When it comes to communication tools, very few industries possess the wide variety that education institutions use. Between 2012 to 2013, there were 13,500 public school districts with nearly 98,500 public schools. Each one of those schools utilize different software tools for school communication including grades, attendance, and school updates. However, the majority of this interaction occurs within school administration. How do people outside the schools’ main offices connect with teachers and administrators?
School Communication with Parents
The #1 external contact for any school is parents. 80% of teachers consider parents to be supportive and 88% of parents consider teachers to be crucial to their child’s success. Transparency is key for maintaining good parent-teacher relationships and making an overall good impression. Without parents staying in the loop, pertinent information can be missed that could drastically impact a student’s success.
SMS (text messages) has been utilized to keep parent’s updated in real time. Email may be the most popular school communication tool but, texting is the most prevalent form of communication for Americans under the age of 50 (Gallup). And it makes sense, because the ability to text is in your pocket – whether you have a smartphone or a simple flip-phone.
School are integrating SMS with their notification systems so that important school updates, such as school closures, emergency notifications, and event reminders get to parents in a timely fashion. But integration doesn’t stop there. Using an SMS API has begun to show up as a tool for school grading and attendance so that parents can be aware of student progress. When schools connect their attendance software with a SMS API, a triggered message is sent to the parent when a student is marked absent – transparency in school communications. SMS integration with grading software allows parents to see if student assignments are being turned in both on-time and complete, rather than waiting for the infamous note in the backpack. The school sends an alert when there is a missing assignment or low score to notify the parent in real-time.
Internal School Communications
Another great use of SMS in education is for internal school communications between teachers and administrative faculty. Departments, grade levels, and other types of faculty groups can use SMS to keep in touch. Having SMS integrated with a meeting scheduler allows those always on-the-go staff members to keep up with meetings and appointments. Many teachers are bombarded with emails, so things can be missed. Important school updates don’t get lost in the fray when schools setup internal SMS alerts to communicate important school news and updates to faculty members.
With so many things that happen for day-to-day school operations, maintaining clear, accurate, and timely communication is important. SMS has proven to not only boost message open rates, it’s also much faster than traditional email and phone call methods. No matter what the use, SMS can be a vital asset for school communication tools.
Sources: National Center for Education Statistics, National Education Association
Payroll and health care benefits are one of the largest aspects of operations management and human resource management for any business. For Third Party Administrators (TPA), communication with policy holders and beneficiaries should be accurate, direct, and simple. To maintain both safety and efficiency, it is important to find an alternative to call centers.
A TPA company working with operations management needed a way to effectively communicate payroll and benefits information. Typically, this information was handled by employees in a call center. However, using a call center proved to be expensive and problematic for the most frequent customer questions around balance inquiries for their FSA (Flexible Spending Accounts) and healthcare claim status.
In addition to potentially wasted time, the call centers may were a high expense for this TPA company. According to CostOwl, the average cost for a call center staff is $30 per hour. If you’re receiving 30 calls per hour, then each call costs 50 cents. That seems like a very small amount of money, but multiplied by thousands of customers makes it add up very quickly and it becomes a harsh overhead cost for customer service. Conversely, it costs 1 cent to send a SMS message, which would have only cost the TPA company 30 cents per hour (that’s 99% savings!).
Gateway SMS Campaigns / SMS API Integration
Use Case for Operations Management
The TPA company wanted to find a simpler, more efficient and cost effective way to deliver FSA balance inquiries and insurance claim status updates. To answer those frequently asked questions such as “How much is my payroll each pay period?”, a simple gateway SMS message can be sent directly to the staff member and bypass the call center altogether. This eases the call volume at the call center – allowing for the calls that truly require a person to be answered faster – while still delivering the information needed from staff members in real-time.
The 2 goals that this TPA company had were to reduce costs and improve the customer service experience.
First: Reduce costs for the TPA company by decreasing the call volume in their call centers. While call centers are a valuable resource, they can cost thousands of dollars per week for a business so being thoughtful about best uses of them is important.
Second: Create a better customer service experience for the policy or account holder. The average wait time for a call center is 56 seconds and it steadily increases. And nothing is more frustrating than waiting on hold for a simple account inquiry. SMS can improve the customer service experience and reduces potential security breeches. Information is passed securely from one technology platform to the specific person, using the SMS platform as a delivery channel, rather than having a specific person search for it and verbalize the information over the phone. Fewer people accessing the information means a lower liability for information breech.
The TPA company implemented a Gateway SMS campaign so that healthcare, benefits, and payroll information can be accessed via text message using a keyword. Operating completely from their own platform, the TPA company uses our SMS platform to deliver account balances, new payments, and other FSA information. The SMS campaigns are setup using SMS API calls, so the TPA company can completely operate using their own platforms. It’s setup once and no further work is needed to maintain it – easy and affordable. This lowers call volume for the call centers and simplifies overall customer interaction.
Using SMS for healthcare benefits and other personal account inquiries has been fruitful for the TPA company that is using 3Seventy’s platform. By leveraging the campaign creation features in the platform and through the SMS API, they can craft their own messages to best compliment their existing messaging. The number of contacts in the customer database have more than doubled over 18 months – from 3,900 in 2014 to 8,673 in 2015. The company sends over 1,000 messages each month, which is a potential cost savings of $1,000 per month. Overall, the cost effective use of SMS has reduced dependency on call centers.
Operations management greatly benefits from making these small, but impactful, changes. It is important for staff or customers to get the information they need quickly and in a secure fashion. With SMS integration to payroll and other account management, things are simplified for both the business and the beneficiary.
Global companies are connecting Remote Teams using mobile, specifically SMS
It is already difficult enough to have a consistent sales message when your team is in the same building. Communication is key to the branding and sales process for companies – both large and small.
Staying connected and up to date, no matter what your location is a big issue for companies to tackle. The boom in remote teams has created communication issues and imbalance. Team members want to focus on filling the funnel and closing those big sales, rather than worrying if the information they have is updated and correct.
SMS Dialog text messaging, SMS Chat, and a dedicated Mobile Application
Sales managers want to have a coaching conversation with their sales team about an upcoming sales call, but now a days there is no physical office… everyone lives and works remotely. More salespeople and their managers have shifted to remote working environment where managers must rethink the way they coach their teams and provide sales materials such as updated pitch-decks.
The sales manager wanted to build trust with this sales team, grow their confidence, and boosts individual performance. In an office environment, this usually takes place in small 3-5 minute conversations in the hallway, out to lunch or in between calls. Virtually, the environment of these small conversations feels more strained. So goal number one for the sales manager was to create a routine to be in constant mobile communications and have it feel real.
There is a distinct need for coaching. This could be a surrogate coach who can be a top-performing team member working as a mentor, a virtual team member, or a local person who can see the sales team member. There are tips, tricks and key how-to scenarios that need to be played out and tracked. How do you manage this relationship and professional development?
For the second goal, the sales manager was concerned about updated sales materials. He wanted to make sure his team members had the most current pitch decks, flyers, etc. What is the best way to confirm these materials are getting to everyone and in a timely fashion?
To address the first goal, a dynamic SMS campaign is created for each team member using the SMS API. A sales manager can automatically have a messaged pushed out to the entire team every Monday with personalized (dynamic) content inserted into the message. The team member can reply confirming their meeting or asking to reschedule. This is one less task for the manager to do manually, but still allows him or her to reach out to team members on a regular basis.
Following this appointment reminder style of messaging, the sales manager or coach can connect with the remote team rep using multiple ways:
- SMS Chat for real-time text messaging through the portal. This has several advantages including a saved history of your messages and using your computer, rather than personal phone, for texting.
- Virtual meetings through a dedicated mobile application allow for video conferencing that feels like you are there.
- Triggered SMS Campaigns to congratulate the remote team rep when he or she gets a win. This is another hands-off, but effective method for supporting your team. Creating a message that is triggered based upon an activity in the CRM system. It can be personalized and written by the sales manager so that it reads like his or her voice.
Dealing with the current sales materials becomes easy when you have a dedicated sales team mobile application/ tablet application. The head of marketing or sales can add the latest pitch deck, flyers, direct mail pieces, and other materials into a single portal that the entire team can access. When a new item is added to the portal, the remote team member is notified via email or text message. And the best part is that it is accessible while on-the-go. Rather than worrying about the technology in a prospective client’s office, the tablet allows them to present.
*NOTE: This use case has not been set live yet. Some of these features are not yet available for client consumption.
What’s an API?
An application programming interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. Simply put, an API is a set of requirements that govern how one software application can talk to another – allowing information to go back and forth between the systems.
For example: Yelp includes a Google Map in its app to display nearby restaurants. Several websites allow you to log-in using your Facebook or Google account. Using an API makes it possible for applications, such as your CRM system, to share data and take actions in your SMS Gateway without requiring developers to share all of the software’s code.
The API takes this code sharing concept and simply limits the outside program access to a specific set of features – usually it is requests for some specific data. Your API clearly defines how a program will interact with the rest of the software world. It saves time, resources, money, and potential legal issues.
How does it apply to my mobile marketing strategy?
Who cares? You should… because API’s are a simple and cost effective way to make mobile marketing easier for you.
Companies use the SMS API to integrate their marketing, analytics, CRM, and other business software with the SMS Platform for creating more powerful and customized solutions. When marketers integrate 3Seventy’s Platform with a CRM software such as Zoho to create a unified database. They can send SMS campaigns out to contacts from within the CRM program or log into the 3Seventy platform. Either way, the information will sync with the contacts in the CRM system.
Other companies use the SMS API to automate recurring activities and procedures. For example, a text message alert can be triggered (and sent to the contact) by entering new information into your contact management system. When the leasing office in an apartment complex enters into his contact management system that a package has arrived for John Smith, the the message is sent to the phone number association with John Smith letting him know he has a package. This can also be done in response to a subscriber action, such as submitting a registration form for an event or completing an online purchase.
Ways companies are improving upon their customer support and direct communications with “customers”
Innovation in the area of customer support. Customers are always on the go, but they don’t necessarily want to chat on the phone or wait on hold to have questions answered. So companies are going beyond the call center, email support, and social media engagement to improve customer support
SMS Chat (a one-to-one messaging feature)
A university wants to accomplish 2 key goals: staying engaged with current students who are disperse across multiple campuses (both on and offline) and introduce prospective students to their programs. University email addresses are used for assignments and staying connected with professors, rather than university-wide announcements. And students are spending more time on their phones than in past years – particularly sending SMS (text messages) or using mobile apps.
To address the first goal of engaging current students, we’ve setup a 411 type of SMS campaign. Using signage throughout the campus, the campaign invites current students to text a keyword (such as “CAMPUS”) to a shared short code (such as 33898*) so they can ask questions and send feedback about the school. When a student texts in, a new SMS Chat session begins with a live person from the campus administration’s support team. This team is equipped to answer questions about the university and document and feedback from students.
Each phone number is used as a way to identify each student as a unique contact. All messages exchanged between the support staff and that student are saved, and can be referenced back to. While the support staff are replying to students from a computer, students have the look and feel of texting with a friend from their own mobile phone. The information can even be synced with the university’s customer database software.
The result of this upgrade is a more engaged student population. Students feel more empowered to provide feedback to the university and ask important questions about their finances or grades before it becomes a problem.
The second goal of reaching prospective students is an equally interesting prospect for leveraging SMS tools. Many high school students fill out applications online or meet recruiters at college fairs, but they often do not complete the application process or something is missing. Following up with these young people via email is not the most effective way to communicate.
So we will update the online forms to include a mobile phone field (along with SMS compliance content). The prospective student’s information is added to the customer database software, and the call center team can now follow-up with these teens in the fashion they prefer – text messages. Each call center team member can open an SMS Chat with individual prospective students to follow-up on their questions about the university, the application process, or any other burning questions.
*Note this is not a live campaign, so do not try to text in to see a sample.
Who handles the mobile marketing strategy in your company?
According to a recent survey by the CMO Council, “24% admit mobile is an area of confusion in their organization and has no clear owner.” (Marketing Profs). When digital advertising and promotions first began, it often sat somewhere between IT and Marketing. The marketing team would come up with the brilliant ideas, and the IT team would deploy it. Over time, we’ve seen the birth and growth of digital marketing and departments dedicated to it within companies – both large and small.
Mobile marketing is going through it’s Renaissance, and companies are trying to find the right place in the organization to incorporate it. After all, mobile technology not only affects the marketing strategy but often operations and logistics too. What is the best way to address this issue?
Incorporating Mobile Marketing Into Your Plans
STEP 1 – Why do you need mobile marketing or mobile tools for your operations? Make sure you are clear on the why, so that you can choose the right tools and set appropriate goals. (ie EFG company wants to make appointments easier to schedule and track for their customers and most of them are using text messaging on a regular basis, so they are going to integrate SMS into their scheduling software to automate the process).
STEP 2 – What mobile tools are you looking to use and what are the technical requirements of your needs? SMS (text messages), a mobile website, mobile commerce, a mobile application, or a mixture of these can all be integrated into your business tool set.
If you only need something simple like SMS for mobile marketing efforts, then someone from your marketing team can be quickly trained to do that. However, it is likely that you will want to integrate some of the technology into your other software (such as CRM software or Point-of-Sale systems). That will require some technical setup.
STEP 3 – Who in your company will be most effected by the use of this new mobile marketing tool(s)? Is it purely a marketing tool? Perhaps it is integrated into your e-commerce or your operations software. Make sure that anyone benefitting from this new tool is part of the on-boarding conversation.
STEP 4 – How will you assign the work? Depending upon what you’re doing, you may want mobile to be a cross-department committee or team that meets regularly.
Creating a Mobile Team
Companies continue to think in single projects rather than developing a long-term, comprehensive mobile strategy. Before you jump into creating a mobile team, pause and recognize the many potential projects that include mobile tools.
If you plan it right, then you will be able to create a balanced mobile team in your company – that will likely cross departments. This can help you to avoid misunderstandings among staff about what is happening with… the mobile app development, SMS mobile marketing campaigns, etc. Plus, you will be building a conversation around the best consumer / user experience across all devices and places.
Every company is unique, but it is important for you to set aside time to plan exactly how you will be using mobile tools and who it will affect. Planning is key to any strong strategy, especially mobile strategy.
Making Your Operations More Efficient Work with Mobile
The mini computer in your pocket (smartphone) can help your employees to work faster and be productive while on-the-go. This is a leap in our technical capabilities from 5 or 10 years ago, but how can you leverage this development for the operations of your company?
A company that specializes in improving their clients’ operations has a project that requires them to identify and match mobile devices using their software and text messaging. The result of this project is common end-user inventory (aka – who has what mobile phone, where, and does he or she still work for your company?).
Through the use of a text messaging platform and integrated web forms, this client can easily attack this project head-on. Any devices currently part of their inventory will be identified by sending a text or email with dynamic messaging (personalization) to the end user. Both the text and the email will include unique links that pre-populate the web forms based on contact information entered into the company’s platform.
What are other ways that you can make your company work more efficiently using mobile tools?
How Mobile Devices Are Improving the Insurance Experience
The affordable care act has opened new channels for sales as well as new challenges for insurance companies. With more one-to-one customer sales on the rise, insurance companies are working hard to be as efficient as possible. In tandem, insurance companies are expected to be more transparent with the end customer. Technology is pervading the healthcare system already, so customer (patients) expect their health insurance companies to be agile in how they communicate key information.
We already know that many patients are looking to track and monitor their health through their mobile devices, so why should tracking the cost of that care be any different? The number of people using health related mobile apps is pretty low (somewhere between 32-38% of the US). However, text message updates have continued to rise and steadily grow as a useful tool for improving the experience. Ranging from pharmacy refills to appointment reminders, and even more personalized messages from the doctor.
Use Case: Blue Cross Integrates Behavioral Health
“Behavioral healthcare is an area that causes a lot of additional expenditures on the medical side,” says Ken Duckworth, MD, medical director for behavioral health at BCBSMA. (from Behavioral Healthcare)
In response to this issue, BCBSMA has created a mobile and online platform (OneHealth). “It has a social media construct where individuals with addiction vulnerabilities can select who they can communicate with. Members can only participate in the online and mobile platform when referred to by a provider or the plan itself.” One of the key tools leverages text messaging for your support system. An individual can send a text message to three people if he or she needs support during time periods of potential relapse.
One of the aims of this new platform (other than the obvious help and support that it offers to patients) is the reduction of unnecessary emergency room visits and testing that can be highly expensive. Mental health is a key area where health insurance companies can provide tools such as this to reduce costs and better serve their customers.
Before You Find a Text Message Provider,
Be Aware of HIPAA Secure Messaging Guidelines
HIPAA text messaging software was introduced in 2013. These updated guidelines affect how PHI (protected health information) is stored, accessed and transmitted. It also requires that the software has specific features in place.
Key HIPPA Compliant Features:
- It must be administered from a central point which protects PHI from unauthorized access.
- Risk assessments should be conducted regularly to ensure that messaging is secure and compliant.
- All PHI stored within the text message software should be encrypted in order to make it “indecipherable, unreadable or unusable” in case of unauthorized access.
- It should not enable healthcare professionals or sub-contractors to maintain PHI on their personal mobile device memories.
- The device can be removed from the system in the event of a mobile device being lost or stolen.
To learn more about Health Care Initiatives Using Text Messaging, visit HRSA.gov
Recruitment and retention are ongoing problems for clinical trials, which forces the research organizations to constantly be working on outreach and communications with the patients. Despite numerous proposed strategies for effective recruitment, this continues to be a major challenge. There are patients with communications problems such as the lack of home internet (in order to receive email updates).
Clinical Trial Recruitment Using Mobile
Recruiting patients for clinical trials can take a significant amount of time. So much so that you lose those potential patients along the way. “UCSF Participant Recruitment Service reported that almost 2/3 of potential patients are lost to follow-up because they do not hear back about their study eligibility quickly enough.” (from Mosio).
Large pharmaceutical companies have chosen to address the issue of recruitment by using the technology available in these potential patients’ pockets – their mobile device. Using traditional media such as print advertisements, referral networks and digital ads, they will integrate text messaging as a way to initially engage with these potential patients. It will also serve as a way to keep in touch during the clinical trial.
Clinical Trial Retention Using Mobile, Especially Text Messaging
During mHealth Summit, Mike Shilling, Director of Business Development for Exco InTouch, shared three examples of mobile-enabled clinical trials. One of the trials required caregivers to fill out a daily diary about the health of their child in relation to flu symptoms. They leveraged SMS text message reminders to drive the caregivers to fill out the diary each day, and the caregivers were using their own device (68% on their mobile phone and 16% on a personal laptop or desktop computer).
“BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] enabled a lot of subjects to participate in the study, Shilling said. Because so many of these caregivers had mobile devices, the site did not have to take on the task of calling each of them individually every single day. The system also alerted the site if a diary was late or incomplete each day — real-time monitoring that is nearly impossible with paper-based diaries.” (from MobiHealth News)
Mobile is Improving Medical
The benefits of text messaging and other mobile tools for the medical field are clear. The growth potential that these tools bring to the field of clinical trials is exciting, and hopefully more companies to see the opportunity as the trail blazers show results.
“[Clinical trials] is the appropriate vector to begin to use some of these [digital health technologies], because they are already a well-funded, well-trodden way to test out new approaches in research,” Hendricks said. “We think there is something beyond that. We call on the industry to move more aggressively in exploring the use of these technologies for … better management of chronic disease.” (from MobiHealth News)
Excerpt from the Hamilton Spectator on Texting and Flying
OTTAWA — Texting and driving is now a no-no. But texting and flying? That’s an idea that’s taking off. In a move that puts Canada at the forefront of aviation technology, air traffic controllers are using texts rather than radio to relay instructions to many of the aircraft flying high across the country.
The days of the Hollywood stereotype of a controller hunched over a radar scope, barking rapid-fire instructions to a string of aircraft appear numbered, replaced instead by the quiet click of a mouse. Today, controllers are assigning pilots changes in altitudes, headings, speed and routings via text. And in return, pilots can text their own requests to controllers for changes to their flight. It adds up to some 2,500 text messages a day — and climbing.
“This type of communication, this type of automation is certainly recognized within the industry as the way of the future,” said Rob Thurgur, assistant vice-president of operational support with Nav Canada, the agency that operates the country’s air traffic control system.
Known as “controller pilot data link communications,” the technology allows controllers working in area control centres to communicate via text with aircraft equipped to receive the messages, typically most commercial jets.
The text-based system uses a standard set of messages for the most routine communications. Once sent, the message appears on a cockpit display, where the pilots can read it and reply to acknowledge receipt.
Thurgur said text messages boost efficiency and safety by eliminating congestion on the radio frequencies and minimizing miscommunications that occur because of language barriers and bad reception.
“These issues around people transposing numbers, readbacks being incorrect and not being caught — you just don’t get those types of mistakes when the automation starts talking to each other,” he said in an interview.
While English is the official language of commercial aviation, vital instructions can get lost in translation in voice communications, a problem the new technology helps avoid.
“When you are talking to foreign pilots, you don’t have the language barrier because it’s all in text and it’s in a standard format that everybody understands,” Thurgur said.
Read the Full Article on Texting and Flying Here