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SMS via the Help Desk

Handle 2-way SMS conversations and benefit from automation and routing.

Beth-Ann Sher avatar
Written by Beth-Ann Sher
Updated over a week ago

Help Desk makes handling 2-way conversations super easy. Customers are able to reply to your outbound SMS and teammates can start or hold a conversation with them directly via the Help Desk.

Inbound SMS conversations

With 2-way SMS enabled, any inbound SMS messages will either create a new conversation from the Help Desk or be added to an existing open conversation. Using Help Desk workflows they’re already familiar with, teammates can handle SMS messages with ease.

Key things to know about SMS conversation behavior:

  • There can only ever be 1 SMS conversation open with a single customer at any time.

  • When a customer replies to an outbound SMS message, any existing SMS conversation is closed and a new conversation is started based on the reply.

  • When an inbound SMS is not the first reply to an outbound SMS:

    • If there is a conversation open or the customer’s last SMS conversation was closed less than 5 days ago, the SMS is added to that conversation (and reopened if necessary).

    • If there is no open conversation or the last open conversation was over 5 days ago, a new conversation is created.

Teammates can easily identify inbound SMS from the Help Desk. Every message will have a mobile icon and be marked as an “SMS” conversation in the composer:

Supported content types

SMS only supports certain content types and this changes slightly depending on whether a teammate is sending or receiving an SMS message. The table below shows you which content types are supported:






✅ Must be full format URLs in plain text which will be converted to hyperlink styling by the customer’s phone.


✅ Macros are supported but any non-text elements or formatting from the macro is stripped. We recommend separate macros for SMS.



🚫 Image sending is limited due to the additional costs incurred - if you need to send an image, we recommend sending a link to the image.

GIFs & Video






SMS segments

Similar to outbound SMS, longer messages are broken up into multiple segments to send from the Help Desk.

Teammates can see how many characters they’ve used and how many segments their message will be before they send it:

These segments will be stitched back together into one single message by the customer’s phone.

Each segment adds to the cost of the message. Learn more about segment lengths here and find out how SMS pricing works.

Routing SMS messages to specific inboxes

With Workflows, you can automatically organize your SMS conversations and ensure they get assigned to the correct place. For example, you could route all inbound SMS messages to your Mobile Support team.

To do this, you will need to create a Workflow and the first step is to choose a trigger. Here you can use the trigger customer sends their first message.

Next you will choose if you only want this Workflow to trigger for the SMS channel. It can be helpful to have separate Workflows for each channel if your team handle these differently.

Then you can choose to assign all conversations to a specific team or teammate inbox or apply conditional rules using branching. For example here, we assign the SMS conversation based on the customers plan.

Once SMS messages are automatically tagged using rules, teammates can create a custom view to see all SMS messages in one place:

Outbound SMS conversations

There may be times where you need to reach out to an individual user directly with an important request or message. Intercom’s outbound SMS messages from the Help Desk makes it fast and easy to start a new SMS conversation, no matter where they are, without leaving the Help Desk.

Here's how:

1. Click the compose icon from the menu and select “Conversation”

2. Select SMS as the channel type

With the SMS add-on, you will be able to select SMS as the channel for your new message.

3. Search users and leads to message by name or email address

If the user doesn’t have a valid phone number or you don’t have SMS activated in the country that phone number is from, you won’t be able to start an SMS conversation with them.

4. Add an optional subject line

This subject line will be displayed in the Help Desk to easily identify the conversation but won’t be shown to the user.

5. Enter your message

You can insert text, emojis and full links (include https:// to make links easy for customers to click) inside of your SMS message. Below the message you’ll see the number of characters as well as the number of SMS segments required to send your message

Each segment adds to the cost of the message. Learn more about segment lengths here and find out how SMS pricing works.

You can only have one active SMS conversation open with a customer. If there’s an existing SMS conversation open, you’ll have the option to either continue that existing conversation, or to close the initial conversation and create a new one with this message.

If you start a new conversation, a note will be added to that conversation with a link to old conversation:

A note will also be added to the old conversation with a link to the new conversation:

6. Click Send

Your SMS message will be delivered directly to the user.


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