10 ways to improve your employee notification system

Today, many organizations view mass notification systems through the lens of emergency and disaster events, such as evacuations, severe weather, terrorist incidents or active shooter situations when the ability to deliver real-time alerts to employees, customers, partners and consumers is critical.

But intelligent mass notification is increasingly becoming a core tool for enterprise CXOs seeking to not only keep employees safe, but to ensure reliable risk management and business continuity – including crisis management during IT and cyber security incidents, IT service management, corporate communications, customer relations, supply chain management, or any area that needs reliable two-way notification for groups from one to many thousands.

The bottom line is that no matter how your organization is using mass notification services, ensuring the safety and security of employees and other individuals - as well as the business as a whole - requires ensuring consistently high user response rates. Without effective responses, notifications and alerts become like trees falling in the forest that no one hears, and decision makers are left to wonder if the critical messages are even being received at all.

No longer is it sufficient to just push content out to employees, customers, and other relevant audiences; organizations must also pull information back as well - whether it's confirmation that the message was received or additional context on an event that can help guide further actions. To improve notification and alert response rates, organizations should consider these ten key strategies:

Construct messages consistently

By following a consistent construction for all messages, you'll make the job easier for yourself (less chance of forgetting a critical piece of the message, like call to action). At the same time, you'll train your recipients and reinforce with them how to listen or read and respond to your message. Finally, using efficient character counts with shortened URLs; recipients receive a complete message that has not been truncated by character limitations.

Identify notifications by purpose and source

Use a meaningful subject line or introduction for all communications. Be clear and concise; state the issue and the action required. It's better to identify the sender by function, rather than name. If you use an ANI (automatic number identifier) to identify where the message is coming from, use it consistently.

Communications can also be made more meaningful when additional documents are attached. Attachments displayed by name can provide additional pertinent information to recipients (i.e., a photo of a missing individual, event fliers, maps of affected areas, etc.).

Coordinate messaging during broad events

Too many similar messages overwhelm recipients, particularly when they come from a variety of sources. Plan ahead who will take responsibility for launching notifications. Ask who will prepare and launch notifications for each department and who should receive the responses to the notification.

Keep content consistent

Consistency counts in both message construction, as well as content. Follow the same pattern when constructing notifications, even though your messages may be very different. Use consistent introductions; if you elect to validate recipients before delivering the message, then always do so. If the direction to one team is to “press one to hear your message,” every team should use that direction.

Consistency becomes even more relevant in ensuring a streamlined user experience when messages are traveling across multiple device types (smartphone, tablet, laptop, phone) and channel (voice, email, messaging, paper).

Enable the right number of initiators

If there are too few notification initiators, you may find you don't have anyone available when needed; too many, and you run the risk of overlapping notifications, over communicating and providing recipients with inconsistent information. Consider whether there should be an initiator at each location or if a regional initiator would work better. When the right person with the right authority launches an alert, you're more likely to avoid mixed messages.

At the same time, help avoid notification and alert fatigue by setting a predefined expiration time: determine how long a notification is valid, ranging from 10 minutes up to 24 hours, so that the burden is not on the user to sift through current and dated messages.

Train your team

A key element is training. Most recipients want to know what is in the message for them, so focus on their needs, whether that is safety, convenience or something else. If you explain the purpose and value of notification before you send the first message, recipients will respond more favorably. Explain why a notification solution is being implemented, what the value is, how to recognize a notification from your system and how to respond.

Announce tests in the beginning

Testing your solution is important and is a part of training. Don't hesitate to announce tests in early stages. This sets expectations for recipients, encouraging them to practice answering and responding to see how the system works. Don't give specific times, but do tell them to be aware and that a response is expected. When a real alert is initiated, they'll know how to react.

Run campaigns on your notification program

When testing, develop campaigns or initiatives to engage everyone in the process. A light-hearted competition between executives or departments to kick up response rates works great as an unofficial training mechanism. Share the results to encourage improvements. Measure campaigns over time for recognition of noted improvements.

Report and measure

An emergency mass notification system should allow you see when a message has been opened, in what format (email, text, etc.) and the response (if applicable). This is critical to both your campaigns and the long-term success of your solution to view and track responses. Sharing reports with other teams can drive greater response, and if you keep the results you can track improvement over time. Watch for specific patterns of participation; some people may never answer, or only before or after a certain time. This may be because they are unavailable or may indicate they don't feel comfortable with the system.

Use your notification system

By using the notification system regularly, you'll be instilling a valuable pattern. Response rates will grow as you broaden the variety of use cases and expand your communication modes (phone, SMS, etc.). Over time, useful patterns in response will emerge that will make your system more efficient and more valuable to your enterprise.

Gartner estimates that each minute of unplanned downtime costs organizations $5,600 per minute. Beyond the costs to your business for outages and other interruptions, there is the more serious impact on safety and security that critical events cause. Improving the effectiveness of real-time emergency mass notification services can help keep employees safe, and ensure reliable risk management and business continuity of operations.

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