Communicating with the community

Can an SMS text message strategy deliver information of real value to your community?A number of forward thinking councils are now incorporating text messaging into the way they communicate with their community and importantly giving the public a low cost, simple route to talk to the council.
    
Importantly text messaging is socially and digitally inclusive, over 98 per cent of UK adults now have a mobile phone. Many councils are adopting simple-to-use interfaces from companies such as txttools.co.uk. This service allows the user to send and receive SMS text messages from their computer and track the delivery, much like e-mail, but with audited delivery. Having the ability to create discreet groups of customers, clients, patients or staff can have major benefits when you want everyone to be notified with a single message.
    
The tool is completely flexible, so you can send a message to a group or to an individual person. Messages can be sent instantly or scheduled at a later time and date. The schedule can be set months or even years in advance and sent out when that message is relevant. Messages can even be edited right up until the scheduled time to allow for changes in arrangements. Customers can be added to lists requesting information and replies may be automated or custom sent. Many councils are now incorporating txttools into their disaster planning, it is proven to be the fastest, most reliable method for communicating with large groups of people.

What are the practical uses for councils?
txttools can be used for emergency planning, for environmental notification and enquiries. For example flood warnings, electricity outages, water, transport, health warnings and severe weather warnings.
    
It can be used for repairs and maintenance, such as repair reminders, surveys, contractor information, repair requests, enquiries, complaints, contractor orders, contract follow-ups, gas repairs, inspection notifications, health and safety information and notices.
    
Other popular uses include using SMS for staff contact, meetings, appointment arrangements and reminders. It can also be used for youth services, tenant surveys, intruder alerts, anti-social behaviour, and reporting crime/vandalism. Uses also include voting both for staff surveys and public surveys, rent arrears reminders and rent remittances. Many libraries are using SMS text reminders for overdue books and to tell customers that reserved books are now in the Library. Sports centres can use it to confirm bookings and to tell people about events. ‘Neighbourhood watch’ groups can use it to let people in a very specific set of postcodes know if there is any activity in their area that they should be aware of.

Why are they choosing txttools®?
txttools have an uninterrupted message delivery in the public sector for the last nine years. They are used by councils, police forces, schools, hospitals, clinics, connexions and over 45 per cent of the UK colleges and universities. It is a robust sophisticated messaging platform that is easy to use underpins the companies business. The txttools team have and continue to respond to development needs of the community. The application includes an array of features; two way messaging and secure online access 24 hours a day, seven days a week from any PC (using the same security as online banking). You can send messages to groups or individuals, instantly or schedule for later delivery. You can also track delivery of every message.
    
It is possible to convert text message to voice mail if the number is a landline. There are also inbox rules, RSS feeds and auto responders. The txttools team have an outstanding reputation in both their face-to-face customer training and unlimited support which is included in the package.

What the users are saying
Lisa Holland, youth services worker – Information Services at Stirling Council, said: “We use the system in our youth texting service in Stirling to group young people together in areas, interests, or groups, so we can contact them with information relevant to them.
    
“We find that the system is easy to use which has enabled us to enrol this out to our staff so they can use it to engage with young people in youth groups or projects that they are involved in. The support and guidance we have had from txttools over the past two years has been brilliant.“
 
Barry McHenry, e-Services coordinator at Greater Merseyside Connexions Partnership Ltd said: “We use txttools to contact young people about Connexions services and have more recently added the emergency text system; this proved invaluable during the freezing snow conditions in January, when we were able to get instant messages out to all our staff at relatively low cost.
    
“We have been working with txttools for nearly 18 months and have been really impressed with the service and the results it’s generated for us. We also recommended txttools to several partners who are equally happy with the product.”     
 
Here are some links to councils using txttools:

For more information
Tel: +44 (0)113 234 2111
E-mail: info@txttools.co.uk
Web: www.txttools.co.uk