PagerDuty Blog

6 Best Practices for Seamless Notifications with International SMS

There’s no denying it: in today’s interconnected world, Application-to-Person (A2P) SMS notifications have become an integral part of our daily lives. Whether it’s receiving crucial banking alerts, getting updates from our favorite retailers, or even surfacing a notification from PagerDuty when your service is down–SMS keeps us informed and connected. But have you ever wondered about the intricacies behind this seemingly straightforward technology? It’s more complex than you might think.

Here at PagerDuty, we are dedicated to making sure that notifications reach their intended recipients and we’ve learned a lot about international SMS best practices along the way. In this blog, we delve into international SMS best practices and the critical factors that can make or break your SMS notifications game so that you know how to optimally configure your notifications to never miss a page from PagerDuty.

Navigating the Challenges of International SMS

Who better to share learnings than the woman behind the curtain, responsible for our notifications experience? We interviewed Abby Allen, Senior Product Manager of the Notifications Experience Team, to help shed light on the challenges of international A2P SMS and offer some insights for improving SMS deliverability. 

The Illusion of Reliability

Contrary to popular belief, Abby warns that “SMS is far less reliable than people think!” A2P SMS often faces disruptions due to network outages or planned maintenance, affecting message delivery. This unreliability is hidden behind the seamless communication we experience in person-to-person SMS, which is very opaque by design and helps prevent recipients from noticing issues with the underlying carrier networks. Imagine your business-critical alert going undelivered due to an SMS outage–the consequences could be detrimental. Therefore, PagerDuty “monitors our international deliverability and encourages everyone to have a backup channel to reach their users. If your system also offers SMS, make sure there’s a backup communication option for your users, too.”

Global Audience, Unique Needs

Expanding your SMS strategy beyond local borders is an opportunity to tap into a vast international market. Nonetheless, each region has its own regulations, carrier restrictions and user preferences.

Abby highlights some particularly challenging regulations. For instance, nearly every country requires opt-in to confirm a recipient actually wants SMS from you. An easy way to do that is to ask the recipient to “Reply Yes” or click a link to confirm. However…

  • France, Vietnam, and many others require all A2P SMS to be sent from an alphanumeric sender ID. This kind of SMS sender ID is required in a growing number of countries but doesn’t allow replies at all. Your “Reply Yes” won’t work for millions of international users.
  • Norway and other countries will actively block any URL from standard link shorteners like 
  • China and Romania block all SMS with any URL. This makes a workflow with a link to click to confirm opt-in challenging.
  • Singapore: to send SMS to Singapore, you must register your content templates with the Singapore government and pay substantial fees. Any content that doesn’t comply with your registered templates is subject to blocking and filtering. Even if you have a great workflow that doesn’t require replies or links, you still need to get it approved by a government entity. 

Neglecting the needs of your international audience can lead to missed opportunities and a less effective communication strategy.

Legal Compliance Matters

International SMS law is a complex web of regulations that can have financial repercussions for non-compliance. Sending unauthorized messages, violating content restrictions, or spamming recipients can result in penalties. Familiarize yourself with the regulations in your target regions to ensure your SMS campaigns are both effective and legally sound.

6 Best Practices for Optimizing Internal SMS and Notifications Settings

Understanding the challenges is only half the battle. Let’s explore actionable strategies to ensure your SMS notifications hit the mark–regardless of borders.

1. Default to Push, Keep SMS as Backup

Staying proactive is key. Regularly monitor the deliverability of your international SMS to identify potential issues. However, relying solely on SMS is risky. Consider SMS as a supplementary channel rather than your primary one. At the time of writing, push notifications are subject to far less international regulation and provide significantly more opportunities for engaging, interactive messaging. Abby recommends push notifications as one of the most reliable alternatives to ensure your message reaches its destination, along with email and phone calls.

If you’re a PagerDuty customer, why don’t you give the PagerDuty mobile app a go? This critical component of the PagerDuty Operations Cloud empowers our users with unmatched convenience, agility, and adaptability, ensuring a flawless orchestration of incident management and collaboration across borders. Better yet, push notifications within the app typically deliver 4 to 6 times faster than SMS.

2. Give Other Messaging Platforms a Go

Instead of sticking to traditional SMS, consider exploring other messaging platforms, like Slack, Microsoft Teams or WhatsApp. These platforms provide an international experience with fewer regulatory hurdles, making it easier to reach your global audience seamlessly.

PagerDuty is opening Early Access for Slack as an incident contact method to customers the week of September 20. If you’re interested in participating in the program, you can sign up here. Starting incident response in chat enables customers to immediately reap the benefits of improved MTTA and MTTR. The use of chat will directly tie collaboration to incident management, minimize context switching, and automate manual tasks thus enabling faster incident remediation.

3. Tailor Your SMS Content to Industry Regulations

Before hitting send, ensure your SMS content adheres to the regulations of the target region. Certain industries, such as banking, finance and adult content, face stringent content restrictions to protect citizens against spam. If you manage an application that supports any of these industries, involve your legal team to avoid violations that could lead to hefty fines and damage your brand’s reputation.

4. Plan for Change

SMS regulations are a moving target. What works today may not work tomorrow due to shifting requirements. Prepare for change by having backup communication channels in place and being adaptable to evolving regulations.

5. Optimize for User Experience

Put yourself in your users’ shoes. Craft SMS messages that are concise, relevant, and valuable. This user-centric approach enhances engagement and minimizes the chances of your messages being marked as spam.

6. Monitor Success at the Country Level

When conducting international SMS deliveries, it’s advisable not to depend solely on a single global SMS deliverability metric to validate the effectiveness of your campaigns. Instead, consider delving into insights at the country-specific level. This approach ensures that the achievements of larger and established markets with successful SMS campaigns don’t overshadow potential deliverability hurdles in your emerging ones.

As technology bridges global divides, international SMS remains a potent tool for businesses to connect with audiences worldwide. However, the path to SMS excellence is paved with challenges that demand proactive measures. By embracing best practices such as diverse messaging platforms, regulatory compliance and robust monitoring, you can unlock the true potential of international SMS and deliver unparalleled user experiences.

Ready to Dive Deeper?

Abby, along with PagerDuty colleagues Girish Shankarraman and Vivek Raj Saxena, joined Mandi Walls for a “How To Happy Hour” Twitch stream to share these learnings and more. Catch the recording to learn from their expertise and enhance your SMS strategies. Join in the discussion in the comments section.

If you’re interested in trying the PagerDuty mobile application, you can simply scan or click the QR Codes below and download it today.