Establish your requirements, so you can do some of the leading.
Now that you have a solid grasp of the foundational elements behind your organization, it’s important to think through the various features you will want to consider as you begin your evaluation. While there are many features and customizations offered by various emergency notification system vendors, you will benefit from having an opinion on the most important features. Knowing to ask for these features, and why they are important, will facilitate your evaluation and empower you to quickly assess vendors.
Emergency Notification System Vendors can offer a wide range of services and features. Establish your criteria and communication plan by understanding the options available to you and your people.
Mobile – We live in a world where most people have smart phones, and as such the ability exists to establish a powerful communication channel on the most commonly used devices around the globe. According to SMS Global, there are over 2 billion smartphone users and the number is growing quickly. Whether your organization provides smart phones or not, your people more than likely have smart phones in their pocket, and they will happily leverage them to improve their safety and connectedness during emergency events.
Multi-channel – Emergency notification system vendors help you deliver messages that are more important than email. For those times your people must receive the notification, you’ll need to send your notification over multiple communication channels simultaneously. What channels make sense for your audience(s)? At a minimum, demand that your vendor offers simple ways to communicate across text/SMS, voice call, mobile applications, email, and social channels all with a few clicks.
Localized – If you have a global audience, you’ll need the ability to send messages in any language. Your emergency notification system vendor needs to be UTF-compliant and allow for messages to be written in any language.
Fast – Speed cannot be understated. Whether you’re sending to an audience of 100 or 10,000, critical emergency notifications need to be delivered in seconds, not minutes or hours.
Easy-to-use – During a crisis event, you don’t have time to learn or re-learn a software tool. And you don’t have time to train all of your administrators, particularly those who may only use the system once a quarter, or even once a year. An intuitive design will walk you through creating and sending emergency notifications, without the training!
Administrative burden – Selecting from your options of emergency notification system vendors isn’t just a process of understanding technology, it’s also about understanding the administrative burden that will be required to implement and maintain your system. Focus on training requirements, any heavy-lifting around setup, the vendor’s support structure, and smart integrations that reduce the need for constant management.
Reporting and analytics – You need to understand how your organization reacts around an event, so you’ll want to require real-time reporting that outlines delivery metrics, group structures and hierarchies, and user-specific insights.
Location services and mapping – When you’re tracking events around and related to your business, you’ll need to share those events with your people in the local areas. Building audiences based on location – both current location as signaled by the mobile app, and assigned location as an attribute – will give you the power to find the right audience, at the right time, and in the right location.
Geo-fencing – Just looking at a map isn’t enough. You need to see people on the map and “grab” those people to create a dynamic audience for communication around real-time events.
Customer success – Don’t just look into features and processes, look into an emergency notification system vendor’s approach to your success. You don’t want to just procure a piece of software, you want an extension of your team to help you deploy, maintain, and use the system.
24-7 support – Events happen around the clock, and you need a vendor ready to support you and the team 24 hours a day.
API access – Modern software vendors offer APIs to provide you access to their technology for customized uses and integrations. A well-thought-out and documented API will provide libraries of common actions in the programming code used by your developers.
Pre-built templates – You need every advantage when every second counts. You’ll want to require that your software vendor has intuitive, easily managed emergency notification templates that can be built for those predictable notifications.
Audience feedback – Don’t settle on just sending a one-way notification. Broadcasting an emergency message is just part of the story. Give your audience a voice, let them call for help and share insights from the front line. Your criteria should include feedback mechanisms like read receipts, surveys, and replies.
Security – Your organization’s emergency notification system vendor needs to offer a secure infrastructure that provides full SSL, encryption at-rest and in-transit, identity and access management, and other monitoring and auditing techniques that safeguard your data.