Yammer – can we have an emergency preparedness option?

I posted previously on Yammer. That it was a big help for us during Hurricane Ike in 2008 in Houston. During the hurricane the ONLY thing that worked was text on the cell phone. sailboat on a truckNo voice. No data plans on the cell. No land lines. Certainly no cable or dish or regular TV. Radio worked, but that is listening only. The only way to communicate person to person is by texting. Or I suppose HAM radio, but we don’t use those.

Yammer is a new company, so we thought it “broke” when the SMS portion stopped working. But then I realized they moved the “SMS feature” to a paid plan for $1 per employee per month. OK, I rolled with that. I signed up, with 25 employees that means I am spending $300 a year to have an emergency back channel to all of my employees. I’ll pay that. And I do.

Of course using a service like yammer for emergency response is problematic – because you want the emergency communication to be SIGNAL it means we can’t use the service for regular conversations as that becomes NOISE. Employees won’t tolerate 50 text messages on their cell from their coworkers. Filtering by a list, and only that list, to automatically text using a prefix like “ice:” adds complexity. And in a crisis you want things dirt simple. So our implementation of yammer is that

  1. Everyone gets text messages from any other employee.
  2. We test it once a month.
  3. We Pay yammer $25 a month to have this as a backup plan.
  4. And are quiet but confident in case an emergency comes along.

I am sure this implementation puzzles yammer. “These guys in Houston pay monthly, but never use it. What’s up with that?” So the first thing Yammer should do is have an “emergency mode” so that when turned on by an administrator EVERYTHING is sent by SMS until turned off regardless of all other settings, time of day, carrier, etc. Any messages is texted to all in this mode. If this were done we might be able to use other features of yammer.

And ahhh, about those other features. They added a bunch including now “Directory Integration” and “Priority Customer Support”. Alas, with all of these features they insisted on bundling SMS with them. And raised the price 300% from $1 to $3 per employee. No go. While their product might be worth $3 per employee for firms that use it for communication, it is NOT worth $3 per employee for a dormant backup communication system.

If anyone from Yammer is reading this, how about it? Can we have a lower cost “emergency communication” only option at the $1 price? I’d rather not change at the onset of hurricane season but I can’t justify $900 a year when there are other options on the market.  And can we stop adding features that complicate the interface?

What other solutions are out there for emergency text broadcasting to a restricted list of people?