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Article 7 min read

What is RCS messaging, and how can it improve CX?

Rich communication services (RCS) messaging is changing the texting game. Offering advanced features like suggested replies and rich media, RCS presents many opportunities for support teams to connect with customers.

By Court Bishop, Contributing Writer

Last updated March 6, 2024

Your phone buzzes one Saturday afternoon. It’s a text message from an unknown number noting that there’s a big sale at one of your favorite stores. No pictures. No branding. Just a spammy-looking URL you’re told to click on to view more details.

standard SMS message

Now imagine getting that same text message, but this time, it features clear and recognizable branding. There are eye-catching product images you can swipe through with the option to buy right from the message—no suspicious-looking links or extra clicks.

RCS message

Which one would be more likely to grab your attention? If you picked the second option, you’re not alone.

This type of texting is known as RCS messaging. It includes advanced features that businesses can use to provide a more enjoyable and engaging messaging platform for customers.

Read on to learn more about RCS messaging capabilities and how they can boost sales and improve customer support.

What is RCS messaging?

Rich communication services (RCS) messaging is a modern texting experience with features like high-quality images, read receipts, suggested replies, group chats, and commerce workflows.

Customers are likely already using the majority of these interactive features across other platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. But with RCS messaging, the features are built into the texting capabilities.

To use RCS messaging, customers need to have both a capable mobile carrier and a capable device. Most major carriers—including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint—currently offer RCS functionality on newer Android-powered Google and Samsung devices. Apple’s communication service, iMessage, runs on its own unique technology.

RCS messaging vs. SMS messaging

Simply put, RCS messaging is an upgraded version of SMS texting.

SMS is a “key communications standard” and is available on every phone in use today, regardless of the device or operating system. Released commercially in 1992, SMS messaging technology hasn’t changed very much since its inception—even the 160 character limit for a single text remains.

RCS is more advanced than SMS but is only available on Android phones. The technology was created to improve traditional text messaging by providing users with more expressive, appealing communication features.

what is conversational marketing

“RCS messaging gives a lot more flexibility,” says Stephanie Langlois, a Zendesk product expert. “It’s very similar to what we expect from social channels nowadays.”

RCS hasn’t exactly replaced SMS. RCS technology sat stagnant for years until 2018 when Google shared that it had been working with worldwide mobile carriers to adopt the technology—rebranded as Google Chat. These messages revert to SMS unless both texters have carriers, devices, and messaging apps (Google Messages and Samsung Messages) that support RCS.

Rich communication services features

Let’s take a look at what businesses can (and can’t) do with RCS messaging.

RCS pros

  • Quality images, video messages, and GIFs

  • Delivery and read receipts

  • Video-calling capabilities

  • Suggested replies and actions

  • Location sharing

  • In-message payment options: users can make purchases directly from the messaging app

  • Verified sender label: RCS requires businesses to become “verified senders” (similar to the blue checkmark logo on Twitter and Instagram)

RCS cons

  • End-to-end encryption isn’t currently available for RCS messages

  • Cross-device usage: RCS still relies on a user’s phone number, so Android users can’t receive messages on a tablet or laptop

Ultimately, most users and communication technology professionals consider RCS messaging a good thing. It has the potential to become not only an evolved version of SMS but also a competitor to iMessage.

The message matters

Transform your support strategy with better messaging. Brush up on your skills with these stellar tips.

3 reasons why RCS is important for customer service and sales

RCS messaging is a win-win for customers and companies alike. It provides a safe, dynamic, and consistent user experience. On the flip side, sales and support agents can easily send informative visual messages, which help them resolve customer inquiries more efficiently.

  1. RCS messaging creates a better customer experience

    Before RCS, asking the customer to complete an action—like subscribing to a newsletter—over SMS meant sending a URL. When the customer clicked on the link, they’d likely be directed to a webpage to fill out the necessary information.
    RCS messaging allows for a simpler workflow directly within the text conversation. Customers don’t have to leave the platform or switch screens to take action, so it’s much more user-friendly.
    For example, customers can use RCS messaging to complete a purchase, contact an agent, or sign up for a newsletter in just one click.
    branded RCS message
  2. Agents get real-time data about message status and effectiveness

    In a Harvard Business Review report, 82 percent of organizations said metrics and analytics data (including read receipts) are the most important features of advanced messaging apps. RCS delivers on both fronts.
    When using RCS, support agents and sales reps can see typing indicators and whether customers have read and engaged with their messages. Customer experience leaders can use this data to determine what’s resonating with their target audience and improve their communication strategies accordingly.
  3. Recognizable branding puts customers at ease

    Security is top-of-mind for customers, as text message scams are becoming more common. The Federal Trade Commission received 290,551 complaints of fraud via text in 2021, so consumers are often wary of texts from unknown numbers.
    With RCS messaging, brands can get verified by a verification authority, which is a specialized group that offers this service in various business sectors (such as mobile network operators, chatbot platform providers, etc.). Once verified, companies can brand messages with their colors, fonts, and logos. Branding provides instant recognition and a sense of legitimacy, increasing the likelihood that the customer will engage.

How to use RCS messaging to engage with your customers

RCS takes messaging software to the next level for businesses connecting with consumers on this channel. RCS features simplify and enrich interactions, making the experience more visual and straightforward for customers.

Provide suggested replies and actions

Suggested replies and actions in RCS messages make it easy and efficient for customers to take the next step with a business.

Companies prompting customers to set up an appointment, for example, could provide a “schedule now” button. Then, users simply schedule their appointment directly through the text message conversation. If you want recipients to confirm the appointment, you could also include a “yes” or “reschedule” auto-response.

For customer support issues, you could provide a “contact” button in text messages so users can quickly escalate their problem to an agent.

Showcase products with high-quality images and assets

RCS enables you to create an eye-catching texting experience with media cards, carousels, and high-resolution images.

Carousels allow you to showcase multiple products at once and prompt users to swipe through the images. These visually appealing posts tend to see high engagement on social media—Hootsuite’s carousel social posts get 3.1 times more engagement than regular posts. So, it makes sense that carousels would do well in a text message format, too.

For a Black Friday campaign, Bodemer Auto used RCS messaging to send carousel cards advertising new cars on sale. Mobile engagement increased 17 times when compared to the text-only SMS messages that were sent to customers.

Subway also saw increased responses for its lunch special after using RCS messaging. One visual RCS messaging campaign saw 140 percent more conversions than the text-only SMS campaign.

Request and send payments, tickets, and more

RCS messaging makes it simple to handle transactions via text message. Users don’t have to click on a separate website or download a different app to make a purchase or access receipts, tickets, and other documents.

For instance, concert venues can send admission tickets through text rather than through email or a separate app. And airlines can send boarding passes via text.

airline ticket sent via RCS messaging

These transaction features provide added convenience and minimize unnecessary friction on the customer’s path to purchase.

Start using RCS services

RCS messaging makes for an effortless, unified customer experience. Luckily, getting started with RCS messaging is simple and takes only a few minutes.

“It’s a very easy channel to implement on,” Langlois says. “It has really nice features that a lot of people don’t expect from a world similar to SMS.”

To start using RCS messaging for business, create your company profile via Google’s Jibe platform. There are some verification steps, but once verification is complete, you’re good to go. You’ll then connect RCS messaging to your CRM software. After that, you can manage RCS alongside your other channels to reach customers with Android devices and carriers that support RCS messaging.

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