Globally in the past few years, there has been a significant rise in the amount of spam and scam SMS messages that people have been receiving. With the ease of linking through from a message to a website, it can allow unscrupulous parties to hack into phones allowing access to valuable personal information and financial data.

From the ‘flubot’ scams that see many of us sent malicious links with talk of missed phone calls, to those mentioning an undelivered package. In Australia, for example, this has had a significant impact on the finances of thousands, with ACCC’s Scamwatch program revealing $63.6 million was lost to scams involving unsolicited calls or text messages this year, so far.

There have been reports of politicians sending out spam or unwelcome SMS messages to the public and with that this issue has become a mainstream news item. From there we get a heightened awareness of the matter within the public domain and it means businesses that are sharing reputable information with their customers need to consider this in order to continue to provide brilliant customer service and maintain their brand integrity. Brands need to be seen to be part of the solution and not add to the problem.

SMS is a marketing method known to be incredibly effective, as well as a preferred form of communicating with customers. What can businesses do to ensure that they are cutting through the spam and are not contributing to it? How can businesses show they are a trusted SMS and not a scam one?

Here are some four tips for credible, effective, and helpful SMS communications, working to ensure customers don’t mark the information shared with them as spam or worse scam:

1. Transparency

One macro-trend that has emerged between brands and consumers in the past decade is a greater need for disclosure and openness. Companies that give the public a peek ‘behind the veil’ have seen incredible improvements in trust, brand love and overall loyalty. With regards to this topic, it is important to let customers know you are aware of the wider issues, as well as what the business itself is doing to mitigate them.

Businesses need to be a helpful, reassuring, and honest voice–make a commitment to your customers in how you will use SMS communications so they can be assured of the credibility of these when they’re received.

2. Conversational Messaging vs. broadcast SMS

The majority of spam messages received fit into a category of broadcast SMS. It means that the message is limited in its capabilities and can only divert customers to a website or prompt a phone call. Some businesses have been able to effectively use broadcast messages to deliver short, sharp, and informative communications. An example would be the telecommunication companies sending out alerts regarding maintenance–these types of messages are usually only effective when a limited action, or no action, is required from the customer.

A solution to make these communications more engaging, and therefore more trustworthy, is free conversation messaging where the receiver is engaged and encouraged to respond to the comms in order to help with their needs. The conversations are designed to meet the needs of customers and personalized in every way–acting as a replacement for time-consuming and inconvenient phone calls. The messages appear credible and therefore have a higher chance of engagement than broadcast messages.

3. Be consistent in your messaging

What can often alert someone to a scam message is that what it is asking or the turn of phrasing used appears strange. If a scammer is impersonating your business it is likely they may not communicate in the same way you would. This is why it is important to keep SMS communications consistent and ensure that everything is sense-checked–fitting within the house style. If you are using links, ensure that the link formatting is the same.

By doing this you are training customers to recognize what is your communication style and what isn’t.

4. If you can, avoid including links

One of the key tactics used by spam or scam, messages at the moment is the use of a hyperlink that drives the receiver to a website. Recent reports have even noted that customers are being tricked into opening these links to ‘increase their phone security’–when in fact they do the exact opposite. This allows spammers and scammers to, in the worst-case scenarios, infiltrate a person’s phone and get access to their personal information and finances. This is happening more and more with the public becoming savvier to it. It suggests that knowledgeable consumers are avoiding clicking on links then also deleting messages or blocking the contact.

If you engage with a two-way messaging mechanic, however, once a customer has engaged with your communications then sharing links and driving them away from their messaging platform is safe and reasonable to do.

There are many other elements that should be considered to keep a business ahead of the curve on the issue of SMS communications. However, these tips should provide a solid foundation for addressing what is an ever-changing situation.

To summarize, businesses that shift their mechanics for communications to a considered and customer-focused model have seen significant improvements in customer satisfaction. They can also provide reassurance to their customers that they’re reputable. Technology is ever-changing and the scammers and spammers are equipped to keep up with this, but trustworthy businesses win when they not only understand what the customer wants from them, addressing it accordingly but also the wider world in which they operate.

Alex Colvin is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Pendula, a unique technology solution that allows consumers to quickly and easily communicate with businesses through automated two-way SMS and emails.

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