During the adverse weather conditions experienced in the UK and the rest of Europe over the past two months, many of our clients have been using SMS successfully to get important messages through to customers and staff alike.
Here at Dynmark we see messaging volumes go up substantially for schools and service providers in that sector during periods of snow and extremely cold weather, with usage in the transport, delivery and travel sectors also significantly increasing.
As large volumes of claims for compensation are processed, travel operators are able to assess the total cost of the chaos caused by the snow at airports, coach and train stations across Europe, and debate whether airport authorities and other transport network operators should take the blame. But could businesses, particularly in the travel sector, have done more to alleviate the chaos many of us were affected by over the Christmas period?
Communication is key to any business contingency plan and particularly important where an incident affects large numbers of people. Is it really possible that, despite recent events such as the snow related disruption, the ash cloud chaos and numerous incidences of strike action experienced last year, leading businesses within the travel sector still haven’t got a functioning communication plan for such a scenario?
It seems this is the case. Travellers were unable to get through at all using conventional phone lines and most websites were either down or were not updated with any relevant information. As a result, travellers unable to get information about their flights had no choice but to travel to the airport under the assumption that their flight was still going ahead. Once at Heathrow they were met by chaotic scenes that could have been taken from a disaster movie, with security guards turning families away from the entrances of the main terminals, telling them to wait outside in sub-zero temperatures as the buildings were full.
Other modes of transport were not immune – though Eurostar put on extra trains to deal with the increase in demand, news reports showed long lines of frustrated would-be travellers complaining that they hadn’t received any information whatsoever. Those that had booked their journey to the airport with National Express were forced to get into their cars and drive as the website simply displayed the message ‘limited services running’ and it was impossible to get through on the phone.
Some companies managed the situation better than others, and there was of course the risk associated with potentially misinforming customers where the information received from BAA or the Met Office for example, was incorrect. Delivery and courier companies faced the same misinformation problem as they just weren’t able to predict when a scheduled delivery would take place.
However, it is highly likely that the pressure on airports, coach and train stations at the time could have been reduced if these companies had implemented an SMS based information system, and at least attempted to keep their customers up to date. Text messaging is by far the most effective way to communicate with people on the move, as messages are almost guaranteed to be received instantly, by the intended recipient, as mobile phones are carried by the user during the majority of the time.
Whether offered to customers for free, thereby opening up a communication channel for any important alert messages as well as marketing messages (Scandinavian Airlines), or as a paid for added value service (Ryanair, Holiday Extras), targeted text messages can help reduce the potentially disastrous effects caused by adverse weather conditions and other unexpected incidents.
In this day and age, when mobile phone penetration across Europe stands at well over 100% and the possibilities offered by mobile communications seem almost limitless, there really is no excuse for not sending the right message to customers!
Click here to read our white paper on SMS communication in emergencies.