If someone had told you 10 years ago that people would be ordering everything from groceries to cars on their phone without actually speaking to a store representative, you probably wouldn’t have believed them. But today we do all that and more with our smartphones, and the evolution of text message (or SMS) communications and customer care has grown right along with it.
A 2014 study conducted by Morpace found that more than 35% of people were either ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ interested in receiving text messages from auto dealers after they purchased a car. These messages could be about scheduled maintenance, recalls, or even reaching out about vehicles and special pricing.
SMS Compliance for Dealers is Critical
The automotive industry has been particularly uneasy with implementing texting solutions after high-profile lawsuit settlements have left dealers and dealer groups understandably cautious.
One issue that comes up when using SMS as part of your marketing and customer service are the laws surrounding these communications. In some ways, the laws haven’t quite caught up with the technology, which creates a lot of gray area for dealers who want to make the most of this option.
For instance, calling someone on their mobile phone can possess the same risk as texting. Phone systems and call center platforms could be classified as “autodialers” in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which means all the rules that apply to telemarketers would apply to your dealership as well.
The laws that regulate who can be contacted via SMS and how and under what terms and conditions can be difficult to interpret. In effort to have a more solid understanding of the risks of texting at the U. S. Federal level I have read the TCPA, its revision, and its clarification. I’ve consulted statements made by NADA, Auto Advisory Service, several law firms, and advocate groups. I’ve even retained a lawyer that specializes in texting law.
In all this research, there has been a remarkably consistent set of best practices you can use to make texting as safe as possible under current law.
SMS Communication Best Practices for Dealers
Generally speaking, the laws cover three main areas:
- Consent – It is up to the dealer, a.k.a. “The Caller” to obtain full permission from each customer before contacting them, and have proof of consent.
- Current Information – Contact and customer information must be verified regularly. This includes responding to customer requests to opt-out regardless of how you receive them.
- Control – Ultimately, dealers must take full responsibility for their SMS communications. Dealers must be in control not only of customer information and contact details, but also of how text messages are sent and how customer responses are dealt with.
These stipulations and guidelines shouldn’t put you off from making the most of SMS as a way to connect with and retain customers. Text messaging can after all, be an ideal way to engage with active customers and be useful for improving retention rates.
With well over 200 million texting devices in use in the United States alone, and 6.4 billion texts sent every 24 hours, it is an injustice not only to potential car buyers, but to vehicle owners as well if their local dealership is not be embracing this form of communication. Handled professionally and legally, SMS messaging could easily become one of the best and most effective ways to connect with and foster positive relationships with your customers.