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.
According to Camden Properties Executives, 3.3 million dollars are lost on package delivery issues within apartment/rental properties every year. Finding an efficient way to ensure timely and accurate package delivery is crucial for both tenant and leaser. (Wall Street Journal)
Package delivery and mail, in general, is often hard to coordinate for many apartment/rental properties. Whether it is a mistake in the shipping address instructions by the tenant, the margin of human error between delivery people and office management, or even just the abundance of packages held by the property management, mistakes in package delivery are inconvenient (and sometimes costly).
SMS Gateway Campaign and Software Integration through SMS API
A property management team wants to reduce the number of package delivery issues in a time-effictive yet inexpensive way. There have been complaints of late and/or missing packages from the tenants, as well as complaints from staff that notifying residents of their packages is taxing.
There are 2 goals for effective package delivery within a leasing property: less work for the leasing agency and direct communication for the tenant. Transition should be smooth with as few steps as possible in-between to lessen the chance of mistakes. All the while, keeping tenants happy and the proper management’s brand in good graces.
A SMS gateway alleviates stress upon the property management staff by creating a unified method to manage incoming packages whilst alerting tenants of those packages. It can be daunting for the property management, especially when it is in overseeing a large property or multiple properties.
By creating a SMS gateway and connecting to their CRM system/package tracking system through 3Seventy’s API, the property managers are able to send out text message alerts to tenants. When a package for a resident is entered into the computer system, it triggers a message to be sent out. That message includes dynamic data (such as apartment number) and it is automatically sent out to alert the tenant that a package has arrived. With no reminder email or text to compose themselves, property managers are less likely to make mistakes since the message is sent as soon as the package is entered.
On the tenant side, triggered messages from a SMS gateway campaign have been extremely convenient because new package alerts come directly to their phones (where SMS messages are 99% likely to be opened). Gone are the days of notes taped to the door that were missed, email alerts that were never seen, or notifying slips in mailboxes that are never checked. With triggered alerts sent through a SMS gateway, there is no excuse to miss when your package has arrived.
The property management using 3Seventy’s gateway campaign has 115,000 residents in their database thus far, and continuing to roll out the service through their properties. The cost is only per every outbound text message sent, a large cost saving compared to the 3.3 million dollars that is typically lost in package delivery issues.
Successful implementation of a sms gateway campaign can strengthen any property management operation. With so many other potential issues that can arise in leasing property, basic package delivery shouldn’t be a main concern.
How is your property management company dealing with packages? We’d like to know!
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.
Retailers are Connecting Mobile Shopping with the In-Store Experience
When you create a unified shopping experience, shoppers will take note and show their loyalty with their hard earned dollars.
Online shopping is more convenient for many shoppers. Many retailers have begun treating their brick and mortar stores as a showroom more than a retail outlet – making the assumption that shoppers are coming in to see and touch products, but then purchase online.
Mobile Website and SMS Dialog Messages and Coupons (Mobile Coupons)
An office supply retailer has 2 goals: increasing revenues overall (both online and in-store) and improving upon the up-sell process so that shoppers will purchase more.
We address the first goal of increasing revenue by providing a mobile shopping assistant in the form a a mobile website. Shoppers reportedly have a difficult time deciding between different kinds of computers, printers, and other technology items. It can be difficult to compare these items while in store, so we created a product comparison tool where the shopper can choose which items he or she wants to compare and it provides details about each category. If there is any confusion, the shopper can text in to the SMS program to get answers from a live customer support person.
The second goal is to improve the product up-sell process. Other retailers find that shoppers who choose to buy online and pick-up in store spend nearly twice as much as those who have online orders delivered directly to their homes. This is likely due to a few different factors – ease of purchase, ability to price compare with other retailers, and comfort of the third wall between them and the store. To increase up-sell purchases, we added digital / mobile coupons into the purchase path. As a shopper is looking at an item, the complementary products appear just before the “Add to Cart” button with a “Package it” button. Packaging up multiple products for a discounted price – such as a printer with ink and a ream of paper.
The mobile website with the product comparisons helped shoppers to make educated decisions while in-store and drove them to purchase sooner than before. This mobile shopping tool was supported by the customer service via SMS, which also helped the retailer with creating a positive shopping experience. And the packaging of products matched up with mobile coupons / digital coupons made checkout faster for the shopper, which increased the up-sell revenue and improved the overall process.
Shopping Experiences, whether in-store, at home, or on-the-go, can be the make or break point for a retailer. Shoppers are savvy – searching for the best deals and opportunities – but they also value customer service and the overall experience. Creating a unified shopping experience, no matter what the device or location can be the key to getting that next sale.
Recruiters and Hiring Managers are sending up-to-the-minute job postings to keep up with the market.
SMS for recruitment has become key. The job market has improved slowly over the past 7 years. A big change over this time period is the technology we use to communicate and how job postings are found. First of all, consider these statistics:
64% of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind.
10% of Americans own a smartphone, but do not have broadband at home. Compared with smartphone owners who are less reliant on their mobile devices, these smartphone-dependent users are less likely to own some other type of computing device
43% of smartphone owners are looking up job information. (Source: Pew Research)
One of the big advantages of using SMS is timelines – your ability to reach an individual fast and efficiently with the right information. Many human resources professionals and recruiters are leveraging SMS to reach today’s generation of mobile-first candidates.
For those recruiters working in the field, it’s important to stay in touch with candidates. And sending real-time information about job openings is key to getting the best candidates, but the average email takes up to 48 hours before someone will read it. And so many young people are living a low-income life style that limits their internet usage.
Triggered SMS Alerts using an SMS API helps to address these issues. You can integrate whatever systems you use for contact management and tracking with your SMS platform using an SMS API. When you make this integration, you can setup different rules to triggering text messages to be sent. For example, “if a job opening with the title Software Development in this zip code pops up, then send a message to these phone numbers.”
One company learned that using triggered SMS messages in conjunction with other recruitment activities such as campus job fairs, online job postings, and campus interviews can be very effective when setup with the right parameters (through an SMS API). Using SMS in this kind of situation is a way to start the conversation between a recruiter or employer and the prospective employee or intern.
The right SMS platform allows you to get plenty of information up-front using SMS. 3Seventy calls this 3Seventy – the ability to have a seamless threaded conversation via text message. It is a pretty powerful tool when used to it’s fullest extent.
While SMS recruitment has proven to be effective for many companies and organizations, it’s important to remember that SMS campaigns are best used to create awareness and prequalify quality candidates. SMS campaigns are not meant to replace your traditional channels of communication with prospective candidates, rather it is a way to enhance and improve the overall experience.
Ways Recruiters and Hiring Managers Can Leverage SMS Campaigns:
- Create Awareness using SMS recruitment alerts with job postings
- Prequalify Candidates using SMS 3Seventy surveys
- Have direct communication with candidates for scheduling interviews
- Making the connection with the mobile-first generation easy
How DoSomething.Org Harnesses Text Messaging to Support Troubled Youth
In 2011, a young woman named Stephanie Shih was working in New York City at DoSomething.org, a nonprofit that helps young people start volunteer campaigns. Shih was responsible for sending out text messages to teen-agers across the country, alerting them to various altruistic opportunities and encouraging them to become involved in their local communities: running food drives, organizing support groups, getting their cafeterias to recycle more. Silly, prankish responses were not uncommon, but neither were messages of enthusiasm and thanks.
Then, in August, after six months on the job, Shih received a message that left her close to tears for the rest of the day. “He won’t stop raping me,” it said. “He told me not to tell anyone.” A few hours later, another message came: “R u there?” Shih wrote back, asking who was doing this. The next day, a response came in: “It’s my dad.”
DoSomething.org had no protocol for anything like this, so Shih texted back with the contact information for RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the country’s largest anti-sexual-assault organization. But the texter indicated that she was too scared to make a phone call. “This is the right thing to do,” Shih insisted. There was no reply. “Not knowing if she was safe or had gotten help or would ever get help consumed my thoughts,” Shih told me last fall. She printed out the text messages and handed them to her boss, Nancy Lublin, DoSomething.org’s C.E.O.
“I’ll never forget the day,” Lublin said. “It was like I’d been punched in the stomach.”
That week, Lublin and Shih started work on what two years later became Crisis Text Line, the first and only national, 24/7 crisis-intervention hotline to conduct its conversations (the majority of which are with teen-agers) exclusively by text message.
How it Works:
The Crisis Text Line provides a one-to-one style texting chat service to those in need who are too scared or uncomfortable to call. Teens are shockingly honest via text message, so this organization has opened doors for honest communication.
Beyond the one-to-one counseling, the organization has gathered the content of the messages and quantified the results to deliver a unique collection of mental-health data based on five million texts. Their data collection has given the world insights such as “depression peaks at 8 p.m., anxiety at 11 p.m., self-harm at 4 a.m., and substance abuse at 5 a.m.”
“The corpus of data has the volume, velocity, and variety to really draw meaningful conclusions,” says Nancy Lubin. She hopes that the data can eventually be useful to school districts and police departments.
This is an excerpt from the article R U There by Alice Gregory in The New Yorker. See the original article here.
Small Businesses are Tapping Into a Smarter Way to Communicate with customers – Using SMS on Long Codes
A small business, such as a real estate agent, has the on-going communication issue that so many of us have. It’s difficult to pin down your clients and connect with them while they are always on-the-go. Many real estate agents are using SMS (text messaging) to stay in contact real-time with their clients, but doing so from your own phone all of the time is not so simple either. The costs can get out of control very quickly, and agents want the client to still feel the personal / local touch.
SMS from a local Long Code
The local real estate agent has 2 key goals: connecting with new prospects as quickly and easily as possible and staying connected with current clients while in the process of searching for/closing a home. Since young couples and similar home buyers are using their phones more and more (for both work and personal life), it is easy to connect using SMS.
The first goal of engaging prospective home buyers requires some external signage and a series of helpful SMS campaigns. It begins with a “welcome + more info” style campaign for the prospects. When someone drives past a house and sees a sign that reads “Text MOVEIN to 512-123-4567” and takes action, then the automated message back will provide basic info about that agent plus a link to view property details. The real estate agent can also receive a notification or view in a report that a specific contact (based on phone number) texted-in, so she knows to follow-up with that contact.
A different approach to the initial engagement process with a lead is offsite marketing – newspaper ads, social media, website, or other outdoor signage – that lead to a dialog campaign. This SMS campaign utilizes the SMS dialog feature of asking questions to determine the home buyer’s needs and wants. Gathering this data helps the local real estate agent to offer the best possible offerings to the contact/prospective client. Then the information about each contact (called contact attributes) can be synced with the agent’s customer database software for sending smarter and more targeted messages through all marketing channels.
The importance of using a long code, in part, is the experience of seeing a local phone number posted in the advertising rather than a short code (which is associated with marketing SMS). If you are a local business, then it is so key for your customers/clients to feel like they are engaging with a local business and not some giant conglomerate.
The second goal of staying connected with current clients uses SMS tools in a more long-term way. Keeping things very simple, an agent can simply use SMS through a platform as a better way for tracking communications. Instead of sending a text from his/her phone, the agent can send SMS from a desktop computer or tablet. The key differentiator in this experience are the improvements to the agent’s long-term reports and tracking communications.
However, a small business that wants something a little more robust can leverage the SMS API to be connected with a CRM system and send text messages using different triggers. When a home buyer completes a step in the buying process, such as putting in an offer, that is tracked in the CRM system, then a SMS message can be triggered by that change in the system. We can set it up in such a way that a pre-set text message is sent to the home buyer when that offer is either accepted or decline by the seller. It is one less step for the agent, while still fulfilling on a protocol.
The result of these upgrades is a smoother communication strategy. The small business real estate agent makes small upgrades to the communication plan and process, and in-turn improves the overall experience of buying a home. SMS offers a faster and more affordable approach to client communications while maintaining the local-feel using a long code.
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.
50% of sales executives stated that failure of an organization to keep product knowledge current was a major setback for the sales teams, according to a study by Microstrategy. And one out every two sales personal state that limited access to key information makes closing sales a challenge. Moving to mobile strategy can help any company solve internal issues.
To maximize the performance of a sales team and drive revenue growth at a faster rate, more companies are leveraging mobile tools. Mobile applications, for example, have become integrated into many enterprise selling solutions in order to make the sales team more efficient by giving them access to information no matter where they go.
5 reasons sales teams should use mobile selling solutions:
1. Increased Productivity
Sales teams work more efficiently when utilizing mobile selling solutions. Whether they receiving SMS alerts from the CRM system to keep track of hot leads or a mobile app to have mobile access to presentations, there are variety of mobile tools to increase sales team productivity.
2. Access to Information
Having the right information at their fingertips helps your sales team quickly take action. Access to the most up to date and impactful content at any time, regardless of location or device, makes it easy for the marketing to connect with on-the-go sales people.
3. More Flexibility
Mobile tools bring more flexibility and convenience to your sales team. Using SMS or a Mobile Website to look up prospect information with a few clicks gives them greater access to key information. Sales people can move seamlessly through a conversation and adapt it to meet prospect needs, and impressing them with multimedia such as video.
4. Better Tracking
Understanding the value of sales content is essential for the marketing team, that is impossible to track without a system in place. Marketers want to know what content the sales team is using and which pieces are producing the best results. The best mobile selling solutions have reports integrated to provide marketers with key data about content usage to help them create the most relevant collateral. Reporting also allows the marketing team to track the true ROI of their content.
5. Connecting a Disperse Sales Team
The boom in disperse sales teams has created communication issues and imbalance in some companies. Using a mobile selling solution such as a tablet application helps sales teams to share information and insights into the sales experience. Whether it is feedback on a sales presentation or accessing a customer database at any time, anywhere.
The results of using mobile tools: your sales team becomes more effective with customer engagement, develops a deeper understanding of customer needs, and creates a memorable experience by addressing the needs of prospects even while on the go.
From the National Restaurant Association:
SMS marketing – a short-form version of text messaging – is a powerful marketing tool. But even with open rates approaching 100 percent, and offer-redemption rates of 10 percent to 30 percent, the content of your messages is ultimately what drives customers to come back to your restaurant.
Here are some guidelines to improve SMS Marketing in Restaurants:
1. Watch message frequency and mix. Sending one to two messages a month is the most effective way to stay fresh in your customers’ minds. Boost your effectiveness by alternating incentive blasts (i.e., offers redeemable for discounts) with notification blasts. Incentive blasts bring your guests back into the restaurant. Notification blasts help you build your relationship with guests.Some of the most effective notification blasts:
- Live music schedules for upcoming weekend
- Reminder of upcoming events
- Holiday greetings
- Interesting content on your website or social media
2. Spice up the verbiage. Make the text blast engaging and fun to read. This keeps customers excited about receiving offers from you. Stay consistently creative with the wording and you’ll capture their attention and increase open rates and redemptions.
3. Keep messages succinct. Keep text blasts simple and fun to get your point across. SMS marketing limits you to 160 characters (including compliance language). Use as many as you can, and avoid allowing your ideas to flow into a second message. Succinct messages improve the chances your customers will read and respond.
4. Mix up your offers. You can be spontaneous with the offers you send or cycle through a list of incentives that work well for your restaurant. Having several offers ready to go is handy and can make planning ahead easier. One advantage of SMS marketing is the speed with which offers can be changed and delivered. You can use these messages to get rid of excess food supplies or make room for an upcoming food order, for example. If your food provider runs a special on an item, focus your next blast on that item to take full advantage of the special pricing.
5. Keep incentives exclusive to mobile VIP members. When a customer opts in to your Mobile VIP Club, it’s because they like your restaurant and want to receive future offers. These are your most loyal customers. Providing them with exclusive offers will show them that you are grateful. These loyal customers can also help drive more people to your database by generating word-of-mouth buzz about your restaurant.
6. Incorporate Facebook and your website into the SMS Marketing Campaigns. Pushing customers to your social media pages and website helps you build ongoing relationships and grow your social-media footprint. This will help you reach the maximum number of customers with your promotions and offers, greatly increasing your ROI.
7. Incorporate website links in a SMS Campaign. If you have too much information to fit into a text’s 160-character limit, then link to a website with details. Integrating links not only helps you bring customers to your restaurant in the short run, but helps you track where customers are coming from (if you use tracking links such as bit.ly).
This article was originally posted on Restaurant.org