As several of our customers have found out in the past, we did not offer an option in the program to send text message advertisements. This blog post will explain why that was as well as detail how we’ve chosen to implement a text advertising feature that is easy to use while still meeting all of the legal requirements that go along with text advertising.
Our story starts back in 1991 when the US government passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (or TCPA). While originally intended to apply to automatic dialing systems, the Ninth Circuit held that the TCPA applies to unsolicited cellular telephone text messages as well. So what does this mean? This means that unless you get express, documented consent from a customer then you can not legally send them text advertising. While texts of an informational nature are protected by existing business relations (for example, texts notifying someone of their appointment time) any text that could be construed as an advertisement requires customer consent.
You may think, “But my customers aren’t going to complain…and even if they do it’s no big deal, right?”. Definitely not right! There have been a few companies that made that mistake and paid in a big way. Papa John’s Pizza was approached by an advertising company that didn’t know the law and offered the opportunity to increase their sales through text advertising to everyone that had called to order pizza. Their final bill once they reached a settlement? $16.5 million. Before that, Jiffy Lube had an even larger bill – $43 million!
Digging into the details on both of these you find the same two problems – a lack of understanding of the laws that cover proper usage of text messaging and a lack of respect for their customer’s wishes. No one likes to get unwanted messages and our laws back up those wishes. That said, navigating those laws and implementing a policy that ensures you don’t run into the same type of expensive problems I mentioned earlier can be difficult and take time away from where you’d rather spend it – with your customers!
We understand that our salons don’t spend their time researching telecom laws and best practices and wanted to make sure that we didn’t add a feature to the program that could get our customers in trouble with their customers or even worse yet, get sued for misusing text messaging. For a long time we chose not to allow text messaging as we didn’t want to open salons up to the risk nor require them to put expensive policies in place to ensure they followed the letter of the law.
That all changes now though! We’ve come up with a well designed system that removes most of the compliance work from the salon’s plate, ensures that customers don’t receive unwanted text messages, and allows you to follow the letter of the law without having to know what that law says!
So on to the details of this new feature. Our Text Message Advertising program works with the Customer Online Booking that many of our salons already use. Because of the limitations of the ways that customer records can be handled it does require the Customer Online Booking to operate.
For customers using one of our business’ online booking pages opting in and out of receiving text messages is as easy as logging into their account and clicking two links to get to the opt in screen! There they can see the information about the text advertising program, read privacy and terms of services pages customized to your business, and opt in or out of receiving both text confirmations and text advertisements. In addition, if you don’t already have the customer’s cell phone number and text carrier they’ll be prompted to enter it then.
Once a customer has opted in to the text advertising, they will receive text messages whenever the salon clicks on the “Send Text to All Customers” or “Send Text to Specific Customers” buttons (in the latter case only if they’re one of the specific customers selected). When you can use these buttons are governed by the agreement the customer signs on to originally and the laws. This means that if you’ve already sent out two text messages that week the program will make you wait until a week has past since the first one before allowing you to send out another. In addition, the program will stop you from sending out text messages before 8am or after 9pm.
Lastly, there’s a new section under Customer Display / Check In that allows you to opt customers out of the text advertising program. This is very important as customers can text the word STOP as a reply to your text messaging and legally you are required to immediately opt them out of the program. This is the one part that does require involvement on our business’ end of things. First, it’s very important that there’s always someone working at the business whose job includes checking replies from customer emails sent out through our program. If someone receives one of these STOP messages the message will include the customer’s cell phone number in the address. You can pull the customer up by this phone number by going to Customer Display and typing the phone number in the following format: (###) ###-####. That’s the area code in parenthesis, a space, and then the last 7 digits of the number with a dash in the middle. Type their number in that format, hit the Enter key on the keyboard, and a list of matching customers will show up in the white box below. Once you pull up the customer, you should click the button right beneath the cell phone number area to opt them out of the program, and then either click No for text messages or change their carrier to No Text Messages. Customers may also text the word HELP to you – in that case you should text them back your business’ contact information so they can reach out to you for further information.
That’s it! We’ve taken care of all the other worries for you. As long as you make sure to take care of the STOP and HELP requests from customers the program takes care of all the other legal concerns for you and makes it possible for you to reach your customers in a new way without worrying about the legal and technical details. Because of the setup involved this feature must be turned on with our support team after we ensure everything is in place for you to use the text advertising program. Please contact support to get started.