SMS (Short Message Service) has been available since the 1980s*. SMS might not have all the bells and whistles that other messaging services now offer, and with only 160 characters per message (you can go over the character limit, but you’ll be charged for multiple SMS), it can’t be compared with longer form communications like emails. But, it’s because of its simplicity that an SMS can still be an extremely effective form of communication, and a go-to channel when important timely messages need to be received and read.
So, if you find yourself, as an HR professional, in a situation where you’d like to communicate with your workforce via SMS, keep the following 3 points in mind.
Don’t cry wolf
If you want your SMS communications to be effective, keep the channel for your most important messages. Using it to communicate about everything and anything is a great way to ensure future SMS will be ignored, and it’s hard to get people’s attention back after this mistake has been made – don’t cry wolf by using it all the time.
It’s precisely when it’s not overused that an SMS has the most impact. People don’t expect to be SMS’d much anymore, with marketing being concentrated online and via email. Reinforce this by using SMS only when you really need to, to communicate important messages like an office being closed due to COVID-19, or other crucial business updates.
Once you’ve determined that a communication is important enough to be sent via SMS, you need to really distil the message down into its most basic form. This requires you to be clear in two ways: be careful with your word choice, and to the point about the topic at hand.
Being clear means using plain English – language that is easily accessible to all your staff. This is not the time for convoluted corporate jargon that leaves people scratching their heads in confusion. Don’t use obscure acronyms (it’s all too easy to fall into this trap when you’re watching the character count, but it’s pointless if people don’t know what you’re trying to say). And don’t use words that might exclude some segments of your audience.
And an SMS is also not the time to speak in riddles; the goal is to be clear not clever. Think about how you would say what needs to be communicated if you were speaking directly to one of your staff members who only has a moment to take in what you are saying. If you need to communicate more than what can be included in 160 characters (or more if you are willing to pay for multiple SMS to each person), you can include a link in your message to a webpage with that additional information.
Get your data right
You’ve decided your message is important, you’ve written the message you’re going to send, and you’re ready to hit go. But who are you sending it to? Given you’ve already established that the message you want to send matters, it’s wise to do everything you can to actually get your message to as many of your recipients as possible.
Ideally, you will be using your HR systems to keep your employees’ contact details up to date on an ongoing basis. With Cezanne HR, staff members can use the self-service functionality to update information such as their mobile phone number as and when they need to. The trick is for HR to regularly remind people to maintain their employee file, so the information is accurate when it’s needed.
If you have to send an SMS right now, and you don’t have time to ask staff members to update their mobile phone numbers, your priority should be to check that your mobile phone number field in your dataset does not include landlines. You will then want to ensure you have a country code for each contact (otherwise, in Cezanne HR’s SMS module, a region can be selected that applies to all numbers in a send group). You will also want to check what countries your SMS system is compatible with as some countries are likely to be excluded.