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. But when you use text messaging, keep in mind that SMS delivery isn’t failproof; 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:
- Your 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 reliability.
Here are five common reasons why your SMS messages might not reach your customers — and what you can do to address them.
Carriers filter your messages as spam
You want to send messages to your customers that add value to their experience, but the messages might not get delivered if a carrier mistakenly filters some of your messages as spam. Checks and filters differ by carrier, country, and local regulations, but they’re usually based on a combination of factors, including:
- 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, such as 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. Better yet, avoid link shorteners, so text recipients can see exactly where their taps will take them.
Carriers may also consider your SMS messages spam if you send the same message to lots of recipients. Where possible, you should send personalized messages, as you would with email.
Plivo’s visual workflow tool PHLO helps you personalize SMS messages at scale. You can use it to configure a data sheet with personalized columns for information like a customer’s name and a coupon code you want to use for different customer segments. You can then include that content automatically within your SMS messages.
When messages get blocked due to spam regulations, Plivo sends delivery drop alerts to customers, so they immediately know when there’s an issue. Plivo’s customer success team can make recommendations if the customer is willing to share the content of their messages with us.
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 to avoid being blocked. If an operator receives too many complaints about unwanted messages, it may block 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 things you can do 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 short code numbers, 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 recipient is being contacted.
- Use the same number for customers for each send: Switching between multiple numbers to send messages to the same customer can lead to a confusing and poor user experience.
Plivo provides a number of advanced features, such as a “sticky sender” feature that ensures 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 because they seem more relevant.
Carrier regulations restrict messaging
Businesses sending SMS messages have to abide by a complex web of regulations constructed by local telecom authorities. There’s no universal set of rules.
For example, in some areas you may have to use certain number types or sender IDs. In the US, when sending messages from an application to a person (A2P), you can’t use regular long codes with most carriers and instead need to use short codes, 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 queuing messages as needed and choosing the right number type. You can also leverage our customer success team 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 white paper on SMS messaging.
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 recipients because they have to take multiple network hops to reach their destinations.
Connecting to local markets via a large carrier that aggregates local players could exacerbate this issue. In that scenario, if an error occurs, it could take the communications platform a long time to resolve the problem, as there could be many layers between the platform and the local carrier experiencing the outage, which makes it difficult to get to the bottom of issues.
Network outages do occur from time to time, but you can improve delivery rates by leveraging API providers that connect directly to high-quality carriers.
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 occur, businesses can continue using the service without interruption.
Lack of intelligent features provided by your API platform
Your API provider might lack intelligent features that could 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 be delivered. Plivo’s enhanced destination number validation feature rejects SMS requests if the destination number provided is not a valid phone number, so you neither have to pay for it nor are left wondering whether the message went through.
If there’s a formatting issue with a number, Plivo might be able to solve it. For instance, if a number has spaces, leading zeros, or numbers in local formats, the platform will auto-format to the international E.164 format. And in cases where the country code is duplicated at the start of the number due to both the customer entering it and the company’s application prepending the country code, Plivo deduplicates the country code before submitting the message to the carrier. An API provider that lacks these features could cause an improperly formatted number to go undelivered.
Smart character encoding: SMS messages that contain Unicode characters might not get delivered if the destination network doesn’t support those characters. Even if the message is delivered, if it’s not properly encoded, then the message might be garbled for the recipient.
Plivo’s intelligent message system swaps Unicode characters for similar GSM characters when the recipient’s network requires that for the message to get delivered correctly. An API provider that lacks smart character encoding could cause delivery issues, or cause your message to get split into two messages, doubling what it costs you to send it.
Real-time routing: Businesses benefit from more consistent delivery through Plivo’s real-time routing engine, which automatically optimizes message routes. Plivo uses test nodes that continually assess carrier quality in real time. That helps us deliver your SMS messages via the most reliable route. An API provider that lacks this type of real-time testing and analysis to find optimal routes could experience technical difficulties that derail your SMS messages.
Send SMS messages with confidence
You can 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 Plivo’s API experts.