Rich Communication Services (RCS) also called rich messaging, is a relatively new communication protocol that will be replacing SMS. It brings a bevy of convenient and feature-rich improvements, like read receipts, group chats, video calls, and interactive elements. For example, GIFs work better when shared through rich protocols.
The most impactful benefits of this new chat protocol stem from the business implications. Brands big and small can leverage the technology to establish more holistic conversations with customers, across any network, and from any device. It opens up many new opportunities to engage customers, in a progressively virtual world.
To understand why the protocol matters so much, and what it means for small businesses, we must explore a little further.
RCS vs. SMS
The current protocol, Short Message Service (SMS), has long been outdated. This is easy to see when you use more interactive chat services like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat. Those services offer features like read receipts — letting you know people have received and viewed your messages — real-time group messaging, money transfers, animated stickers, GIF support, and more.
Rich Communication Services offers many of those features because it’s a modernized protocol. It also transforms communication by offering a universal portal. Where many of the different carriers and manufacturers have restrictions for communicating back and forth through SMS, those same limitations don’t exist with RCS. There are no barriers or siloes, essentially.
RCS also supports encryption, in an age where privacy is becoming more difficult to protect and is frighteningly under attack. Preserving privacy and security in the digital age is more than commendable; it’s something we should all strive for. RCS encryption works similar to Signal’s protocols, and the service employs many of the same features RCS offers.
How Do Small Businesses Utilize Rich Messaging?
Namely propped up by Google Chat, the tech giant’s RCS protocol, and supported by virtually all mobile carriers, the technology is coming along, albeit slower than expected.
But the most pertinent question is what the platform means for small businesses or the business world in general.
The two major smartphone OS manufacturers, Google and Apple, already offer rich messaging solutions that businesses can take advantage of.
Google Rich Business Messaging (RBM) is a native Android communication experience, built from the ground up using the RCS protocol. It’s meant for business-to-customer interactions. Several companies are already using the platform, including Redbox, Overstock, Barnes & Noble, Office Depot, and beyond.
Apple Business Chat is using the same protocol to facilitate business-to-customer communications on iOS devices. It integrates many iOS features like Apple Pay, calendar and appointment scheduling, and so on. Some companies using Apple’s platform include Bank of America, Home Depot, Hilton, T-Mobile, Wells Fargo, and 1-800-Flowers.
But what do these solutions offer small business owners?
Why Rich Messaging Matters for Business
Imagine a customer conducts a web search for your business or your products. They don’t know much about your brand except what they’ve heard from friends or family. Google search results return your most important business information, like contact details, hours of operation, and a brief description. Below the fold is an option to contact a representative or a helpline for your business.
Thanks to that option, and instead of calling, the customer can open a live chat that is facilitated through RCS. Regardless of what platform they’re using, from desktop to mobile, they’ll get the same experience and have access to the same features.
It’s a rich and genuine communication experience just like you would have between two friends texting one another. The difference is that it’s a business talking to a potential customer.
That experience can extend to a multitude of applications, like providing customer service through live chat, answering queries, taking orders, and more.
Moreover, businesses can take advantage of what’s called a native application-to-person (A2P) infrastructure so that representatives and service personnel are using more comprehensive equipment during chats — instead of just answering calls via a mobile device.
Generally, an A2P setup is complicated when using SMS, as it deals with the use of APIs and format restrictions. Through RCS, however, most of those things are a non-issue and the experience is seamless for all parties.
Why Should Businesses Care About Messaging?
Text messages are one of the preferred forms of communication these days. Most consumers read text messages within five minutes of receiving them, and they usually reply within three minutes after that.
One survey says that 86% of small business owners that use text messaging say it offers higher engagement levels than email communication. Additionally, customers are 134% more likely to respond to a text than an email.
Texting is a fast, responsive, and often incredibly satisfying way to communicate, whether you’re talking about engaging with another person, a business, or a customer support rep. It has also become one of the more convenient ways to communicate, as everyone is isolated and remote due to the pandemic.
As small businesses especially look to get an edge over the competition, it becomes clear that more dynamic customer support is one of the best ways to achieve it. Rich messaging with real-time communication and cross-platform support is an excellent place to start.