Charting a course through the changes to business messaging
With the recent news that AT&T is planning to deploy its 10DLC solution, mobile engagement solution providers are weathering new uncertainties. If you can bear with a quick analogy: imagine your business as a fishing vessel in the Atlantic, a trusty ship that has endured seasonality and barnacles, adept at navigating the sheer randomness of the ocean and its tendency to go into the occasional frenzy and flip out. One day, the forecast predicts a storm with unusual intensity, a maelstrom of snarling air pressure differentials that is looking to cause more than just a little trouble.
You push out anyway. You tighten the lines, secure your buoys, run through a mental checklist of procedures built up through years of routine and experience. The water is choppy, the sky a mishmash of violent grey, the air howling as if it were alive and most certainly in pain. You hit the usual spot to drop your anchor and hear the sound of rushing water, elevating in its intensity, and see an enormous wave hurtling towards your vessel with great indifference and even greater haste.
In that moment, you acknowledge that setting sail into the high seas today may have been a slight tactical error.
You weren’t ready for this. But luckily, while life often imitates art, your business is not going to go belly up like the Andrea Gail did in “The Perfect Storm.” Reacting to the dynamics of a rapidly shifting business text messaging landscape can be stressful though, so here are some suggestions on how to navigate those industry waves and keep your business shipshape.
Resist pier pressure
For all of my fellow Redditors who have recently tracked the progress of GME, AMC, or even more stunningly, Dogecoin, it is readily apparent that hype is a key driver of our economy. In the world of messaging, new developments in Rich Communication Services (RCS), over-the-top messaging ecosystems like WhatsApp or Facebook, or even maturing services like 10DLC get nerds like myself all tickled. We live in a world where consumers increasingly expect their business communications to be intimate and accessible.
The reality is that these hype trains, much like Elon Musk’s desire to go chill on Mars, are still pipe dreams. RCS is only receivable by about 3% of all mobile handsets in North America today. 10DLC, much like a highway still under construction, will only have coverage over two thirds of mobile customers when AT&T joins the show. Walled garden messaging systems like WhatsApp are still figuring out the rules to the game, and I would argue, given a recent emphasis on privacy and personal data, may be subjected to federal oversight.
The first step to knowing your messaging options are to take a step back from hype, and acknowledge that if you need safe passage and rock-solid results, a calmer harbor for your SMS traffic may be through more established mediums like short code or toll-free.
Get your Bering’s Strait
The short code may have seen its celebrity begin with “American Idol” and scores of recognizable consumer brands since, but in my years at Bandwidth we’ve always positioned local and toll-free texting as a more affordable option with a faster go-to-market cycle. That is no longer true with AT&T’s new business texting guidelines, which requires that business texting providers participate in a campaign registration process for local numbers and pay an additional carrier fee per message. While there are carrier fees for toll-free messaging (and there could be more in the future), it’s currently the lone wolf for reliable, affordable business messaging that can launch quickly.
Verizon has already implemented a $0.0025 fee to all business SMS that traverses its network, and it’s been confirmed that AT&T will use a scaling surcharge that defaults at $0.004 per SMS and only goes as low as $0.002 depending on different factors. As the big fish in this ocean, Verizon and AT&T can gobble up content that violates their fair use policies.
AT&T, however, is ramping this up a notch further, introducing a messaging caste system: all campaigns are given a Routine Information and Services Quality (RISQ) score, and once vetted are either allocated the necessary capacity or throttled under a daily messaging quota.
Businesses need to take a long hard look at any use cases that rely on local messaging and ask themselves if timelines need to be pushed, if additional operational resources need to be assigned, or if they need to set honest expectations with their customers. Which leads me to last suggestion:
The best time to get educated is always schooner rather than freighter
Nautical nonsense aside, how is your business preparing itself for the coming storm? A few years ago Remind, a popular app used by teachers to text with students and parents, was heavily impacted by Verizon’s business texting tariffs and incurred monthly surcharges in the millions of dollars. As the carriers continue to roll out these fees, and especially once AT&T goes live, we’re seeing as much as 60% of customers’ invoices going straight through to the carriers!
Business models that have relied on shared short codes for years are now speed-dialing their lawyers to break down new imperatives published by the carriers (take a gander at T-Mobile’s latest code of conduct, dated November 2020, if you don’t believe me). Most folks I chat with in the market often find that their messaging strategy is reactive, at the mercy of variable machine logic and filtering algorithms.Like any good sailor, the best practice is to always chart a course beforehand. Whether it’s listening to a webinar on the state of business messaging today, following your favorite thought leader on LinkedIn (not me—sadly, the best I can offer you is snark, bad puns, and the occasional Dilbert cartoon), or just having earnest conversations with your customers about which messaging channel they prefer, there are nautical leagues of resources.