On average, our church partners send more than a million texts every month! We realize that you have selected and trusted us to provide ways for you to quickly, easily, and reliably communicate with your community. We take that responsibility seriously. January 17, 2019 - February 6, 2019, we experienced an outage of text messages and serving reminders not being sent to AT&T subscribers. We are deeply sorry for the frustrations this outage caused you and your ministry.
First, we would like to confirm that SMS text delivery has now been fully restored to those with AT&T. That said, we would like to take a moment to share what happened, why a solution took a few weeks, and what you can expect moving forward.
On January 17th, AT&T made unexpected changes that resulted in AT&T no longer delivering text messages sent from our software. We immediately looked into this and quickly discovered that texts from Church Community Builder servers had been blocked by AT&T’s anti-spam technology. Unfortunately, getting unblocked required adopting some new ways of sending texts from our system, such as working with a 3rd party messaging service and reformatting certain texts that might trigger spam filters in the future.
Why the Change?
We’ve all had the annoying moment where a spam text or call makes its way to our phone. This is becoming a more prevalent battle for mobile carriers, and in their attempt to serve their customers, they are increasing the sophistication and complexity of their spam filters. Unfortunately, legitimate text services like Church Community Builder are now competing against spamming companies. Perfectly legitimate texts - like serving reminders or group texts sent from your church - now run the risk of appearing like spam. It is our increasing responsibility to make sure carriers recognize your text messages as safe to deliver.
AT&T’s recent changes not only required us to find ways to get off of their spam list, but to also ensure we don’t end up there again in the future. For example, we enlisted the help of a 3rd party messaging service, who’s entire business is specializing in large-scale SMS text messaging. This provides us with heightened expertise to keep our messaging service running and additional insights into the latest spam filter trends. One example of something we learned is how to better handle the use of “link shorteners.”
We know you often need to include clickable links in your texts, and many of you use “link shortener” services (like bit.ly or tinyurl.com) to shorten long URLs. As it turns out, those quickly flag a message as spam - one link inside one message - is all it takes for every message coming from Church Community Builder servers to be flagged as spam. Last week, we developed a new process that runs behind the scenes - it allows you to continue using link shorteners, while also notifying the carrier that the message is not spam.
So Now What?
For the foreseeable future, when you send a Group text, Twext, or Serving Reminder, there will be two experiences. Those with a carrier other than AT&T will continue with the previous texting experience without changes.
Meanwhile, as part of our updates, AT&T subscribers will now see texts messages coming from an 800 area code number. Ideally, this number will stay the same for your church for the foreseeable future (however, should a phone number be blocked for some reason by AT&T, our systems will automatically generate and start using a new number to keep you church messages sending.
Additionally, while the AT&T text messages might look like a textable number, this functionality has not changed. For ALL carriers, we remain a one-way texting system.
Pro Tip: We have always encouraged a best practice of ending your text messages with your Group Leaders name or your church name. This helps text recipients identify you as the sender and is still a best practice!
Why Different Experiences for Different Carriers?
Do you remember the last time you moved into a new house? There was a transition season as you switched over mailing addresses - that is a relative example of where we are at right now. We woke up one morning and discovered we needed to move. The first priority is to make sure all mail continues to get delivered, the second is to settle into the new house and to ultimately make it a home.
Our first priority was to restore AT&T service as quickly as possible. Now, we will begin the longer process of determining what this will look like, long-term, for other carriers. There are multiple factors involved in the changes we made and want to take the proper time to make the best decisions for you, our church partners. With the restoration of AT&T text message delivery, we can now brainstorm how to utilize these new tools and processes to further enhance our text messaging systems!
In closing, we truly appreciate the grace and patience you extended these past few weeks. We are thankful for your partnership and all you do for the kingdom! We look forward to continuing to improve our software to better serve you and your community!
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