Is Texting Appropriate in Business Communication?

3 Dec

Texting is the most common non-voice cell phone function amongst Americans.  The average number of texts sent and received per day per phone user is rapidly growing, as texting is being used for an increasing variety of purposes that extend far beyond simple communication. Such uses include checking bank account balances, ordering food at restaurants, inquiring about flight statuses, and to running sales or promotions. The applications of texting are constantly evolving and seemingly endless, but does business communication fit on this list?

Characteristics of Texting

Texting is a brief, informal means of electronic communication between either friends and close acquaintances or automated systems. No texting “rules” exist, leaving mobile phone users at liberty to express themselves however they see fit. “Texters” frequently use shorthand abbreviations during such exchanges to replace longer, commonly-used phrases. Perhaps most popular are “LOL” and “BRB,” which replace “laugh out loud” and “be right back.” While texting has become a widely accepted, even preferred, form of talking, as with any electronic communication messages are at risk for being misinterpreted with the absence of voiced emotion and body language.

The World of Business Communication

The term “business communication” encompasses several forms of exchange, from marketing to customer relations, and includes both internal and external communications. Despite such variety, all branches of business communication are characterized by a distinct sense of formality. Perfect grammar is expected, language should be clear and concise, individuals are addressed by last name, and being polite is a necessity. Such standardized etiquette makes business communication consistent across many workplaces.

Can These Two Paths Cross?

Recently, I ordered a gift online for a friend. The company had a question about my mailing address – and texted me about it. Hearing from a company from which I ordered an item was the last thought in my mind as I was opening a text message from an unknown phone number. As prompted, I responded to their question and received a quick thank you. Problem solved – fast. Is this the future of business?

As I witnessed, certain companies have adopted texting as a form of communication with customers. But will this application become the norm, and can it further apply to other aspects of business-environment interactions? Can a means of communication so strictly governed by widely accepted principles be replaced by the “rule-less” realm of texting?

It depends. Experts tend to agree that texting for business is acceptable for certain occasions that require only simple questions and answers, perhaps like verifying a customer’s mailing address. As many rules of regular business communications as possible should be applied to such texts. Messages should be succinct, have all words spelled properly with no abbreviations, use correct punctuation, and maintain a sense of professionalism. In cases where immediate responses are necessary, texting (with the above rules in mind) may also be suitable.   However, for all other exchanges, traditional methods are still preferred. The future may show different trends, but texting is still viewed as too informal and too at-risk for misinterpretation to apply to business situations across the board.

by Christina Ruggieri

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4 Responses to “Is Texting Appropriate in Business Communication?”

  1. Angela Chen December 5, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    Christina,

    Great Post! I definitely think that texting can be a convenient way for businesses to contact their customers for quick information verification and updates. However, businesses may face problems with their customers’ texting plans. Not everyone has texting integrated into their phone plans. How would companies be able to navigate around this issue? Would they have to work with cell phone companies to cover the costs?

    Angela

  2. Robert Knapel December 6, 2011 at 7:00 am #

    Christina,

    I think it depends on how well you know the person that you are communicating with as well as what is being communicated. This summer, I would get text messages from my bosses about certain things that I needed to do this summer. They were little things that the needed me to do such as dropping something off for them or picking something up. I think that anything that could possibly misconstrued should not be sent via text message.

    Robert

  3. Katie Bush December 7, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    Christina,

    I really enjoyed this post, particularly with the graph you showed about increasing mean number of texts sent by adults. Another interesting facet to this question comes with the age of customers businesses would be texting. For example, just as you responded quickly to the business that texted you, most peers our age would do the same. Our parents or grandparents generations, however, would be less likely to know how to, or be proficient in texting. Could businesses segment their customers and email some while texting others? How would they know how text-savvy a customer was? Maybe businesses should include a question about sending notifications via text or email as one of the requirements of the check-out process.

    Again, great post!

    Katie

  4. Elisabeth Green December 11, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Christina,
    As Robert and you discussed, I think it really depends on the context. Southwest does a great job texting customers about gate changes and flight delays. When immediate information is necessary, I think texting can work because as you noted, the response time will be very quick!
    Similarly to Robert, I text my current boss. I work for a fashion boutique in Saint Louis, and I manage the store’s social media sites. My boss will text me whenever she wants me to put something specific on the store’s Facebook or Twitter page, and it really shows how tech-savvy business has become!
    I really enjoyed your post, and I am very interested to see how texting and business work (or don’t work) together in the future!

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