMS capabilities to your existing phone number.

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Textline's Android app is now available for mobile business texting

The official Textline Android app is now available on Google Play. The app is free to download, and allows Textline agents to access the most commonly used features: send messages, receive notifications, set reminders, schedule messages, use shortcuts, transfer conversations, and even send announcements.

Note: This app is not for your customers or contacts - they will continue to use their everyday text messaging apps to text your organization's Textline phone number.

Does your business respond to text messages from customers? If not, sign up for a Textline free trial and get a textable phone number in your local area code, or let us know if you'd like to add text messaging capabilities to your existing business phone number.

Subscribe to get Textline updates & helpful tips in your inbox 📬

Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

How Spark uses Textline to boost high school graduation rates

Spark is a nonprofit organization that empowers middle school students in underserved communities. Volunteer mentors welcome these students into their workplaces to show young people what their future careers might be like. This experience inspires students to perform better in school and beyond: 92% of Spark students have graduated high school or are on track to graduate on time, compared to an average of 68% in districts served by Spark! More than 5,000 students have participated in Spark's program since 2004.

For 20 weeks during each school year, the staff at Spark handles the challenging logistics of getting hundreds of middle school students from their schools to their mentors' workplaces and back again. This is where Textline comes in. The team at Spark's San Francisco Bay Area program uses Textline to communicate with volunteers and staff. If a bus full of students is running late, for example, Spark can text a brief announcement to all the mentors waiting for those students. Mentors can text questions to the Spark team's Textline number to get answers quickly. And volunteers even text photos to Spark headquarters to share occasional student project updates.

We are inspired by Spark's mission to help students succeed, and we're happy Textline can play a small part in that mission.

Visit sparkprogram.org to learn more about Spark. Even better, make a donation!

Does your organization need a textable phone number to communicate with members, volunteers, donors, or staff? If so, sign up for a Textline free trial today.

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Innovations in real estate tech

Last week the Textline team participated in the 2017 Inaugural Silicon Valley Real Estate Tech Conference hosted by Tech Estate Today. Textline is popular with real estate brokerages like Climb Real Estate (who co-sponsored the event). Real estate agents use Textline to text with clients. And property managers use Textline to field maintenance requests and communicate with tenants in general.

Other technology on display at the conference included: Blu Sky Films who use drones to shoot aerial video for real estate listings, CallAction who enable agents to instantly respond to inbound phone calls, Xspaced who create VR real estate tours, and more.

Are you a real estate professional whose clients or tenants prefer texting to old fashioned phone calls or email? If so, sign up for a Textline free trial and get a textable phone number in your local area code, or add text messaging to your existing business line.

Five things we learned at Twilio's developer conference

Last week the Textline team attended Twilio's annual developer conference, Signal 2017. The event was aimed at software developers building apps on Twilio's platform. To be sure, Twilio CEO and cofounder Jeff Lawson opened his Thursday morning keynote with a somewhat risky live coding demonstration. Guest speakers included Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff, as well as experts from IBM, Airbnb, Amazon, Microsoft, Zendesk, Google, and many more. Here are five things we learned:

1. Twilio powers the Internet of Things (IoT) around the world. For example, bike-sharing service LimeBike is creating a network of lime-green colored connected bicycles powered by Twilio SIM cards. A smartwatch from iBeat detects cardiac arrest and automatically calls for help. Connected devices using Twilio can now talk to cell networks in almost 200 countries.

2. Twilio is committed to social impact programs. The Twilio.org Impact Fund delivered its first $1 million to nonprofits and social enterprises to help people in need, to make government more accessible, and more. Read about the first eight recipients and get inspired to make a difference.

3. Your old-fashioned landline can do SMS. Twilio has expanded the ability to send and receive text messages using landlines, and we are incorporating these improvements into Textline. If your business wants to text-enable an existing voice number in the US or Canada, contact us.

4. Alexa learns quickly. Developer Jesse Friedman demonstrated how to build a simple "skill" for the Amazon Alexa platform using Twilio. When a user asks an Amazon Echo, "Where's my phone?" Alexa calls the missing phone so its owner can find it.

5. Security and privacy are constantly evolving. Signal 2017 featured at least a dozen sessions on topics like encryption, two-factor authentication, data retention, fraud and cyber attacks, data anonymization, and more. Friends don’t let friends reuse passwords.

Other hot topics at Signal 2017 included chatbots, global SMS, and speech recognition. We can't wait for Signal 2018!

Does your business respond to text messages from customers? If not, sign up for a Textline free trial and get a textable phone number in your local area code.

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How to create a Textline sign-up form using Google Forms and Zapier

In this article we'll show you how to create a simple form that your customers can use to add their contact info to your Textline address book. You will need a G Suite account, a Zapier account, and a Textline account.

Google's G Suite, formerly known as Google Apps, includes Google Forms and Google Sheets. We'll create a web form like the one pictured above, and the information collected will be saved to a spreadsheet.

Zapier is an online automation tool that connects other online tools to each other. We'll program Zapier to notice whenever someone completes our Google Form, and to copy that information to our Textline address book.

Textline is an online tool that lets businesses and their customers communicate using text messages. Any company in the US or Canada can sign up for Textline to start texting with customers. Textline will provide a new textable phone number in your organization's local area code.

Creating a sign up form with Google Forms

First, we'll create a simple opt-in form using Google Forms. The form will collect names and mobile phone numbers, and save that information to a Google Sheets spreadsheet.

1. Sign in to your G Suite account and visit Google Forms

2. Create a new blank form and give it whatever title you like. (In the image above we named our form Textline Opt-in.)

3. Your first question should be a short answer question to collect your contact's full name. (Change the default question type from multiple choice to short answer.)

4. Your second question should also be a short answer question to collect a phone number. (You could add more questions to collect email addresses and other notes, but in this example we'll just ask for a name and phone number.)

5. Edit your form's settings so that it does not require sign in. (Use the gear icon to see your form's settings.)

6. In the responses section, create a new spreadsheet to store responses. (See image below.)

7. Press Send and fetch your form's unique link, such as https://goo.gl/forms/Aqkc9rNbn1XFIsvS2

Creating a Zap with Zapier

Now we are going to create a Zap that is triggered when a new row appears in the spreadsheet we just created.

1. To make Textline triggers and actions available to your Zapier account, accept this invitation to use Textline on Zapier.

2. To make Zapier happy, you'll need to add at least one contact to the spreadsheet we created. If you have not done so already, go ahead and add one contact using the Google Form we created earlier.

3. Visit Zapier.com and click the Make a Zap button.

4. Give your Zap a name like "Textline opt-in" or "Textline sign up."

5. For your trigger app, choose Google Sheets. Then choose New Spreadsheet Row as your trigger. Zapier will help you sign in to your G Suite account to find the spreadsheet we created earlier.

6. For your action app, choose Textline. Then choose Create/Update Contact as your action. Zapier will help you match your spreadsheet columns to address book fields. (See image below.)

7. When you finish creating your Zap, turn it on.

Now you can test your form by adding another contact, and then visiting your Textline address book to see if the new entry appears. (You may need to wait 5 minutes for Zapier to notice the new spreadsheet row.) If everything is working, you can now direct customers or contacts to your new sign up form.

This idea was inspired by a property manager who uses Textline to field maintenance requests from tenants and to send important announcements to tenants. The sign up form helps tenants make sure they don't miss anything urgent by allowing them to add their own mobile numbers to the management firm's Textline address book.

To learn more about what you can do with Google Forms, read this getting started guide.

Does your business respond to text messages from customers? If not, sign up for a Textline free trial and get a textable phone number in your local area code.

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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 – not that long ago – 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 Beethoven’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)