5 tips to maximise the impact of government text messages
Mobile phone messages can be an easy and effective way to communicate with customers. We found that sending tailored text messages with important information led to improved outcomes for customers.
People who are busy may miss important information which can have a significant impact on their lives. For example, paying their social housing rent on time to avoid arrears, showing up to specialist appointments to improve their health or attending court.
Mobile text messages are a low cost and effective way to improve communication and customer outcomes. By using behavioural insights, text messages can be optimised so customers take notice of important information and understand what actions are available to them.
What we did
Personalise the message to the customer
People respond more favourably when a message is tailored to them. Messages which aren’t personalised may be seen as spam or not relevant to customers.
Messages can be personalised to customers by using the customer’s name (e.g., “Hi John…”), or including other customer data.
For example, we sent text messages to first year learners to encourage them to seek help and persevere with their study. Messages addressed the learner by their first name, came from their local service manager and referenced their specific qualification:
“Hi Mel, I’m Derek, your Regional Manager at Training Services NSW. We’re the regulatory body supporting your apprenticeship… At work you can expect to learn new skills & receive mentorship. Find additional support on our website bitly/TSNSWsupport, or call me on 02 942 1700”
These messages reduced the dropout rate of learners by 16 per cent.
Keep it simple and to the point
Text messages are most effective when they use simple language and contain only crucial information. Customers are reluctant to read longer text messages and can be confused by complex information.
For example, we sent simple and concise reminder text messages to tenants of social housing whose rent was overdue. We also reminded people about their commitment:
“Your rent is overdue. When you moved in, you committed to pay your rent on time. You have broken this agreement. Visit housing.nsw.gov.au/pay"
More than three quarters of people who received the text messages paid their overdue rent or commenced a payment plan. Only 68.5 per cent of tenants who did not receive a behavioural SMS and only received a letter commenced a payment plan.
Have a clear call to action
Messages should contain a clear call to action. Tell the customer what they need to do, when and how. Make this action easy for customers by including important links or other information in the message they can use.
For example, we sent patients SMS reminders about their upcoming hospital appointments. We told customers to call to rearrange or cancel their appointment if they couldn’t make the date. The message also highlighted the loss to the hospital when they don’t take this action:
“We are expecting you at ENT Clinic Gosford Hospital on Fri 22/03/19 at 11:00am. Please allow time to get here and bring any test results. If you attend, the hospital will not lose the $215 we lose when a patient does not turn up, and you can avoid a waitlist. To rearrange/cancel, call 4320 2111.”
These messages reduced missed hospital appointments by 33.7 per cent, corresponding to a saving of almost $120,000 in eight months.
Send at an optimal time
It is best to send messages at a time when people have the opportunity to read it and action it immediately.
For example, in our trial with apprentices, we sent text messages during common break times including in the morning between 9am and 11am, lunchtime at about 12pm, and in the afternoon at 3pm. This is when apprentices have a chance to act on the spot.
We also sent reminder messages at key times during their apprenticeship or traineeship calendar to prompt learners to complete important training documents.
Use an influential messenger
Text messages should clearly state the sender and sign the text message from an influential messenger. This ensures customers trust and act on the message.
Send the message from a dedicated number. Many services will additionally show the organisation’s name in the caller ID (for example “Training Services NSW”). Phone numbers which show up as ‘Blocked’ or ‘Private’ may be seen as untrustworthy. Alternatively, sign-off with your name as well as your role or organisation.
We sent a weekly text message to parents and carers of school children to provide simple information about what their child learned that week and a clear action they could take to support their learning. These text messages were signed by the childs’ teacher.
“Hi Karen, this week in class Matt learned about common nouns (e.g. dog, lamp, chair). Take it in turns to identify common items around the house. Making it fun will help Matt learn! – Ms Smith”
These behavioural messages were effective - parents and carers had 5 per cent higher engagement at schools that sent the messages compared to those at schools that did not send messages.
How can you use this in your work?
Behavioural insights from our trials can be used to improve the impact of your text message campaigns:
- Personalise the message using the customer’s name or other relevant information to increase engagement.
- Simplify the message so the customer knows what you want them to do.
- Provide a clear call to action so the customer knows what action you’d like them to take, when and how. Make it easier for them to take the desired action by including any necessary links or other information. Only include actions they can complete on the spot.
- Send message at an optimal time when the customer has an opportunity to read and act on it, such as during break times.
- Use an influential messenger so customers trust and act on the message.
For more information on our work, please contact us