The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) protects consumers by restricting the use of telephone and SMS solicitations such as telemarketing and automated phone equipment. It is designed to protect consumers from unwanted spam phone calls or SMS communications from marketers. If a marketer wants to build a one-to-one relationship with a customer, they need to follow the guidelines put in place by the TCPA to ensure that they are not breaking any laws, or opening themselves up to litigation.
The TCPA prevents companies from calling customers outside of reasonable hours – for example, before 8 AM or after 9 PM local time. The TCPA also requires that companies maintain a specific do not call list of customers who have asked not to be called or have opted out, and asks companies to provide their name or the company name when they make a call or send a text message. If marketers fail to follow the TCPA guidelines, they open themselves up to potential class action lawsuits from consumers, as well as fines or short code service disruption from the wireless carriers who have allowed them to use their network to send messages. Fines can range from $500-$1,500 per phone number, per text message sent with no cap on total damages. Ouch.
Why is the TCPA Necessary?
Marketers must remember that telephone calls and text messages are incredibly personal channels. When a customer’s phone buzzes in their pocket they are expecting the message to be from a friend or relative. When a business calls a household, customers could be in the middle of dinner and annoyed by the interruption. Therefore, marketers must use these channels quite carefully. When sending an SMS, it must contain a specific message or offer that is appropriate for that consumer, or the marketer risks not only increasing opt-outs, but opening themselves up to an entire program failure. When done right, the speedy open rates for SMS make them a very effective channel.
Since 90% of text messages are read within 3 minutes of delivery, sending a BOGO lunch offer to customers via SMS is effective because they see the message promptly, and are more likely than other communication channels to walk through your doors within a few hours. Compare these open rates to email, where only 23% are opened at all, and a BOGO offer will likely go unnoticed. However, the intimate nature of SMS messages means that sending multiple messages will annoy your customer, and almost certainly cause them to opt-out of your text club, as sending messages too often is the number one reason why customers opt-out.
Why is it Important for Brands?
To build strong relationships with customers, brands need to respect their boundaries. By having customers subscribe to receive communications from a brand, businesses know their list of subscribers is made up of their most loyal customers who are happy to receive messages, offers, and discounts.
If you’re thinking of starting a text messaging club, and this is the first you’re hearing of the TCPA guidelines, you’re probably wondering what the process is to ensure you do not face any repercussions. To follow the TCPA guidelines, marketers need to ensure their customers are legally opted in to communications with them. This means obtaining prior consent, which can be attained through various channels, including text message, email, or voice recording.
Brands must also be aware of opt-out procedures, and have automated mechanisms that enable them to control message flows easily. Some brands choose to partner with a company that controls text messaging flows and opt-outs for them – working hard so they don’t have to. But regardless of the level of protection your provider may offer, it is increasingly important to be aware of all the regulations put in place by the TCPA, so if a lawsuit does come your way, you know your rights.