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TeleSignThink SMS is Easy eGuide

This guide walks through the 7 pitfalls of deploying a generic API service for mission-critical messaging. By "mission-critical" we are referring to messages that absolutely, positively have to get there and include registration, authentication, password reset, and user-generated messages that are revenue and brand impacting.

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TeleSignThink SMS is Easy eGuide

  1. 1. THINK SMS IS EASY?Seven Pitfalls to Avoid WhenSending SMS MessagesAll it takes is a quick glance at a millennial to know that SMS is huge.SMS, or text messaging, has become a vital part of nearly everyone’s dailylife and now businesses of all types are realizing that SMS is an ideal way todirectly connect with their customers. Companies are leveraging SMS for avariety of communications including verification messages, shipment orappointment alerts, and mass-marketing offers.Before you sign-up for a generic SMS API service and start sending SMSmessages, let’s get a few things straight:Mobile instant messagingis growing at a rate of37% per year and willrepresent some 35% ofmessaging traffic in2016.1Setting the Stage1. SMS is not easy. The infrastructure was never intended to reliablymanage the volume of SMS messages sent around the world.2. There are different types of messages that have varying levels ofurgency and importance. Accordingly, there are also differentend-user tolerances for message delays and failures.A TeleSign Guide
  2. 2. TELESIGN 2It seems pretty simple. You integrate the APIinto your website or set-up a communicationpath in your marketing department and startsending. That’s the easy part, but it is onething to send a SMS message, it is quiteanother to actually deliver it.Generic SMS API services serve an importantrole in sending SMS messages to a massaudience (e.g., a marketing campaign) whenthere is higher tolerance for message delaysand even dropped messages. For importantuser-generated or security messages,companies have a much higher expectationfor delivery, transparency and speed.A quality practice is a prerequisite for any SMSmessaging service that needs to delivermessages anywhere in the world withinseconds of the request.Authentication codes, important alerts, andother mission-critical messages require ahigher level of diligence to ensure they getdelivered, every time, and without latency.This e-Guide will walk you through the sevenpitfalls of deploying a generic SMS API servicefor mission-critical messages. For thesemessages, you need a specialized messagingservice that includes the systems, processes,and network connections to optimize deliveryrates and minimize latency on a global scale.All of the incremental services that bolsterthe API are necessary ingredients to mission-critical message delivery and why the mostvisible and recognized web properties trustTeleSign.THINKSMSISEASY?ATeleSignGuidePerson-to-Person (P2P) Application-to-Person (A2P)Both of these types of messages leverage an API call.Attribute Marketing Mission-criticalRequested by Unsolicited User requested(opt-in)Message type SpecialoffersAlerts,authentication,password resetsOptimal DeliveryRatesDesired RequiredMessageLatencyTolerated Not toleratedWebsite / AppIntegrationMinimal Premium placedon userexperience<< CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGEThis table delineates some of the differences betweenmarketing vs. mission-critical messages
  3. 3. TELESIGN 3IT SOUNDS EASY.You send an SMS, the other person receivesit, and that’s that. The days of pretending thatyou didn’t get an SMS are as dated asblaming your spam filter on a misplacedemail. Wrong. SMS is hard, delivery is noteasy, and the path to the handset is complex.Typically SMS messages go through multiplehops and multiple “middlemen” beforereaching their final destination. Thesemiddlemen also known as SMS aggregatorspartner with mobile operators to offerwholesale SMS services at reduced rates.Unfortunately, with each additional hop, theprobability of failure increases. Generic APIservices often lack direct connections tomobile operators for any of their routes andrely exclusively on SMS aggregators to getthe message frompoint A to point B.Without these direct connections, there aremore hops, and each hop creates anopportunity for failure and makes it moredifficult to troubleshoot if there are deliveryissues.Mission-critical messaging services canprovide tangible value since they haveinvested in the processes to optimize globaldelivery. They have deeper relationships withthe telcos and mobile network operators(MNOs) to quickly course-correct whendelivery issues inevitably happen.For marketing messages, generic APIs maybe perfectly sufficient. But, for organizationsusing SMS for two-factor authentication,password resets, shipment notifications, andother business process messaging,purpose-built APIs coupled with directoperator connections ensure that messagesare delivered, not just sent.PITFALL #1LACKING DIRECT CONNECTIONS ON A GLOBAL SCALETHINKSMSISEASY?ATeleSignGuideWhen a SMS is sent, it can either berouted directly to the MNO or traverseacross multiple aggregators. Eachadditional aggregator means additionalhops and additional points of failure.
  4. 4. TELESIGN 4PITFALL #2UNDERESTIMATINGTHE OPERATIONALIMPACT OF DEPLOYINGA GENERIC APISERVICEFor companies relying on SMSfor user-initiated or authenticationmessaging, operationalinvestments have to be made toensure that messages areconsistently and reliably delivered.These investments are usually notbaked into most SMS API services,but come standard with mostmission-critical messagingservices. These investments take avariety of forms, but generallyinclude the following processes:Automated FailoversA systems architecture is requiredto automatically switch over toalternative delivery routes tooperators in real-time ifperformance degrades. Individualmessages should be retriedthrough one or more routes inresponse to failures, delays orother network conditions.Global Carrier MonitoringMission-critical messaging requiresdynamic monitoring of messagedelivery across global mobileoperators. Ideally, the provider hasdirect access to these operators toescalate any performance issuesand make necessary routingchanges in real time. Custom Reporting &AlertingCustomers increasingly require24x7 access to transaction history,billing activity, and traffic reporting.In addition, real-time alerting cannotify customers when trafficpatterns materially change frombenchmark norms.Dedicated SWAT teamsWhen there is a persistent issuewith a specific route or carrier, aMessage Assurance Team canisolate the problem, identifytrends and course-correct —often before the operatorsthemselves identify the problem.Managing Short &Long CodesThe right blend of short codes andlong codes will depend on the usecase, the markets, the mobileoperator, the volume of messages,and a variety of other variables.  Generic API services generallyrelegate this management to thecustomer while full servicemessaging solutions assume thiscomplexity and oversight.A final operational consideration iswhether you want to allocate yourscarce technical resources tomanaging message delivery. If youare going to staff message deliveryoperations with existingheadcount, what is the operationalcost? For many companies, thatcost is just too high.The decision to leverageSMS for your company’simportant businesscommunications is morecomplicated than justcoding to an API.THINKSMSISEASY?ATeleSignGuide
  5. 5. TELESIGN 5SMS delivery is not guaranteed. In fact,various studies have shown that around 1%to 5% of messages are lost entirely, evenduring normal conditions, and others maynot be delivered until long after theirrelevance has passed. Consequently, it’svital to measure delivery rates, especially ifthose messages are mission-critical like two-factor authentication.Most APIs allow you to process deliveryreceipts to determine the status of themessage (i.e., delivered, failed, expired, etc.).But, some carriers don’t provide deliveryconfirmation, or provide them sporadically,and often there is an incremental charge forproviding delivery receipts.Moreover, published delivery rates areusually defined as delivered to gateway,which more or less means “Hey, we sent themessage.” But, there’s a lot that can happento a message when it’s en route. Addinginsult to injury, there have been documentedcases where providers published fakedelivery reports that confirmed a messagewas delivered when, in fact, it never was.In addition to end-userfrustration, undelivered SMSmessages are quite costly.Companies are charged forevery SMS sent, even if someof those messages don’t getdelivered. While individualSMS messages cost justpennies to send, companies,who send large volumes of SMS messageson a daily basis, may end up paying tens ofthousands of dollars for undeliveredmessages and never once get alerted.Generic SMS API services are not in thebusiness of providing this level of insight andvisibility. For messages that positively,absolutely have to get to end users, finding avendor that will partner with you to optimizetrue delivery rates is vital.PITFALL #3TRUSTING DELIVERY REPORTSIn the world of phone-basedauthentication, companies shouldcapture completion rates instead ofrelying on delivery receipts.The completion rate is the number ofsuccessful authentications (where theuser correctly inputted the one-timepasscode) divided by the number ofmessages sent.Since authentication messages includeone-time passcodes that the end userhas to enter into the website, companiescan capture actual completion rates.CompletionRateNumber of completedauthenticationsNumber of messages sent=THINKSMSISEASY?ATeleSignGuide
  6. 6. TELESIGN 6THINKSMSISEASY?ATeleSignGuidePITFALL #4MIXING YOUR MISSION-CRITICAL MESSAGING WITHSOMEONE ELSE’S MARKETING MESSAGESA number of emerging generic SMS APIservices mix their traffic, pumping criticalmessaging and mass-marketing messagesthrough the same pipe. The problem is thatit can stall or prevent the delivery of criticalmessages since every provider only has afinite amount of capacity available.For example, when there is a massive SMSmarketing campaign during the SuperBowl, the delivery pipe can clog and causequeuing of security messages,important alerts, and otheruser-generated messages.The other big problem with mixedtraffic is that operators may shutdown certain routes if theysuspect spam. Countries havedifferent regulations that complicatedeliverability.India, for example, has apervasive Do Not Call list forSMS messages. In the US,the Telephone ConsumerProtection Act and theControlling the Assault ofNon-Solicited Pornographyand Marketing Act ban manySMS messages. Often,security and authenticationmessages get lost or delayedif they are commingled in routes withmass-marketing messages. Unfortunately,most customers have little recourse whenthis happens.Within some markets, like India, marketingmessages can only be sent duringspecified time periods (e.g., between9:00am to 9:00pm), while mission-criticalmessages can be sent anytime. But, tohave your messages classified as “mission-critical,” your SMS traffic must be vettedand deemed allowable. Companies riskhefty fines if they send marketingmessages outside of these designatedwindows. In fact, some operators willrequire their clients to sign liability waiversattesting to the type of traffic being sent.Security messaging requires the highestlevel of on-time deliverability because ofwhat’s at stake – your brand, yourcustomers’ identities, and even yourdownstream revenues. Businesses need aSMS platform that does not comminglemission-critical messages with “Get RichQuick” or “Look Younger Now” marketingmessages.
  7. 7. TELESIGN 7THINKSMSISEASY?ATeleSignGuidePITFALL #5FORGETTING TOCONSIDER THEEND-USEREXPERIENCEThe end-user experience is exceedinglyimportant and often overlooked bygeneric SMS API services. When addingmessaging to your service, make sure toconsider:Localization: It is a far better and amore personal experience if you candeliver SMS messages in the user’snative languages and dialects. It is not atrivial exercise to create and maintaintranslations of the 80+ languagesand dialects of the world.Message Encoding: Just because youhave translated your SMS, does not meanit will arrive in the desired character set.Double-byte characters need to beencoded to arrive in the proper format.Unicode has become a universal standardfor message encoding, but it still needs tobe translated into a protocol thathandsets understand. In Europe, thatprotocol is GSM, in Japan that is Shift-JIS, and most other languages arecovered by UTF-8 and UCS-2.Long SMS Support: A SMS messagemaxes out at 160 characters, and forlanguages such as Chinese, themaximum SMS size is as low as 70characters. What happens if yourmessage is over the max amount? ‣ Truncation: Many providers willsimply send the first 160 charactersand drop the rest of themessage.  Unfortunately, thisfrequently means that critical securitycodes or key information is left out ofthe SMS.  ‣ Simple messagesplitting: Some providerswill split the message andsend it in multipleparts.  Customers receiveall the content, but criticalinformation may be split intoseparate messages.  Thisforces the user to cut and pastepieces of an email or URL backtogether on their mobile device.‣ Messages Out of Order: Whenmessages are split they are sent asseparate message packets and canbe reassembled in the wrong order.Some times, parts of the message gomissing or get delayed.The best way to avoid these issues isto use a provider that offers smartmessage splitting and long messagesupport (i.e., splitting, sending andreassembling messages over 160characters).Instead of dropping characters over 160,long SMS support splits an SMSmessage and sends it to the user’shandset with the instruction toreassemble the message in order as oneSMS. In the event that a handset or operator isunable to reassemble an SMS as onemessage, smart message splittingseparates a long SMS without breakingcritical pieces of information, such asURLs and email addresses. The end userwill receive multiple SMS messages, butimportant information will remain intact.
  8. 8. TELESIGN 8THINKSMSISEASY?ATeleSignGuideUser Experience/Interface: Fortwo-factor authentication and many otherenterprise use cases, you need the entireexperience to integrate seamlessly intoyour website and provide straightforwardinstructions how the verification processworks. A full-service messaging servicecan provide UX/UI best practices that,when implemented, minimize friction andend-user frustration.End-user Adoption: Companiesdeploying two-factor authentication needto develop a compelling messagingstrategy to educate their end users aboutthe process. When users understand thatthese extra precautions are in place toprotect their accounts, transactions andidentities, your brand can be enhanced.Offering a Voice Option: Offering voicecalls as a complement to SMS isn’t justabout offering your users a choice, it’s fastbecoming a business requirement. Incertain countries, SMS is not as reliable asvoice and a voice call may be the only wayto reach most users in these markets.Transaction Workflows: Sinceauthentication and other mission-criticalmessaging projects often touch otherdepartments, it’s a best practice todiagram how these departments andresources will be impacted by theimplementation. This is where a dedicatedClient Services team can pay big dividendsby creating integration workflows forsuccessful internal rollouts.Generic SMS API solution companies arenot in the business of providing bestpractices around the user experience. Formission-critical or user-generatedmessaging thinking through the userexperience will reap tangible benefits interms of brand reputation, increasedregistrations and customer retention.<< CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE53% of mobile phone users surveyedpreferred receiving a voice call to anSMS. Some users may not know how touse SMS, may not own anSMS-enabled phone, or do not havemessaging plans and are charged on aper message basis.2
  9. 9. TELESIGN 9Although API integration is usuallypretty straightforward, support is key whentroubleshooting delivery issues.Support costs from generic APIservices are often overlooked andmore expensive than anticipated.These API services often include freeemail support during business hours,but charge as much as $5,000 permonth for live 24/7 support.An online knowledge base or accessto log files is one thing, but when youare experiencing delivery issues, youneed proactive guidance from asupport agent who is well versed inthe nuances of global SMS delivery.It’s one thing to be transparent aboutoutages, quite another to provideproactive guidance about how yourproblem is being resolved.PITFALL #6THINKING YOU CANGET BY WITHOUTSUPPORTDo they charge on a monthly or per-incident basis?Do they offer 24x7 support at noadditional cost?Do they offer integration (on-boarding)support?Do they offer proactive alerting or access toa client portal?Do they offer SLAs and Service LevelObjectives (uptime, technical supportresponse times)?THINKSMSISEASY?ATeleSignGuide5 Questions About SupportYou Should Ask YourGeneric API Provider12345
  10. 10. TELESIGN 10Phone-Number Cleansing: When usersenter their phone number in a form, they arenot always properly formatted for delivery ininternational markets. Phone numbers oftenhave to be “cleansed” by adding orremoving leading digits in the phone numberbased on the country, city, and messagetype (SMS vs. voice):Phone number cleansing can improve SMSdeliverability by more than 10% in mostmarkets. It takes some telco expertise,including a working knowledge of the ever-changing international policies and dialingcodes, to dynamically auto-correct phonenumbers.SMS-Enabled Phones: If you are sendingSMS messages to a landline or a non-SMS-enabled phone, the SMS will simply not getthere. Knowing this can improvedeliverability, reduce the number of messageretries, and improve the overall userexperience.Porting and Other Roadblocks: It can behard to correctly route an SMS to a userwho has ported their number from oneoperator to another. Not all SMS providerscan send messages to ported numbers or toVoIP phones (e.g. Google Voice or Pingerphone numbers).Phone number attributes play an importantrole in establishing a user’s online identityand mitigating online fraud. These attributesare increasingly being used by leading webproperties as part of a risk-basedauthentication approach to identify high-riskphone numbers. Unfortunately, most genericAPI services don’t provide any data aboutthe phone type or cleanse the phonenumber, which can collectively have a bigimpact on deliverability and user experience.Having some intelligence about the phonenumber — even just the phone type —candramatically improve deliverability.PITFALL #7NOT KNOWING ANYTHINGABOUT THE PHONE NUMBERYOU’RE REACHINGPhone Number CleansedNumberNotes0 44 0 330 808 0081 44 330 808 0081 Remove leadingzero44 44 330 808 0081 44 330 808 0081 Remove doublecountry code54 1151591111 54 91151591111 Append a 9 to thebeginning of phonenumbers for voicecalls to mobilenumbers inArgentina.THINKSMSISEASY?ATeleSignGuide
  11. 11. TELESIGN 11THINKSMSISEASY?ATeleSignGuidePITFALL 1: LACKING DIRECT CONNECTIONS ON A GLOBAL SCALEDo you have direct connections for my desired routes?Are you a Mobile Network Operator?If there is message queuing or dropped messages how do you troubleshoot the issue?PITFALL 2: UNDERESTIMATING THE OPERATIONAL IMPACT OF DEPLOYING A GENERIC API SERVICE?Do you have multiple failovers to other carriers if there are performance issues?Do you dynamically monitor mobile operators in real time?Do you manage short and long codes, or do I need to manage that globally?Do you have experienced messaging professional to manage the ongoing complexity and oversight formission-critical messaging?PITFALL 3: TRUSTING DELIVERY REPORTSDo you rely exclusively on delivery reports to measure performance?Can you help me track completion rates for my authentication messages?PITFALL 4: MIXING YOUR MISSION-CRITICAL MESSAGING WITH SOMEONE ELSE’S MARKETING MESSAGESDo you leverage your messaging pipe for sending mass-marketing campaigns?Does your service commingle marketing and mission-critical message types?How  do  you  manage  messaging  in  countries  with  “Do  Not  Call”  laws?Are  your  short-­‐codes  whitelisted  in  countries  (e.g.,  India)  that  restrict  markeBng  messages?PITFALL 5: FORGETTING TO CONSIDER THE END-USER EXPERIENCEDo  you  localize  and  encode  SMS  messages  in  the  languages  of  your  users?Can  you  provide  best  pracBces  for  website  integraBon  for  authenBcaBon  and  verificaBon  messaging?Do  you  offer  a  voice  opBon  for  message  delivery?Can  you  provide  any  guidance  on  how  to  improve  end-­‐user  adopBon  for  authenBcaBon?How  do  you  handle  SMS  messages  that  are  longer  than  160  characters  in  length?  KEY QUESTIONSTO ASK YOUR SMS PROVIDER
  12. 12. TELESIGN 12THINKSMSISEASY?ATeleSignGuideKey Questions to Ask Your SMS ProviderPITFALL 6: THINKING YOU CAN GET BY WITHOUT SUPPORTDo  you  offer  free  24x7  live  support?Is  your  support  staff  well  versed  in  SMS  and  troubleshooBng?Do  you  offer  integraBon  or  on-­‐boarding  support?Do  you  offer  a  customer  portal  or  proacBve  alerBng?Do  you  offer  SLAs  or  Service  Level  ObjecBves?PITFALL 7: NOT KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT THE PHONE NUMBER YOU’RE REACHINGDo  you  “cleanse”  phone  numbers  to  auto-­‐correct  improperly  formaVed  phone  numbers?Can  you  detect  whether  the  SMS  is  being  sent  to  a  landline  phone?Can  you  send  SMS  messages  to  ported  or  VoIP  phones?<< CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE
  13. 13. TELESIGN 13Deploying a generic API-based solution is never just a “set it and forget it”proposition. The complexity of global mobile communications requiresboth real-time monitoring and troubleshooting for critical SMSmessaging. This requires dedicated operational resources, carrierconnections, and organizational focus to address delivery problems whenthey occur. And they will occur.If you don’t have a surplus of skilled telecomprofessionals, you may need to revisit this decision togo it alone with a generic API service without thesupporting monitoring and data services.TeleSign addresses these pitfalls head-on with acommitment to:‣ Providing crucial services, built around themessaging API, to optimize global messagedelivery‣ Reducing the points of failure by eliminating the number of message hops due to ourdirect carrier connections‣ Isolating and troubleshooting delivery issues rather than relying solely on delivery receiptsat face value‣ Sending ONLY mission-critical messaging and not commingling traffic with low-quality,high-volume marketing messages‣ Focusing on the customer experience with intuitive website and app integration services,localized messaging and encoding, and multiple messaging modes (SMS and voice)‣ Supporting customers and developers, 24x7x365, at no additional expense withexperienced messaging professionals‣ Providing mobile data associated with a phone number (e.g., the phone type) and phonenumber cleansing services to boost deliverabilityClosing ThoughtsTHINKSMSISEASY?ATeleSignGuideAt TeleSign, we’re experts atauthentication, and to do that we hadto become experts in globalmessaging. While there’s a messagingAPI at the heart of our services,TeleSign layers on additional servicesand processes to ensure reliable andtimely messaging on a global level.
  14. 14. TELESIGN 14Every second, of every day, TeleSign protects the worlds largest Internet and Cloudproperties against fraud. TeleSigns security and authentication products provide aneasy-to-implement and powerful method for identifying and substantially reducingonline fraud and spam. The company protects 2.5 billion downstream accounts inmore than 200 countries and territories, offering localization services in 87 languagesand dialects. In 2012, TeleSign ranked #23 on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500™and was named Visionary in Gartners User Authentication Magic Quadrant. TeleSignis a Summit Partners backed company.For more information about TeleSign, visit TeleSignSources:1 Informa Telecoms & Media, Despite incursions from OTT providers of IM services, SMS retains dominance inmessaging revenues and traffic through 2016 (April 2012)2 Pew Internet and American Life Project on Americans and Text Messaging (September 2011)THINKSMSISEASY?ATeleSignGuide

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  • philbenavides

    May. 14, 2015
  • HumBum

    May. 15, 2015

This guide walks through the 7 pitfalls of deploying a generic API service for mission-critical messaging. By "mission-critical" we are referring to messages that absolutely, positively have to get there and include registration, authentication, password reset, and user-generated messages that are revenue and brand impacting.


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