The Value of 2-Way SMS as a Customer Communication Tool [2024]

July 25, 2023 | By Grace Lau
Smartphone showing 2-way conversation

The Importance of 2-Way SMS as a Customer Communication Tool

SMS texting is a powerful customer communication tool

According to a recent survey, 51% of people say that they are interested in receiving texts from their favorite brands and 41% said that they would prefer to be contacted this way - showing that SMS is not only a useful tool in your marketing arsenal but that, as mobile shopping has grown, it is increasingly the customer's communication method of choice.

SMS messages are often used to send one-way communications to customers. However, there are numerous business benefits to opting for 2-way SMS messages. If used effectively, this universal tool can have an immediate impact. Most significantly, it can enhance sales, marketing, and customer support operations in a cost-effective way.

Read on to learn more about 2-way SMS messaging and its business applications.

What is 2-way SMS?

As the name suggests, 2-way SMS messaging enables businesses to send messages to customers and receive their responses through the same channel. This way, they can engage in conversations with their audience at a low cost, creating a better customer experience, which eventually translates into higher revenue.

2-way SMS communication may rely on an automated text message system or human responders. Businesses can also choose between using short codes or long numbers for customers to get in contact. The choice depends on the purpose of their SMS communications and the geographical boundaries they operate in. But, the largest factor for many businesses will be the cost. Short codes are much more expensive than longer numbers.

Each of these options has its specific advantages and relevant use cases, as described below.

person texting on phone

Short codes and long numbers

Short codes are a simple and easy-to-memorize method of sender identification in SMS message campaigns. They consist of four to six digits, which makes them highly recognizable and memorable. Should you want something even more unique, you can request a customizable vanity short code. However, this option can be significantly more expensive than a standard short code texting service.

Short codes are the best choice for sending large numbers of texts in a limited period of time. They are commonly used in competitions, customer service interactions, and for sending out special offers. Their main drawback is the cost as they can be very expensive. They also cannot be used across country boundaries.

These problems are solved by long numbers, which look like regular mobile phone numbers and offer almost unlimited availability. They are offered by numerous digital phone service providers, most of whom can also offer porting phone number services, in the case that you’re switching providers. Yet, they may be subject to sending limits.

Shortcode vs long code for 2way sms

Automated and conversational 2-way SMS communications

A 2-way SMS messaging service can be automated. It is a convenient and cost-effective approach, which is highly effective in some situations. Yet, research has shown that customers generally prefer to communicate with human responders. What you opt for will depend on your business and what your SMS messaging service will be used for.

Have a look at some common use cases for these two types of 2-way SMS customer communications to help you consider what is best for you:

Automated 2-way SMS communications use cases

Automated responses in 2-way SMS customer communications rely on a fixed set of inputs and rules governing what can be done with them. They are good for exchanges with large groups of consumers. They can also work effectively as part of CRM services, delivering useful consumer intelligence to the marketing team.

Distributing special offers and vouchers

2-way SMS messaging can be a convenient way of reaching customers with special offers, discounts, and vouchers. This medium allows customers to access these offers immediately by sending back a one-word reply. Personalization lets marketers establish which customers redeemed their offers.

Text thread displaying promotional offers

Making and confirming appointments

SMS messages are very helpful for setting and confirming appointments. A customer can choose the preferred appointment date and time by texting back options selected from a list. Once the appointment is booked, they can receive an appointment confirmation text containing all the details.

A few days before the appointment, a reminder message will be sent, with a request to confirm attendance or reschedule the appointment. All this is done automatically, saving the business the money that could be lost on missed appointments, and time that would be spent on phone calls.

Opening customer service tickets

2-way SMS communications can help customers reach the right person at the customer service desk by letting them specify their problem before they get connected to a human responder. This improves the chances of first contact resolutions.

For example, a customer may make the first contact with the helpdesk by sending the keyword “HELP," to be then asked to text the name (or number from a list) of a specific product they are having trouble with, then to text the type of problem that has occurred. In the end, they will be connected with the specialist best qualified to deal with that specific issue.

Collecting feedback

Collecting valuable customer feedback about a product or service can be as easy as sending them an SMS message asking to rate it on a scale from 0 to 10, or to respond “YES” or “NO” to the question asking whether they would recommend the product to their family and friends.

Text thread displaying survey questions


Charities can use 2-way SMS messaging services for fundraising purposes. Replying to a message, a customer may either pledge a donation or make it immediately by following a link.

Automated 2-way sms use cases

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Conversational 2-way SMS use cases

The role of the conversational model of 2-way SMS customer communication is not only to perform a function (such as bringing the customer to the company website) but also to enhance customer experience. This can only be achieved by human interaction based on the understanding of the customer’s needs. This may sound like a challenging task, but the rewards are considerable.

Increasing website conversion

Sometimes customers don’t proceed with their purchase because of simple questions. While it would be easy to have them answered immediately in a store, mobile shopping may not offer this opportunity. Providing a phone number for customer inquiries can solve this problem. If the response arrives fast and has a personal touch, the customer will be more likely to complete the purchase.

Optimizing customer experience

The same applies to customer service questions and inquiries. Mobile store customers wanting to get issues resolved are often redirected to other channels, such as email or telephone. This may be inconvenient or annoying, especially when the business doesn’t seem to know what a toll free number is.

Yet, the whole experience can be transformed if the site features a textable customer service number that will respond to the customer with prompt and personalized advice. It may require some effort to provide this type of service but will certainly help the company build a strong relationship with the customer.

phone displaying mobile app

Recovering abandoned carts

Being able to reach customers who put products in their carts but fail to complete the transactions can help businesses recover a large proportion of abandoned carts. 2-way SMS messaging can be a convenient way to remind the customer about the product they had placed in their cart, ask if they need more information or help, and provide answers.

Generating repeat transactions

2-way SMS messaging can be a good way to maintain contact with loyal customers and encourage them to make repeat purchases. Periodic reminders can be sent out for products such as medicines, cosmetics, or contact lenses to help customers top up their supply before they run out.

Text thread displaying reminder text

Handling issues and inquiries

Conversational 2-way SMS messaging can be useful in customer service interactions too, delivering a more personalized experience than the automated option provides. Perhaps it is still not the best way to address complex issues, such as troubleshooting a cloud app modernization, but it will work well for answering questions about delivery times, exchanges, returns, etc.

Collecting data

Exchanges with customers can provide a lot of valuable information that customers will share voluntarily during the conversation. This data can then be used to create customer profiles and target future offers or campaigns more effectively. Businesses that are open to 2-way communication with their customers can simply get to know them better.

Scaling marketing campaigns

SMS messaging doesn’t have to be the only or the main customer communication tool employed by a business. It can complement other communication channels, giving customers a greater choice as to how they wish to contact the business. Merging SMS and email marketing is certainly a good idea. Customers can easily switch between these two channels, depending on the device they are using at a given point in time.

Conversational 2 way sms use cases

Make it successful

Now that you know what value 2-way SMS messaging can bring to your business, you can start planning how to use it to your best advantage. There are some best practices that are always worth following, such as making sure that the customer gets a fast response, personalizing the service, and making it conversational.

Above all, make sure that customers consent to be added to your SMS subscriber list and can opt out of it when they no longer wish to receive your texts.



Grace Lau - Director of Growth Content, Dialpad

Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, a call routing service provider and an AI-powered cloud communication platform for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Grace Lau also published articles for domains such as Causeartist and DivvyHQ. Here is her LinkedIn.

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