Congratulations! You’ve made up your mind that your organization needs a mass notification system. This is a smart and wise decision, and here’s why.
No longer are fire alarms, bells, sirens, or fire drills sufficient. A mass notification system is a must-have tool that can be useful in sending out critical and time-sensitive information within a moment’s notice to a mass audience, be it your employees or tenants, in the wake of a crisis or even for general communication. They can keep your target audience informed, safe and connected in any sort of unexpected situation. Additionally, it helps in reducing the economic impact associated with a crisis, reducing associated loss, and ensuring that accurate information is received in real-time.
Such efficiency in crisis communication can be the difference between saving lives and loss of lives. It's for these and many other reasons that more and more organizations are taking up mass notification solutions. In fact, the global market for mass notification systems is expected to grow from $4.86 Billion in 2017 to $11.87 Billion by 2022, at a growth rate of 19.6%.
You likely have done your “homework” and have already determined these benefits. Probably you’ve tried shopping around for a mass notification system and the number of options, vendors and solutions are daunting. Although most mass notification systems have a universally consistent objective as stated above, these solutions differ in how they accomplish this. So the next logical question in your mind could be: How do I choose the best mass notification system? Even if you don’t have an IT background, worry not; we’re here to guide you on how to cut through the sales pitches and narrow down to the best, cost-effective and practical choice.
What Should You Look For in a Mass Notification Solution?
Fortunately, mass notification systems are relatively straightforward technology. Still, as with any technological purchase, evaluation should include comparing features, vendors, and pricing. As technology keeps evolving, however, most products have become standardized on similar features and functionality. For instance, virtually every mass notification system comes with multi-channel support, notification templates, audience grouping, mobile support, hotlines, and much more. And this is where the market can be a tricky quagmire to navigate.
But take note: don’t be swayed by solutions whose myriad of features you’ll never use. For some reason, we usually think we need more than we actually do. So don’t be caught in this trap of focusing on the flamboyance while forgetting to look at the most important features that are paramount for your organization. Rather, be more interested in a solution that will be simple, effective and convenient for your people based on your needs. To that end, this blog explores five mass notification system capabilities to consider in evaluating the right solution for your organization.
For obvious reasons, speed is one important feature to consider when deciding what to go for. When a crisis strikes, you want to have a system that can get into the action immediately and send those alerts within seconds across all the channels selected.
SMS is the most common notification channel owing to its high efficiency. Ideally, a good mass notification system should be capable of sending as many as 48 text messages within a minute. Hence, you need to be keen on comparing the actual system speeds of the vendors you are considering, and not the speeds they’re promising. They can show these by providing hard data, their client testimonials or better still ask for a demo.
2. Two-Way Communication
A system with dispersed, two-way communication means that not only are you able to reach out to your employees or tenants, but also they can respond to those notifications as well. Giving your recipients the ability to respond to your notifications elevates the bar when it comes to crisis communication and safety. In the event of an emergency, your recipients can feedback if they need assistance or provide insights into the crisis especially if they are close to it.
But not only is this feature important during an emergency. A mass notification system with two-way communication capability allows you to send surveys and opinion polls to your audience. Such facilities present you with a valuable opportunity understand your recipients better, whether they are your employees or your valued customers such as tenants. As a manager, this will provide you with helpful information leading to better informed and more effective management decisions.
3. Reporting and Analytics
You should be very particular about the ability of a notification system to provide analytics because emergency communication strategies need to be regularly reviewed and areas of improvement be identified. They should display charts and visual meters to report progress in real-time at a glance. Additionally, the system should give insightful, detailed reports of how the notification process performed during actual scenarios.
Advanced analytics and reporting features provide such metrics as the number of sent, delivered and read notifications. It should also feedback on how fast the notifications were delivered, the amount of time it took for the notification to be opened by the recipients, how many channels were involved, which channels were most well-received, and how many employees received them.
Not to forget, a good mass notification system comes with features that allow you to send survey and polls and after that analyses the feedback, keeping your personnel engaged while also offering you valuable insights of areas where your organization can improve.
In this high-tech age, you don’t want to miss out on having a mass notification solution that features geofencing. Make no mistake, this is no jargon. Geofencing simply means that the mass notification system is “location-aware.” It allows you to define a geographical perimeter within which all recipients will receive a notification. You thus establish physical areas as virtual fences and target your messages to recipients within those areas, both when they enter and when they exit the geofence. What is more, a geofencing-enabled system can provide a virtual headcount of how many of your recipients are in proximity to the danger zone.
Recognizing that by their nature disasters are location-based makes geofencing a significant feature. Think of such disasters as inclement weather, an active shooter, or a fire to name just a few. Thus, only your employees within the “danger zone” will get alerts and precludes those who are not. Such efficiency fosters trust in your recipient’s attitude towards the notification system, especially when they realize that all alerts they receive are relevant to them.
5. Vendor Support
As a rule of thumb, mass notification solutions must generally be user-friendly and easy to use. However, this doesn’t negate the significance of efficient customer support. Much as you might not be able to distinguish the various features discussed here previously, vendor support is what separates the wheat from the chaff; it’s a game changer!
Most vendors can convincingly sell you the mass notification solution, so don’t be swayed by the sales pitch alone. Find out whether your potential vendor will be readily available even after the sale to guide with configurations, integrations, training, and implementation. Be sure to ask any questions you can think of about the setting up and maintenance of the system. If the vendor is keen to also train you on the system functions, shares best practices, and recommends improvements for your system, you likely have just found your “life companion.”
Aim High and Never Settle For Anything Less
It is not possible to discuss every mass notification feature and criteria that you must consider before settling for a particular vendor. Depending on your organizational needs, you might also have to consider whether the software is cloud-based, its efficiency in performance and reliability, ease of integration with existing systems or conference call bridging. And of course, you want to determine the total cost of purchase, installation, training, and maintenance.
Each of these features and considerations plays an important role in your emergency notification strategy to the extent that they are relevant to your organization’s business continuity plan. If you objectively put all these factors into perspective, then settling for the right vendor for your mass notification solution will be a piece of cake.