Rich Communication Services [RCS]: How it Works (Plus 5 Drawbacks)

Rich Communication Services: The Benefits and Drawbacks

6 minutes to read Written by
(Updated 25th September 2018 - click here for the latest RCS news)

Rich Communication Services (RCS) messaging has been in the works for a while. Praised by Gartner, TechCrunch and others as “a messaging standard that has the potential to tie together SMS and other chat apps”.  The purpose of it to overhaul SMS into a messaging system that is more interactive. RCS offers group chat, video, read receipts etc. Developed and promoted by the GSM Association in 2008, Google are currently adopting it as an opponent to Apple’s iMessage service. It promises to ease friction at all stages of the digital customer journey.

“RCS will upgrade today’s business messaging experience by enabling brands to send more useful and interactive messages.”
Amir Sarhangi, Head of RCS at Google

One of the major benefits of RCS for businesses and carriers is that it is tied to a user’s mobile number rather than an app. This means that there are no downloads required.

Rich Media Messaging Example – Available via RCS or Rich Media Messaging

Rich Media Payment example - RCS or Rich Media Messaging

This should be a welcome development for carriers and networks. SMS and voice call revenue has suffered because of competition from WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage, and the plethora of messaging apps.

Uptake among the carriers seems to be taking off. In March 2018 only 27 carriers were on board. A month later it was 55 according to the GSMA. However, seeing as technology companies are responsible for eating into the text and voice revenue of carries, this may explain the initial hesitancy.

The difference between iMessage and Rich Communication Services is that RCS has a more open development platform allowing businesses and carriers to develop their own immersive chat apps and interactive experiences.

“RCS will upgrade today’s business messaging experience by enabling brands to send more useful and interactive messages. For example, a message from your airline reminding you to check in for a flight can now take advantage of rich media and interactivity to provide a full check-in experience, complete with boarding pass, visual flight updates, and terminal maps on demand, all directly within the messaging experience. Businesses can also have a branded messaging experience with information about the business and the ability to share content like images, video clips and gifs.”
Amir Sarhangi, Head of RCS at Google

The benefits of RCS are obvious, but here are just four key differentiators.

Rich Media: As the name suggests, text is no longer the only option. Web features, videos, forms, attachments, GIFs, survey can all be delivered straight to the customer without them having to download an app or visit a website.

Analytics: A major drawback of SMS was the lack of data. There was no option even see if a message had been read. RCS offers all the analytical depth of the web.

Group Interactions: SMS is essentially a one-on-one experience for the recipient. Now users can engage in multi media group chats like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp

Brand consistency and security. One of the drawbacks of SMS is that customers aren’t always 100% sure if the sender is who they say they are. This can lead to resource consuming inbound calls from uncertain customers. With RCS the sender is verified, and the CX is consistent across all channels.

With RCS in the early stages of development, early adopters will be rewarded. The experience is engaging and novel for the first consumers. As with all marketing and customer engagement channels, effectiveness is at it’s peak in the early days. Think of the declining open-rates of email, or the increasing costs of PPC advertising for examples.

How to Solve Catastrophic Friction Points in the Digital Customer Journey [PDF]

 download Friction in the customer journey small

What is RCS? A summary 

  • The latest development of the SMS standard
  • Provides an interactive app/web page functionality to customers
  • Relies on data connection instead of cellular connection
  • Launched in 2008, but full adoption has stalled and has yet to take off
  • Being developed by Google and GSMA as a competitor to Apple’s iMessage
  • Tied to a user’s mobile number rather than an app – no downloads required.
  • Exclusively available on a trial basis to certain brands and use cases
  • Not fully available on all networks and only available on Android
  • Chat functionality will not have client-to-server encryption

Drawbacks of Rich Communication Services

Does it all seem too good to be true? Almost. One of the major drawbacks, is that is limited to two device types. Those being Android and Windows phone. That only leaves half the market to engage with. Additionally, not all mobile operators have yet signed up to RCS – cutting your addressable market down again.

Additionally, it’s still in early stages, and not readily available. Even if you are happy to message Android and Windows devices only, you may have to wait a while. As a new channel, there may be some initial hesitance from recipients to the messaging standard.

Not only that, but the platform will require significant developer resources to roll it out. There are very few providers offering drag-and-drop style messaging builder platforms to brands.

Summary of Drawbacks

  • Not available on Apple Devices
  • Mobile operators have been slow to adopt it
  • Limited to specific regions
  • Users are unfamiliar with the channel
  • Requires in-house developer resources

However, brands should take Action now. Here are a few things to prepare for the inevitable rise of RCS.

  • Begin or redouble efforts to get customers to opt-in to SMS to receive mobile text messages you’re your brand. Research shows that consumers happily sign up for SMS delivered promotions.
  • Start with SMS campaigns, or develop the complexity of existing SMS campaigns
    • Explore the use of different trigger types for campaigns, including, a subscription or account being closed, proximity based messaging via Bluetooth, password reset request, payment verification, and more.

Alternatives to RCS: Rich Media Messaging 

The promise of RCS is that it can offer all the functionality of an app or web page, but with the added engagement of an outreach channel. However, given the uncertainty around the channel, alternatives are required. Additionally, any strategic play in the field now, will give an advantage over those who are waiting until RCS is more fully developed.

The alternative to RCS has existed and been proven with RMM (Rich Media Messaging). It allows brands to create compelling, immersive and engaging Rich Communication Services style messaging, and send them out to customers.

Through the use of a RMM brands are achieving the promise of RCS, and gaining important customer experience advantages over their competitors. RMM has a further benefit over RCS in that it does not have a requirement for costly in-house development. RMM is also available on all smartphones, regions, and network providers.

Some of the features of Rich Media Messaging include:

Mobile Landing Page Builder:

Quickly build mobile-friendly landing pages to enhance business messaging and communications. The design, message and goal of the page is entirely in your hands, with no developer time needed. The drag and drop interface takes minutes to learn. Delivery through SMS makes sure people actually engage.

Integrated Customer Experience:

Customer Survey - Rich Media Messaging

Initially, RCS will be a siloed channel. With RMM, you can use API technology to automate outbound and inbound interactions with your existing marketing and CX automation. The platform allows for dynamic content that triggers payments, ID verification or agent call-back, and other interactions. For example, send a survey following a customer care call, or an interactive appointment scheduler for patients or deliveries.

Detailed analytics:

Get insight to shape the future activity of your business. Whether it’s reviewing marketing campaigns to see what works well, or monitoring your business processes, VoiceSage provides the data to help test assumptions and back up decisions you make about the future.

Quick Intuitive Set Up:

Just like sending an email campaign, RMM is simple to create, deploy, and report. You can send Rich Media campaigns in minutes. The set up and User Experience is entirely customisable. Incorporate intuitive CTAs and personalise messages with imagery, maps, videos, downloadable files – anything you would include in an app or landing page. With a workflow creator, set up chat-bot conversations via a series of questions and pre-defined response options.

To learn more about RMM and how it can substitute for RCS schedule a demo

Published on: 6th July 2018

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