SMS Shift & Roster Reminders – A Step By Step Guide

We get a lot of customers asking us how to best use SMS to remind their staff of their upcoming scheduled shifts.improve-sms-marketing

This article will hopefully give you a quick overview of how easy it is to use SMS for reminding your staff of their shifts and to notify of them of roster changes. Better still we’ll show you how to get up and running quickly and with minimum fuss.

Why SMS Reminders?

The short answer is because it works. And works well.

Compare the effectiveness and timeliness of SMS to email and other methods of communicating with your staff. SMS is also way more cost effective than making phone calls when you factor in the cost of the person(s) making the calls.

And unlike email. It has a much higher chance of actually getting read!

Better still, by using an online solution such as directSMS’ web 2 SMS platform, you have an audit trail of all messages sent to your staff. No more complaints about miscommunications or other similar issues.


When looking at adding SMS reminders to your business process, you need to keep the following in mind.

How do you manage your current staff roster?

Do you use a software package? Do you use a calendar like Outlook Calendar or Google Calendar?

Does your software package have a reminder or notification function?

Can you get an export of this data easily?

What do you currently do?

What does your current business process look like? Do you call to notify your staff of their weekly roster? Do you put up a timetable somewhere for them to see it? What if they are not at work? Do you email them? How will they respond to being reminded or notified via SMS?

What is your current “no-show” rate?

Each business is different. Typical no-show rates are around the 0-5% range. Some businesses we’ve worked with were running as high as 10%+… Imagine if every 10th shift went un-maned or your staff members cancelled on you at the very last minute.

This is what we are trying to reduce here.

Step By Step Guide To Shift Notices

If you use a software package to manage your staff roster and it already has a reminder function integrated in, using this function will present the easiest way of reducing your no-show rate.

It should be very easy for the vendor of your software package to guide you in how to configure and use their software’s integrated reminder functionality to send out your SMS notifications or reminders.

If you are not using a software package or the package you do use does not have a notification or reminder function, you can easily use our Web 2 SMS solution to send out your personalised notifications in bulk.

1. Prepare Your Roster or Shift Data

We start by exporting or preparing your shift data. The aim here is to generate a CSV file or Microsoft Excel spreadsheet similar to the one in the screen grab below containing the shift data for the following business day.

The example below assumes we have a group of construction workers who are working on the new George Street metro construction in Sydney’s CBD!

Mail Merge - Sample Excel File

Mail Merge – Sample Excel File

The spreadsheet needs at a minimum the staff member’s mobile phone number as well as their shift start time. If you want to, you can add additional columns for things such as their first name as well as any other information which maybe pertinent to each shift. Such as duration or location if you deal with a distributed work force.

2. Prepare Your Reminder Message

Once we have the data we are going to use, we need to prepare a template message to mail merge the data into.

Our reminder message needs to take the following into consideration:

When are you going to send the reminder?

This really depends on what you’re sending here. If this is a notification, you want to send these reminders many days in advance so staff members can get organised and ensure they can show up for work. Or at the very least, call to cancel allowing you to find a replacement.

If you have issues with them showing up when they are supposed to, after accepting a shift, then perhaps you send one of these reminders each day!

Every business is different and you know your business best.

Do you want your staff to reply?

This depends largely on the process you want to follow.

Our advice to our customers is to send out the reminders assuming the roster or shift will be “accepted”. And to provide instructions for staff to follow should they need to cancel. This way, you are only having to action the exceptions rather than every reminder.

Please see the screenshot below showing a typical notification / reminder message.

If you follow the above method, you can then send out your reminders as 1-way SMS messages with your business name as the sender. This stops staff from replying back, and forces them to call you to work out an alternative time.

This gives you the chance to speak with them to hear any explanations etc.

By asking them to respond to each message you might miss the “cancellations” in a sea of noise.

Again, this is your business. You are the best person to decide on how to do this.

3. Use Web 2 SMS To Send Your Reminders

Step 1. Create or export your shiftt data for the following day.

Step 2. Log into directSMS customer portal

directSMS Customer Portal

directSMS Customer Portal

Step 3. Click “Messaging Tools” and then “Send Mail Merge”

Mail Merge - Upload File

Mail Merge – Upload File

Step 4. Upload your CSV or Excel file. Our sample file contains 3 columns: Mobile, First Name and Appointment Time.

Mail Merge - Sample Excel File

Mail Merge – Sample Excel File

Step 5. Enter your message and the Sender ID. Something like the screen grab below…

“Dear [FIELD],

Your next shift at XYZ Building Works is tomorrow starting at [FIELD]. Please present on site at [FIELD]

If you are unable to make it , please call Jane at the office ASAP.”

Mail Merge - Type Your Message

Mail Merge – Type Your Message

Keep your eye on the character counter. This will tell you how many SMS segments each message will contain. If you go over 160 characters, the system will split each reminder over 2 or more SMS messages.

Note how the Sender ID is set to “XYZBuilding”. This blocks clients from replying back to the message and forces them to call their manager or work dispatcher who can then look for someone else to cover this shift.

Step 6. Send Now or Send Later. Once you’ve previewed the messages that will be sent out by the system, you can can click “Send Now” to send the messages straight away. Or if you want to schedule the reminders to go out at a later date. Click “Send Later”.

Handy tip… On Friday, you can schedule the reminders for Monday’s shifts to go out on Sunday morning or afternoon using the “Send Later” functionality.

Mail Merge - Send Now or Send Later

Mail Merge – Send Now or Send Later

Step 7. Test the results. Measure your no-show rate before implementing this new process and then after implementing it. The savings made by ensuring your clients show up and on time, should pay for the SMS reminders and then some.