The importance of testing your notification system

MegaphoneHaving a notification system in place is a great first step in reducing your organization’s risk. Testing the system is the real key to success when you need to use it to send an urgent message, especially if you want a meaningful response. We’re big believers in testing and we’ve tried a lot of different ways to do it; here are some of our recommended best practices.

When testing, don’t always target the same devices (i.e., cell phones, work phones, work emails, etc.). Crises don’t usually happen at convenient times, so be prepared to communicate at any time. You’ll achieve the greatest success by varying the targeted times and devices when testing. As you plan your tests, think about targeting devices that are not typically tested—such as home phones, personal cell phones, etc.

Make testing something that people willingly participate in by showing the value of the test. Consider initiating a competition for best response rates between departments or business units to encourage participation. Use notification to request food choices at company events, or to indicate preferences for event venues.

Testing your notification system should be something you do on a regular schedule. Testing will ensure that your targeted recipients are familiar with the notification process, that they quickly recognize the notification source and are familiar with how to receive and respond to the notification.

Should tests be announced or unannounced? At first, it makes sense to announce alerts to familiarize users and set expectations. Once people are familiar with system, unannounced tests will give you a clearer view of how the system will work in a real scenario.

When you do announce a test, remind users why the system was adopted, when the test will take place, and provide a general description of the notification and how they should respond.

Vary your tests so recipients will get the message in different ways and become more comfortable with the system (this also tests your contact data). Try tests across multiple devices, changing dates, times and device targets so that your users become familiar and comfortable with all. The better response you get, the better the validation of data.

When you feel users are comfortable, establish a regular pattern of unannounced tests, say once or twice a quarter (or more frequently for critical areas). Always specify: this is a test. That way, when it’s not a test and you need to get an important message out, your recipients will be prepared to react appropriately.

Learn more from the white paper: Best Practices in Using a Notification System.