sms message respect

The Privacy of SMS – How Companies Should Leverage This Channel

When configuring the settings to my phone, I tend to turn off basically all notifications. My conviction is that it is just not advisable or desirable to become the victim of the whims of others. As it is, I get distracted and unrelentingly annoyed when the person beside me in a meeting or public transportation has their phone beeping, buzzing and vibrating constantly. I, frankly don’t know how they manage their lives. Whenever a person leaves their settings “open” to all incoming messages, they will inevitably be overwhelmed.

The privacy of the SMS

In terms of notifications, the SMS is a tricky one, though. In an ideal world, I’d like to say that someone sending me an SMS is needing an immediate response. Otherwise, I tend to believe the sender can use the many alternative channels. Thus, I am tempted to leave the SMS notifications on. Underlying this is the belief that the SMS is a privileged channel — ideally the one where my loved ones know they can always reach me. However, this is obviously not a shared sentiment and my SMS is too often invaded by unwanted messages. At the worst end of the scale, some organizations believe it’s okay to use the SMS to broadcast and spam.

For brands, among the ways to communicate with their clients, there are now a plethora of options, including postcards, email, telephone calls, Facebook posts, Whatsapp messages… and SMS text messages. In terms of crafting a CRM program, the options are rich and multiple. However, the use of the SMS must be done carefully, otherwise, it is bound to create frustration.

Misusing the SMS

Marketers are reputed for their ability to use any channel. They are also unflinchingly able to abuse any opportunity, especially when it’s cheap — hence a generally low level of trustworthiness by consumers. The text message (SMS) represents a cheap and “friendly” way to connect with their customers. If some are outright unethical, some organizations are just half-baked in their usage of the SMS, showing how far they are from understanding the new age of communications. In France, I recently received an SMS from a medical center that sent me an SMS to confirm an MRI appointment I have. The message, sent on Friday morning, said that I had to confirm “today without fail” my rendez-vous on Monday morning. I was told I had to do so between 9a-5p. When I went to sent an SMS to confirm, the system indicated “not delivered.” Duh. User experience = NULL.

sms_message

And, then, when I went to call them the old-fashioned way, their automated call center (“push 3 if you want to confirm or change your appointment“…) promptly told me that all the operators were busy and to call back later. Since I called only at the end of the afternoon, I felt decidedly disgruntled. It was the end of day on Friday and the rendez-vous was Monday morning. Without a confirmation, my appointment would be cancelled.

If a service is going to use an SMS to prompt a “definitive” response, surely the reply button would be an appropriate mechanism to use? What kind of selfish, unthinking and inconvenient service believes they have the right to make you jump through such hoops? In this case, it’s a privately run healthcare center. And it smacks of a center with a big attitude, and a heavy-handed attention to their bottom line … I suspect they’re a monopoly with no pressure to improve their customer centricity.

Have you any similar stories to recount?

Rules to use an SMS effectively?

Brands using the SMS channel, of course, have local regulations to consider. Assuming they have obtained a bona fide opt-in, the following guidelines can help in the construction of an SMS.

  1. Identify yourself correctly
  2. Make the delivery timing appropriate
  3. Make it short, but clear – be careful, though, because brevity can quickly be misconstrued
  4. Encourage a response
  5. Sign it off with a name.

In the case of this medical center, I can appreciate that they don’t want no shows. Get it. However, with the easiest of steps, they could vastly upgrade their user or customer experience.

Bottom line:

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