SMS and the on-demand economy: 5 ways to perfect the match


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Whatever it is you need, whether a lift to the airport, a valet to materialize out of nowhere and park your car, or help cleaning out the garage, you need not wait long. We live in an era of the on-demand economy where technology delivers — and quickly. Feeding that speed and efficiency, is SMS text messaging. SMS (short message service) keeps all parties informed when they need to be. Examples of this are everywhere.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know about Airbnb. The website and mobile app allows people to rent out extra space as a hotel alternative. When a traveler makes a reservation, the host has 32 hours to respond. But since a host is not always at the computer, Airbnb sends a text alert. Similarly, Airbnb texts the traveler when a reservation has been accepted.

Parking in San Francisco or Los Angeles is a hassle. You could circle the block endlessly or you could use Luxe Valet. Tell the mobile app where you are headed and a valet in a blue jacket will meet you at your destination. The service lets you know via SMS that a valet has been dispatched. Fifteen minutes before your predicted retrieval time, another text suggests you request the car, so your it will be ready when you need it.

Around the home, if you need help with moving furniture, planting a flower bed, or even finding a dog walker, Taskrabbit is a marketplace for errands and temporary work projects. When you request a task, TaskRabbit sends an SMS to a tasker, who can accept the task directly via text.

Finally, in a health related example, Swedish company SMSLivräddare (or SMSLifeSaver) is using SMS to solicit people trained in CPR. When a Stockholm resident dials 112 for emergency, a text message is sent to all volunteers within 500 meters. The volunteer then arrives at the location to perform lifesaving CPR in the most critical moments, even before an ambulance arrives.

SMS is a great way to notify customers of important events. Of course, rules of etiquette apply. If you plan on using SMS to enable your on-demand business, consider the following.

Rule #1: Get permission

People guard their phone numbers like they do their social security numbers, so make sure you get permission before sending text to any customer. Be clear about what information you will be sending and allow your customers to opt out at any time.

Rule #2: Don’t abuse the privilege

Most people who get a text message will stop whatever else they are doing to read that message. (That is why SMS is so effective.) If you are interrupting someone with a text, make sure the message you are sending is an important one. Otherwise use email or push notifications.

Rule #3: Be clear about what you are saying

Similar to Twitter, SMS forces you to keep your message brief. At the same time, you also want to make sure your message is clear and unambiguous. Messages that leave readers scratching their heads defeat the purpose of instant communication.

Rule #4: Stay in business mode

Your text messages are a reflection of your business, so keep your SMS professional. Above all, unless you want your customers to think your business is run by a group of high schoolers, stay away from using abbreviated slangs such as ‘gr8’ or ‘4u.’

Rule #5: Only use SMS for messages that are time sensitive

Whenever you send a text message, make sure it’s something a customer needs to know right away. Otherwise, for non-time-sensitive information, such as changes to account information, product updates, or long-form messages, email is the better option.

When your business is happening in real-time, fast delivery of communications is critical. SMS is a great way to keep customers up to date on services, even when there is delay in those services. As more businesses are learning, an on-demand world is an SMS world.

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