CST in SMS deal with O2


27 Nov 2003

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Customer satisfaction tracking firm CST International has signed a ‘free-to-sender’ deal with O2 in Ireland and the UK to conduct marketing surveys over text messaging or SMS (short messaging service).

Through the deal CST International will be able to access O2’s SMS Broker Platform, an international connectivity platform that allows companies to reach millions of mobile phone users in Ireland and the UK regardless of their mobile phone network.

CST’s Tell Free technology is being deployed to carry out market research for brand studies using physical objects, such as putting questions on the labels of 500,000 bottles of the new Cantrell & Cochrane Club Energise soft drink. Although the consumer is responding via a premium text number, there is no charge on the response as a result of the deal agreed between CST, the brands concerned and the mobile network operator.

CST is also conducting the ‘Smoking – is the Minister right?’ survey through beer mats throughout 10 Irish pubs and it is free for consumers to text their answer.

CST has been in business for nine years and employs 15 people tracking customer satisfaction for companies in the global hospitality sector. The company conducts surveys for more than 1,500 hotels in 68 countries, including clients such as Radisson SAS Hotels, Bord Gáis, Fáilte Ireland and Jury Doyle hotels.

CST International’s managing director Paddy Hayes told siliconrepublic.com : “Tell free originated from research we were doing on electronic collection to replace our paper based systems. We learnt of the intention to introduce ‘free-to-sender’ texting and realised the opportunity represented if we could figure a way of asking the questions.

“Our solution was to ask on one medium and have the participants respond on their mobile phone. We have applied for international patents to protect our concept. We approached O2 that was totally supportive and we have signed an exclusive agreement with them to market the concept in Ireland and the UK. We are already in discussions with a major UK media company in association with O2 UK about launching a specific project across the UK,” he said.

Hayes continued: “We think this has huge potential. It allows people to respond when and where they like, when the impulse strikes not tomorrow or the next day. And it’s totally free to the user. It can handle both numeric responses (as in rating scores) and comments. And because the comments come in a digital form they lend themselves to automated interpretation. This is a key part of what we offer, allowing companies to hear what their customers are saying in their own words.”

Providing the ability to send and receive both standard and premium rate text messages, the O2 SMS Broker Platform supports a variety of business applications that includes mobile marketing, mobile worker management for workers on the move and customer relationship management. Ovum predicts that the market for premium SMS will be worth US$6.6bn by the end of 2004.

The O2 SMS Broker Platform has already successfully powered interactive mobile services including text voting, gaming, quizzes, ringtones and news alerts for ITV’s I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here in the UK, Channel 4’s Big Brother and RTÉ’s You’re A Star.

By John Kennedy