Thursday, 23 October 2014

What's the future of texting? The GM of business text provider TextAnywhere looks to the future....

With the development of new apps and the increasing use of smartphones, you might think that business text providers TextAnywhere would be widening their range of services beyond SMS.

Not so, says the firm’s general manager Adrian Harris, who has positioned the firm to capitalise on the huge potential that text messaging still offers businesses and organisations such as the NHS and businesses.

TextAnywhere Ltd is a UK company, set up in 2003, with a mission to deliver high quality, trusted text message business solutions via UK-only Carriers. During its ten year celebrations last year, it was acquired by SRCL and is now part of the ERS Medical Group. SRCL are the European arm of Stericycle Inc - giants in the American healthcare industry.

TextAnywhere offers volume text-messaging services to the corporate and public sector communities including the NHS and a variety of commercial and business names.

The UK’s appetite for texting is not waning, and 2011 was the first year that saw the number of text messages sent overtake the number of phone calls made. An Informa industry report predicts that the number of texts in 2016 will reach 9.4 trillion messages – up from 6.4 trillion in 2012.

That of course means massive potential for businesses too and that’s where TextAnywhere believes there is yet more. SMS is the most popular form of communication in the UK and the average phone user looks at their phone 150 times a day.

TextAnywhere has developed its own niche and is widely known for the quality of its customer service. Unusually, the team of just 24 staff serve businesses ranging from giants (such as Weight Watchers) to smaller business users, who use the platform to send messages to their customer communities, marketing managing appointments/maintenance and repairs, collections deliveries and much more.

Since the acquisition last year, TextAnywhere has seen a 35% year-on-year growth in turnover while its team of staff and management has broadly remained the same. It was then that Adrian, who had previously worked as a Business Development Director took full responsibility as General Manager. With 30 years of experience in IT sales and management, he is well-placed to predict the future of SMS and the business.

Adrian said: “The year since acquisition has been great for us. Though our parent is huge and we report to them, we have remained independent to manage our business. TextAnywhere is based on an extremely sound technical platform and our ethos is that of good service and sustainable steady growth within the corporate sector as well as expanding into the healthcare market. We make considered decisions, focus on delivery and we are resilient.”

Adrian added: “Our team are happy and doing the day-to-day job while maintaining a vision of what the future should look like and a respect for the past. Over the past year, our approach to business has taken a more proactive stance - historically we haven’t been particularly proactive from a sales perspective as we’ve focused more on the infrastructure, customer support and service.

“This year, we’ve made the decision to be more proactive with regards to our current customers whilst continuing to chase new opportunities. What we’ve done is to become more sales focused. We now spend more time visiting our customers and talking through what we offer to ensure it meets their requirements. What’s interesting is that by visiting our clients, we often get to see other departments within the business and are able to develop those areas on the strength of our relationships. We’ve never really evangelized these relationships before.

He added: “It’s been a hugely successful year with almost the same resources; the same marketing, development and sales. Despite being acquired, we’re still an independent business although there’s more of a focus on healthcare.”

The NHS Friends and Family test (which measures NHS services based on whether patients would recommend hospital wards, A&E departments and maternity services to their friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment) uses TextAnywhere’s TextSurvey product and Adrian believes the key to this is that many people, still use old devices, making SMS messaging a better platform for seeking feedback than IP technology. SMS will service older devices as well as new smartphones and is a bridge across the mobile community.

Additionally, with the integration of health and social care that is currently being seen, text messaging provides an essential link for people who are being treated in their homes. Many people with long-term conditions such as diabetes and pulmonary diseases can send their daily readings and data to their clinicians without the need for taking up surgery time, and also have the opportunity to receive reminders for their medication renewals or clinic appointment times

Adrian added: “Using text messages for such sectors is still an expanding market and market analysis suggests it will be for at least five more years. As well as healthcare, we’ve also had huge success with our ‘TextSurvey’ product in the commercial environment. Looking at the market closely, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the world has gone survey mad and our product has been extremely well-received with a second version recently having been released.”

Adrian added: “We run the operation very sensibly and we don't put huge expectations of growth upon ourselves, our decisions are considered and our ethos is open forum throughout the business. Investment is always from banked money and not loans or debt. We are competitive but we are not the cheapest, our high standards rely upon the usage of in-country carriers and very high delivery success.”

“We also differ in that we are extremely eco conscious. Although our head office is based in Leeds, TextAnywhere staff are all home-based. We are also an accredited carbon neutral organisation, and we offset our carbon emissions by investing in global projects in areas such as renewable energy, resource conservation, waste reduction, and forestry projects. Through our Foundation, TextAnywhere and ERS Medical staff choose two charities each year that share 1% of our net profit. This year it’s Sam Beare Hospice and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. Plus we donate 1% of our products and services, and 1% of our team's time to not-for-profit organisations.”

With 27.9m mobile users opted in to receive business communications, with this figure rising to 35.3m in 2015, TextAnywhere is looking to the future and is ready to deliver its message.


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