Voice over IP

Sending Interactive/bulk SMS Messages


This article explores the PC based software applications that allow sending of interactive scheduled SMS automatically. We explore some of the features of such applications and also some situations where it could be useful.

Imagine this: You run an auto-garage. A lot of customers give their cars for repair/servicing etc. Practically, they keep calling you enquiring if their car is ready or perhaps you need to call them when the car is ready. What if you can have a database with all your customer cell phone numbers stored in it, and update the database when the car is ready, and a computer software application can automatically send an SMS to intimate the customer that they can come and take their car. This ensures that the customer is timely updated on the status and they are not disturbed when they are in a meeting etc. (As the SMS can be read at leisure, unlike the calls that need to be attended to, urgently).

There are some PC based software applications that can help you interact with your customers through the SMS – Short Messaging Service. They do that in combination with the Fixed Cellular Terminal or a special gateway product with SIM cards/FXO ports etc, which can send the SMS from your PC over the cellular network.

These applications have their own contact list or can integrate with a mail client like Outlook. They can also integrate with a Data Base system like MySQL or MS-SQL. So, when the cell numbers are stored in one of these methods, you can then group them and send SMS to all the numbers at the same time, some specified timing, leaving an interval between one SMS and another, 1st of every month etc. This is called scheduling.

What makes such applications impressive is, they provide an interactive interface to send and receive SMS. It looks like a chat window. So, when you receive an SMS, you are notified in the window on your PC and you can reply from the PC itself, which is sent as an SMS. That makes it simple.

Integrating with the database is the most interesting thing you could do with such applications. It sort of automates the whole process. So, when you have an SQL database, based on the changes in certain fields of the database, you could trigger an SMS to be sent automatically. The changes could be like completion of job, special offer promotion dates etc. You could even write back to the database based on the receipt of a message (Like, if you are conducting a bulk SMS campaign, and there is a failure of delivery to some numbers, those could be automatically deleted from the database – for example).

The SQL code which resides in the application can be customizable with certain vendors to make it give more functionalities or you could interact with the application through the API and the set of commands given there to develop new functionalities according to the requirements of the business.

One of the main advantage of using such a system is the automation of processes: There is no manual intervention required (like making a call, etc), if properly managed and integrated with a database. So, man power charges and call charges are reduced (some cellular providers have SMS free plans). This also helps sending of such messages after office hours, for immediate intimation of vital messages. Since this is SMS, you can be sure that it will reach the customers, where ever they are. Another application is sending bulk SMS during the times of special offers, product launches etc.

This could be used in a variety of situations like in a school, the parents can be notified of important competitions/ functions etc. through SMS, political campaigns could use this to send bulk SMS about their agenda/plans etc. The applications are just limited to your thoughts and nature of business.

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2 Comments

  • Gavin

    You’ve hit the nail on the head! Bulk SMS in south Africa is used extensively by the automobile industry for service reminders, after sales follow ups, birthday wishes etc. These are all automated.

    The real estate industry uses it for show house notifications, follow ups. Banking use it for account notifications, payment notifications etc.

    The uses of Bulk SMS are endless and there are numerous plug and play systems available to small business. Integration to a SMS gateway and customised solutions can also be developed.