- Governments can find multiple use cases for outbound SMS messaging
- The benefits of SMS include the capability to reach many people at once, the ease of use of this communication channel, and time and money savings
- Governments can benefit from choosing a unified communications platform that enables high-volume SMS messaging
SMS services have a wide set of use cases. Even the government can utilize SMS services to communicate with many constituents at once. This article explains how.
Outbound SMS services: a primer
There are two types of SMS services:
- Person-to-person (P2P)
- Application-to-person (A2P)
P2P is meant for use by humans – one person sends out a message, and another person sees it and responds to it. A2P messaging, on the other hand, utilizes an application to send many messages to many people at once.
With A2P messaging, users can create a text message within the app and schedule its delivery.
The benefits of A2P messaging
There are three benefits of A2P messaging:
- Reaching many people at once
- Ease of use
- Time and money savings
The first benefit is obvious – outbound SMS services can reach many people at once. SMS services are highly effective for reaching people – text messages have an open rate of approximately 98%, and research shows that 90% of people read a text within three minutes of receiving it.
Second, A2P messaging is easy to use. You don’t have to involve the IT department in sending SMS – you can compose them and schedule them within the app.
Third, A2P messaging saves time and money. RingCentral’s contact center software enables you to send A2P messages from your phone number – you don’t have to purchase and program a new number just for high-volume SMS.
Outbound SMS services: how to communicate with the public efficiently
For governments, high-volume outbound SMS services enable them to communicate with the public efficiently; they’re low-cost, and many people open them quickly.
Let’s look at some use cases for how to communicate with the public efficiently through high-volume outbound SMS services:
- Emergency alerts
- Public health and safety alerts
- Contact tracing
- Community outreach
If there’s a major storm system moving in that could have catastrophic effects, the government needs to warn people to prepare. Major storms are just one example – explosions, attacks, and other emergencies also pose a threat to the public.
High-volume outbound SMS alerts tell people quickly and effectively what’s going on and what steps they can take to protect themselves.
Public health and safety alerts
In addition to emergency alerts, the government can use high-volume outbound SMS services to let people know of public health and safety alerts.
One example is the Amber Alert system: if a child is abducted, an SMS automatically goes out to everyone in that geographic area with the child’s description (and the description of the abductor, if available). This information can help residents identify the abductor, leading to an arrest and ideally the safe return of the child.
Shortly after COVID-19 struck, authorities across the world quickly realized that contact tracing could help halt the spread of the virus. High-volume outbound SMS services played a significant role in contact tracing.
Governments used data to alert citizens that they may have been exposed to the virus. These alerts notified people they should stay home, which prevented the virus from spreading further.
Not all high-volume outbound SMS services have to be triggered by emergencies. The government can also use these messages to send out surveys. Sometimes, those surveys can be sent to participants in government programs to gauge how effective the program is.
In 2021, the US government sent out a survey via email and text message to selected residents to determine the social and economic impact of COVID-19. The data the government gathered from this survey will be used to support the nation’s recovery by determining appropriate levels of aid.
Reminders are another excellent use of how to communicate with the public effectively through high-volume outbound SMS services.
In the UK, the government uses SMS to remind vehicle owners that they need a Ministry of Transportation test for roadworthiness. The government decided to roll out SMS reminders for this test after research revealed 28% of cars are late for this test, and these cars have a failure rate that’s 8% higher than on-time cars.
Some legal jurisdictions in the US are experimenting with texting defendants in court cases to improve failure-to-appear rates at hearings. A study from New York courts showed that text reminders before the hearing date reduces the failure-to-appear rate by 21%.
Another way governments can use high-volume outbound SMS services to connect with citizens is to notify them of upcoming events or changes.
For example, if a municipality is changing its parking rules, text messages are a highly effective way to reach many people at once. Elections are another example – text messages could be used to remind people to register, and then again to remind people that they must vote on Election Day.
High-volume outbound SMS services can also be used to liaise with specific communities.
For example, if your local community center is holding an event for graduating teens from several community schools, you could use SMS messaging to get the word out to teens and their parents. SMS texts could also be a great way to inform specific communities about events with local fire departments and police, so they can get to know the first responders in their neighborhood.
As a citizen, it’s frustrating to submit something to a government agency (a form, a request, a comment) and have no idea if anyone is looking at it, let alone if it’s been received.
Confirmation texts are another use case for high-volume outbound SMS services. We’ll use taxes as an example: a taxpayer could submit his taxes on the IRS website, then would receive a text to confirm the submission. When the taxes were reviewed, he would receive another text.
RingCentral: enabling high-volume outbound SMS services
RingCentral’s contact center software enables high-volume outbound SMS services that allow governments to communicate effectively with many people at once. To learn more, get a demo.
Originally published Aug 23, 2021, updated Dec 30, 2022