From Russia with Love

In the twenty-second in our series of FrontlineSMS Guest Posts, a bit of a departure from the norm. Aleksei is our star software tester, and as part of the testing he's been trying it out in his wife's "live environment". His story provides some interesting insights into how small enterprises of any stripe can make use of FrontlineSMS for staff coordination and management. His wife Elena Ovsiannikova, leader of a beauty consulting team, tells us how she has been using the software to support her new team members. “I work with a lot of people, and a lot of information. I advise my clients about cosmetics and perfumes from several famous international companies, and I have a team to help me. Sharing information about so many products with new team members is not easy. I have lots of lovely pamphlets for them, but carrying them all around with you all day in a little handbag? Impossible, they're too heavy. We are beautiful women, not robots!

Yet even with a smartphone with a good browser, and email client, and instant messenger services, keeping in up-to-date in the field can be a challenge for a new consultant. That's where FrontlineSMS comes in.

Aleksei Ivanov, my husband, has been a nut about technology and social optimization all his life. He's now an IT project manager and he suggested using my business to help the FrontlineSMS team test software and translate it into Russian. He showed me how to use the software to get information quickly, do surveys among my team members, support them and save them time.

"Although broadband Internet, Wi-Fi and WiMAX networks have good penetration in Moscow (Russia), mobile phones became indispensable personal devices so long ago that I can't honestly remember when it happened,' Aleksei says. 'It feels like we've always had mobile phones and GSM networks in our lives. The first GSM network in Moscow was only built in 1992 and it was very expensive, but now it's quite cheap and you can use several SIM-cards for different needs - from voice calls to 3G mobile internet in a USB-modem on a laptop or netbook. But for young people, text messaging is still the best known and most-used communication tool, and it seemed to me that it could really help Elena.

"Knowing all of that, I decided to help my wife to design and build a mobile database to help answer frequently asked questions around her activity, such as dates of marketing campaigns, dates of training courses for new representatives and coordinators, and so on. And it works really well! For example, not so long ago a new representative, meeting with a client, forgot the dates of the current campaign when 30% discounts apply. She sent the short message CAMPAIGN07 to our FrontlineSMS number - an ordinary mobile number which was written in her mobile phone address book. She got a response in less than a minute with dates of the beginning and the end of the campaign."

I also use FrontlineSMS for surveys. I have no time to meet every week with every member of my team to check up on their working process, and not all of them have email - but all my team members have mobile phones and are able to use them for one simple action – responding to text messages.

Finally, I use FrontlineSMS to coordinate team attendance at training courses. If I SMS the team to ask who would like to attend a particular course, using FrontlineSMS, those who are interested text back 'YES', and their names and mobile numbers are emailed to me using the Email option in keyword actions. They are then one conversation in my email, and easily forward to a secretary to book the right room the training.

We want to say huge thanks to Ken Banks - founder - who realised this fantastic idea, and to all the FrontlineSMS team! o/