Public Services Should Be More Accessible to the Public: SMS Provides a Solution

When most folks think of short messaging services (SMS), receiving a curated text message from an e-Commerce company quickly comes to mind. However, more industries far outside the realm of […]

When most folks think of short messaging services (SMS), receiving a curated text message from an e-Commerce company quickly comes to mind. However, more industries far outside the realm of commercial transactions are discovering the benefits of using SMS in their communication strategies. For instance, cities nationwide are providing citizens with crucial information about everything from recent Main Street shop openings to potholes and inclement weather alerts via 311 texts.

Since its inception in 1996, 311 has transformed into an essential multi-channel service that directly connects citizens with their local government branches. And as SMS continues to gain traction across a vast number of sectors, municipalities are embracing these solutions into their own messaging techniques.

Public service agencies that harness the power of SMS can boost civic engagement and enhance their e-government services.

Let’s take a deeper look at how SMS communications can benefit both local governments and the people of the community.

Regain public trust

Despite more Americans relying on government programs to get by, there is a deepening mistrust towards services provided by public sectors. Many citizens believe these public services are inefficient and choose to opt-out of them altogether.

Public service agencies have the opportunity to rebuild trust with constituents by lessening the communication gap through SMS services. Text messages are a highly efficient communication medium, enabling agencies to reach citizens where they already are – on their phones.

In today’s highly connected world, people expect to swiftly send and receive messages whenever and wherever they want. By incorporating SMS into their communication strategies, public service agencies can provide citizens with greater responsiveness and reduced waiting time.

For example, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) deployed a text-messaging program to drastically reduce call-center volume. Dubbed “Text4Next,” the texting service enabled passengers to send bus stop and route numbers to a short code. They could then promptly receive the arrival times of the next three buses for their preferred stop. The SMS service is estimated to reduce the nearly 2,000 inquiries received by the call center per day by as much as 25%.

By reducing call wait time and allowing passengers to receive instant alerts, OCTA boosted satisfaction and public trust.

Allow more voices to be heard

In order to continually improve their service offerings, public service agencies need honest feedback from the public. This also helps to cultivate healthier relationships between the local government and citizens, resulting in better communication, fewer concerns, and ultimately a better community.

Public service agencies can use SMS to send out surveys to local citizens. Recipients can also be narrowed down to only participants in government programs to accurately gauge that program’s effectiveness.

Just this year, the US government sent out a survey through text and email to selected citizens to learn about the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The results will be used to determine the proper next steps for the country’s recovery plan.

Keep everyone in the know

Local governments can use SMS to send out high-volume reminders and notifications.

Citizens feel more connected when they know what’s happening in their communities. Using a couple of words and a single mass text, local municipalities can keep their residents informed and up to speed.

For example, governments can send alerts about:

  • Severe incoming weather
  • Street parking information
  • School closings or local event cancelations
  • Public safety issues
  • Local election dates
  • Confirmation that important documents have been received, such as taxes

Moreover, local governments can send out important reminders. A few legal jurisdictions have used SMS to effectively communicate with defendants in court cases in an effort to decrease failure-to-appear rates at local hearings. In New York, this tactic reduced the rate by 21%.

And with more Americans relying on text messages to remind them of important appointments or updates, public service agencies can enhance engagement and improve satisfaction with the public.

Public service agencies will benefit from SMS

Public services agencies can build trust, receive public feedback, and keep citizens in the loop with SMS services. Providing the public with the opportunity to quickly and effectively communicate with their local government through preferred messaging platforms empowers citizens and creates a better society.To learn how SMS from Mitto can help make your neighborhood better, send us a message at +1 (424) 653-3380 today.