By Chris McCarthy on September 22, 2015
Instant Census just implemented a time zone feature, and it’s really awesome. It allows you to automatically set your users to a specified time zone when they join the system, or assign them a time zone based on their area code. Or you change each person’s time zone individually to any other time zone at any point afterwards.
This means that when you want to send someone a message at 4pm, it will send to them at 4pm in their local time, and nobody will be woken up at 5 in the morning. It’s a huge advantage in terms of making sure your surveys are opened, taken, and not met with the irk of someone who was texted before their morning alarm goes off. Plus, it saves you the trouble of having to figure all that out yourself. Building a survey and on-boarding users is complicated enough without needing to calculate at what local time users will receive a message if you schedule it based on the time half the world away.
Now, let’s take a step back. How many people reading this just assumed that an automated SMS survey platform would also have time zone support built in from the word go? Time zones have been with us in the United States since 1883, and if you’re British they have been kicking around since the 1840s. Today, every country in the world is party to international time zone conventions, and it’s been that way for decades. Technology, especially technology dedicated to allowing mass communication with numerous people in every corner of the country, ought to be able to handle time differences automatically.
Here’s the thing though: an awful lot of platforms don’t.
Suffice it to say that time zone support in automated SMS tools is far from ubiquitous. At Instant Census, we’ve heard numerous stories of organizations having to sit down with a list of subjects and figure out where each of them was, so they could then figure out some complicated workaround to get their system to send messages at the right time. We’ve seen the things people do to cobble together time zone support with our own clients, and it is never pretty.
All of this leads to a greatly decreased experience, both for the person creating the surveys and for the person taking them. It is never fun to wrestle a piece of software into doing something that should be simple but for some reason isn’t supported. At that’s where many systems are with time zones. You can make it work, but only if you figure out a plan before hand, and even then implementation requires a lot of frustrating busy work. Exactly the kind of busy work technology is supposed to make obsolete. Likewise, as I mentioned above, no one wants to fill out a survey if they receive it at exactly the wrong time. A survey getting sent during an important meeting exactly once is enough to make a person drop out. Making sure your messages get sent out at a time when users are free and available to respond is critical to any successful SMS study.
The bottom line is, this kind of functionality should come standard with any survey software. And now, with Instant Census, it does.
Contact us to learn how time zone support can improve your next study!