Text My Citizen: Could Text Messaging be the Key to Improving Citizen Communications?

Written by CivicPlus

Four tips for those considering if text messaging could help engage citizens, improve accessibility, and better facilitate customer service requests.

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It would be rare to see Allison without her smartphone. Throughout her day, Allison keeps in contact with her local mom’s group, her family, and her assistant who works remotely. Because she spends so much time on her phone, Allison likes how convenient it is to switch between updating her calendar app to signing up for sales promotions to tapping a push notification about a refilled prescription. Even more, Allison enjoys how much time and energy she saves by getting all this information sent directly to her mobile phone instead of having to search for it manually.

While driving her kids to school this morning, Allison sees a banner draped across the main intersection in town asking for volunteers for the annual Earth Day clean-up event. She’d love to volunteer with her kids and wonders if the Earth Day committee accepts volunteers of all ages.

Upon arriving at her office, she pulls up her town’s website to get more information about the event, but the web page says to call to sign up. Allison is about to run a meeting and doesn’t have time to route through an automated messaging system, wait on hold, or play phone tag. She’d prefer to send a text to someone on the committee if only it were an option.

The Text Message Trend Proliferation

Private sector brands are increasingly recognizing the power of text messages and alerts in improving customer service and interactions. Consider these facts:

  • 292 million people in North America use text messages, accounting for 80% of the total population
  • 64% of consumers think businesses should contact them via SMS more often
  • Consumers in the U.S. prefer SMS over voice calls for customer service
    • 70% of consumers want to use mobile messaging to troubleshoot issues
  • It takes the average person 90 seconds to respond to a text message
  • Adults 45-54 send and receive 998 texts a month

What About Local Governments?

Despite research showing that 97 percent of the population has a cell phone of some kind, none of the local government officials polled in SeeClickFix’s summer webinar series use texting today to reach their citizens. Yet, delivering exceptional customer service experiences is one of the most effective ways for local government leaders to boost citizen engagement, trust, and satisfaction. It’s why text messaging can be a small service that makes a big impact on citizens’ perceptions of local government efficiency, modernization, and accessibility.

Are you ready to add text messaging to your customer service strategy?

Given the population reach and consumer interest in using text messaging, how can local governments adapt their customer service model to strengthen relationships with their citizens at every digital touchpoint? If you’re wondering if text messaging could help you engage citizens, improve citizens’ perceptions of your administrations’ accessibility, and help you better facilitate customer service requests, consider these tips for assessing your readiness to text-for-success:

1. Identify your inbound communication channels. Do you receive citizen requests from phone calls? Emails? Website form submissions? Walk-ins? What are the most commonly used channels, and what are the internal processes used to support each one? For example, could text messaging reduce the time spent responding to more time-consuming emails and phone calls?

2. Identify your demographics. Younger generations are more comfortable with texting and mobile communications, yet older populations have increased their mobile usage during and after the pandemic. In considering your population demographics, do you have a significant segment that is likely already texting?

3. Review your website. How many different points of customer service contacts are available for your citizens? Take an inventory of the many phone numbers, faxes, and emails available for citizens today. Have you considered using a chatbot to field FAQs before citizens reach the right person in the right department?

4. Review your support processes. How do you currently intake and respond to messages? How many people and systems do you use? How can you make the process more efficient to service more requests and respond to more citizens every day?

Next Steps

Once you assess your current intake workflows, it’s time to launch a pilot program to see how well your citizens respond to text messaging and how much it streamlines your citizen communication processes. Try it out for either one specific question type or one department. For example, some communities use our SeeClickFix citizen relationship management solution to support hurricane relief, pest abatement, flood management, or even COVID-19 communications and services.

If the response to text messaging offering is positive (and we expect that it will be), then you can strategically expand your text messaging processes.

Civic Tip: Ensure you gather data during your pilot test, including the number of text messages received, how quickly you can respond to citizens, and how quickly text messages can be addresses or converted into service requests. Use the data to benchmark the success of your text messaging process as you scale.

The Technology to Make Your Text Message Goals a Reality

If you’re all-in on adopting text messaging to help you create more personal, one-stop civic experiences, then you need a technology solution that unites your citizen communication capabilities and your customer service workflows. Conversations from SeeClickFix is a multi-channel communications tool. Offering text, email, chatbot integration, and soon-to-be-released social media integrations, Conversations allows citizens to use their favorite tech to engage with their local leaders. Learn more here.