The Joy of Text


October 10th, 2014

Alan Dye, sales and marketing director at Boomerang, outlines how SMS can be used to transform processes, drive efficiencies and enhance the customer experience.

As a modern Mark Twain may once have said: rumours of the death of SMS are greatly exaggerated. With more than six billion global users and revenues of around £82 billion each year, SMS is now so ubiquitous that it’s expected to remain the industry standard messaging channel for the next decade. 

Yet despite this, it’s perceived as inferior to mobile applications like iMessage, WhatsApp and Blackberry Messenger. However, one statistic provides sufficient reason to halt the funeral: the average open rate for a SMS is a whopping 98 per cent. In today’s fog of online, social and digital noise, the quiet simplicity of a text message clearly shouts the loudest and cuts through. Our modern Mark Twain was right; rumours of the death of SMS are sorely mistaken.

So why is it few businesses are leveraging the rich potential of SMS? Indeed why are many prepared to believe the hype around innovations, and potentially discard the most penetrative media of our time? The answers may lie in limitations that have characterised the historical use of SMS as a promotional channel.

Traditionally SMS has provided companies with cost-effective and instant mass messaging capability. But it’s been hamstrung by an inherent inability to correlate multiple outbound messages with specific responses. This in
turn prevented the messaging from having any integration with – or impact on – associated business processes.

But these limitations have been swept aside by the introduction of innovative ‘threading’ technology. Threading means that every inbound message can automatically be matched to outbound ones, accurately and reliably. And because the technology integrates seamlessly with organisations’ existing IT infrastructure, associated business processes can also leverage the opportunity and drive operational gains.

Threading is rejuvenating the SMS channel. Moreover, it’s creating a powerful platform that’s allowing proactive companies to use text messaging to go beyond marketing communications and, in addition, automate processes, transform services and enhance customer experience. Best of all, it can be applied – uniquely – to any business in any sector.

Get the message
The constraints of the traditional approach meant that companies were unable to handle individual responses to blanket messaging, so many perceived SMS to be a one-way communication tool with precious little added value. But the combination of threading capability and high penetration rates means that companies can now get closer to users – quite literally via their mobile phone – and incorporate their own processes into the communication to drive significant operational efficiencies.

Basic activities such as applying for annual leave, filing expense claims or enrolling for training can be onerous and time-consuming. This is having a substantial impact on productivity and becoming a catalyst for employee frustration. Such inefficiency can easily be avoided. Threading enables employees to, for example, apply for annual leave via text message. By integrating threading technology with the ERP, large aspects of the application process can be automated. The potential impact on efficiency, productivity and employee satisfaction is significant – but the authority and control of the management decision itself is never compromised.

Likewise, companies are under huge pressure to deliver customer-centric services. The SMS channel is tailor-made for customer communication; it’s widely accessible, commonly used and, as we know, highly penetrative. However, historical use of SMS messaging has meant that many aspects of good customer service have not been exploited.

Threading allows businesses to open two-way communication channels with unique customers. For example, engineers and couriers can keep customers informed and clients can cancel or rearrange appointments via text. At the same time, the management of associated business processes can be automated. This has huge downstream benefits; field-based resource becomes more productive, call-centre resources are reduced or redeployed and, above all, customer satisfaction and retention levels naturally increase.

My best friend’s threading
Embedding smart communications into workflow clearly empowers organisations to complete many stakeholder transactions automatically – reducing costs, improving productivity and driving brand loyalty. The business benefits, whether for start-ups, SMEs or global conglomerates, are significant. And so, despite a misguided narrative that suggests SMS has had its day, the most progressive companies are those that have ignored the hype and are instead tailoring threading technology to suit their individual business needs.

Alan Dye (pictured) is a key member of the Boomerang team leading all sales and marketing activities for the company. In his role, Dye is responsible for all direct and indirect channel relationships at Boomerang and will continue to work on developing existing and new partner relationships in the future

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