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SMS Benefits Communication: A Smart and Underutilized Tool

by Heather Bancroft on January 27, 2021

Technology has provided us with more communication methods than ever before. We can write a letter, make a phone call, send an email, post on social media or send a text.

Which option is best for communicating with employees about benefits? You may be surprised to learn that SMS (text messaging) is an excellent choice.

The Rise of SMS

When it comes to benefits communication, text messages offer several clear advantages.

First of all, nearly everyone has access to text messages. According to the Pew Research Center, 96 percent of adults in the U.S. had a cell phone in 2019. Because most people take their cell phones with them almost everywhere they go, this means that the vast majority of Americans can receive text messages pretty much anywhere and anytime.

About 80 percent of U.S. adults had a smartphone in 2019. While this is still high, it’s far less than the share of adults who owned any type of cell phone. Smartphones and data plans make it easy to access email and websites on the go, but not everyone has these tools. Text messages have the potential to reach a larger audience faster.

Second, people tend to see text messages as a priority. While response times can vary, many people regularly respond more or less immediately to text messages. Emails, on the other hand, are more likely to see a full inbox for a while. Emails also run the risk of getting incorrectly flagged as spam or sent to a lower priority inbox, like one for promotions.

Phone calls are even more likely to be ignored. Many people simply don’t answer calls to their cell phone anymore. This may be because, according to First Orion, around half of all mobile phone calls in 2019 were expected to be scams.

Call spoofing, which allows scammers to disguise their phone numbers, makes people especially reluctant to answer. With texts, people can immediately see what the message is about and judge whether it’s important.

According to Forrester, 6 billion text messages are sent each day in the U.S. If you’re looking for a communication method that will convey information quickly and reliably, text messaging is hard to beat.

The Appeal of Brevity

By their nature, text messages tend to be very short. In fact, character limits prevent text messages from getting too long. This brevity may seem at odds with the complex nature of benefits, but this can actually be a good thing.

According to a survey from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, 80 percent of organizations say that most participants do not open or read benefit materials.

Benefit materials tend to be long and difficult to understand. People may get overwhelmed just thinking about them. This in turn can cause them to avoid reading about their benefits.

Text messages are short and simple. They provide an easy way to communicate key dates, enrollment deadlines and reminders. You can include links to web pages and online applications.

Case in Point: Results from a SelmanCo SMS Campaign

An SMS campaign offers a high response rate at a low cost. It’s a good way to re-engage with people who had previously inquired about benefits. This can be done very easily by sending a short message that says, “Need help enrolling?” or “Are you still there?”

Here at SelmanCo, 30 percent of our site visitors came from SMS-capable devices. Previously, our responses to inquires were done via email and phone, but we saw it was time to add text messaging to the mix.

We sent a total of 1,633 text messages. Some important statistics from these text messages are below:

  • 1,619 were successful
  • 166 got a reply
  • 210 opted out of messages
  • 21 purchased a policy

The total annualized premium (TAP) came to an average of $745.82. Multiplied by the 21 policies sold, that comes to $15,662.22. The monthly cost (MC) was only $30, resulting in a TAP/MC of $522.

These numbers show the power of text messaging. SMS is an important addition to the benefit communication toolbox.  

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Topics: SMS, SMS benefits communication