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Community Text: communicate via the mobile channel
Guiom Peersman, managing director of Dialogue Communications, offers his advice on how mobile campaigns can be used effectively within the public sectorDialogue Communications is a world leading provider of mobile messaging solutions for local councils, housing associations and police forces, as well as global retailers, mobile operators and blue chip corporations. Through its Community Text service, Dialogue has helped a large number of public sector organisations across the UK to provide a simple and effective two-way SMS messaging service that allows easier and more cost effective communication with the public.
With an average of 1.2 billion messages sent every week and more than 50 million UK handset owners, the majority of whom have their mobile phone with them at all times, text is not only a lower cost alternative to other communications methods, but the most effective way of connecting with the community.
Why use mobile technology for public services?
Mobile campaigns are primarily used by public service organisations to interact and communicate with their communities. It is an easy way to gauge opinions, gather feedback, distribute alerts or reminders, and provide general information.
The mobile channel is a very cost effective communication outlet as well as being a fast and reliable SMS messaging service and providing an additional form of contact for the community. The public can easily opt-in to receive information, reminders, report incidents and send information using a discrete method of communication that maintains anonymity. Additionally, text can be used by the organisation itself to issue alerts, updates, information and to request feedback from the community.
In the current economic climate, reducing costs without affecting customer service is a priority for all organisations, and the introduction of community text solutions can do just that. It is far cheaper to send an SMS payment or appointment reminder than to post a letter, saving on administration, stationery and postal costs. Messages can also be tailored to specific groups or individuals, for example to remind council tenants that their rent is due, and they can be personalised and targeted for certain times of the day.
How and where it is being used?
There are a number of ways that the mobile medium can be utilised by the public sector. These include SMS to e-mail or two way SMS, whereby a text message is sent to a predefined mobile number, which is then converted into an e-mail and delivered to an e-mail address specified by the organisation, or delivered to a HTTP address or another mobile number. The caller would then receive a return SMS within seconds to say that their text has been received and the enquiry will be responded to within the timeframe set.
This service has been used successfully by Warwickshire Police, who worked with Dialogue to set up a ‘text2talk’ service for young people to report anti-social behaviour. The youngsters could send a text message to a specified number containing a keyword such as “bully” or “racist”, and they would then be contacted by a member of the organisation to receive advice and support as necessary.
Northumbria Police provided a service for those residents in the community who were deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired to report non-emergencies via text. East Riding of Yorkshire Council used this service to successfully implement the ‘Text a Fraud’ campaign, to combat the rising problems of benefit fraud in the county. The ‘Text a Fraud’ service was put in place at the Fraud Investigation Unit to allow members of the general public who wished to remain anonymous to text their local authority when they suspected benefit fraud was being committed.
East Dunbartonshire Council created ‘infotxt’ – a text service for young people to text a specified number to receive updates on what activities are happening in the area and also to request advice to deal with problems they may have.
Dialogue also offers database builder - a service to encourage the public to opt in to receive messages, building a database of registered numbers; SMS Broadcast – which allows an organisation to send out reminders, alerts, updates or information to people who have opted in. East Riding used these two campaigns above to allow the public to opt-in to receive bin reminders and the SMS broadcast service was used to send out the reminders. MMS messaging is also a service whereby residents can submit picture messages to report incidents.
How does a mobile campaign run?
Dialogue’s web based application community text, provides an end-to-end solution and an easy and simple to use interface to set up mobile campaigns. Dialogue would establish the services you would like to run, set you up with an account and a unique 11 digit text number or a shortcode, which would allow you to start sending and receiving messages.
Dialogue provides reports that allow you to monitor campaigns, and view the number of people who have interacted with a campaign, subscribed to receive updates, and information on numbers of replies received. This ensures you are generating visible results from your mobile campaign and can clearly see the benefits of adopting the mobile medium.