Six-and-a-half years ago, Brian and Jamey Elrod finished their meal at a restaurant in Chattanooga, TN, and looked around for their server. After waiting a while for the bill, wondering why they couldn’t get their server’s attention, they envisioned a solution to the lack of service.
What if you could text into the restaurant? The message could show up with the corresponding table number on a big screen that would alert the server of the table’s need. Texting would eliminate a lot of the back and forth between diner and server to help make the experience of dining out more efficient and enjoyable.
“Text Request was founded out of recognizing an opportunity to help businesses communicate,” Brian explained.
After more research and asking Rob Reagan to join as Text Request’s CTO, the company expanded to provide two-way conversation platforms using email and SMS for small and medium businesses (SMBs).
Rob explored the possible platforms and APIs to use as the foundation of Text Request and eventually landed on Twilio. “One of the reasons I love Twilio is the documentation and the attention to helping developers get up and running quickly is amazing.”
One of Text Request’s unique features is its ability to seamlessly translate texts to email and vice versa. For example, if you receive an inbound text, Text Request can transform the text into an email, forwarding it to your email address. Unique identifiable information is embedded in the message that allows you to reply to the email but the message is sent back to the recipient as a text.
To do this, Text Request uses a combination of Twilio SendGrid’s inbound parse webhooks and event webhooks to translate the text message and then Twilio’s SMS APIs to send the text back to the original user. Text Request was using the two communication channels before Twilio and SendGrid joined forces.
“When Twilio decided to purchase SendGrid it’s like when your two best friends decide to get married,” said Rob grinning.
Making multichannel easy for SMBs
During the initial stages of Text Request, there were very few companies that used SMS, and even fewer small, medium businesses. SMBs face a number of challenges when it comes to implementing and integrating new software.
“SMBs are not going to write and develop software. We give small and medium businesses a plug and play version of Twilio,” explained Brian.
By providing a simple, straightforward platform that does not require any programming knowledge, Text Request expanded the ways SMBs can engage with their customers.
In addition to little to no programming resources, small businesses may be interested in incorporating texting into their customer communications but they don’t have the time to learn a new system.
“We’re trying to meet them where they’re at with their workflow. If you want to stay in your email all day, okay we’ll let you text from your email,” explained Brian.
Rob shared an example of a financial planner that wanted to text their clients but due to regulations and IT security, the company wasn’t ready to adopt an SMS platform. When Text Request shared that you can text through email, the client was thrilled having already secured their email sending.
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Why multichannel matters
As a business that helps its customers incorporate multiple channels, Brian and Rob recognize the importance of providing customers their preferred method of communication.
“It impacts businesses profoundly on the profit and loss, the efficiency, every part of it,” explained Brian.
Rob expanded, “Using the channel the customer prefers reduces friction and allows you to meet them where they’re at.”
And especially now, when COVID-19 has changed the way we as a society communicate with each other. Customers aren’t as apt to walk into stores or speak with representatives in person, so empowering businesses to find ways to keep the conversation going is vital.
“We’ve been very busy since March. Customers are having to communicate very differently. They’ve had to implement new communications strategies almost overnight,” shared Brian.
Brian and Rob plan to expand Text Request to include Facebook, WhatsApp, and texting in international markets. As Text Request connects more businesses with their customers around the globe, the Twilio team is thrilled to see SMS and email working together to create a seamless communication experience.
Interested in learning more about email and SMS? Download our guide, Using SMS and Email to Engage Your Customers in 2020 to learn how to effectively communicate with your customers on the channels they prefer.