Diary of a Communications Director: Launching a UK and Ireland SMS Project

The following story outlines a real-life scenario of what enterprise executives are considering when launching a UK and Ireland SMS project for their business (using the same short code across both territories).

September 8, 2014…

Hi, it’s me, I’m back again with a story of how my company, Acme Corp., has successfully managed to launch a two-way SMS program in another territory. This time I’d like to focus on the United Kingdom and Ireland where we’ve been established for many years and have partnered with OpenMarket from the start to provide all of our mobile messaging needs. Since OpenMarket has an office in London and has direct connections, along with a great working relationship with each of the UK and Irish mobile networks, launching a new service in these regions should be a piece of cake. OpenMarket also recently published a handy 3rd Party Logistics (3PL) guide to messaging which has provided us with some great ideas for improving our business processes with SMS. Using this guide, we’ve decided to try some new SMS campaigns to gain a better understanding of our customers’ experiences.

September 9, 2014…

Considering the two programs we’d like to launch:

  1. IT and Security alerts: We need a straightforward and immediate way to communicate simultaneously with a vast number of people to advise them of a network outage. Each of them needs to respond quickly and then the IT Support team will take action according to their response.
  2. Customer surveying via SMS: We want to implement a simple one-to-one SMS survey with our customers that won’t cost them anything to respond.

After speaking with our OpenMarket Account Manager, we’ve decided to use a zero-rated* dedicated short code that can be texted from mobile subscribers both on Irish and UK networks. This means that it needs to be a 5-series short code; short codes in the UK can start with 5-, 6-, 7- or 8- but since short codes in Ireland can only start with 5-, we’ll use this format.

  1. First reserve a short code with the Irish networks: OpenMarket has contacted ComReg, the Irish SMS authority, to reserve a 5-series short code with the Irish networks: O2 IE, Vodafone IE, Three IE, Meteor and Tesco Mobile IE**. Since it’s a free MO short code, the range assigned to this tariff is 50xxx (and standard rate is 51xxx).
  2. Reserve the same short code with the UK networks: OpenMarket has also gone to short-codes.com and in a few clicks, have reserved the 50-series short code for use on the UK networks: O2 UK, Vodafone UK, Three UK, (includes T-Mobile UK and Orange UK), Manx Telecom and Sure (previously known as Guernsey Telecom) **.

*A zero-rated short code is a 0p MO (Mobile Originating) tariffed short code meaning that end-users texting into the short code will incur zero charges on their mobile phone bill (the Service Provider will need to cover this fee instead). Another option here is to use a standard-rate MO short code which only charges the end-user 10-15p/MO (depending on their network provider), but is free to the Service Provider.

**Not all mobile aggregators can reach Manx, Sure and Tesco Mobile IE mobile subscribers like OpenMarket can, so this is a bonus for us.

September 11, 2014…

Now we’re ready to submit our request to the UK and Irish networks in order to launch our new dedicated short code:

  1. Time to live:
  • Orders are due to the Irish networks by the last Friday of the month in order to go live about 4-5 weeks later.
  • The UK networks each follow their own provisioning schedule but OpenMarket will submit the short code order now to go live 2-3 weeks later at the start of the month on all networks except for Virgin Mobile which takes 7-8 weeks*.

*Standard-rate MO short codes can be provisioned on Virgin Mobile within 2-3 weeks along with the other networks but acquiring a 5-series short code and zero-rating the MO takes longer.

Submissions to the UK and IE mobile networks are much simpler than, for example, applying for a US short code (check back on the blog for an upcoming post about all of that excitement!) and the required information centers around:

  1. Company name and general service description
  2. Inbound and outbound tariffs desired
  3. Customer service helpline and email (helpline must be a UK or IE geographic number)

We’ll only need the short code for inbound messages since we can use a bulk account (with an alphanumeric originator or our short code as the originator) to send the outbound MT (Mobile Terminated) messages. Unlike in the US, these messages are free for UK and IE mobile subscribers to receive as there’s no need to send the MT via an on-net short code route; one network-agnostic bulk account can reach all UK and IE mobile network subscribers, all without the need for looking up the mobile network for each user.

Setting up a bulk account with OpenMarket is a simple configuration and has been done within minutes for us. We have even been given a keyword on their shared short code, a spare UK long code and some messaging credits to use in testing phase while we’re waiting for the short code provisioning by the networks.

September 12, 2014…

And that’s all we need to do until the mobile networks move independently through their internal provisioning cycle!

While we wait for the short codes to be technically put into production, I have the opportunity to set up my mobile campaigns within OpenMarket’s Mobile Engagement Platform.

The IT and Security alerts will go something like this:

  1. A network outage triggers an SMS alert to a list of contacts detailing the issue and the response required from each:

From <50xxx short code>: “Hi Dani, the ordering website is down! Please give Support instructions now by replying FIX, WAIT or CALL. Dial <number> to speak to the on-call rep immediately”

Dani can reply to the message with:

  • FIX: Support is instructed to use default guidelines in fixing the outage
  • WAIT: Support waits for more instructions as Dani will arrange to fix the outage herself at her location
  • CALL: Instructs Support to call Dani directly to discuss the issue further

Dani chooses to send ‘FIX’ and gets the following reply: From ‘Acme Support’: “Thanks Dani – we’ve fixed the Ordering Website as requested. You can go back to sleep now!”

The customer survey will be:

  1. From <’Acme Corp’>: “Hi Sarah. We hope you enjoyed your Acme Corp. delivery on Aug 26. We value your feedback and would like to ask you 2 quick questions about your experience”
  2. From <50xxx short code>: “Question 1 of 2: Based on your latest delivery, how likely are you to use this delivery method again on a scale of 0 – 5 where 0 is very unlikely and 5 is very likely?”
  • Responder replies directly to message with 0 – 5 score
  1. From <50xxx short code>: “Question 2 of 2: Finally, is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your experience with Acme Corp.? Thank you for your time, we value your feedback!”
  • Responder replies with a free-form message

I can use one dedicated short code for both campaigns as OpenMarket’s Mobile Engagement Platform will allow me to direct each response to the correct campaign. I’ve already tested the shared short code so I’m confident this campaign will go smoothly.

October 2,2014…

It’s a few weeks later and all of the UK networks have provisioned our 50- short code. I’m excited to see our live SMS campaign in action! OpenMarket has conducted their own rounds of testing on the short code to ensure that the MO is zero-rated and all networks are connected as expected. We’ve switched our service in the Mobile Engagement Platform to use the new short code and it’s now ready to launch and introduce to our colleagues and customers!

Wish me luck and catch you here next time…