Short Message Service (SMS), also known as text messaging, has long been a go-to communication method for just about everyone. It’s the most widely used data service in the world, with 81% of Americans texting regularly.
It’s instant. It’s cheap. It’s widespread. And perhaps best of all, more people are likely to open a text message than an email.
Restaurants and retail stores have been putting SMS technology to work in their marketing strategies to reach consumers. They can opt in to get notified about special deals, coupons, or other happenings.
But can a company employ this same technology to improve environmental, health and safety program? So far, all signs point to Yes – as long as you can implement it correctly.
We recently detailed how SMS can be put to good use to promote a safer workplace. Let’s look at how you can put these ideas into motion.
The Challenges of Effective SMS for Safety Programs
When an accident or emergency occurs, every second matters. In theory, sending a text to everyone on board seems like a fast way to get the word out about a fire, job site spill, or even reminders about training and safety meetings.
It’s fast, two-way communication for sure, but it’s not without its challenges.
For starters, if your company has a strict cell phone policy in place, many of your workers may not have their cell phones at arm’s reach to receive the message. Those who follow the rules will leave their phones in their locker or desk. Those who don’t may be reluctant to check their phone in front of others. You may need to consider tweaks to your company’s cell phone policy if you decide to implement an SMS program.
You’re also tasked with keeping an up-to-date cell phone record for each employee to ensure messages reach the right people. Numbers can change at any time.
Another consideration for text messaging is potential charges to the user. Data rates could affect a person’s ability or willingness to opt-in to receive emergency text messages.
Finally, it’s becoming rare to see, but some people still haven’t joined the era of smartphones and text messaging. If you have a few employees who don’t have a cellphone or texting capabilities, you won’t have 100% adoption of the program. You can hope those few employees will be in the vicinity of someone who will receive the alerts so they can act accordingly.
How to Implement SMS in Your Workplace
It’s not as simple as deciding to use text messaging to send out alerts because there are so many barriers that could prevent users from receiving them.
Considering the challenges like the ones above is the first step to implementing a successful SMS strategy in your company. If you’re not sure which challenges will exist in your situation, you should take some time to survey employees and conduct internal research to uncover potential obstacles to implementation.
For example, if you find that some users will be charged to receive a message, you could offer to reimburse the employee for any charges if they can provide proof. No one should let a small fee (usually pennies) stand in the way of receiving potentially life-saving alerts from your company.
Create Goals and Use Cases
You should also set goals and use cases to determine what exactly you expect from this program.
- What do you want your response time to be?
- What types of incidents should require a text message?
- What verbiage should be used in the message?
Put Someone in Charge
Whoever you designate to send the messages should be well trained and able to react quickly to situations. This person will also become a key contact for others to report incidents to. You may want to assign two or three people the ability to send emergency messages.
Review Your SMS Database Frequently
Employees who leave the company will need to be removed from the list, while new hires will need to be added to the system. You should impress upon your employees to notify the company immediately of any changes to a cell phone number to maintain the program’s effectiveness.
Develop a Follow Up Plan
Finally, you should have a plan in place on how to respond to or follow up on messages. In many cases, text messaging is a two-way street. If your system will be capable of also receiving messages, your team should be trained on how to handle those responses.
Also, don’t forget to send updates as more information becomes available, such as when it’s safe to re-enter a building or when a hazard has been clear.
Finding the right SMS provider can have a lot to do with your program’s success. Take time to explore your options to select the best SMS service to keep your employees safe.