Has the Short Message Service (SMS) reached the end of its useful life?

Each year Ofcom (the independent regulator for UK telecommunications industry) publishes statistics for the different forms of communications used across the UK. (Interestingly these are released on the same day as the annual statistics at the Office of National Statistics). These show top-level comparisons over the past two years for each communication type. The 2013/14 facts and figure were released on 6th August 2015 showing a comparison of 2014 to 2013 data.


There has been a significant reduction in levels of SMS and MMS messages sent per person. In 2013 the average number of messages sent per month was 138, reducing by 21 per person in 2014. This can be explained in part by the rapid uptake of 4G subscriptions up from 2.7 to 23.6 million, using messaging services over the 4G network such as ‘Whats App’.

Digging a little deeper on the Ofcom data, revealed additional information over the previous 6 years. This helps to show the trends for the UK population more clearly:

ofcom sms stats

The following table breaks down the annual figures between pre-paid and post-paid mobile users:







The media often publishes this information and talks of the decline of SMS and MMS messaging. What the statistics clearly show is that 93% of the population own/use a mobile phone in the UK, and using these handsets billions of messages are still sent each year. If the trend in the UK continues and devices still provide the facility for sending and more importantly receiving messages, then SMS / MMS becomes a more effective communications vehicle. As fewer SMS / MMS are sent, the messages become more significant and more likely to be opened and read.

SMS automated appointment reminders

We’ve blogged about the various methods of decreasing the number of missed appointments before, listing the various methods. In our conversations with mediation services over the past couple of weeks, we have heard of various practical ways they try to reduce missed appointments. One practice has administrators call each of the clients the day before an appointment to ensure they don’t forget about their intake/mediation appointment.

This week one of our Progress Mediation clients went live with our automated SMS reminder system for intake and mediation appointments. Over the next few weeks it will be interested in discovering how the number of missed appointments for the service decreases the instances of  ‘Oh, sorry I forgot about the appointment’.

The Progress SMS reminder system is designed to make life as simple as possible. You don’t need an administrator enter the client’s mobile number into a SMS messaging system to send a text. Instead it works directly from the mediation service calendar. It’s even smart enough to figure out which client is supposed to attend separate intakes and only send a reminder to that client!

The mediation calendar is also fully integrated with all the cases, so when an appointment is entered into the calendar, it’s also listed under the appointments selection for the case. You can then view the complete history for case appointments in the appointments tab.

At a scheduled time, Progress checks the mediation service calendar [1] for any appointments the following day (in fact this can be set to check any period required). When appointments are found, it then [2] checks the client database to see if a mobile number has been stored. If a number is available, then it will [3] send a text message detailing the time and date of the appointment, along with a contact number to call if the appointment needs to be re-arranged. The system then generates a log of the text message for the mediation service to see that a reminder has been sent.

No need to send a letter or call to remind the client of the appointment, the system will automatically take care of the reminders for you.

Progress updates – internal messaging

One of the key features within Progress Mediation has been the integrated messaging system. This eleminates the need for separate email systems between users, and enables quick linking of case details in the message.

Internal messaging updates

As part of our continual development of the product, this month we’re including new functionality.

1) Moving messages to archive folders. Progress users have said that the messaging system is great, but in some cases they want to keep a copy of a message, but not in the inbox. We’ve created a new archive message folder, and added a checkbox for easily moving inbox messages.

2) Instant message notification. Message notification is currently shown with a icon in the status area of the screen, showing when there are new messages to be read. However, it still is possible to miss when new messages arrive.

We’ve added new functionality that checks for new messages as they are sent and includes a popup window showing when new messages arrive.

The key to any of features of any case management system, is making the system as easy-to-use as possible, ideally so intuitive that detailed operation manuals are not required. We want mediators to be assisted by the tool to help them mediate rather than adding ‘techy’ gadgets or features.