SMS text messages are fabulous for communication—97% of them are opened and read within 3 minutes vs. 22% of emails! But the recent changes to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) mean you need to double-check who, what and how you text:
- Effective Jan. 14, 2013 - Include the ability to immediately opt out of messages (texts or calls).
- Effective Oct. 16, 2013 - Get unambiguous written consent—even from consumers you have established business relationships with—before sending telemarketing calls or text messages via automatic telephone dialing systems (ATDS).
Dealer Text: Who, What & How Do You Use It?
Although the TCPA is aimed at restricting telemarketers, these rules could spill over into your dealership, especially if you have a text marketing program. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so research your individual situation and talk with an attorney for specific legal advice.*
To get started, consider the following seven guidelines: Does your dealership...
- Use SMS ShortCode programs to blast mass text marketing messages (like specials)? These text programs can be effective, but they’re probably the most regulated. So if you haven’t yet heard from your text marketing vendor, you should hit pause and check in.
- Have employees who text on behalf of the dealership? If employees use personal phones to do this on their own, you can’t ensure quality control or compliance. Do you know how they got the customers’ numbers and if they have written consent? Can you monitor the texts to know what they’re saying? Are they using opt-out messages? Guard against those potential risks by establishing policies and using a system to manage one-to-one texting.
- Use a vendor to help manage that one-to-one text messaging? The TCPA may not be aimed at these messages, but your vendor should be up to date with best practices for compliance. Here are some features to look for: integration of mobile leads into your CRM (for control and written records), automated opt-out procedures and text transcripts.
- Ask for the express written consent you need? It’s a new regulation for text marketing, but apply it to all your texting as a best practice. Add it to the process wherever you capture lead information and keep a record of the permission...just in case.
- Explain that “msg & data rates may apply” when texting? This isn’t something that just text marketing programs should do. It’s another best practice to be as clear as possible about what the customer can expect even when texting about in-stock inventory.
- Offer clear opt-out instructions? It can be as simple as “text STOP to cancel,” but it’s easy to forget to do. If you’re texting back and forth (one-to-one), send it in the first confirmation text message. Text marketing programs have more requirements and should do it in every message.
- Honor the opt outs? You should have a way to block the opted-out customers’ phone numbers so that no one at your dealership texts them again by mistake.
These new TCPA regulations may cause compliance headaches, but it’s worth it to stay protected and continue texting. A system like Contact At Once! Mobile Text Connect (which seemlessly integrates with your Contact At Once! live chat and existing CRM) takes care of the necessary steps and can help your dealership remain in compliance. As I mentioned earlier, texts sent to your customers get read—and it’s in your interest to keep it that way!
*Please note: This article does not provide legal advice. Please consult your attorney for legal advice that pertains to your situation.