Over 300 telephone interviews were carried out with business managers in companies and organisations across a variety of sectors and locations to assess attitudes to using text messaging within a business context. Interviews were apportioned on the basis of company size - from micro organisations and SMEs right through to those with more than 1,000 employees, from both public and private sectors.
Those industries relating to the built environment and provision of related services made up 17% of the total sample. Often, respondents were found to readily adopt the text messaging medium in order to 'avoid conversation' or on occasions when noise became a communication barrier to being able to talk or be heard!
Business information, telephone numbers and reminders of instructions all featured as messages most often stored, with surveyors and property consultants sometimes making use of picture messaging facilities.
PC-to-mobile text messaging systems were found to be used by 7% of the sample organisations in business and professional services sectors and, increasingly, by the public (Local Government) sector.
'We have a large customer base who are tradesmen, usually on site. They all have mobiles and PC-to-mobile is a great way of contacting them'
Distributor of Building Products
PC-to-mobile text messaging uses were highlighted as: -
· Bulk marketing messages
· Sales information
· Urgent messaging
· Contact with staff off-site
Organisations actively making use of person-to-person, business related text messaging appear to be directly related to their mobile phone provision for employees â€“ those personnel with company mobiles being twice as likely to business text as those without.
'Our organisation actively promotes use of text messaging because it is less intrusive.'
Frequent users of business text messaging seem to be aged 35 or over. This statistic may well be related to seniority, their being in possession of a company mobile phone and being more likely to be off-site/in meetings.
Not surprisingly, higher proportions of business text messaging users have been found where there is the greatest penetration of mobile phone ownership - in the public sector and the financial, retail, and business service sectors.
'Nobody abuses work mobiles. They are used to send reminders from various departments to staff who are out and about. Messages can be short and concise and there is no need to talk.'
In the field and on the move
Property consultants, civil engineers, surveyors, interior fitters and security firms are most receptive to the use of mobile text messaging for communication between office-based personnel and those on site.
'We use it to gain quick access to staff. It's instant and you don't have to bother with chit chat.'
Business Property Consultants
Communicating with Customers
UK estate agents have been trialing technology provided by ThinkSMS, targeting potential homebuyers. By entering a relevant code posted on a property for sale sign, potential buyers can download both property details and images of interiors directly to their mobile phone.
Text messaging has become the latest communication adopted by the Eastern Valley Housing Association in Wales. 1,600 tenants are being invited to use the service, which enables tenants to report repair problems centrally at any time of the day or night. Help requests sent by text will be answered swiftly throughout the day and message senders are assured of a personalised response to problems or queries.
Talking about the scheme, Mark Gardener, Chief Executive of the Association said:
"Some people don't like speaking on the phone and this is a quick and easy way of letting us know if there is a problem. The beauty of it is that people can send us a message at any time of the day or night and we will get back to them as soon as possible".
Isleworth in Middlesex has become home to the UK's first 'smart estate'. Intamac's Home Manager service links Bryant Homes' digitally networked homes to the Internet, allowing homeowners to access and control domestic systems remotely. The system monitors sensors connected to 'Scantronic' alarm panels. If any are activated, Home Manager relays warnings direct to the homeowner using text message, phone or email.
"The system provides an electronic neighbourhood watch scheme for residents", claims Peter Andrews, Bryant's Regional Managing Director.
Non use/barriers to text
Perceptions of relevance, appropriateness for business and professionalism still present barriers to the use of text messaging in the business community as a whole. Other issues arising out of the recent study relate to 'time taken to text', convenience, reliability and general comfort for individuals using the technology.
It would be foolish for anyone to believe that 21st century business would be conducted via an abbreviated key-pad and a transmitter - hardly the way to enhance relationships and valuable networking opportunities. This study has really brought into sharp focus instances when text messaging can be the most appropriate business communication tool above everything else:-
· When people are unable to answer the phone e.g. when in meetings
· Urgent visual contact â€“ last resort
· For office based PAs to keep in touch
· Useful for dealing with younger people
· For sending brief product details/data
· Confirmation of appointments/meetings/transactions
· Short simple messages
· Use with pictures
'We use it for people on shifts, so there is a message waiting for them when they wake up, confirming work times'
It also highlights how people are coming up with new and innovative ways of maximising on productive use of time in their individual working environments, choosing to text during passive travel time, overcoming international boundaries and communication barriers through visual means.
Whilst the business text message will never replace the telephone call, email, letter or meeting, it clearly has its own place, with many advantages.