SMEs choose SMS for their business communications

Published by Business Matters - 25 October 2014

By Dr Pieter Streicher, MD of BulkSMS.com

Businesses rely on a number of different communication channels these days, online and offline. Dr Pieter Streicher, managing director at BulkSMS.com explains why the text message has stood the test of time and continues to play an important role in business communications.

In the age of social media and the smartphone, it has become second nature for people to keep in touch via instant messaging (IM) applications, something that is only possible if they are able to connect to the Internet. If you really want to get someone’s attention it’s better to stick to a more ubiquitous form of mobile communication, the text message. This is certainly the case with businesses that regularly use text messaging to inform and update staff, and customers, about everything from transaction notifications and confirming deliveries to appointment reminders.

SMS will continue to play an integral role in business communications for many years to come, and it’s not too difficult to understand why when you consider that SMS is standard on every mobile phone. It has far more reach and flexibility than online services such as email and instant messaging. Unlike IM services, SMS isn’t dependent on an Internet connection, so pre-pay mobile users can still receive text messages even when they’ve run out of credit.

There has been a drop in the usage of person-to-person (P2P) SMS over recent years because of the popularity of social media and IM services, but simultaneously there has been an increase in the use of application-to-person (A2P) and person-to-application (P2A) SMS messaging, which is being driven by businesses. Portio Research actually estimates that by the end of this year the combined global revenues generated by A2P and P2A SMS traffic will be more than £31bn.

Businesses have adopted SMS as a key channel to communicate with customers, suppliers, staff and other stakeholders because it is a medium that all mobile users are familiar with. The likelihood that a recipient of an SMS will read the text, and perhaps even acknowledge it with a reply, is far greater than a person receiving an email or any other form of communication regularly used by businesses. Responsiveness aside, the use cases for A2P SMS are wide and varied and SMS as a business tool is more versatile than was previously imagined.

Take the case of Checkatrade, a company that uses SMS to offer real time feedback to tradesmen in the building industry. They encourage the tradesmen to log in and contact their clients using the SMS service, reminding them to send feedback regarding any work carried out. When a client of one of the registered tradesmen gives feedback, an A2P SMS message is sent informing the relevant tradesmen of any feedback published by their customers, in real time. This means that the tradesmen can act on feedback immediately – either by telephone, or, if still on the building site – in person.

A second example is Dash2Do, “the concierge service of choice”. It has integrated SMS messaging into all levels of its business, from automatically accepting bookings, assigning staff and even billing customers for work carried out. Its mobile messaging infrastructure was developed to ensure an uninterrupted communication process between its staff and customers, by proactively keeping customers updated on transport schedules and costs, and the status of concierge services such as collection of dry cleaning and shopping. A2P SMS messaging was once the domain of large enterprises such as retailers and banks – users that regularly sent updates and notifications to customers. Times have changed and now there are more affordable solutions available. These allow SMEs and small businesses to stay in touch with customers, staff and other stakeholders using targeted SMS campaigns. Depending on the scale of the campaign, businesses can enable their systems to deliver SMS using an API (Application programming interface) that connects to the SMS gateway (the technology that enables your computer to send or receive SMS) or they can send messages from a desktop or web-based application.

The text message has been transformed from a consumer service that mobile users took for granted to a reliable channel for business communications. This technology has been scaled to meet the needs of UK businesses of all shapes and sizes, to engage with customers, staff and other stakeholders with targeted and highly relevant messaging campaigns. Many businesses are now using this tried and trusted medium to leverage rich media content to create dynamic mobile marketing campaigns, invites and surveys, even to send invoices or statements. It is ubiquitous, direct and responsive, which isn’t bad for a mobile technology that’s more than 20 years old.