Communication: SMS/Text Messaging 2.0

Overview

Sending text messages (SMS) is possible from within Veracross by using Communication Channels and Composer. Very little setup is required to begin sending text messages, and the cost for using this feature is per message segment. Details about setup, cost, and use can be found below.

Communication: SMS Homepage

The “Communications: SMS Homepage” provides users quick links to send an SMS, manage communication channels, and review the history of sent messages. Cost information can be found in the Countries query in the lower right corner of the homepage. A year-to-date sum of SMS costs can be found under the Recently Sent section of the homepage.

Communication Channels listed on the homepage are not just for SMS, but are also used to organize Emails sent via Composer. However, there may need to be specific Channels setup for the sending of SMS.

The Communication homepage is accessible to anybody with either the “Communications – Admin” or “SMS Sender” security roles.

Cost

Text messages over 160 characters require multiple segments to send. This is represented visually on the “Write Content” page with additional text boxes on the right, and also reported as “Number of Messages” on the “Select Recipients” tab.

Message cost is calculated per person and per message segment.  The cost per person/segment is determined by the country of the recipient’s mobile number. That means that the cost could vary if the list of recipients includes mobile numbers from more than one country.

To find the per segment cost, a “Cost per Country” hyperlink can be found on the Communication – SMS homepage in the lower right corner. Costs display in USD only.

Sending SMS

Launching Composer to send an SMS can be done in a number of ways including through Axiom Queries, Channels, or System Groups. Once Composer is launched, users will follow the same three steps for writing and sending messages.

Launching Composer to send an SMS

Composer can be launched to send an SMS from any of the following starting points:

  • Query Results
  • Group Query
  • Channel Detail Screen

Each of these options is available from the Communications: SMS Homepage in Axiom, but the Query Results can be accessed from many points in the system.

Query Results
Running a person query is an easy way to initiate sending an SMS. Ensure that the query has the “person ID” field in the design as that will be required to launch Composer. The option to Compose SMS can be found within the Action Menu in the Query Results.

Group Query
Use one of the Group Query links in the “Option 2 – Recipients from Group” column in the upper part of the Communications: SMS homepage. A “New SMS” link will be available within each Group Query.

Channel Detail Screen
From within a Channel record, going to the Drafts or Sent tabs will allow the user to either start a new SMS or edit a draft.

Writing and Sending a Message

Once Composer has been launched, the three-step process begins.

Step 1: Write Content Step 2: Select Recipients Step 3: Confirm + Send

 

  1. Write Content
    The first step is writing content and determining how many message segments exist. At this time users can also opt to send a test SMS. Sending a test SMS will not incur a cost. While SMS does not technically support URLs like www.google.com, or http://www.google.com, modern smart phones will typically make a URL clickable when the SMS is received. Sending a test SMS is a great way to ensure that any URLs or special characters show up as intended.
  2. Select Recipients
    The second step is to select the recipients that will receive the SMS. Depending on how composer is launched, to go through the SMS sending process the “Select Recipients” page may or may not include the interface to exclude or include groups. When it does exist, system created groups will be available for include or exclude. In addition, any school defined groups, or groups based on profile codes and Advanced Reports will also be available.
  3. Confirm + Send
    The third step is to confirm the recipient number, total price, and how the content will appear.

Monitoring Sent Messages

There are a few tools Veracross offers for monitoring messages that have been sent. Each SMS sent has a detail screen that gives the user details on the message success.

Delivery percentage, date sent, and cost are all part of the general statistics shared on the General tab of the SMS Detail Screen.

The Subscribers tab provides status info on each recipient including the cost per recipient, the status (delivered, error, etc.) and additional information on the status (Example: Phone number not valid).

Delivery Statuses

Below is a list of the delivery statuses and their definitions:

  • Sent = Message was sent but the system never received a response back from the network carrier as to whether it was delivered, failed, etc.
  • Delivered = Message was successfully delivered to the recipient.
  • Undelivered = The network carrier did not accept the message.
  • Failed = The message could not be delivered to the recipient for some reason.
  • Error = There was an error processing this SMS subscriber.

Note: The SMS service requires a country code in order to properly format the message for delivery and determine what number to deliver the message from. If the phone number is not preformatted to included the country code, the system will provide a hint to the SMS service that the country code is most likely the person’s household number. If both the phone number is not formatted to include a country code and there is no country set in the household record, the status result will be an error.

SMS Configuration

Channel Configuration

Very little setup is required before using Composer to send SMS. A school may want to consider setting up Communication Channels specifically for SMS communication, though first consider using already created Communication Channels that could be used to organize both SMS and email content. Learn more about setting up Channels by reading the article, Communication Channel Management.

SMS preferences exist on the Channel Update Form which can give school constituencies the opportunity to block SMS via certain channels. Learn more about configuring SMS settings by reading the Channel Update Form. article.

The Household Profile Update form also includes a card that allows families to turn SMS off on a per person basis. Providing families with this option is optional. Many schools may not want families to opt out of receiving SMS should they be used for school cancellations or other high importance messages. Confirm this card is setup, if desired.

Security

Security is a necessary consideration before using the SMS system. There are two specific security roles that give access to sending and managing SMS communication. A Veracross user with System Administrator access will need to grant both of the security roles that make it possible to send SMS.

  • Communication_Admin: Gives access to send SMS via all channels and read access to all historical SMS.
  • SMS_Sender: Gives access to send SMS via all channels, but read access to only SMS they have sent.

Other SMS Details

Standard SMS Features

Veracross SMS supports standard SMS features like HELP, INFO, STOP, and SUBSCRIBE. Veracross will track a STOP or UNSUBSCRIBE as an opt out of receiving all SMS. Receiving the code, SUBSCRIBE will remove a users opt out.

Twilio

Veracross integrates with Twilio who sends each SMS, and manages the relationships with individual mobile carriers around the world.

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