Texting for business

TextingTeenagers text almost as much as they talk, sending weird abbreviations back and forth on cell phones and pagers. They’ve made texting wildly popular – is it possible they’re onto something useful?

Why Text?

A text message has many advantages: it is less intrusive than a phone call, but more immediate than an email. It is quiet and discreet, so you can receive and respond to messages in situations where you couldn’t take a call, like meetings and seminars.

How can you use it in business?

  • Stay in touch with coworkers in the office and on the road
  • Set it up for priority clients so they’ve got an easy way to reach you
  • Send special alerts to your cell phone, like notification of urgent messages
  • Get quick answers to questions with minimal interruptions
  • Communicate important information to someone in a meeting who can’t answer a phone call.

Once you start using it, you’ll find it’s surprisingly efficient. Despite the cramped keyboard, it’s faster than phone or email. With so few characters, there’s no need to waste time wordsmithing the perfect message – with texting it’s speed and function over form.

Getting Started

Cellular companies charge for each sent and received message, usually 10¢ each; you can also buy blocks of messages at a steep discount. Most new phones can text, but you may have to get texting turned on, or call the company to find out where it is.

Typing can be tricky if all you’ve got is a numeric keyboard; generally if you type “1” once, you get an “A”; type it twice, you get a “B”; type it three times, you get a “C”, etc. You’ll quickly understand why teens use so many abbreviations!

Be sure to find out your phone’s email address, so that friends can shoot quick text messages directly to your phone via email.

Read your voicemail

SimulscribeWhen you get a lot of voicemails each day, it can take quite a while to listen to all your messages. Reading is much faster, and now you can, with tools like SimulScribe. This nifty service links to your voicemail, transcribes the message into text, and sends it to you via email or text page. You can still listen to the message if you need to, in case of a transcription problem, or if you want to hear tone of voice. But you’ll only need to listen to a fraction of your calls, which can save hours of time for heavy phone users.

I’ve been using it for nearly two months now, and it’s one of the simplest productivity improvements ever (second only to dual monitors on your PC!). I average a few dozen messages each week, although I’ve been known to get as many as forty calls in a single day.

The quality of the transcription is excellent, although “Nathaniel” comes through as “Daniel,” and last night “Eric” came through as “Derrick.” The return phone numbers come through beautifully, and only about once a week do I actually listen to the message to sort out a less-than-perfect transcription. It fills in “??” if there’s something it can’t catch, and I find I usually can fill in those blanks from the context of the message.

Despite the fact that I didn’t even know about this service a few months ago, it’s now something I can’t live without. Try it–you might like it too!

Best business use for a camera phone

iPhone CameraHave you ever wrapped up a meeting only to wonder how best to get everything off the whiteboard and into your notes? Most of today’s camera phones have high enough resolution that you can snap a quick photo and email it to everyone in the meeting. You might have to take a couple to get the entire whiteboard, but you’ll be able to read it just fine—and it’s much quicker than typing!

Incidentally, this same technique works well if you don’t have a copier handy…if you need a computer screen shot…or to capture bullet points from a PowerPoint presentation.