|Texting is no longer reserved for friends and family as businesses notch another way to seal the deal.|
There was a time when text messaging was reserved for intimate conversations with family, close friends and lovers.
It's short, quick and practically guaranteed to attract immediate attention—as soon as the ding! or vibration sounds on the other end.
Increasingly, though, texting is joining the ranks of professional communications in the Capital Region, and is changing the traditional business relationship between employees and employers, and between professionals and their clients.
Employees are using it to keep in touch with their bosses, companies to converse with clients, and salespeople to close deals with customers.
Face-to-face meetings and phone calls require a greater time commitment. Emails demand greater formality. Texting: Well, that can really speed things along.
While statistics on the phenomenon are scarce, a RingCentral survey of North America in December revealed 81% of respondents use text messaging for business communications, with nearly a third saying half of their daily texts are business related.
Some 91% send text messages to colleagues, while 71% send them to customers, suppliers or partners. Although 32% have closed a deal via text, some standard business communications for now remain a texting taboo: Only 8% have accepted a job offer that way, and just 3% have resigned from a position via text.
At Rockit Science Agency, a Baton Rouge advertising firm, principal and brand strategist Brent Sims says texting has become common practice with many clients, particularly those under the age of 40 for whom texting is a staple.
More formal communications still travel a more traditional route: a face-to-face meeting, a phone call or an email. But once the firm is in the midst of a project, anything goes.
“Once we're inside a campaign, there's a lot of back-and-forth,” he says. “It starts with a phone call, emails, a meeting, and then once you're progressed down the path of it being a longer relationship with a client, everything is fair game at that point.”
One of the company's challenges is keeping track of communications via a multitude of texting formats: Some clients use SMS on a cellphone, but others use Facebook chat or Twitter, too. And clients don't hesitate about texting the agency day or night.
December 3, 1992
Date the first text message was sent
Number of text messages sent worldwide every second
Number of text messages sent globally in 2011, up from 1.8 trillion five years earlier
SOURCE: CNET, International Telecommunications Union
“The communication comes over so many different ways,” Sims says. “You have to catch up and keep up with what client likes what type of vehicle for their communication. We have one particular client who communicates via text, email and Facebook, so you can be having one conversation and go across multiple platforms.”
Sims says texting has the effect of quickly making the relationship between the agency and its clients more casual.
“I think the clients position themselves to think, 'Well, this is the way I communicate with my friends and family, and now I'm communicating with the agency this way,'” Sims says. “I think the relationship advances faster when you text.”
When texting initially became popular, Devin Zito, owner of the technology consulting firm Teknarus, was reluctant to use it in communicating with clients.
“It seemed like it was getting in their space a little much,” he says. “I thought, 'Should we really be bothering folks with texting when most people just use it for personal needs?' I was really standoffish about doing it.”
But he says he has quickly learned that it's the communication platform of choice for certain clients.
TEXTING FOR BUSINESS
A RingCentral survey in North America found the following:
81% use text messaging for business communications
82% send more business-related texts now as compared to a year ago
31% say half of daily texts are business related
91% prefer receiving a text message over a voicemail
91% send text messages to colleagues
71% send text messages to customers, supplies or partners
32% have closed a business deal via text
8% have accepted a job offer via text
3% have resigned from a job via text
“In fact, for some of my larger clients, that's really the only way I can get their attention,” he says. “When you're talking about CEOs and heads of companies in a small business setting who want to talk to me directly, I can send an email and he may never respond to it. The same guy, if I send him a text message, he responds immediately. Not once have I had anyone give me negative feedback about sending a text message.”
In developing a policy that includes texting, businesses should keep in mind that texting still constitutes an official business communication. As with email or any other electronically produced document, they can be subject to discovery in an investigation or litigation.
Some professions, such as health care providers and lawyers, have additional privacy rules that may limit their ability to communicate via text.
“When you're sending texts, the pitfall that we're exposed to is this: Is the device secure? Am I properly maintaining the privilege by relying on it to send a communication though a text?” says Jason Cashio, an attorney with Kean Miller law firm who specializes in electronically stored information.
“How do I know the phone is in that person's hand as opposed to being in the hand of their partner or a girlfriend or spouse or significant other? We all sit at the dining room table and all the sudden a text pops up and everyone can see at least a portion of it. Or how many times have we sent a text to the wrong person? To rely on it for communication of critical information doesn't necessarily make sense. The flip side is that it should be used for what it's there for: convenience. Quick, simple communications of, 'Hey, I'm running an hour late but our meeting's still a go.'”
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