Getting Started with USSD Channel

Getting Started with USSD Channel

The Echo platform is a cloud-based software system that enables organizations to engage their most important stakeholders through scalable SMS, USSD, and Voice Communication. 
The platform’s web interface generates actionable data and analytics from this engagement, empowering essential insights and decisions to help organizations succeed.

What is USSD?

USSD(Unstructured Supplementary Service Data)  codes have three options of the USSD codes in the format of *123*4567# for 7-digit-code USSD,  *123*45# for 5-digit-code USSD  and *123# for 3-digit-code premium USSD.. They allow for your end-users to have instantaneous communication with your organization and seamless user experience.

Benefits of USSD

USSD cannot be pushed to the end-users phone as SMS or IVR. It must be triggered by the end-user. Using the USSD channel as a communication channel to engage with your user has benefits which are:
  1. Faster back-and-forth experience.
  2. Ideal for menu-based communications and data collection.
  3. Supports confidentiality.  No data retained on the phone.
  4. Supported by 100% of phones.

Considerations of USSD

With the various benefits of USSD, there are also considerations that should be noted when choosing to use this channel. These considerations are:
  1. Once a USSD code is raised, any individual on the network start a USSD session with the code by simply dialing it , and this session initiation itself counts as 1 billed session. A session is defined as the moment the individual dials the code to when they stop interacting with the session,
  2. USSD Sessions time out after 180 seconds of inactivity.
  3. USSD menus are limited to 150 to 180 characters dependent on the mobile network or country. Recommended length is 160 characters.
  4. Use of USSD codes presents a vulnerability to organizations in that any individual, malicious or otherwise, could cause an unlimited amount of cost to the owner of the code. There is no way to limit the number of times someone dials a USSD code, and each time someone dials the code, a charge will be incurred.
  5. Organizations should note that any cost associated with the use of a USSD code (deliberate or not) mapped to their account on the Echo platform will be billed accordingly.
USSD service setups are country specific. Therefore for more information on USSD dial codes, pricing and set up options in your country, please feel free to drop us an email  

Getting Started with USSD Channel

Step 1: Create Your Group and Set Up USSD

As USSD requires the contact to dial the code, you can handle these first interactions by creating a group, where you will be able to create the type of communication that a contact receives when (s)he dials the USSD code. 

Groups are the main categorization of contacts in Echo Mobile. A contact is a respondent or individual that you would like to engage with and communicate with. Contacts on the platform are uniquely identified by the phone numbers.

The default group is used to handle all the new contacts that dial the USSD code. Once a new contact dials the USSD code, there is an option of moving him to another group. A contact that dials the USSD code for the second time is known as a returning contact.

To set up USSD, please follow the steps below;

  1. Go to your homepage.
  2. Click on "Groups".
  3. Select the default group.
  4. Click on the "Settings" tab.
  5. Select the USSD menu,
    1. New Contact: Add contacts into the group who dial the USSD code for the first time. You will also add a communication, survey or notice to be sent out to a New Contact.
    2. Returning Contact: For contacts already in your groups, add a communication (survey or notice) that will go out to them each time they dial the code.
  6. Click on "Save Group Settings" to save your settings when done.
Want to learn more? Read our detailed help articles on Getting Started with Groups and Contacts

Step 2: Create & Design a Your Survey

A mobile survey can refer to a poll, sampling, series of subsequent messages that you wish to conduct with targeted contacts. Create a survey and add in questions ranging from multiple choice to numeric or open-ended that your contacts can interact with during the USSD session.

Create a Project Folder

First, you will need a project folder. A project folder allows you to organize and group similar engagements together.
Within a project folder, you can create, design and manage all related communications. To get started in creating your communication. you would need to first create a project folder.
  1. Go to your homepage.
  2. Using the quick access button, click on “Create”.
  3. Click on “Project”.
  4. Enter the project name.
  5. Click on “Save”.
  6. Once you have your project folder, create your desired communications.

Create a Survey

Next you would need to create a Survey. Surveys allow you to have two-way communications with your respondents. This survey will be the menu that pops up on the contact’s phone after they dial code.
  1. Go to your homepage.
  2. Using the quick access button, click on “Create”.
  3. Click on “Survey”.
  4. Select the desired project folder.
  5. This opens up the Survey editor window. 
  6. For the survey channel, select “USSD”.
  7. Any changes and setups configured under the survey editor window will automatically be saved.
Want to learn more about the survey, the questions that you can add to the survey? Read our detailed articles on here
In this third step, we will now complete the set up of contact’s first interaction with USSD by linking the USSD in a group and the survey that you just created.
These settings are found within a group.
  1. From the Left-hand menu, navigate to Groups.

  2. Click on the desired group in the sub-menu.

  3. Click on the Settings tab.

  4. Under Settings, click on “USSD”.

  5. Select the survey you created in Step 2 by navigating to the desired project folder.

  6. Click Save Group settings to update these settings.

Step 4: Test Your Setup

Now that you have set up your group and survey, you can now run a test to get insight into how your contact experience will be. To run the test, do the following:

  1. Dial the USSD code e.g *123#

  2. Respond to the survey.

  3. Test with a small subset of contacts (or even colleagues in your office) and compare responses to see which messages are more effective.

As you get started using the Echo Mobile platform and the USSD channel, please free to reach out to  and we will be happy to assist you!

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