5 Reasons Your SMS Messages Don’t Reach Your Customers

Sending SMS messages can be a great way to cut through email clutter and directly reach customers with critical information such as delivery notifications, account alerts, and login authorizations, along with marketing and other customer service messages. Yet when using this channel, keep in mind that SMS delivery isn’t failproof, and it hinges on a number of factors, both in and out of your control.

Delayed, undelivered, or unreadable messages (due to unsupported characters) can increase your costs in two key ways:

  • API platforms charge for SMS messages based on the number of messages you attempt to send, which could be higher than the number of messages delivered.
  • SMS issues could upend your customer support and security strategies, leading to customer churn.

Understanding why your SMS messages might not get delivered — and working with a communications API platform that can help you avoid, monitor, and repair issues quickly — can go a long way toward improving your SMS strategy.

Five common reasons your SMS messages might not reach your customers include:

Reason #1: Carriers filter your messages as spam

While you want to send messages to your customers that add value to their experience, the messages might not get delivered if a carrier mistakenly filters some of your messages as spam. Checks and filters differ by carriers, country, and local regulations, but they usually are based on a combination of factors including:

  • Sender/Source
  • Number type used to send
  • Volume of messages
  • Message content

In particular, your messages might get filtered as spam if they follow certain patterns that spam messages tend to exhibit, like including generic or free link shorteners within messages. To avoid having your SMS messages look like spam or phishing messages, use your own branded/dedicated link shortener if you need to use one.

Your SMS messages might also be considered spam by carriers if you send the exact same message to lots of users/customers, so where possible you should send more personalized messages, as you would with emails.

Plivo’s visual workflow tool called PHLO enables you to personalize SMS messages at scale, such as by allowing you to configure a data sheet with different columns for information like a customer’s name and a coupon code you want to use for different customer segments. Then that content can automatically be included within your SMS messages.

In case messages get blocked due to spam regulations in a country, Plivo sends delivery drop alerts to customers so they immediately know when there is an issue. Plivo’s customer success teams can then make recommendations if the customer is willing to share the content of their messages with us and if messages are being blocked due to false positives rather than clear violations.

Reason #2: Customer complaints lead to blocked numbers

Rather than sending out unsolicited messages, you need to have a documented opt-in process, both to create a high-quality customer experience and avoid being blocked. If an operator receives too many complaints about unwanted messages, they may block the messages and ask the sender to provide an overview of the message campaign and the applicable opt-in/opt-out process. An abundance of complaints can even cause a network operator to suspend the sender.

Some of the ways to avoid customer complaints include:

  • Explicitly note how to opt-out: Senders must include “help” and “stop” keywords so that customers can learn more or opt out and avoid triggering a sender block.
  • Clearly identify the sender: Senders should consider using branded shortcodes, which can help customers identify the sender and minimize complaints and opt-outs.
  • Mention why customers are receiving the messages: Provide context and a reason in the messages as to why the user is being contacted.
  • Use the same number for the same customer: Switching between multiple numbers to send messages to the same customer can lead to a confusing and overall poor user experience.

Plivo provides a number of advanced features, such as ensuring the same number is used for the same customer, to deliver high open rates and avoid customer complaints. The platform also enables companies to send messages that come from local phone numbers, which can lead to higher open rates and seem more relevant.

Reason #3: Carrier regulations restrict messaging

Unfortunately, businesses sending SMS messages have to abide by a complex web of regulations constructed by local telecom authorities, rather than following a universal set of rules.

For example, you may have to use certain number types/sender IDs. In the US, when sending messages from an application to person (A2P), you can’t use regular long codes with most carriers and instead need to use shortcodes, toll-free numbers, or specific A2P long codes.

Certain regions also have restrictions on when promotional SMS messages can be sent, which can cause messages to go undelivered or get queued until the accepted time in that region, depending on how local network operators function.

Plivo helps manage these regulations in an automated manner by queueing the messages as needed and choosing the right number type. You can also leverage our customer success teams for guidance on the appropriate number format for a message’s use case.

To familiarize yourself with some of these guidelines for number formats, review our whitepaper on SMS messaging.

Reason #4: A low-quality carrier network can lead to more outages

If an API provider partners with low-quality carriers, that can lead to lower delivery rates. Even if the messages go through, not having direct in-country connections can mean messages take longer to reach the end-user due to taking multiple hops to reach the destination.

Plus, connecting to local markets via a large carrier that aggregates local players could exacerbate this issue. If an error does occur, it could take the communications platform much longer to resolve the problem, as there could be many layers between the platform and the local carrier experiencing the outage, which makes it more difficult to quickly get to the bottom of these issues.

Network outages can occur from time to time as part of the nature of the telecom industry, but you can have more reliable delivery rates by leveraging API providers that connect directly to high-quality carriers.

That’s why Plivo prioritizes connecting to high-quality, local carriers, and we have built-in redundancy, with at least two connections to carriers in most regions. That way, when errors and outages do occur, businesses can continue using the service without interruption.

Reason #5: Lack of intelligent features provided by your API provider

While your API provider might have high-quality features in terms of their interface/user experience, they might lack intelligent features that could otherwise help improve deliverability behind the scenes, such as:

  • Invalid Phone Number Resolution: With most providers, if a phone number is invalid due to a missing country code, the message will simply fail to deliver. Yet, Plivo’s enhanced destination number validation feature will reject SMS requests if the destination number provided is not a valid phone number, so you at least know the phone number is invalid and can work to correct it, rather than wondering if the SMS went through.

    If there’s a formatting issue with the number, Plivo might be able to solve it. For instance, if the number has spaces, leading zeros or numbers in local formats, the platform will auto-format to the international E64 format. And in cases where the country code is duplicated at the start of the number due to both the customer entering this data and the company’s application prepending the country code, Plivo deduplicates the country code before submitting the message to the carrier. In contrast, an API provider that lacks these features could cause an improperly formatted number to go undelivered.

  • Smart Character Encoding: SMS messages also might not get delivered depending on the types of characters used, e.g. Unicode or GSM, if the destination network does not support those characters. Even if the message gets delivered, if it’s not properly encoded, then the message might not be readable or could look unprofessional to the end customer.

    Plivo’s intelligent message system encodes Unicode characters for similar GSM characters when the recipient’s network requires this swap in order for the message to get delivered correctly. However, an API provider that lacks these features could cause delivery issues or cause your message to get split into two messages, which then doubles the message charge.

  • Real-Time Routing: Businesses also benefit from more consistent delivery through Plivo’s real-time routing engine, which automatically optimizes message routes. Plivo also uses test nodes, which are physical devices that continually assess carrier quality in real-time. That means your SMS messages are more likely to be delivered via a reliable route.

    If an API provider did not undertake this type of real-time testing and analysis to find optimal routes, you might not know that a carrier is experiencing technical difficulties until your SMS messages end up going undelivered.

Send SMS Messages With Confidence

While these reasons exemplify why your SMS messages might not go through, you can take steps to avoid these issues and send SMS messages to customers with confidence. To achieve more consistent delivery and keep costs down, choose a highly reliable API platform, and familiarize yourself with messaging regulations in your intended markets.

To learn more about how you can more reliably send SMS messages, get in touch with our API experts.

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