Texting customers, colleagues, clients, and others is mainstream business behavior. But with regular use, there can be abuse. Don’t text just because you can. Text because people want or need to hear from you, and make the messages convenient for them—not just for yourself.
Review the 10 tips below, and then please add your suggestions for sending polite, professional texts.
1. Get permission before you start texting people. Just as you would ask someone which phone number to use and whether you can call them at home, ask whether it’s okay to text. Not everyone wants you to have ready access to their attention day and night.
2. Text during normal business hours. Don’t ping your colleagues on Saturday or your customers when they are sleeping. Make communicating convenient for them—not just for yourself. People I know avoid texting their minister on Monday because it’s his day off. Although sending a text on Monday might be convenient for them (perhaps because the Sunday service inspired or irritated them), they know that receiving it that day would not be convenient for him.
3. Don’t communicate the same message by text, email, and phone. One “touch” is sufficient unless the message is urgent. Choose the best medium for the message and stick with it.
When my new glasses were ready, I received a clever text that they were available for pickup. (“Ready. Set. Get. . . .”) Two minutes later I got a phone call with the same information. Why make me reach for my phone twice?
My dentist sent me an email with the subject “Please Confirm Your Upcoming Dental Appointment”; I clicked the link to confirm. I got a phone call reminder the day before (from a live person) and a text the day of the appointment. For the dentist, sending the email and text may be automated, but my reading of them isn’t. I need to deal with each one. By the way, I have never missed a dental appointment, so this process isn’t about me.
4. Include your name at the beginning or end of your text unless your identity is obvious. Remember that unless customers and clients have added you to their contact list, they will see only your phone number, not your name—unless you include it. Don’t make them guess who is texting them.
Hi Lynn. I’m Jim ____ from Chuck Olson Kia confirming your appointment tomorrow.
Hello Jeffrey. It’s Sue from XYZ. We have postponed tomorrow morning’s meeting because of the bad weather. Jim will contact you to reschedule. Stay safe!
5. Be courteous. Being courteous means using a greeting and a positive tone and—depending on the message—please and thank you. You can easily identify the more courteous text in each of the pairs below.
A. I’m waiting for you in the lobby.
B. Hi Kiersten. I’m in the lobby when you are ready. Marco
A. Hi Dave. Please approve this photo for the cover. Thanks! Lizzy
B. This cover photo needs your approval.
I recently made a dinner reservation by calling a restaurant. One short hour later the restaurant texted me on the same phone to confirm the reservation. Why interrupt the customer with a text?
Peter, who has arrived at the café, texts Melissa to let her know he is there. Meanwhile, Melissa is driving there and needs to pull over to safely read an unnecessary message.
7. Think twice before sending a group text. It may be easy for you, but it can drive recipients crazy. As with email, replies to all will have cell phones vibrating and pinging with one-word texts like “Okay!” and “Thanks!” These replies can frustrate recipients, especially when they don’t know one another and don’t have a good idea who is saying what.
Facebook, Twitter, and email may work better for communicating to groups of students, members, or project participants. In email, include people’s addresses as Bccs if they don’t need to communicate with one another.
8. Proofread before clicking SEND. Texts are a written medium, so make it easy for your associates to read them. If you blame autocorrect or the speech-to-text feature for silly errors, you don’t come across in your best light. Slow down and “approve” the words on the screen before you send them.
9. Be professional. Yes, emojis and XO are perfect for some communications to friends and relatives. But when you text at work, your text messages are professional communications. Would you insert a yellow smiley face or a beating red heart on your resume? When your relationship with a customer or client becomes very friendly, an emoji may be perfect in your text. But choose it intentionally; don’t use it as a constant feature.
10. Let the communication end. Don’t feel you have to have the last word or emoji. Below is the end of a text exchange in which two people set up a lunch meeting for tomorrow. When is the communication really over?
Person A: See you tomorrow!
Person B: Yes, I’m looking forward to it.
Person A: Me too.
Person B: See you then!
Person A: See ya! (: )
Person B: Okay!
The message should probably end with “Yes, I’m looking forward to it,” allowing both writers to get on with other tasks.
Although texts often get instant attention, applying the tips above can help you make sure yours get positive attention, not groans of irritation.
Please share your tips for efficient, courteous texting.
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