As texting becomes more popular so do compliance issues regarding what can and cannot be sent via text by people in business. Is there liability for text messages sent using company computers, smart phones, and PDAs?
More people text than make phone calls these days and it’s easy to see why since texting is easy, fast, and discrete. According to Nielsen Media, 77 percent of wireless subscribers use texting technology. In business, texting is valuable for collaboration, confirming deliveries, and sending quick information to customers via Twitter and text reminders. But as with any new technology, users need to be reminded of texting’s do’s and don’ts.
- Ideal For Quick Messages. Lisa Creech Bledsoe, director of Calvert Creative and brand manager of Calvert Holdings in Cary, N.C., uses texting for business and is an active member of the Twitter community, the free messaging microblog social media tool. She texts via her iPhone while on the road and contributes to her community using AIM Chat and Twitter while on her desktop. Through texting, Bledsoe receives links and quick, frequent answers to single, simple questions such as, “I need a good webinar application.” She adds that texting is great for directions or for information about a client as you’re heading out the door. Texting is also an important tool for managers who need to send urgent messages to staff, says Andy Klassman, director of project management at TeleMessage.com, in Acton, Mass., which offers messaging services and products for service providers and enterprises.
- It’s Polite. “Texting is so great when you’re surrounded by other people and don’t want to disrupt, but still need to communicate," Klassman says. "Another key strength of texting is that people always have their mobile nowadays.” Geoff Doyon, information systems administrator at the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA in Encinitas, Calif., texts via his work phone for business and tells his friends and family to contact him on his personal phone. “Texting allows me to communicate to others without the intrusion of a phone call," Doyon says. "Also, text messages provide an ‘audit trail’ of sent and received messages.”
- No Inappropriate Messages. Most people in business know it’s not a good idea to send inappropriate messages via text, even if they are masked in texting jargon. Most companies have an Internet use policy which applies to text messaging and it’s a good idea that all employees feel familiar with this policy. “Don’t communicate anything you don’t want the Pope to see,” Bledsoe says.
- No Texting While Driving. Employees may also need to be reminded not to text and drive. Bledsoe uses Jott.com, a voice-to-text technology as well as her hands-free headset so she can text while in traffic. Businesses must also consider their state’s no-texting-while-driving laws to set up explicit written policies that will not hold the employer liable if the employee causes an accident while texting and driving.
- Too Long a Message. Texting is not the right medium for sending a complicated message since you’re limited to 160 characters. Being concise is taken seriously in the texting world. “One must communicate clearly to avoid sending a message that may be misinterpreted by the recipient,” Doyon says. If you can’t be concise or if the message is complex, then it may be a good idea to pick up the phone or talk to the recipient face to face.
- When Customers Haven’t Signed Up to Receive Texts. No one wants to receive text spam that they have to pay for. Administrators need to ensure that their customers have opted in to receive reminder emails and that they have confirmed to pay the service fee.
As more people are texting for business and for personal use on the company time, businesses are trying to figure out how to manage texting issues, such as what can or can’t be sent via text message. The American Management Association says that 77.7 percent of major U.S. companies keep track of employees’ communication, including e-mail and Internet use. This is particularly true in the banking, healthcare, financial services, and government sector where confidentiality is key. These industries have strict Internet use policies and regularly monitor and archive employee text messages using text encryption services. Businesses outside these industries would also be wise to initiate Internet use policies so they can not only protect their corporate image and presence, but also protect their employees.