The Ultimate Guide to RCS Business Messaging

From chiseling words into stone to typing them directly on our screens, changes in technology can bring profound changes to the way we communicate. Rich Communication Services (RCS) Business Messaging is one such technological change, and it offers the forward-looking contact center a sophisticated upgrade over traditional SMS.

In this piece, we’ll discuss RCS Business Messaging, illustrating its significance, its inner workings, and how it can be leveraged as part of a broader customer service strategy. This context will equip you to understand RCS and determine whether and how to invest in it.

Let’s get going!

What is RCS Business Messaging?

Smartphones have become enormously popular for surfing the internet, shopping, connecting with friends, and conducting many other aspects of our daily lives. One consequence of this development is that it’s much more common for contact centers to interact with customers through text messaging.

Once text messaging began to replace phone calls, emails, and in-person visits as the go-to communication channel, it was clear that it required an upgrade. The old Short Messaging Service (SMS) was replaced with Rich Communication Services (RCS), which supports audio messages, video, high-quality photos, group chats, encryption, and everything else we’ve come to expect from our messaging experience.

And, on the whole, the data indicate that this is a favorable trend:

  • More than 70% of people report feeling inclined to make an online purchase when they have the ability to get timely answers to questions;
  • Almost three-quarters indicated that they were more likely to interact with a brand when they have the option of doing so through RCS;
  • Messages sent through RCS are a staggering 35 times more likely to be read than an equivalent email.

For all these reasons, your contact center needs to be thinking about how RCS fits into your overall customer service strategy–it’s simply not a channel you can afford to ignore any longer.

How is RCS Business Messaging Different from Google Business Messages?

Distinguishing between Google’s Rich Communication Services (RCS) and Google Business Messages can be tricky because they’re similar in many ways. That said, keeping their differences in mind is crucial.

You may not remember this if you’re young enough, but text messaging was once much more limited. Texts could not be very long, and were unable to accommodate modern staples like GIFs, videos, and emojis. However, as reliance on text messaging grew, there was a clear need to enhance the basic protocol to include these and other multimedia elements.

Since this enhancement enriched the basic functionality of text messaging, it is known as “rich” communication. Beyond adding emojis and the like, RCS is becoming essential for businesses looking to engage in more dynamic interactions with customers. It supports features such as custom logos, collecting data for analytics, adding QR codes, and links to calendars or maps, and enhancing the messaging experience all around.

Google Business Messages, on the other hand, is a mobile messaging channel that seamlessly integrates with Google Maps and Search to deliver high-quality, asynchronous communication between your customers and your contact center agents.

This service is not only a boon to your satisfaction ratings, it can also support other business objectives by reducing the volume of calls and enhancing conversion rates.

While Google Business Messages and RCS have a lot in common, there are two key differences worth highlighting: RCS is not universally available across all Android devices (whereas Business Messages is), and Business Messages does not require a user to install a messaging app (whereas RCS does).

How Does RCS Business Messaging Work?

Okay, now that we’ve convinced you that RCS Business Messaging is worth the effort to cultivate, let’s examine how it works.

Once you set up your account and complete the registration process, you’ll need to create an “agent,” which is the basic interface connecting your contact center to your customers. Agents are quite flexible and able to handle very simple workflows (such as sending a notification) as well as much more complicated sequences of tasks (such as those required to help book a reservation).

From the customer’s side, communicating with an agent is more or less indistinguishable from having a standard conversation. Each participant will speak in turn, waiting for the other to respond.

Agents can be configured to initiate a conversation under a wide variety of external circumstances. They could reach out when a user’s order has been shipped, for example, or when a new sushi restaurant has opened and is offering discounts. Since we’re focused on contact centers, our agent configurations will likely revolve around events like “the customer reached out for support,” “there’s been an update on an outstanding ticket,” or “the issue has been resolved.”

However you’ve chosen to set up your agent, when it is supposed to initiate a conversation, it will use the RCS Business Messaging API to send a message. These messages are always sent as standard HTTP requests with a corresponding JSON payload (if you’re curious about the technical underpinnings), but the most important thing to know is that the message ultimately ends up in front of the user, where they can respond.

Unless, that is, their device doesn’t support RCS. RCS has become popular and prominent enough that we’d be surprised if you ran into this situation very often. Just in case, you should have your messaging set up such that you can default to something like SMS.

Any subsequent messages between the agent and the customer are also sent as JSON. Herein lies the enormous potential for customization, because you can utilize powerful technologies like natural language understanding to have your agent dynamically generate different responses in different contexts. This not only makes it feel more lifelike, it also means that it can solve a much broader range of problems.

If you don’t want to roll up your sleeves and do this yourself, you always have the option of partnering with a good conversational AI platform. Ideally, you’d want to use one that makes integrating generative AI painless, and which has a robust set of features that make it easy to monitor the quality of agent interactions, collect data, and make decisions quickly.

Best Practices for Using RCS Business Messaging

By now, you should hopefully understand RCS Business Messaging, why it’s exciting, and the many ways in which you can use it to take your contact center to new heights. In this penultimate section, we’ll discuss some of Google’s best practices for RCS.

RCS is not a General-Purpose User Interface

Tools are incredibly powerful ways of extending basic human abilities, but only if you understand when and how to use them. Hammers are great for carpentry, but they’re worse than useless when making pancakes (trust us on this–we’ve tried, and it went poorly).

The same goes for Google’s RCS Business Messaging, which is a conversational interface. Your RCS agents are great at resolving queries, directing customers to information, executing tasks, and (failing that) escalating to a human being. But in order to do all of this, you should try to make sure they speak in a way that is natural, restricted to the question at hand, and easy for the customer to follow.

For this same reason, your agents shouldn’t be seen as a simple replacement for a phone tree, requiring the user to tediously input numbers to navigate a menu of delimited options. Part of the reason agents are a step forward in contact center management is precisely because they eliminate the need to lean on such an approach.

Check Device Compatibility Beforehand

Above, we pointed out that some devices don’t support RCS, and you should therefore have a failsafe in place if you send a message to one. This is sage advice, but it’s also possible to send a “capability request” ahead of a message telling you what kind of device the user has and what messaging it supports.

This will allow you to configure your agent in advance so that it stays within the limits of a given device.

Begin at the Beginning

As you’ve undoubtedly heard from marketing experts, first impressions matter a lot. The way your agent initiates a conversation will determine the user’s experience, and thereby figure prominently in how successful you are in making them happy.

In general, it’s a good idea to have the initial message be friendly, warm, and human, to contain some of the information the user is likely to want, and to list out a few of the things the agent is capable of. This way, the person who reached out to you with a problem immediately feels more at ease, knowing they’ll be able to reach a speedy resolution.

Be Mindful of Technical Constraints

There are a few low-level facts about RCS that could bear on the end user’s experience, and you should know about them as you integrate RCS into your text messaging strategy.

To take one example, messages containing media may process more slowly than text-only messages. This means that you could end up with messages getting out of order if you send several of them in a row.

For this reason, you should wait for the RBM platform to return a 200 OK response for each message before proceeding to send the next. This response indicates the platform has received the message, ensuring users receive them as intended.

Additionally, it’s important to be on the lookout for duplicate incoming messages. When receiving messages from users, always check the `messageId` to confirm that the message hasn’t been processed before. By keeping track of `messageId` strings, duplicate messages can be easily identified and disregarded, ensuring efficient and accurate communication.

Integrate with Quiq

RCS is the next step in text messaging, opening up many more ways of interacting with the people reaching out to you for help.

There are many ways to leverage RCS, one of which is turbo-charging your agents with the power of large language models. The easiest way to do this is to team up with a conversation AI platform to do the technical heavy lifting for you.

Quiq is one such platform. Reach out to schedule a demo with us today!

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Google Business Messages: Meet Your Customers Where They’re At

The world is a distracted and distracting place; between all the alerts, the celebrity drama on Twitter, and the fact that there are more hilarious animal videos on YouTube than you could ever hope to watch even if it were your full-time job, it takes a lot to break through the noise.

That’s one reason customer service-oriented businesses like contact centers are increasingly turning to text messaging. Not only are cell phones all but ubiquitous, but many people have begun to prefer text-message-based interactions to calls, emails, or in-person visits.

In this article, we’ll cover one of the biggest text-messaging channels: Google Business Messages. We’ll discuss what it is, what features it offers, and various ways of leveraging it to the fullest.

Let’s get going!

What is Google Business Messages?

Given that more than nine out of ten online searches go through Google, we will go out on a limb and assume you’ve heard of the Mountain View behemoth. But you may not be aware that Google has a Business Message service that is very popular among companies, like contact centers, that understand the advantages of texting their customers.

Business Messages allows you to create a “messaging surface” on Android or Apple devices. In practice, this essentially means that you can create a little “chat” button that your customers can use to reach out to you.

Behind the scenes, you will have to register for Business Messages, creating an “agent” that your customers will interact with. You have many configuration options for your Business Messages workflows; it’s possible to dynamically route a given message to contact center agents at a specific location, have an AI assistant powered by large language models generate a reply (more on this later), etc.

Regardless of how the reply is generated, it is then routed through the API to your agent, which is what actually interacts with the customer. A conversation is considered over when both the customer and your agent cease replying, but you can resume a conversation up to 30 days later.

What’s the Difference Between Google RCS and Google Business Messages?

It’s easy to confuse Google’s Rich Communication Services (RCS) and Google Business Messages. Although the two are similar, it’s nevertheless worth remembering their differences.

Long ago, text messages had to be short, sweet, and contain nothing but words. But as we all began to lean more on text messaging to communicate, it became necessary to upgrade the basic underlying protocol. This way, we could also use video, images, GIFs, etc., in our conversations.

“Rich” communication is this upgrade, but it’s not relegated to emojis and such. RCS is also quickly becoming a staple for businesses that want to invest in livelier exchanges with their customers. RCS allows for custom logos and consistent branding, for example; it also makes it easier to collect analytics, insert QR codes, link out to calendars or Maps, etc.

As discussed above, Business Messages is a mobile messaging channel that integrates with Google Maps, Search, and brand websites, offering rich, asynchronous communication experiences. This platform not only makes customers happy but also contributes to your business’s bottom line through reduced call volumes, improved CSAT, and better conversion rates.

Importantly, Business Messages are sometimes also prominently featured in Google search results, such as answer cards, place cards, and site links.

In short, there is a great deal of overlap between Google Business Messages and Google RCS. But two major distinctions are that RCS is not available on all Android devices (where Business Messages is), and Business Messages doesn’t require you to have a messaging app installed (where RCS does).

The Advantages of Google Business Messaging

Google Business Messaging has many distinct advantages to offer the contact center entrepreneur. In the next few sections, we’ll discuss some of the biggest.

It Supports Robust Encryption

A key feature of Business Messages is that its commitment to security and privacy is embodied through powerful, end-to-end encryption.

What exactly does end-to-end encryption entail? In short, it ensures that a message remains secure and unreadable from the moment the sender types it to whenever the recipient opens it, even if it’s intercepted in transit. This level of security is baked in, requiring no additional setup or adjustments to security settings by the user.

The significance of this feature cannot be overstated. Today, it’s not at all uncommon to read about yet another multi-million-dollar ransomware attack or a data breach of staggering proportions. This has engendered a growing awareness of (and concern for) data security, meaning that present and future customers will value those platforms that make it a central priority of their offering.

By our estimates, this will only become more important with the rise of generative AI, which has made it increasingly difficult to trust text, images, and even movies seen online—none of which was particularly trustworthy even before it became possible to mass-produce them.

If you successfully position yourself as a pillar your customers can lean on, that will go a long way toward making you stand out in a crowded market.

It Makes Connecting With Customers Easier

Another advantage of Google Business Messages is that it makes it much easier to meet customers where they are. And where we are is “on our phones.”

Now, this may seem too obvious to need pointing out. After all, if your customers are texting all day and you’re launching a text-messaging channel of communication, then of course you’ll be more accessible.

But there’s more to this story. Google Business Messaging allows you to seamlessly integrate with other Google services, like Google Maps. If a customer is trying to find the number for your contact center, therefore, they could instead get in touch simply by clicking the “CHAT” button.

This, too, may seem rather uninspiring because it’s not as though it’s difficult to grab the number and call. But even leaving aside the rising generations’ aversion to making phone calls, there’s a concept known as “trivial inconvenience” that’s worth discussing in this context.

Here’s an example: if you want to stop yourself from snacking on cookies throughout the day, you don’t have to put them on the moon (though that would help). Usually, it’s enough to put them in the next room or downstairs.

Though this only slightly increases the difficulty of accessing your cookie supply, in most cases, it introduces just enough friction to substantially reduce the number of cookies you eat (depending on the severity of your Oreo addiction, of course).

Well, the exact same dynamic works in reverse. Though grabbing your contact center’s phone number from Google and calling you requires only one or two additional steps, that added work will be sufficient to deter some fraction of customers from reaching out. If you want to make yourself easy to contact, there’s no substitute for a clean integration directly into the applications your customers are using, and that’s something Google Business Messages can do extremely well.

It’s Scalable and Supports Integrations

According to legend, the name “Google” originally came from a play on the word “Googol,” which is a “1” followed by a 100 “0”s. Google, in other words, has always been about scale, and that is reflected in the way its software operates today. For our purposes, the most important manifestation of this is the scalability of their API. Though you may currently be operating at a few hundred or a few thousand messages per day, if you plan on growing, you’ll want to invest early in communication channels that can grow along with you.

But this is hardly the end of what integrations can do for you. If you’re in the contact center business there’s a strong possibility that you’ll eventually end up using a large language model like ChatGPT in order to answer questions more quickly, offboard more routine tasks, etc. Unless you plan on dropping millions of dollars to build one in-house, you’ll want to partner with an AI-powered conversational platform. As you go about finding a good vendor, make sure to assess the features they support. The best platforms have many options for increasing the efficiency of your agents, such as reusable snippets, auto-generated suggestions that clean up language and tone, and dashboarding tools that help you track your operation in detail.

Best Practices for Using Google Business Messages

Here, in the penultimate section, we’ll cover a few optimal ways of utilizing Google Business Messages.

Reply in a Timely Fashion

First, it’s important that you get back to customers as quickly as you’re able to. As we noted in the introduction, today’s consumers are perpetually drinking from a firehose of digital information. If it takes you a while to respond to their query, there’s a good chance they’ll either forget they reached out (if you’re lucky) or perceive it as an unpardonable affront and leave you a bad review (if you’re not).

An obvious way to answer immediately is with an automated message that says something like, “Thanks for your question. We’ll respond to you soon!” But you can’t just leave things there, especially if the question requires a human agent to intervene.

Whatever automated system you implement, you need to monitor how well your filters identify and escalate the most urgent queries. Remember that an agent might need a few hours to answer a tricky question, so factor that into your procedures.

This isn’t just something Google suggests; it’s codified in its policies. If you leave a Business Messages chat unanswered for 24 hours, Google might actually deactivate your company’s ability to use chat features.

Don’t Ask for Personal Information

As hackers have gotten more sophisticated, everyday consumers have responded by raising their guard.

On the whole, this is a good thing and will lead to a safer and more secure world. But it also means that you need to be extremely careful not to ask for anything like a social security number or a confirmation code via a service like Business Messages. What’s more, many companies are opting to include a disclaimer to this effect near the beginning of any interactions with customers.

Earlier, we pointed out that Business Messages supports end-to-end encryption, and having a clear, consistent policy about not collecting sensitive information fits into this broader picture. People will trust you more if they know you take their privacy seriously.

Make Business Messages Part of Your Overall Vision

Google Business Messages is a great service, but you’ll get the most out of it if you consider how it is part of a more far-reaching strategy.

At a minimum, this should include investing in other good communication channels, like Apple Messages and WhatsApp. People have had bitter, decades-long battles with each other over which code editor or word processor is best, so we know that they have strong opinions about the technology that they use. If you have many options for customers wanting to contact you, that’ll boost their satisfaction and their overall impression of your contact center.

The prior discussion of trivial inconveniences is also relevant here. It’s not hard to open a different messaging app under most circumstances, but if you don’t force a person to do that, they’re more likely to interact with you.

Schedule a Demo with Quiq

Google has been so monumentally successful its name is now synonymous with “online search.” Even leaving aside rich messaging, encryption, and everything else we covered in this article, you can’t afford to ignore Business Messages for this reason alone.

But setting up an account is only the first step in the process, and it’s much easier when you have ready-made tools that you can integrate on day one. The Quiq conversational AI platform is one such tool, and it has a bevy of features that’ll allow you to reduce the workloads on your agents while making your customers even happier. Check us out or schedule a demo to see what we can do for you!

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Why Your Business Should Use Rich Messaging

A Brief Overview of Rich Messaging

Along with Eminem and Auto-Tune, text messaging was just becoming really popular back in the halcyon days of the early 2000s. It was a simpler time, and all our texts were sent via “short message service” (SMS), which was mostly confined to words. This was cutting-edge technology back then, and since we weren’t yet expressing ourselves with walls of hieroglyphic emojis or GIFs from Schitt’s Creek, it was all we needed.

Today, this is no longer the case. We’re spending much more time communicating with each other through text messaging and sending much more complicated information, to boot. In response, rich messaging was developed.

Technically known as “rich communication services” (RCS), rich messaging is the next step in the evolution of text messaging. It allows for better use of interactive media, such as high-resolution photos, messaging cards, audio messages, emojis, and GIFs. Even more important for those of us in the contact center industry, it also facilitates an enhanced customer experience, with things like sensory-rich service interactions.

Capabilities of Rich Messaging

Having covered rich messaging, let’s explore some of its vistas. While this is not a comprehensive list, it reflects what we believe to be some of RCS’s most important properties (especially from the perspective of those looking to leverage text messaging for contact centers).

Integrating with Other Services

Today, the rise of generative AI is changing how contact centers work, which also presents an opportunity for integration.

If your business is looking to integrate AI assistants to automate substantial parts of its customer service workflow, you’re almost certainly going to have to do that through rich messaging.

Secure Messaging and Transactions Processing

Big data and AI have both raised serious concerns over privacy. A decade ago, people wouldn’t have thought twice about sharing their location or putting pictures of their kids online. These days, however, more of us are privacy- and security-conscious, so the fact that rich messaging supports end-to-end encryption is important.

People are much more likely to talk to your customer service agents directly if they can rest easy knowing their data isn’t going to be exposed to malicious actors.

Better Analytics

Speaking of big data, rich messaging makes it possible to gather and conduct fairly sophisticated customer service data analysis. You can gather statistics about obvious metrics like reply rates or feed conversations into a sentiment analysis system to determine how people feel about you, your company, and your service.

This allows you to identify patterns in customer behavior, optimize your use of AI, and generally start tinkering with your procedures to better serve customer needs.

It also goes the other way, inasmuch as you can send real-time alerts confirming an issue was received, updating a customer on the status of a ticket, etc. Sure, this isn’t technically “analysis,” but it’ll help people feel more at ease when interacting with your customer service agents, so it’s worth bearing in mind.

Rich Channels of Communication

Where can you use rich messaging? In the sections that follow, we’ll answer this exact question!

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a platform overseen by Meta (formerly Facebook) that supports rich text messaging, voice messaging, and video calling. With more than two billion users, it’s incredibly popular. A key reason for this is that all this data is sent over the internet, obviating the SMS fees that used to keep us all up at night. And it has a business API that will allow you to scale up with increased demand.

Apple Rich Messaging

Apple’s rich messaging service is called Apple Messages for Business. It offers potential and existing customers a way to communicate with your agents directly via their Apple devices.

This is a market you can’t afford to ignore; with nearly two billion Apple devices, the reach of iOS is simply gigantic, and it’s a communication channel you should be cultivating.

Google Rich Messaging

More than nine out of ten searches happen on Google, meaning that it has become the powerhouse when it comes to finding information online. And if that’s not enough to convince you, consider that the phrase “Google it” is now just what people say when they’re talking about looking something up.

However, you may not be aware that Google offers a Business Messages service that should be part of your overall customer strategy.

Building Trust through Rich Communication Service Messages

Being successful in business requires many things, but one of the more important ones is trust. This has always been true, of course, but it’s only become more so with the rise of artificial intelligence.

We’ve been singing the praises of generative AI for a while, and firmly believe that it will have a huge positive impact on the contact center industry. But there’s a downside to the fact that it’s now trivial to crank industrial quantities of text, video, and images.

There’s always been plenty of nonsense online, but once upon a time, the ability to create such content was limited by the fact that someone, somewhere, had to actually sit down and make it. That’s no longer the case, which means that users are more eager than ever for signs that they’re dealing with customer service they can rely on.

Rich messaging has a part to play in that, and in the next few sections, we’ll explain why.

High-Quality Interactions Will Have Customers Coming Back

Rich messaging has many tools that make it easier to ensure that customers have a first-class experience interacting with your contact center. The rich messaging services described above have APIs, for example, that allow you to better organize conversations. This means agents can stay on top of their workloads, leading to less of the kind of frustration and distress that might negatively color their replies.

These services can also be integrated with high-quality conversational AI platforms. When agents can outsource simple, standard queries to algorithms or reuse snippets, they have more time to focus on solving trickier problems.

The net result is that agents feel less burned out, and customers get better help, faster.

Consistency in Experiences

Another way to build trust is to ensure your style is consistent across channels. Just as you wouldn’t use a different logo on Facebook and Instagram, you shouldn’t use a dramatically different tone of voice on one platform than you use on another.

When people know what to expect from you, they’re more likely to trust you. Because rich messaging supports many different kinds of media, you can ensure that customer experiences remain consistent.

This is also a place where generative AI comes in handy. The best conversational AI platforms train models on the conversations of senior agents and make this available to everyone in the contact center. This means that each agent can format replies with the same empathy, patience, and understanding as their very best peers.

Verified Business Profiles

Finally, using a verified account is a basic step you can take to increase trust. If you thought getting junk mail was bad, pause for a moment and consider the absolute barrage of text messages, bogus phone calls, and DMs most of us get every single day. There is a never-ending sea of bot accounts on Twitter and other platforms trying to dupe everyone into one crypto scam or another, and this has substantially eroded people’s trust in online interactions.

The rich messaging services offered by Google, WhatsApp, and Apple all have a fairly lengthy process for verifying the authenticity of your profile. By itself, this isn’t going to ensure that customers trust you, but it helps. People want to know that they’re talking to a real business, not an imposter; the “proof of work” (speaking of crypto) required to verify a rich messaging account is a crucial part of establishing that rapport.

Rich Messaging is the Future of Text

The world today looks very different from the world of the early 2000s. Our technologies, including our text messaging, have evolved along with it, and businesses have to keep up if they want to remain relevant.

Rich messaging is a great way to build trust and loyalty, and it opens up many new opportunities. But to get the most out of rich messaging, it really helps to work with a platform that offers robust tooling, language models, analytics, and so on.

Quiq is one such platform. Reach out to us to schedule a demo, and see how we can ensure your text-messaging outreach is profitable, productive, and easy!

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