Text is More

Peter Tanner, Managing Director of the Text Messaging Centre, sings the praises of the humble text

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What is the business cost today of inefficient
communication? From the over-reliance on ubiquitous email that all too
often gets overlooked in a crowded inbox, to expensive mobile phone
calls and, in the case of customers, posted appointment letters that
often remain unopened. Despite a massive investment, organisations are
still failing to achieve effective real time and cost effective
communication.
And while the mobile email facility has been hyped,
especially following the iPhone launch, in reality, only a small
percentage of employees, customers and partners can access email via
the mobile phone. As a result, urgent communications require an
expensive mobile call – risking interrupting the recipient mid-meeting
or, in the case of field engineers, possibly in the middle of a complex
repair job.
The always available economy is, in reality, anything
but. Organisations are missing business opportunities and jeopardising
customer relationships because critical, time-sensitive information is
consistently overlooked as individuals endure the email deluge and miss
essential telephone calls.

Reliable Alternative
Very few organisations are using text
messaging to support real time communications. Has SMS been overlooked
in the rush to embrace the more glamorous Blackberry or iPhone, or is
texts anarchic, youth-centric perception deterring businesses from
embracing this key business tool?
While businesses may not wish to
be associated with a young cultural social tool, it is the success of
texting in a social sense which has proved the extraordinary value of
this technology. Texting is, in fact, perfect as a business
application, demonstrating  resilience, immediacy and popularity across
networks, handsets, countries, languages and age groups.
Of
course, ad hoc, one-to-one texts cannot be used to deliver a compliant
business communication. Using a managed text service, organisations can
deliver one-to-one and one-to-many texts with a full audit trail and
complete compliance.
Texts can be automated to respond to specific
events – such as an emergency call-out for field service engineers or
to respond to incoming texts from customers. It can also be used to
drive down the administrative burden: for example, linking in to the
council tax system enables a council to automatically send payment
reminders on overdue accounts, with no manual intervention, and at far
lower cost than a letter or phone call.
Furthermore, unlike email,
which requires the recipient to agree to the required response message,
SMS can demand an immediate, automated response from the receiving
phone. This enables organisations to verify that work orders have been
received on site, that customer service queries have been addressed,
and that internal company messages have been disseminated.

Changing Behaviour
From the small business marketing to a
targeted customer list, or the dentist delivering automated appointment
reminders, to the global corporation offering an efficient, low-cost
route to customer services, SMS offers the opportunity to fundamentally
transform communications.
But this technology has been around for
nearly a decade so why have more organisations not exploited the
potential? One of the major constraints has been an insistence by
vendors on long-term contracts, monthly licence fees and a commitment
to a large number of texts each month. This approach has,
understandably, deterred organisations unsure of just how much use and
value texting can deliver.
The alternative is to look for a vendor
that eschews any lengthy contract, licence fee or minimum text number
and simply charges on a per text basis. That enables organisations to
leverage the existing mobile phone commitment without any significant
investment at around 6 pence per text, the potential benefits can be
rapidly assessed.

Serious Message
The perception of the always-connected society is
not just a delusion; it is a dangerous delusion. Organisations are
blithely assuming that staff are available; that customers are
receiving the information required; and that new business opportunities
are maximised. The reality is somewhat different: time-sensitive
communications are simply not achieving the required, real-time
response.
And, as the economic downturn continues, the effects will
be felt throughout the business: from the reduced investment in
expensive mobile technologies to customer service, where predicted
staff cuts will create longer call centre queues, further reducing
customer satisfaction.
Yet the simple strategy of allowing customers
to use a free inbound text system, with a brief outline of the problem,
can transform costs and service levels. An automated text reply ensures
customers know the problem is being handled and how long the response
should take. The query can then be hived off to customer services staff
often working from home to address the issue. The approach is
cost-effective and responsive.
Today over 6 billion texts are sent
every month, according to the latest figures. Yet the vast majority of
these are sent for purely social purposes. It is time that business
took control and tapped into this free, under-utilised messaging
bandwidth to deliver serious commercial benefit.

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