SMS, the ultimate Normob service

This week I’ve been writing on SMS Text News about SMS and questioning why businesses and other organisations don’t do more to exploit its potential.

Today I return to the world of Normobs. Everyday there are announcements about great new mobile services, many of them picked up here at SMS Text News. However it puzzles me that one of the oldest and most mature mobile applications still seems to be overlooked for what it can deliver to the whole mobile (and possibly fixed line) community. The humble SMS, or text message to the Normob community, has been massively successful for person to person communication – 6.3 billion SMS were sent in the UK in January 2008 alone. However, the opportunity to use SMS for machine to person (M2P) communication seems massively under exploited.

A few months ago when my wife placed an online grocery order with Ocado she was offered the opportunity to receive a SMS for each future grocery order reminding her when her order would be delivered – simple but very effective. But how many organisations use this type of reminder? Not many, in my experience, which is curious when you consider the cost of missed appointments. Is SMS just too technical for business? There’s no shortage of SMS providers in the market including SMS Text News sponsor Clickatell.

A couple of weeks ago I had to visit the dentist and the day before I received a call from the dental practice reminding me of my appointment – from a person. How much would that have cost? Our local GP practice uses a wallboard to advise patients when their doctor is ready to see them. In between appointments, it scrolls a message showing how many missed appointments there were the previous month – 234 for June. That’s massive wastage and a simple SMS would remind patients to keep or cancel their appointment. It wouldn’t guarantee that everyone would turn up and some patients, particularly the elderly would not be comfortable with a SMS reminder but it would work for many. I had a browse around the web and found a company that specialises in the health market for patient reminders and health promotions. Great idea! iPlato Patient Care Messaging is a solution designed for NHS reminders which is used by a number of GP practices and primary care trusts but not mine. Why doesn’t my GP practice make use of SMS to remind patients? My wife represents ‘young people’ in the community on the GP practice’s patient forum and as they seem to be an ideal target market for SMS reminders it’ll be raised at the next meeting with a suggestion the practice looks at the costs and logistics of such a system.

Another solution I’d like to see would be SMS notifications of credit card transactions over a specified value to provide an early warning of fraudulent transactions. These need to include specific details of the transaction merchant and value, unlike the SMS alerts from the online bank, Cahoot that are generic and merely advise of a deposit or a withdrawal – what use is that? Some banks offer mini statements by SMS but I want to know about specific transactions as they happen – at the time of authorisation, not settlement. I’d even be prepared to pay for a customisable SMS alert service that worked in real time.

These are just a couple of areas that would benefit from the ubiquity of SMS. For a technology that’s been around for so long businesses are only just starting to scratch the surface of SMS.

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