Is Texting Good for Business?

iStock_000006561903XSmall_1_.jpgby Liz O’Donnell (Boston)

More than one trillion text messages were carried on carriers’ networks in 2008—breaking down to more than 3.5 billion messages per day. That’s almost triple the number from 2007. Meanwhile, there was a reported 2.7 percent increase in labor productivity in the business sector from 2007 to 2008. Based on this data, one might be tempted to say that increased texting leads to increased productivity but it is just not that simple.

First, there is the impact of the interruptions. Based on research from Gloria Mark, a professor at the University of California at Irvine, it takes 25 minutes for the average worker to return to a task after being interrupted. Couple that information with research from Basex, a knowledge management company, that says a typical worker gets 200 e-mails, dozens of instant messages, multiple phone calls (office phone and mobile phone), and several text messages daily. Basex tabulates the lost productivity from information overload at $650 billion a year. And then add in all the other factors involved in productivity including the number of hours worked, the size of the work force, and other advances in technology.

So while it is difficult to definitively quantify the benefit or harm of text messaging in business, supporters of the technology cite many qualitative advantages. Griff Griffith is the president of Solution Oriented Systems, Inc. a business and management consulting company that provides technology services to solve business problems. Griffith has implemented several text message programs that he says offer significant cost and time savings for financial organizations. “My clients are searching for a way to reach new markets and reduce costs,” says Griffith.

Griffith cites these benefits from texting:

  • It’s immediate: Texting is a fast and efficient way to reach a customer. While people stray from their laptops and desktops during the day, they almost always carry their cell phone with them.

  • It’s ubiquitous. Jupiter Research has projected 266 million mobile phone users by 2013.

  • It is effective in reaching Millennials and Gen Xers. Younger workers are comfortable with texting and are apt to use it in their daily lives.

  • It reduces operation costs and it’s green. Text-based marketing campaigns cut down on costly mailers and reduce paper and fuel consumption.

While texting makes sense as a marketing tool to reach specific target markets, it can still be disruptive for individual employees battling the daily dose of meetings, emails, voicemails, instant messages and texts.

Lee Caraher, whose firm Double Forte counsels technology companies and other businesses on marketing and communication strategies, thinks texting should be used strategically. “Texting, like IM, should only be used for important interruptions during the day – it’s productive to the extent that important items move up the priority chain faster but other than that not so much,” says Caraher.

Suzanne Hardy with technology company Daymark, only uses text messages when she is offsite and needs to communicate urgent information. “…if I’m going to be late or if I’m off site and need to communicate back to the office I will sometimes text,” says Hardy. The constant barrage of messages are a reality in the workplace and successful employees will learn how to manage them instead of being managed by them. Says Caraher, “…that 25 minute thing is a thing of the past – if you can’t switch back and forth then you need to turn your phone (and your IM and your email) off so you don’t get interrupted – get the work done and then go back on the grid.”

0 Response

  1. Avatar

    Excellent post and very thought provoking. Although multi-tasking with emails, phone calls, and projects has become the office norm, I often find that the most efficient way to operate is to “mini-task.” As Caraher suggests, step away from the distracters like email and IM, turn off the cell phone, and concentrate on one tiny, yet accomplishable task at a time. Then devote a set amount of time to your communications tasks before diving back in to your to-do list.

  2. Avatar

    Great post, thanks! I definitely like Griffith’s benefit bullets and I think there will always be things to distract people at work. I’m biased, but see text messaging usage in business as a way to eliminate a lot of time, money and energy put into talking on the phone, voicemails, phone tag, etc. The immediate, short, asynchronous nature of texting will continue to show it’s usefulness in the work place, especially as workforces become even more mobile.

    @Robin – Great ideas for helping to eliminate some of the work distractions.