Think you get a lot of emails? Your text messages are about to explode as well, at least that’s what I’m predicting. Why? Because more and more organizations are beginning to understand what you and I have known all along: texting is the quickest and easiest way to communicate.
Texting personal messages between friends, groups, and colleagues have become an American mainstay. I say “American” because countries like Japan and Korea rarely text. Instead, they prefer instant messaging apps. But that’s another blog for another time. The purpose of this blog is to help you understand that these interpersonal texts are most definitely going to become a little less personal.
Texting Isn’t Just for Friends
Businesses and even government entities are jumping on the texting bandwagon and will soon be on a smartphone near you. The reasons are obvious:
- Texts have a high open rate, particularly when compared to email and voicemail;
- They can be delivered instantly; and
- They have a better chance of being received by the intended audience who carries their devices with them 24/7, organizations are seeing an opportunity.
The truth is, they’re right. Our devices are a good bet. We generally keep the same phone number for years, if not forever, always have them with us, and glance at them an average of 2,617 times a day and texting is the most widely-used and frequently used app on a smartphone, with 97 percent of Americans using it at least once a day. You can’t say that about snail mail, email, voicemail, or even social media.
If you’re thinking push notifications might compete, think again. Push apps require the person to download the app and/or opt in to receive push notifications. Texts aren’t as picky. Anyone can receive a text, just as long as they provide their phone number. Every form, every questionnaire, every identifying question you’ve ever answered likely includes your device phone number. Bam. You’re on their list.
Creative Uses of Text Messaging
Who, besides your friends, are promising to send you text messages?
Doctor and Other Appointments
The majority of doctors’ offices have invested in a text notification system, largely in response to diminishing profits. By automating many of the previously manual processes involved with patient care and paperwork, practices can save significant dollars and increase efficiency. My doctor offices out of a hospital with limited free parking so I get a text message with the gate code the day before my appointment. Businesses who value promptness and discourage missed appointments are using texting in the same way, from spas to restaurants.
School/Campus Police and Security
Many schools across the nation have implemented a text notification system to alert staff, students, and parents of security threats, school closings, important events, or hazardous locations, such as chemical spills in a lab. Generally, text notifications are part of a more comprehensive communication strategy that may include sirens, emails, voicemails, and other alerts.
Some counties, such as Gwinnett County in Georgia, is using a text notification system to contact residents who have been called up for jury duty. Jurors will then receive nightly text messages during their week of service to update them on arrival times. The county says that since implementation, they have seen their juror compliance rate increase to 96 percent as more people are showing up when they are supposed to.
Neighborhood Notifications and Safety
Cities and counties are rolling out text notifications to its residents in order to more efficiently and effectively alert residents of important events that may impact them and/or their neighborhoods. Everything from weather-related emergencies, such as floods, to boil water notices, and road closings can be messaged via texts.
You can run, but you can’t hide. Late and unpaid bills may trigger continual text messages reminding you of your delinquency. Cities are using texting to notify water customers of their past due accounts with a note as to when their water will be shut off if they don’t pay. Same goes for any utility, cable, phone, or other bills you may have missed.
All of the major U.S. airlines are texting travelers (who opt into the service) valuable information about their flights, gates, times, and baggage information. Even airports give travelers and their rides the opportunity to check the status of arriving flights. No more circling the airport, perhaps?
Leave it to Google to figure out a better way to find a parking space. The company is currently testing a new Google Map feature where users can receive text-based parking notifications that suggest where parking is “easy” or “hard” based on the user’s location. Maybe one day they will map every parking spot in the U.S. and send real-time updates to drivers in the area when a spot opens up.
The Red Cross is using texting to remind previous donors to keep donating. Instead of asking them outright, the organization texts donors a notification of when their previous blood donation has been dispatched to a hospital, incentivizing the donor to continue to donate as they understand how and when their last blood donation was used.
Penn State is piloting a laundry notification system where students will receive text messages when their laundry washing machines are ready to be unloaded. The texts are an effort to reduce overall time spent in the laundry room and the number of back-and-forth visits the students must take to check for available machines or completed jobs.
The New Frontier
Texting has become the new frontier for B2C and G2C (government to consumer) communications. While some of the notifications give you the opportunity to opt-in or decline such messaging, many will come with or without your approval. We can only hope these organizations use this real estate wisely. The last thing we have time for is to sort through mountains of text messages the way we now do with email.
The smart organizations will respect our time and attention, sending only the text notifications that truly warrant immediate viewing. The beauty of smartphones is that they give users the ability to block unwanted contacts from sending further texts. If you didn’t know you could do this, you’re welcome.
For now, at least, I find text notifications to be rather helpful. They get me to where I need to be on time, provide me with needed reminders, and help me stay a bit more organized. They’re like a friendly tap on the shoulder.
Whether you welcome the texts or are resigned to opt out and block every message, one thing is for certain: the texting trend is only going to grow as organizations discover new reasons to send texts to their audiences. Opt in with care and you should be just fine.