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11 questions to Peter Tanner, MD & Founder of The Messaging Centre

Petert I’ve published two blogs about The Messaging Centre ("TMC") so far — the first was about their SMS service for appointment reminders and the second, more recently, was about how their recently introduced SMS communications system for Tubelines was very well received. 

I took a closer look at what TMC were doing.  Two way SMS services administered via web browser (a la hotmail) is nothing new per se — it’s all about the marketing & communication as well as effective service delivery to the client.  Witness TMC’s solutions for Recruitment, for example.  TMC appear to have been particularly effective at this judging by their recently client announcements.

I shot them a mail to see if I could connect with one of their management team and put some questions to them and was delighted to be able to do a Q&A with founder Peter.  I really do enjoy reading the answers that people from within (and from without!) the industry give.  It’s fascinating!   Plus, also look for Peter’s timely comments about Vodavader and roaming costs 😉

So, to begin with I started with the usual first two questions and went on from there.  Ok, here we go:

1. What was your first mobile phone?
I originally had a car phone as that was all that was available. The first hand held mobile I owned  was the NEC9A which was a bulky but powerful mobile, soon after I had a Motorola 8500.

2. What is your current personal mobile strategy? (e.g. device types, networks)
I like a phone to be a phone, and yet have all of the bells and whistles on it. I tend to use most of the functions on a phone such as camera video call Data transfers and synchronisation with my Outlook. I have yet to start using it with Email though and use a Sony K800i.

3. What is your business background prior to TMC?
For 12 years I ran a successful mobile phone company called Tancroft – supplying phones and contracts to corporate and consumer customers alike, employing up to 25 people and connecting several thousand handsets a month.

4. What was your motivation to setup TMC?
I felt continuing in mobile handsets was too much of a struggle. Essentially because of the relationship with the networks I found many users were not in direct control. During the time I was a dealer I had seen so many of the independent service providers swallowed up by the networks that I decided a career change was required.   I identified text messaging as a remarkable business tool that very few organisations at that time understood, and so as a consequence sold Tancroft to peruse the development of TMC and the software behind it.

5. Can you give us 3-4 examples of the kind of solutions and services you provide for clients?

Tubelines:
(Manage the infrastructure for the Northern Piccadilly and Jubilee lines)

We supply their control centre which essentially managers all of their engineering staff and allows the administrators to inform all of the appropriate people in an instance to a problem on the network. Furthermore we assist in the management and support of mobile devices within the organisation, and the day to day general communications of non – essential information.

Squeeze:
(London based Event bar managers and drinkologists)

Squeeze provides temporary bars to venues such as V concert, Glastonbury, NottingHill, Henley Cowes etc. Required with these bars are qualified bar staff. Squeeze experienced difficulties due to having to call hundreds of people to get the staff required for  numerous  venues and events. Since they have deployed the technology from TMC, they can now simply communicate  to groups  of employee’s by sending specific text messages, offering work opportunities and  also enable staff to text back confirmation of  their availability. "TMC have managed to automate a difficult time consuming and problematic part of our business substantially reducing our costs, and more importantly reducing the amount of time required to manage and book our temporary staff" Duane Shepherd, Director.

Star Radio
(Part of UKRD with radio stations across the UK having in excess of 500,000 listeners per week.)

We have given Star the ability to communicate directly with both their listeners and the radio DJ’s directly from an online computer, allowing the station to have an on going and personal dialogue with their listeners and manage and store their listener’s data at the same time. They take advantage of our free of charge auto reply service using one of TMC’s virtual reply numbers. 

6. From an industry viewpoint, how do you find your customers are reacting to mobile services? Is it still ‘a dark art’ or do you feel more and more businesses are reacting positively to the medium? 
I believe our product gives corporate organisations of all sizes the ability to get far better use from Mobile devices. I think staff are far too quick to pick up a phone and dial a mobile. I see my roll as one that educates organizations and helps them understand that Mobile devices can help enhance internal communications and business continuity. A great deal of information needs to be passed between employees and by giving their staff the ability to use a text platform to communicate – the rewards are substantial. SMS technology can help reduce cost, staff time, limit disturbance (such as being interrupted during a business meeting or working when half way up a ladder!) caused by constant calls to mobile users. SMS can also help regarding storing business information and can reducing the amount of stress and wasted time that inevitably comes with a voice call. Finally unlike with a voice call there is a full audit trail of messages with confirmation of delivery, and the ability for the recipient of the message to reply. 

Organisations that have embraced this technology have in most cases not looked back and have had very positive feed back from staff customer managers and administrators alike along with reduced stress,  reduced costs and easier flow control and management of information.

7. What’s right and what’s wrong the with mobile industry today?
Big question, but to bring up one point  – fleecing, on roamed calls especially on international networks owned by the one big supplier Vodvader – use the GSM Luke!!

8. Can you give us a quick summary about what you think of each major UK network?
I wonder about the level of cooperation between these allegedly independent companies as there seems to be so little competition between them, however in the context of my industry all of these incumbents see text messaging as non vital and have not woken up to the needs of texting in the corporate market, an example of which is it is impossible to get any service level agreements from any of these companies.

9. What are the most used functions on your mobile? 
Texting

10. What sites do you regularly visit for mobile related news and opinion?
160characters.org and the GSM association.

11. What mobile related services or applications have you seen recently that have really caught your eye?
Streetmap on 02, OnMobile, AQA

Thanks for taking the time Peter!

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

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