AT&T’s smart SMS feature

I don’t like to set up my cell phone bill to pay automatically, I like to make sure I see what I’m paying every month in case there are unexpected charges.

But I often forget to pay my bill on time. Even with the SMS message reminder from AT&T “your bill is ready”.  SMS? Yeah, I’ve still got a non-smart flip phone. Maybe if i could internet right from my phone I’d just pay it as soon as I got the alert — but AT&T’s login process is so cumbersome that probably still not.

But just now, I got a different SMS message from AT&T.  “Your bill is ready. Reply with ‘1’ to pay outstanding balance of $XX.XX with credit card ending in XXXX”.  (My card that was already on file with their system).

I did it, it worked. Sweet! This is great, I can meet my needs of wanting to see and explicitly confirm payment for a bill before paying; they can meet their needs of getting me to pay on time, by making it so easy.

For my own user needs anyway, this is great user-centered design of interaction.

I have before thought on and off of incorporating such SMS services into library infrastructure. Most of our systems can’t yet even send an SMS warning of impending due dates; but they really ought to ALSO “reply with ‘1’ to renew all materials that can be renewed.”, and then reply to that with the list (or count) of things that could not be renewed and are still due.

Few (any?) out-of-the-box ILS/LMS systems probably have this feature;  but services like Twilio (there was a Code4lib Journal article on twilio) would, I think, make it feasible and affordable for library developers to hack one together on top of the terrible legacy ILS — to the extent that hacking such features on top of your proprietary legacy ILS can be sustainable at all, they’re always risky, but sometimes neccesary anyway.  This is one I’d be interested in hacking together at some point, I think our users would love it, and it would make us look so much like we’re keeping it together, no?

(Or are SMS message based applications already ‘so old school’, would people with iPhones and Androids not want them?  I do worry to some extent I’m becoming unable to put myself in our users shoes by my current lack of an iPhone or similar app/internet phone; but I just don’t want to carry around the internet in my pocket everywhere I go, I spend too much time connected to the internet already, I think it’s bad for my psyche.  Is it ironic, in light of my job, that I have beliefs beginning to veer in a luddite direction about the effect of technology on our society and psychology? Please note that the original luddites did not in fact hate technology-qua-technology, they in particular hated the effect a particular technology had on their work environment, personal autonomy, and job security.)


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