Diary of a Communications Director: Launching a Customer-Facing Global SMS Project

The following story outlines a real-life scenario of what enterprise executives are considering when launching a global SMS project for their business.

August 2014…

Well, it’s been a busy month with our new office launch in Pune, India. I now have a whole new team of employees receiving internal communications via SMS on a regular basis. Using SMS to communicate with our employees has been a roaring success and I’ve learned a lot from the experience. For instance, since using SMS to welcome new members to the team, we’ve reduced the onboarding time for new hires from 2 weeks to 2 days. Employees also now use our SMS services to confirm their taxi reservation and to get notifications of bus cancellations; these services alone have reduced waiting time outside the office from an average of 45 minutes to 10 minutes.

Now I’d like to ascertain how we can use the same effective mobile technology to connect with our customer base around the world.

This time I have two separate customer-facing SMS campaigns I’d like to consider:

  1. Shipping confirmation messages
  2. Acme Corp-branded marketing messages to target audiences in various countries

What are the important components I need to take into consideration when launching these two SMS campaigns globally? I already know the benefits of SMS over other forms of communication (like email) and since it’s such an immediate and ubiquitous technology, it’ll work perfectly for these intended campaigns.

Important considerations for sending Global SMS:

  1. Message Content: Are my messages Transactional or Promotional?

Transactional:

  • Customer has requested the message by signing up for the SMS service
  • Time-critical message such as an Emergency Alert
  • Time-sensitive message such as a Delivery Alert

Promotional:

  • Marketing, general information alerts
  • Messages broadcast to a large audience base
  • Not as time-sensitive as transactional messages

–          My shipping confirmation messages definitely fit into the Transactional category since I have a finite list of MSISDNs whose owners have requested the service

–          My marketing messages definitely fit into the Promotional category

Some Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have restrictions based on the type of message content. For instance, in India, promotional messages can only be delivered to mobile subscribers between the hours of 9am and 9pm and only to those subscribers not opted into a country-wide Do-Not-Disturb (DND) list (in which they’ve chosen not to receive any promotional messages at all). In contrast, due to their very nature, transactional messages may be received at all times of day.

  1. Sender ID requirement: How do I want the ‘from’ field  to appear on the mobile handset?

Types of Sender IDs:

–          Alphanumeric

–          Local mobile number

–          Local short code

–          International mobile number

I want our customers to know that the marketing SMS is coming from Acme Corp – therefore, I’d like the Sender ID to read ‘ACMECO’ if possible.

For the Shipping Notification alert, I’d prefer the Sender ID to be a local number or Short Code so they can reply to it if required. (More on that below in the STOP requirement…)

In order to use the alphanumeric Sender ID (‘ACMECO’), I’ll need to register it with various MNOs around the world. I don’t worry though; my messaging provider, OpenMarket, manages this for me and ensures the campaign is approved and ready to go when I need to send the messages. I then use the OpenMarket Mobile Engagement Platform to manage each country’s requirements by assigning the registered Sender ID to messages to MSISDNs with that country code.

To use India as an example again, only 6-letter (no numbers) originators are permitted and must be registered with the MNOs beforehand. I’ll also register my ‘ACMECO’ Sender ID in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam to name a few.

  1. Delivery Reports requirement

Some MNOs simply don’t support Delivery Reports in the way we’re used to. For instance, in the UK, a successful Delivery Report signifies a message has arrived successfully on the mobile user’s handset. However, other networks report a successful Delivery Report once the message has just been sent to the handset – thereby creating a gap where some messages considered ‘successfully delivered’ actually didn’t make it to the handset.

I must take this anomaly into account when sending my transactional messages in various countries and tallying the successful Delivery Reports.

  1. Country regulations such as STOP requirement

Many countries require customers to have a STOP option, i.e. a free method to request that certain messages to their mobile number cease. This can come in the form of an SMS reply to the local number or short code in the Sender ID with simply ‘STOP’, which removes them from that subscription. Alternatively, mobile subscribers can be advised within the message to text, call, email or go to a URL for a free opt-out option.

Since my Marketing messages are being sent with the alphanumeric Sender ID and I want them to have the option to opt-out of any further SMS communication, I’ll put the wording ‘Text STOP to xxxxx’ in the body of the text – this will require my messaging provider to support two-way messaging in that country which OpenMarket does for 46 (and counting) countries today.

I’m confident that the following message formats will get successfully delivered to our customer base around the world, taking into consideration a few tweaks according to country regulations:

Shipping Notification:

From Sender ID: <Local number or short code>

Message Content: FreeMsg from Acme Corp. Your order #0000 has shipped! It’s due to arrive on Thursday. Reply STOP to opt-out

————————-

Marketing message:

From Sender ID: ACMECO

Message Content: FreeMsg from Acme Corp. Receive 75% off when you use this promo code with your next purchase: ACME75. Text STOP to 88600 to opt out

————————-

We’re already improving the services we offer to both our employees and customers by using SMS as a concise tool for immediate contact and interaction. With OpenMarket’s knowledge of SMS capabilities around the world and by setting up our SMS services in their Mobile Engagement Platform, we ensure our messages arrive quickly and as we intended.

With the success of these two customer-facing campaigns, Acme Corp plans to quickly adopt SMS into many more of our business processes and employee/customer interactions. I’ll study these use-cases by OpenMarket to start planning which ones we can incorporate into our own processes today.

Stay tuned…