Service lets your fingers do the talking
Blending the idea of increasing customer service through prompt responses with a growing preference for texting, TextUs.Biz's service allows businesses to use their landlines to send and receive texts via a computer or iPad.
"The phone has become a bottleneck because it can only handle one customer at a time," said Ted Guggenheim, TextUs.Biz president.
A lot of callers who are put on hold hang up, he said, and those who do leave a message often get caught up in the return call cycle.
"Texts are instantaneous and eliminate the back and forth," he said. "The 30-and-under generation are almost impossible to reach by the phone."
Businesses such as spas, auto repair shops, hotels and doctor's offices — places that get a lot of calls — can benefit the most from TextUs.Biz, according to Guggenheim. If a caller wants to set an appointment for that day, for example, the reservation can be made and confirmed without waiting for or making a call back.
"It can reduce the time for a business to respond to a call from about three minutes to 30 seconds," decreasing the company's own time on the phone, Guggenheim said. "Businesses can also use it as a marketing mechanism to broadcast a group message to let people know things like a certain clothing line is in, for example."
Educating the public about using texting to communicate with businesses is part of the strategy for TextUs.Biz. The company gives business clients marketing material to help customers in the behavior-modification process. These materials include window decals that advertise a company as 'text friendly' and cards to hand out to customers.
"It took four years for people to see the value of Twitter," Guggenheim said. "We're not trying to get people to do something that's all that different from what they already do. It's just about time. People don't question that it will become commonplace to do this. It's just a question of when."
In October TextUs.Biz offered services until the end of the year to about 100 businesses in the Boulder area. About 20 businesses have since signed up.
"We knew we needed to test it and get positive and negative feedback to get proof of concept," Guggenheim said. "About half of them became power users right away."
Developing the TextUs.Biz service has taken the better part of a year. "We built the application about a year ago," Guggenheim said, "and about four months ago we became able to use a business landline to text."
There are two other company founders — Andrew Kimmell and Chris Rechtsteiner — with two developers writing code for TextUs.Biz. A customer service representative will come aboard in January when the company launches nationally.
The subscription-based service is free for the first 100 messages a month and runs $24.99 monthly for 1,500 messages; $49.95 for 5,000 messages; and $74.95 for 10,000.
Guggenheim admits that competitors offer parts of what TextUs.Biz offers. "There are services that allow businesses to push out messages to customers," he said, "but they don't offer a two-way service or one that uses a business landline.
"That's part of our value proposition."
One of the company's business strategies is to partner with other agencies to resell its services. Those include merchant-services companies and VoIP providers.
Marketing plans include hooking up with tech blogs and tech publishers as well as social media. The latter will include TextUs.Biz customers promoting the service by telling their clients "how innovative they are" to be using it, Guggenheim said.
Startup costs for the company have reached about $125,000 in personal, family and friends' funds, Guggenheim said. "We'll be pitching to angel investors in the first quarter of 2013, looking for one-half million."
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