Multi-channel Alerting System – A Versatile Customer Interaction Tool (PR Article)

February 19, 2010

HummingBytes alerting system is a notification engine, which sends alerts to cell phones (Voice and SMS), to landlines and also to Email destinations. The ability to serve personalized alerts in 3 different mechanism and to schedule alerts for future dates makes Hummingbytes AlertingSystem a very valuable component in any organization’s customer interaction strategy.

Holliston, MA (PRWEB) February 17, 2010 — Hummingbytes Inc a Massachusetts based company has designed an easy to use Alerting system which can help businesses of all sizes to send important pieces of information to their clients from the ease of their desktop. Hummingbytes Alerting System is a web based product which enables sending alerts from anywhere to anywhere. That means sitting in Boston one can update their customers in San Francisco with the click of a button.

Multi-channel Alerting system
Multi-channel Alerting system

The system provides a proactive way of informing people with important pieces of information. Let it be medication reminders or bank overdraft alerts, sending notifications at the right time to the right person can save your customers a lot of aggravation and in most cases money. Not to mention the lowered costs and service quality improvements.

Some Industry Solutions:

 
  • Welcome messages to new customers thanking them for their business
  • Updating customers of product availability (Event Triggered)
  • Promotions and personalized marketing messages (Digital Coupons)
  • Travel-delays notifications and travel-reminders
  • Updates on problem resolutions (Status Updates)
  • Change notifications (Account status, System Outages )
  • Notifying shipment delivery date & time
  • Appointment & Medication reminders
  • Past-due bill reminders. Collection agency reminders.
  • Notices of community meetings / parent teacher meetings etc.
  • Emergency notifications (Snow storm alerts)
  • Car dealership (Oil change / Tire rotation reminders)
  • Banks and Credit card companies (Account balances alerts)

Users of the system can schedule alerts for a future date/time or can dispatch them immediately. The system is also capable of mass messaging. There is an easy way to create messages and upload the recipients’ contacts. The product also offers rich web APIs for enterprise level integration.  

According to the founders of the company, the system is designed with recipients’ privacy in mind. Recipients can opt-out of the alerts and system will not send alerts to those opted out individuals. The system is designed with secure communication mechanism to ensure that contact information is not compromised to eavesdroppers.

 The system is capable of sending three different types of alerts – SMS (TEXT), Voice and E-mail.
SMS alerts can be sent to any international number. So businesses can serve international clientele from their central location. Voice alerts are equipped with multi-level answering machine detection algorithm (silence detection with speech analysis), which enables detection of answering machines to the highest levels of accuracy possible. Voice mail messages can be different from the main message enabling one to leave a call back number or “we missed you” message and have them call back.

This system promises to help businesses creating proactive communication with their customer base cost effectively. It also promises very high ROI and quick outcome.

AlertingSystem Demo

About Hummingbytes Inc.
Founded in 2006, Hummingbytes is a software product and services company specializing in Mobile and Voice solutions. The company develops and maintains communication clouds where Voice, SMS, email, IM & Fax based applications can be deployed. It also makes web based communication products by leveraging their cloud technology. The company delivers robust systems that come with the high level of service quality and 99.0% uptime.

Car manufacturer like Toyota can keep their customers well informed about the current recall

February 9, 2010

Toyota is recalling 437,000 Prius and other hybrid vehicles worldwide to fix brake problems. This is the time almost all new Toyota owners all over the world must be feeling little insecure about their vehicle. The company can really start a dialogue with its customer base by using SMS/TEXT channel. The system can be designed where customers in doubt can send a TEXT using their VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). This VIN number can be integrated into company’s customer database and reply can be generated automatically to customers; telling them whether the car they own needs to be recalled.

There was once smoke emanating from Toyota consumers, there is now fire. But this fire can be extinguished to an extent by giving consumers some insight about what is going on behind the scene. The time is tough for them but they can be open about this and get customers in confidence, cost effectively with this newer communication technology.

Airlines can give better customer relation experience without a lot of investment

February 5, 2010

We have been trying to brainstorm different solutions in this blog which come from day-to-day experiences that we go through. We think that there is some gap that can be bridged using the communication technology. This one is from very recent experience from my international travel. This is so recent that I am actually writting this from 30000 feet above the ground and the trip is not yet finished.

The trip started with 9 hours flight delay. Some of the passengers had to go through the process of re-tagging their bags and I was one of those (lucky!!) people. It was a nightmare as a customer represenatative didn’t know the exact status of my bags. Just before my plane left I got my new tags delivered at my seat till then I was not sure the status of my luggage. Why can’t airlines use newer communication technologies to keep passengers updated in these kind of circumstances? I think ROI in these kind of solutions is very stratight forward. These solutions alone don’t go in thousands of dollars. I spent almost 35-40 minutes with the supervisor who could not really tell me what exactly the status of the bags was, let alone the image of the airlines and customer satisfaction. These kind of issues where customers need more information on a particular situation happens everyday. Airlines can really make the whole workflow trasparent to the passengers by sending them relevant information using either TEXT or Voice alerts. It would have been really good if I knew what exactly was going on to reduce some nail biting moments in the trip.

(Note: The actual entry got posted a few weeks after it was written.)

Dentists can reduce no-show by using new communication technology

February 3, 2010

Like any other businesses dental industry is also suffering from economic downturn. In this tough economy there are high chances that patients miss their routine appointments. Money lost on missed appointments can quickly become a burden on the businesses. To fight this rising concern, dental professionals need to start relying on newer tools to make sure that their no-shows get reduced.

E-mail, TEXT/SMS, Voice reminders can be used very effectively to take care of no-show issue. Dental offices generally send a snail-mail but newer way of communication can be much more effective and cost-effective.

As we have discussed on other blog entries that TEXT messaging is not just for the youngsters anymore. According to Nielsen, the world’s leading marketing and Media Information Company; power moms are 35% more likely to use TEXT messaging/SMS on the go. With ever increasing penetration of smart phones and 3G networks, adults are more connected than ever before. The “Third Screen” is becoming a part of the life. All these facts are making a very good case that adults will be more acceptable to receive the reminders like dental reminders using newer communication channels than a post-card; which in fact might stay on the fridge (if it makes its way out from the junk mail) and might not be very effective reminder.

Patient recruitment automation

January 12, 2010

Patient recruitment is a major step in a clinical studies and typically tends to be a bottleneck. For drugs that are targeted for large consumption (more than a million prescriptions a year), around 5000 patients are needed to clinically test the drug. FDA requires such high numbers to assess all the data gathered and asertain the clinical utility and safety of the drug. If the sample size of patients is too small then FDA might place restrictions on the drugs’ use in Phase IV (Drug marketing phase).

Finding and enrolling study subjects delays 60% of trials by at least one month and 13% of trials by over six months (Sinackevich, Nick, et al.; “Speeding the Critical Path,” Applied Clinical Trials, January 2004). Slow enrollment is the number one reason for the failure of clinical trials. The process of getting candidates for a clinical trial involves many steps. From putting up ads about the study to getting volunteers, answering their concerns, filtering the right set of volunteers based on the study protocol and keeping them informed and retaining them during the study. Some steps of the process can be automated and some steps need manual intervention. But in many clinical trials being run, the automation piece is completely missing. Every step of the process is manual.

For example, San francisco based HIV organization that runs ads on BART for HIV cure volunteers (HelpFightHiv.org) does exactly this ! They ask volunteers to call (415) 554 – 9068 to leave their name by spelling it twice and a number to reach them, and also a good time to call back !!Now this method of getting volunteers has a lot of issues. Someone from the clinical study office has to sift through all the voicemails left and note down all the names and times to call back. Voice mails can get cut off, mistakes can be made when noting down names and numbers etc. and so this list for all practical purpose could be missing important volunteer contact details. The other issue is information dissemination. If someone can answer questions and give precise answers then volunteers might be less averse to joining the clinical study program. Just by looking at an advertisement in the train, not many people are going to opt-in. They need answers and that too immediate ones to keep them informed about the study.

HummingBytes has been working on solving the patient recruitment process and have devised solutions to automate the process. Our products suite for patient recruitment consists of the following :

1. patientAnswers (Outreach and Answers solution)

Our  SMS based customer service product is a perfect and effective way to communicate with study volunteers. It starts off with asking volunteer to TEXT in their questions and concerns to a SMS shortcode. This question is queued to a web-interface where the CRO agents can reply to the questions from the web. This is a real-time conversation and not an email like conversation. As soon as the question comes it pops up on the screen of the CRO agent who can then immediately answer the question. The product has the capability to put multiple agents to answer questions, in case there is a flood of questions from volunteers. Just like a contact center handles incoming voice calls, SMS agents get to answer questions based on pre-built call distribution algorithms.

Once the volunteer is satisfied with their answers, he or she can be opted-in for the study immediately from the web interface. In case the volunteer wants to opt-in at a different time then they can do so using our study opt-in products. 

2. patientOptin  (Study Opt-in solution)

Study opt-in product lets a volunteer to opt-in to a clinical study using Voice, SMS or Email. All channels are opened up simultaneously so that the volunteer chooses the preferred mechanism and opts-in. Now the volunteer is ready to undergo a basic set of questions which is the inclusion / exclusion criteria of the study (the clinical study protocol)

3. patientFilter  (Inclusion / Exclusion criteria filtering solution)

Inclusion / Exclusion criteria can be a complex set of questions that determine if the volunteer is a viable study candidate. Finding a man in their 40s whose has had a heart attack in the past and undergoing no treatment currently can be tedious for a manual process. But an automated process can find the right set of volunteers using this inclusion / exclusion criteria. The automated engine makes calls to all the opted-in volunteers and asks them questions setup for the study. Then based on the responses and the rules of the study protocol volunteers are included or excluded. The system is smart enough to stop asking questions as soon as it finds someone is excluded in a study.

All the rules that govern the flow of the product is set up on the website and it is an easy to use the interface to create and build rules. Rules are built on the responses given by the volunteer.

Here is an example of a rule that is an exclusion criteria. This rule is set up on the second question which asks for the age of the volunteer.

If (Question2 Response < 40) Then end call

Rules can be complex or simple depending on the clinical study protocol. The system makes a call to every opted-in volunteer and poses them the question based on the rules. When someone is deemed unfit for the study the system immediately stops asking any more questions and thanks the volunteer for their time. Once all the volunteers are culled and the good candidate pool is created then based on the study protocol they will have to be reminded about doctor’s appointment or even remotely monitored.

4. patientReminders, patientMonitor, patientDiary   (Reminders, Remote monitoring and eDiary solution)

Volunteers of a study need to be frequently reminded about their medications or appointments. They also will have to be monitored remotely to see how well they are accepting the medication / placebo being given to them. The Reminders and Remote monitoring system is capable of sending scheduled reminders to volunteers via Voice, SMS or Email. It can even accept a response from the volunteer they remotely monitoring them.

Reminders can be sent to Site investigators and even patients. The content of the message might differ based on the purpose of the alert, but the mechanism to alert is still the same and available via the same web-interface.

Each patient can also keep a diary of their daily activities, food consumption, exercise, their mood, sleep habits etc. This electronic patient diary (EPD)  is a record of the patients condition while under a clinical trial. This self-reporting mechanism is a patient reported outcome or (PRO) and can provide a dramatic improvement of the trial process over the conventional paper method of collecing data. Our EPD is a Voice & SMS based self-reporting system which can be accessed at any time from anywhere.

The above automation products from HummingBytes can make the patient recuitment process more efficient and digital friendly (since all information is kept up to date and is collected through automated processes). Visit www.hummingbytes.com for more information on our products and offerings.

SMS based one time passwords

January 6, 2010

One Time passwords as the name suggests are passwords that can be used only one time. It has an expiry date on how long after it has been issued the password can be used. One time passwords are not vulnerable to replay attacks, since the password cannot be used again. It is sent to a person’s registered cell phone via SMS and they are expected to enter it on a website or a kiosk interface. Here in this article you will find how the financial industry or health care institutions use the one-time password. Similar security measure applies to all other industry verticals.

Banking & Financial industry

Before transferring or withdrawing a huge amount from your ATM, a one-time password is sent to your registered cell phone. This password must be received and entered on the screen to make sure you are the authenticated user. What this level of security does is makes sure you have your registered phone, and also know the ATM pin. This validates that you are the right person accessing the ATM and withdrawing or transferring money. The same concept can be built around the web also and HummingBytes has components built around this concept. Visit http://www.hummingbytes.com/HBComponents.aspx to download the component.

Healthcare

When trying to access a eDigitial health records, the user is sent a one-time password on their registered cell phone and asked to enter it on the website. This mechanism can be employed on a combination of Web + Email / Web + Voice / Web + SMS channels to ensure that the user is a legitimate user and no information of one person is divulged to another.  Ensures fraud prevention of health records and patient privacy.

Promotion codes

Promotion codes are in fact one time passwords if used right. If the promotion seeks only one time usage of the promotion code then sending a one time password (in this case promotion code) can ensure that the promotion code is tracked and also it is not being misused by have multiple people use the same promotion code.

There are many more uses of the one-time passwords. Security being the primary concern that it assuages. Please go to http://www.hummingbytes.com/HBComponents.aspx to read more about our security components and its different uses.

Role of TEXTing in tomorrow’s Healthcare

December 12, 2009

Reducing cost and improving quality of healthcare is one of the main concerns in today’s world. There are a lot of think tanks around the world working on this topic. One of the initiatives has started by Boston based non-profit organization mHealth Initiative, Inc. The organization is working on an approach called “participatory health”. In this approach all the stakeholders of the health system; providers, patients, payers, consumers, pharmacies, labs etc. need to have active participation in the system and the goal of this approach is to make people healthy.

To make this approach successful the organization is emphasizing on improved and simplified communications within stakeholders. The plan also talks about new communication-based disease management programs that would drastically reduce emergency and office visits, cutting healthcare costs in the process.

In this approach, TEXT messaging has a big role to play. Patients can take appointments using TEXT messages. Providers can send appointment and medication reminders to patients. Patients even can ask general enquiries, administrative or even non-healthcare related questions. Healthcare facilities can send Health promotions. Patients can reschedule appointments or ask for prescription refills.

All of this functionality is easily achievable but integrating this in existing systems to make it seamless is really a key here. Products like Hummingbytes communication APIs can come handy to deliver these solutions. The product delivers bi-directional communication and designed with open protocol.

Businesses need to interact with their consumers using TEXTing

December 2, 2009

The time has come that every business, no matter whether it is small or big, needs to have mobile presence. Starting of this century it was a web presence that everybody was going for, now it needs to extend to mobile presence. The “Third Screen” is becoming a part of the life in many countries and in many countries that is the “Only screen” people have. Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, recently said, “There are over one billion people with Internet access on the planet but there are more than four billion people with mobile phones and Twitter can work on all of them because even the simplest of these devices feature SMS.” This statement is an eye opener statement!

TEXTing can be used to accept questions and concerns about the products, services. It can be used in Customer Service applications. It can really be used to create one-on-one dialog between you and your customer.
 
TEXTing is still a relatively uncluttered and spam-free channel. I think governing bodies have also learnt from “e-mail spamming” experience to keep this medium relatively clean. It is individual business’ and applications provider’s responsibility to keep it clean as well; and give more value to the end-users. If all of us can keep this moral responsibility in mind and use this medium, then I think we have a win-win situation here.

Hummingbytes has a suite of hosted products to take advantage of this. Businesses can use SMS based customer service module to answer end-users questions and concerns. They can use alerting module to keep customers updated. They can also use Hummingbytes communication cloud to integrate the communication in their own business processes. Most importantly the whole suite is based on Short code and adheres to anti-spam guidelines.

Not many of us are aware that these applications can really be very cost-effective. These applications can also have very high ROI. The solutions need to be a part of business’ overall strategy and most importantly should be designed methodically.

Schools can improve communication with parents using TEXT messaging

November 27, 2009

Now TEXT messaging is becoming mainstream among adults too. If you have seen the Verizon commercial where parents are busy TEXTing and updating Twitter and Facebook, you will realize that TEXT messaging is not just for the youngsters anymore. I think this is a right time for communities like schools to start taking advantage of this phenomenon.

It is time for schools to reduce the paper work of communication and Go Green. Some schools are adapting to e-mail communication but frankly I would rather get early dismissal alert from my kids’ school on my cell phone than in the e-mail box where I get around 150-200 e-mails everyday. The point I am trying to make here is that even if schools are trying to go on e-mail communication, TEXTing has its own place in school-parents communication and properly designed system can use both the mediums properly to make sure that there is no communication gap between parents and schools.

Most parents have a cell phone and would not mind to receive important announcements from the schools via TEXT / SMS. It is convenient for parents and it would reduce expenses for schools such as phone bills, photocopying, printing and mailing. It would also reduce staff workload by freeing up time that would otherwise be spent on preparing communications by school administrators or teachers. Weather alerts, 11th hour changes like cancellations, change of venue are some of the good candidates. Even parents can send a TEXT about their child’s absentee.

TEXTing is becoming ubiquitous among adults as well. Why not use this medium for more than just changing your Facebook status to “I am sitting on the sofa”?

Patient recruitment and its challenges

November 14, 2009

Patient recruitment is the process of recruiting patients for a clinical study. CROs (Clinical Research Organizations) generally outsource a patient recruitment company do the job of getting patients. The recruitment company employ diverse mechanisms to advertise the study they are conducting. Most companies also have their own database from there they can cull the required numbers and sell it to the CROs. But at the heart of all this is the recruitment company to patient communication. How can the recruitment company be in constant contact with the patients?

Some of the challenges faced by patient recruitment companies are:

  • Awareness : Patients seldom know the details of a clinical study. The side effect, the duration, the medical phase and other details. They need to be informed about the study through various mechanisms. Websites, Self driven voice solutions, Emails etc.
  • Easy opt in  : Once the patient knows that a study is being conducted, the opt-in has to be easy. Asking them to go to a website to register might not work all the time. They might forget once they move away from the advertisement.
  • Study Reminders: Even after opting in, the patient is still not ready for the clinical study. A series of tests have to be done on the patient which will require the patient to come to see the clinician at regular intervals. So reminding the patient to see the clinician is crucial to get the patient ready for the study.
  • Change in ailments : Patients often develop new ailments and old ones are sometimes cured. Keeping abreast of all the patients in a recruitment database is going to be a hard task. But giving patients an easy way to self manage their ailments is easy.

What are the solutions ?

  • Awareness: Setup a voice solution that reacts to spoken words and phrases and describes a particular study being conducted. It should also read out the duration, phase of the medical study and side effects of any medication that needs to be taken.
  • Easy opt-in : A simple TEXT based solution that immediately opts-in the patients for a study being conducted can be put up along with the TV / Poster ads. Patients TEXT in a keyword and the system opts them in immediately.
  • Study Reminders : Regular VOICE or TEXT reminders should be pre-scheduled in the system to remind the patients of their next doctor’s / clinician’s visit. The system should also allow cancellation of appointment and re-scheduling appointments.
  • Change in ailments : An easy TEXT based solution should allow patients to add or remove ailments from their record. Or a voice based solution to let patients hear all their ailments so far recorded and remove ailments immediately by saying “remove” and  add news ones using Speech recognition.

There are more communication challenges that a patient recruitment company faces. The more channels of communication that are opened the easier it is for both parties to connect.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.