With the latest Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) rules settling into place, we’ve got to remember that not all texts are created equal. Is your dealership’s texting up to snuff? Do what it takes to get there…because 97% of texts are opened and read within 3 minutes vs. 22% of emails!
First Things First: What Are the New Rules?
The TCPA is often updated to reflect changes in technology and use, and the 2013 updates say…
- Messages (phone calls and texts) must include the ability to immediately opt out – effective Jan. 14, 2013
- You must get unambiguous written consent before sending telemarketing calls or text messages via automatic telephone dialing systems (ATDS) – effective Oct. 16, 2013
- Established business relationships with consumers no longer relieve you of that written consent requirement – effective Oct. 16, 2013
Know Who & What You Text
What can you do to stay compliant? Check out these seven pointers, then make sure you do your research and talk with an attorney for specific legal advice*.
#1: Do you use SMS ShortCode programs for blasting text messages out to a long list of mobile phone numbers (used for mass marketing specials, contests, etc.)?
While they can be effective, they’re probably the most heavily regulated type of texting. It’s also the type that got the Lithia group in big trouble a few years back, resulting in a multimillion-dollar settlement. You may want to hit pause until checking with your vendor and attorney.
#2: Do you (or others at your dealership) text with customers?
If your employees text on behalf of the dealership from their personal cell numbers, you have a problem. You likely have no idea how employees got customers’ numbers and no record of their written consent to be texted. You also probably have no transcripts of the conversations and no control over opt-out messages. So while your dealership needed a system to manage and control one-to-one text messaging before the new TCPA regulations—a system like Contact At Once! Mobile Text Connect (MTC)—the need is truly urgent now.
#3: Do you have a process for gaining a customer’s express written consent to text?
It’s one of the new regulations as regards SMS text marketing, but it’s smart to apply it to any texting. So make it part of the process when capturing lead information. Keep a record of that written permission too, in case the customer challenges your dealership somewhere down the road. (MTC does all this for you, making it easy to be compliant and pull up records of written permission should the need arise.)
#4: Do you tell customers that “message & data rates may apply” when they text with you?
Even if they aren’t signing up for text marketing, this is a best practice. (MTC adds this on all consumer-facing calls to action, like the first “click to text” form.)
#5: Do you offer clear ways to opt out?
If marketing, you should include it in every message. If texting back and forth with customers (like about setting appointments), you should send it in the very first confirmation text message. (MTC automatically requires this opt-out message to be the first text you send.)
#6: Do you have a process for those who opt out?
Ensure that no one at your dealership texts them again by mistake. (MTC automates this compliance by blocking the phone number of opt-out customers…until that customer opts back in.)
#7: Do you already use a vendor to help manage your dealership’s one-to-one text messaging?
See if your vendor is up to date on the latest TCPA details. Then, make sure their system integrates mobile leads into your CRM, includes opt-out procedures, and lets you monitor and track the conversations so you can ensure these texts are used the right way…to provide information and customer service, not unrelated marketing. (If you are using MTC, you’re all set.)
Keep on Texting
Think that texting just isn’t worth this extra effort? Think again. Texts sent to your customers bypass clutter and get read—Adtruth says that people check their smartphones 150 times a day. And it’s in our interest to keep it that way. So while any rules change can be annoying, these TCPA changes can help prevent spammers from diluting a powerful communication channel.
That’s worth a few extra steps to ensure compliance!
*Please note: This article does not provide legal advice. Please consult your attorney for legal advice that pertains to your situation.