One to many with intelligent messaging
Written by: Boomerang | Published:

(Advertisement feature) Boomerang's CEO Peter Tanner discusses how automated digital messaging systems are helping organisations handle major incidents and easily communicate at scale

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Why do businesses need more sophisticated messaging solutions?

There is relentless pressure on businesses to reduce overheads and focus heavily on customer experience management. To do this, many companies are turning to messaging platforms to streamline and automate communication with their customers, staff and the general public. However, choosing the right technology and partner is critical to ensuring long-term success and scalability. Boomerang creates flexibility and choice by allowing end users to engage across a range of preferred communication channels, which drives far greater traction and immediacy of response. Better still, using a response to automate other follow-on processes, is much more efficient and takes away the pain from the end user. Enabling an organisation to ‘manage by exception’ is an ethos that is common to the services we deliver.

As you can imagine, our technology can be applied in lots of different ways, but it becomes especially pertinent when you are dealing with critical, real-time incident alerts which need to be actioned and managed urgently as well as traceable.

What does your company provide?

Boomerang delivers individual and bulk one-way and two-way messaging in the normal way. Our USP however, is what we call ‘intelligent two-way messaging’, which uses our ‘threading’ technology. We guarantee that all responses are always matched to their associated outbound message, creating a great opportunity to automate processes while delivering a seamless experience for the end user.

How have you built this into your messaging platform?

As our understanding of the market’s needs grew, we built the Boomerang user interface, through which clients can build communication workflows to their own specific requirements and business processes. This user interface and our communication tool kit provide access to all of our other services.

The first of these products is called Boomcast, which facilitates traditional text messaging, as well as email and voice messaging at the touch of a button. Unlike other similar applications, when you open each communication, there is a record of what you sent out and the reply – a conversation in other words.

We have recently added an incident management component to Boomcast, which allows an organisation to run their incident communications seamlessly when the heat is on. The parameters of how this operates are all pre-defined depending on the potential incidents that may arise and the customer’s services that may be affected by those incidents.

As all incident data is pre-defined, covering who needs to be contacted to the standard content of a message, the system is ready to be called upon at any time. Therefore, a system user can focus on the incident specific data which is simply inserted into a pre-defined template and sent immediately. There is also an element of automation, allowing incident updates to be repeated to ensure compliance with Service Level Agreements. It will also allow dynamic data to be added, such as the incident start time, the number of people messages were sent to, the delivery status of those messages and so on. That gives an example of where we can take a broadcast system and bolt on something really useful.

How has the platform been used in time-critical situations?

Boomalert, our incident management software, has been specifically designed to automate communications in real-time and uses customised workflows to suit any type of critical incident. This could be either a bomb in the building, a failure to critical IT infrastructure, a coup in a country where a particular business has an office, or even a product withdrawal.

It is currently used by several divisions in the British army to rapidly alert staff who are off-base to critical situations as they arise. Through the product, the army has access to SMS, email, voice and app, alongside the ability to intelligently escalate across different communication channels if an end user fails to respond. It can also link all interactions between HQ and the division’s distributed resources.

Other organisations are also using the platform to manage communication processes that would otherwise be undertaken by their Operations Centre. Incidents affecting critical operational services require immediate attention to minimise their impact and effective communication is key to making this happen. Automating this process, using customised workflows via Boomalert, has taken away a huge overhead and incident resolution times have improved.

Can you tell us about any collaborative work you are doing with other companies?

One of our major partners currently is Quadranet, who provide reservation management software to a lot of the top eateries in the UK. Their customers confirm bookings through SMS, and when there is multiple restaurants or multiple bookings involved, we can handle it – again, due to the threading technology. Imagine applying this model to hospital appointments across the NHS?

We are also currently in discussions with a major organisation operating in the field of public safety. We have released a proof of concept requiring no development at all from their end, and giving them exactly what they need with threaded communications across SMS. We will be taking the proof of concept to CCW, and also putting out a joint press release and having a joint presentation, so watch out for that!

What is the nature of the collaboration?

It is in relation to the admin process within a control room, enabling police forces to advertise a number used for members of the public to get in contact via SMS. We are able to filter the messages based on their urgency or line of enquiry to ensure they are delivered to the appropriate place as an in-bound text, which an administrator can then deal with. The solution we have provided also ensures that a conversation ‘thread’ is maintained between the system user and the end user for each separate enquiry.

In our experience, currently the critical alerting industry offers some excellent products, which are great but often quite expensive and crucially, limited by their inability to manage multi-thread replies. This prevents SMS being re-used as a resilient communication channel within the digital communications stack, preventing automation and increasing the admin overhead.

Could you explain the Boommail part of the product? That has some interesting implications for the financial sector in particular…

Boommail is a tool which allows users to send and receive SMS and voice messages from any email client or application. That simplifies things massively for a customer, because suddenly staff do not need an external application to send messages, meaning that there is no training or need to upload sensitive data to a third-party software. It is simple click and go. This also removes a big part of the governance required in managing data security and maintains compliance with current legislation, as all two-way messaging activity is traceable.

Furthermore, other email-2-sms solutions on the market, require users to have their own SMS number to get a response to their messages, which is costly and can limit scalability. Boommail takes care of this process automatically without having to allocate numbers.

We have also developed the platform to suit the demands of organisations with a global footprint that have customers and staff located in a range of destinations around the world. Regardless of the location from which messages are being sent, we can deliver two-way messages using an SMS number local to the end user. This is critical to quality of service and substantially reduces the costs of international two-way messaging.

Could you give some background on the core technology? Where did you get the idea from and how did it develop?

I have been in communications for 25 years, beginning in mobile phones, before moving on to run a boutique SMS company, providing SMS products to banks and other corporate organisations. Around that time, I had an epiphany: virtual mobile numbers (or long numbers) which allow a response to an outbound text message to be returned to an application rather than a mobile device.

The nature of an SMS message makes it impossible to embed a unique identifier and I realised that this created a substantial restriction in terms of how SMS messaging could be utilised within everyday business processes.

A database sending out messages could only really manage a process properly if it was dealing with one communication at a time. As soon as a second message is sent to the same end user without a reply having been received to the first, the process will break as the database has no mechanism to identify which outbound message any subsequent response relates to.

There are ways around that of course such as putting a unique reference in the body of the text itself and asking the end user to respond to it. That is massively inconvenient though, and also incredibly susceptible to user error. The second option is just to base campaigns on single messages. That works but is hugely limiting, particularly in the current information-rich environment.

We offer a third option, which allows intelligent communications to do the work for you, removing that heavy admin burden. SMS is generally considered the most convenient way of communicating with staff, and by using our threading technology we have been able to bring it back into the stack, rather than having it as something which can be used in isolation. The way I view it, we are here to empower people.

What form did the epiphany take?

Believe it or not, I was having a ‘power’ nap one afternoon and it was almost like a waking dream. The use of virtual mobile numbers had been bothering me for a while, and suddenly here was a solution.

After that, I built a small test application to validate the idea. We then demonstrated this to some ‘friendly’ customers, who were very interested and are still our customers today! The solution has since evolved into an absolutely bullet-proof product underpinning the messaging capability within all our services.

How does the solution work?
Going back to what we were talking about above, the third way of solving the problem is the Boomerang way, where importantly, user behavior doesn’t have to change at all. Using our solution, organisations can send an unlimited number of messages in any order. Each response will be matched to the record it came from within the workflow, where it can then be handled accordingly.

What plans do you have to develop the product and the business?
We are developing and growing all the time. We supply around 80 customers at the moment, mainly in the UK, but also in other parts of the world, in a variety of different sectors. We have also got the technology patented in 17 countries, including the US, China and the UK.

In terms of our business model, we either offer a partner solution through which they can resell the product, combine our technology with their own product, or we sell directly to the end customer ourselves. Ideally, we would like to expand this out through partnerships around the globe and in individual sectors.

Contact Information:
Boomerang Messaging – London Office
Centa House, 61 Birkenhead St, London,
England, WC1H 8BB +44 (0) 207 224 5555

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