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Messaging - SMS Common Issues and Questions

How Much Does It Cost?

The current pricing for SMS Messaging is $15.00 per billing cycle (per month) for up to 500 outgoing message segments. There is no limit or cost on incoming messages.

Outgoing messages above the monthly allocation of 500 are charged at the rate of 1.5¢ ($0.015) per message segment. Fees will be assessed at the end of each billing cycle and charged to the credit card we have on file.  Please see the FAQ below to understand what a message "segment" is.

Note that the pricing may change at any time, based on the rates we are charged by our telecoms partner.

What is a Message "Segment"?

The word "segment" is important to understand when it comes to SMS. Technically, the character limit for a single SMS message is 160 characters. However, most modern phones and networks support message concatenation: they split large messages into individual SMS messages (called "segments") and then re-create the large message at the receiving end.

OwnerRez does this as well.  In the interface, we allow you to send up to 1,600 characters in a single "message", only it is divided into individual segments of 160 characters under the characters when transmitted through our carrier just like the phone networks (Verizon, ATT, etc) do.  When messages come into OwnerRez, it works the same way.  We detect multiple segments and group them together in one message so that it's readable in the guest conversation as a normal message thread.

If you attach an image to your message, there is an additional "segment" for that as well.

Consider the following message:

Hi John, good morning! I sent you a pre-arrival email this morning with everything you need to know about Beach Bungalow cottage. Please read that thoroughly and let me know if you have any questions! ☕️

This message is 203 characters long which pencils out to 2 segments (203 ÷ 160 = 1.26, so we round up to 2 segments).  If the message included a photo attachment, we would count it as 3 segments.

However, it's actually more complicated than that.  The above message contains an emoji, and so that changes the encoding of the message.  To accommodate a message with emoji or other special characters, our carrier has to use a different character set called UCS-2. Besides emojis, you should also be careful with accented characters. Regular encoding allows for some accented characters such as ñ, à, and ö, but does not include others such as á, í, or ú.  If the encoding changes to UCS-2, the segment count will increase significantly.  Only 67 characters are allowed which means the above message would actually be 4 segments.  Getting rid of that emoji at the end would drop it back to 2 segments because it would be able to be sent with regular encoding.  Something as small as a single emoji or special quotes (") in the message can easily double the number of segments in the message.  Be careful when writing your messages, particularly automated ones that get fired off many times per month, that you aren't increasing the segments with special characters.  To be clear, you can use emoji and special characters all you want, but the price of usage may significantly increase.  If you're interested in details about how encodings work in SMS messages, check out Twilio's article "What the heck is a segment".

You might wonder why "segments" matter at all.  After all, if we do the work under the covers of splitting and re-combining segments for you, what difference does it make?  The answer is - it matters for billing purposes.

As we say above, we bill according to the segment, not the message.  If you send messages that are short in nature, your billing won't be affected. Text messages were designed to provide short cogent information to the recipient and should be crafted as such.  Notice in the above example, the sender is telling the guest to "look for an email" instead of providing all the information in the text message - this is how messages to guests should be crafted.

If you send long messages that are multiple paragraphs in length, you are likely being billed for many segments and the included 500 segments per month will run out quickly.  We have noticed that some users have email-sized bodies crammed into SMS messages which cost the user as many as 10 segments in a single send.  You should craft your SMS messages to be short in nature and point the guest to look for an email or web page with the full information.

Use our special SMS Segment Calculator to see the details of your message so that you know how special characters and emojis affect the overall length and segment count.

How Do I Turn It On?

Go to Settings > Messaging > SMS Numbers. Choose the “Create Phone” button. You will NOT be messaging from your personal phone number. You will be creating a new number from our database of available numbers. Enter the area code you’d like your messages to come from and “Search”. If we do not have any numbers assigned to that area code, please choose another area code. (Our telephony operator has millions of available numbers, but not all area codes are covered.)

Choose a phone number you like and select the “Claim” button beside that number. (When you click “Claim” the messaging service will be enabled and that number will be added to your account. You will be charged as shown above.) Please Note: numbers displayed are those available at that moment. There is a possibility someone else may select that same number and complete their set-up before you, which will result in an error message at the end of the Create Phone page. You’ll need to go back to the page where you input the area code and select a different number.

On the “Create Phone” page enter a name for the number – a business name or a personal one.

On that same page, select how you’d like to handle incoming voicemail messages: You may use a pre-recorded message (one that you’ve provided) or you may select “text-to-speech”. If “text-to-speech” is chosen, you will type the message you want a caller to hear, and an electronically generated voice will “read” the message.

If you want voicemail messages to always be forwarded to another number, enter that number in “Forwarding Phone Number.” The message will still be available within your OR account, also. If you decide to forward to another phone, be sure to select what incoming number would you like to see displayed on that phone:

  • the actual number that sent the original message (e.g. your guest’s number)
  • your own OwnerRez SMS Message number, so you know it's an OwnerRez message

Can I use my own phone number?

Unfortunately not.  While it is technically possible to transfer phone numbers between carriers, if you've ever done that with your cellphone you know it is very complicated, time-consuming, and error prone.  At this time, we don't support that - you'll just have to pick one of the numbers we offer.

Can I Have More Than 1 Number?

The system was built to make it possible to have multiple numbers.  However, only a few users have had that functionality turned on.  At the moment, we're limiting that until we get more feedback about general usage.  If you are interested in this capability, please contact the Helpdesk.

How Do I Send an SMS Message To My Guest?

There are two ways to send SMS messages to a guest.

  1. From within their individual booking. Once in the booking, look at the top right under the Booking # and click on the “Conversation” menu item. This will take you to a page where you can type the message. If this is an Airbnb guest, you will have the choice of sending the message via the Airbnb messenger or through the OR SMS messaging feature. If you choose the SMS, you will notice the guest’s phone number is automatically selected. (If this is not an Airbnb guest, that option will be grayed out and is not available.) Just type your message and hit send. You can also attach a photo or other file (only 1 per message).
  2. Through the CRM tab. If this is the FIRST time you’ve sent an SMS message to this specific guest, go to CRM and select “Contacts.” From the list displayed, find the guest you wish to message and click on the “Pencil" icon to the left of the guest’s name. On the next screen, from the left hand menu, choose “Conversation.” If there is a phone number associated with that guest record, you will be taken to the screen where you can type your message.

What Menu Is It In?

You can find all your SMS Messages, Incoming and Outgoing, under CRM > Inbox in the Main OwnerRez menu. This is in addition to seeing messages within a booking under the “Conversation” menu item.

Can I Send Messages from My Phone?

Yes and no.

  • You cannot send or receive from your phone through your phone's main dialer/SMS app.
  • You can use the OR website on your smartphone to see and respond to SMS messages. Just like on a computer, send and receive messages within a booking by using the “Conversation” item, or go to CRM > Inbox to see existing conversations.

How Do I Know If Someone Sent Me a Message?

1. You can watch the CRM > Inbox counters on the menu which will light up when new messages have arrived. This is the case for both Airbnb and SMS messages.  We know that we need more alerts for seeing new messages, and it's at the top of our list.  It's the first thing every user has pointed out.

2. There is a system alert for SMS Messages that will fire off an email anytime one comes in.  This email will be sent to the main email address on your account.  It will include the message itself and where it came from.

Note that you cannot reply to the SMS message by replying to the email - instead, you'll need to click on the included link to go to the OwnerRez inbox, and you can reply from there.

Where Can I See Messages Exchanged With Someone?

Within a specific Booking, go to the “Conversation” menu item in the upper, right, under the Booking #. In addition, you can use the CRM tab from the main OwnerRez menu (CRM > Inbox) to see folks you’ve messaged with – both SMS Messages and ones sent through Airbnb.

Can I use SMS anywhere?

At present, OwnerRez SMS capabilities are only available from numbers based out of North America, and can only send to numbers that are in the 50 United States and Canada.  Note that, for historical reasons, US possessions such as Puerto Rico and various other islands, while legally being in the US and using phone numbers formatted similarly to US numbers, aren't actually and thus cannot receive SMS messages from OwnerRez at present.

This is not a technical limitation - it's an economic one, as we have not yet worked out a suitable way to charge for international telecom service, whose systems are generally billed very differently. We intend to add worldwide capability in the future.

We offer both United States and Canadian telephone numbers for the SMS service.

How do you know which phone numbers are mobile and can receive text messages, and which are landlines that can't?

You don't. We can't either. There's simply no reliable, automatic way to detect this.

If you send a text to a non-mobile number, in most cases the phone company will telephone that number and, if someone answers the phone, read them text-to-speech of your text message.

When you are configuring email templates to send messages to your guest, you can use the {CPHONEPR} field code for the primary phone number, which will usually (but not always) be their mobile.  Or, you can use the {CPHONE} field code to send to all of their phone numbers, not knowing which are or aren't mobile, but hopefully at least one will be, so the message will work.

What if I get an error message when attempting to send?

If there's a failure when sending an SMS, you'll get an error message letting you know what happened. Sometimes this can be because the guest entered a wrong number or the phone isn't accessible and that will be stated in the error message. 

Very occasionally you'll get a 30008 Unknown error. Here's the description from our carrier:

"Message Delivery - Unknown error

If a message you sent is not delivered to the end device and returns a 30008 error code, this means that delivery of your message failed for unknown reasons.

When we receive a very generic error from our carrier partner that we have no further details about, we associate the message with the error code 30008, letting you know that we truly don't know what caused this error from the provider."

You can try again and see if it works -- it's possible the phone is off or roaming or isn't reachable for some reason.

Another thing to try is sending a shorter message to the phone, with simple content that does not include any special characters. This would give our support team an idea as to whether the failure is related to concatenation or character encoding.  Error code 21617 often indicates that the message was too long - messages longer than 1600 character can cause issues.

If you know it should work, such as if you can successfully text the number directly via other devices, send a few tests from OwnerRez and send in a support ticket and we'll escalate it up to the carrier.

What happens if someone tries to place a regular phone call to my OwnerRez SMS number?

At present, we don't have any interface for you to receive, answer, or place calls using your SMS number. However, we do allow the guests to leave a voicemail message, which is then forwarded to your primary email address. This includes the phone number that called you, a transcription of the message, and a link to a recording of the message that you can listen to.  You can respond to them in any other way.

It is also possible to configure your OwnerRez SMS number to forward calls (not text messages, just actual voice calls) to another specified number.

This must be a North American phone number - overseas numbers won't work.  If you are overseas, you can likely obtain a valid North American number from Google Voice or a similar service that will work.

You can select what you want to appear in your Caller ID when a call is forwarded - the original phone number of whoever is calling you so you could call them back if needed, or, your OwnerRez phone number so you know to answer the phone appropriately.

You can see the history of calls in Tools > Communication History.

I got an email saying "The recipient's carrier blocked your message."

Yes, that happens sometimes - phone carriers have spam detectors, much like email. Unfortunately, when this occurs, there is very little that can be done to remove the spam block. We simply let you know, so you can attempt to contact your guest some other way.

Blocking is done on a per-number basis. There's no correlation between your personal cell phone, or a ClickSend number, or an OwnerRez reserved (Twilio) number. The carrier and device will evaluate each independently, and block or not block based on whatever internal rules are set by them. You can read more about message blocking here:

https://support.twilio.com/hc/en-us/articles/360022449893-SMS-Carrier-Filtering-in-the-United-States-and-Canada 

The major carriers are working alongside VOIP services on something called A2P Messaging that will increase the brand and sending reputation of apps that send SMS messages but it's not yet widely supported.  We're watching it and will jump on it as soon as it arrives.

If you find you are getting a high rate of blocks for your messages, you may wish to consider the following:

  • Verify that your guests are actually providing mobile numbers. We can't currently distinguish between mobile, VOIP, or landline numbers. Some of these will fail because the device or carrier simply does not support SMS at all.
  • Try including "Reply STOP to unsubscribe" at the end of all your messages.  If the guest actually does reply STOP, our SMS service provider will automatically block us from sending any further texts to that number.  This cannot be reversed.
  • If you're not tied to the current number, try deleting your SMS number and getting a new one. However, you might encounter the same issue again in the future if your messaging patterns or text are triggering the carrier's spam filters. 

Cannot send an SMS message to myself

You should set up the SMS message to send a message to your cell phone or some other phone number. The SMS phone number you register through OwnerRez is a real phone number, supplied by our telcomm carrier, and it is not possible for a phone number to send a text message to itself. You would have to send a SMS message to a different phone number that you own, or you could send yourself an email message instead of SMS. The common use for SMS messages and triggers is to remind guests, housekeepers and third parties about things relating to a booking.

Can I forward my OwnerRez SMS number to my Google Voice number?

You can forward voice calls made to your OwnerRez SMS number to your Google Voice or any other valid North American telephone number, as discussed above.  You cannot forward SMS text messages to any other number.

If a guest has multiple phone numbers or a booking has multiple guests, where do my SMS messages get sent?

Generally, you use field codes in your message templates, so that OwnerRez will automatically fill in the correct information when an individual message is sent.

If you use the {CPHONE} merge code to send messages to (which is the default), then the SMS will be sent to all phone numbers on the booking and/or guest contact.

If you only want to send to the first number on the contact, switch the TO on the template to use the {CPHONEPR} field code.

Can photo images or other files (PDFs) be attached to messages?

Yes, you can attach photos and other files to SMS messages. However, it's important to note the difference between images and other files (like PDFs) because they work in two different ways.

Images can be directly attached to a message and will be another segment on the message.  You have probably personally texted images to your friends, using your smart phone.  OwnerRez fully supports this same concept, and each SMS message can include an image that will work the same way and appear on the recipients' phone as an image.

If you attach a PDF or other type of document, that will result in the file URL being appended to the message. When the recipient sees the message, the file you attached won't show as an attachment but there will be a link that they can click on to download the file. In terms of message length, the PDF or file URL that is generated could add another segment to the message if the URL is long enough to get you over the max segment length, but if the message is short enough, there won't be an extra segments.  Images always add an additional segment.

What is an SMS Brand?

An "SMS Brand" is basically just a profile (ie. business name, phone, and address) that you provide to carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile that identify you when they are sending your SMS messages to their customers.  It's basically like Caller ID for SMS.  It tells the world who you are and continues to ride along with your SMS messages even if you change your SMS phone number.  It establishes a sending reputation so that the carriers know you're legit and don't flag your messages as spam or slow down their delivery.  For more details, read our SMS Brands support article.

What if my SMS Brand submission was rejected?

This should be rare, but if you do get a rejection, don't worry!  You can reconfirm your info is correctly entered and then resubmit.  One thing to try before you resubmit is, if there is the country code of "+1" on the front of your phone number, remove that before resubmitting.  Sometimes that is what can hang the SMS brand approval. Or if you'd rather, contact us and we can check on what went wrong.  Definitely if you get a second rejection, contact us for support.

Can I record my own voicemail greeting rather than just using the robot voice?

Yes! Go to Settings > SMS Numbers, and click on your number in the entry.  Select the option to "Use a pre-recorded file."

Then, upload a pre-recorded MP3 file with your desired greeting.  It'll be used for future incoming calls.

I want my incoming SMS notifications to go to more than one phone number.

This is a bit of a misunderstanding.  Incoming SMS messages, themselves, are not forwarded to any other phone number by SMS.  Instead, OwnerRez sends an email alert, which is sent to the main email address on your account.  At present, there is no function to send system alerts to multiple email addresses, but, most email clients provide the ability to filter for messages of certain types and forward them onward to other email addresses.

Whoever has login and/or admin access to your OwnerRez account will be able to see incoming SMS (and all other) messages, and respond to them in the CRM area.  This is available from any browser, including mobile devices.

Can I create and send group SMS messages?

No, OwnerRez does not support group SMS messages. While it is possible to set up a template to send the same message to multiple recipients, each recipient will receive their own message - they won't be all together in a group.

I used your SMS service for a bit and changed my mind and turned it off, what happens to my SMS phone number?

OwnerRez actually pays a monthly charge for each phone number in use, so if you cancel the service, the number is released and returned to our telecom provider within a few days so we aren't still paying for it.  It will be reissued to someone else - not necessarily an OwnerRez client, it could be anybody served by our provider.

"The recipient is currently unreachable."

This SMS response indicates that the phone number is unavailable due to a variety situations ranging from carrier issues, number is roaming, phone is switched off/disconnected, phone is to not receive SMS messages, etc.

Use an alternate communication method to the guest such as email or alternate phone.

What happens if a guest sends a photo via SMS?

Photos sent via SMS to your OwnerRez SMS number will appear in the Conversation. Note that files other than photos cannot be received by your SMS number.

OwnerRez says an SMS message was sent successfully, but my guest never got it.

Yes, well... Unfortunately, the SMS messaging system is a bit like email, and in some ways even less reliable. All we can do is to submit the message to the phone network via our communication provider. Sometimes, if there is something clearly wrong, we'll get an error message back - you can see several of those listed elsewhere in these support docs. Other times, though, the message just disappears into the aether, and there's no way to determine why. This is outside of the ability of OwnerRez, or anyone else really, to control or investigate, and is a reason why it is wise to use multiple separate channels of communication with your guests.