Google has been making silent moves in the business communication space. Google has mostly lost the instant messaging wars. But it does not want to lose the business communication war. WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have been making their own moves to enable businesses to reach their customers through their channels. Its all about who has control over the communication channels. Especially communication which leads to business. That's where the money is.
Currently, Google is the king of search and most online transactions start with a Google search. FB, Amazon, Apple and others want to change that. They want the search to start on their properties. And they have started making the moves. WhatsApp business allows small businesses to conduct their transactions on WhatsApp. FB and Instagram have long supported small businesses to manage their business on their channels. Apple has also made some nice moves with Apple business chat. They have integrated a whole shopping experience along with payments on their iMessage interface.
So what does Google do?
Google has come up with a suite of business communication tools. In this blogpost I will go over the different products and try to make sense of the approach by Google. As usual, when it comes to Google, the products are all around the place and we never know when some of these products may be cut. But lets look at the products and their features while they are there.
This is the big one. Consider how online interaction for buying happens currently. Especially for B2B services.
1. We search on Google.
2. Depending on SEO and SEM we click on a web site.
3. We go to the landing page.
4. We fill a form or maybe click on chat.
5. We talk to a representative of the business.
6. We repeat this for many websites from google search page until we find a business which we like.
Google wants to change this. It wants to make interactions more seamless.
Using a chat button. On the Google search page itself.
With this new product, Google envisages the following new flow for business communication.
1. Search on Google.
2. Chat with business from the Google search page.
No app to install. Nothing. Just search and chat.
As a consumer, this makes it much easier to interact with multiple businesses. Businesses will have to opt for this because, if you don't, you will be left out. After all, its the Google search page. The most used page of the Internet. But Google will control the chat experience.
Google provides chat endpoints so that you can connect your customers to either bots or human agents. This may finally make chat commerce mainstream if done right.
This product is already launched and lots of businesses are already using it in the US. It's still picking up in India, but I see this becoming a major channel by the next year.
Currently this works if you search for a particular business name on Google. Google is coming up with another huge update to this. I am not sure if I am allowed to reveal it just yet, so will wait for a couple of moths before I write about it. But that will change the chat landscape a lot. Stay tuned.
The first product takes care of web chat. RCS business messaging is planning to revolutionize SMS messaging. The goal is to make SMS messages as feature rich as instant messaging apps. Already T mobile and Vonage had switched to Google's Messages app. Recently AT&T also joined the bandwagon. So if you have a new Android phone, you are most probably RCS ready. And businesses are already using the new features like verified senders, images, carousals etc, provided by the updated Messages app.
SMS is still used by businesses for communication, especially for delivery updates, OTPs and other transactional details. RCS just supercharges the SMS game. This is another step made by Google to stay relevant in the business communication game.
Google wants to end spam by being the gatekeeper. Businesses who want to call customers can register with Google verified calls and Google, using the default Phone app will inform the end customer that this is a verified business that is calling you. And that's not all, the Phone app will also show you the reason why the business is calling you and in case you do not want to take the call right way, you can reply with a reason text. Once again, no new apps to be installed. This works out of the box for all new Android phones.
Truecaller better watch out. The whole use case of Truecaller is being baked into the new Phone app of Google.
That said, it will take about an year before this becomes mainstream. Very few percentage of Android phones have actually enabled this feature so far.
4. Screen Call:
This is all on the customer side. Google has enabled a screen call feature to the new Phone app on Android. With this customers can now allow Google to screen the call on your behalf. The screen call feature uses text to speech to speak on your behalf and speech to text ASR to understand what the caller said and show that as a transcript to you. You can read what the caller said and choose to pick the call or disconnect the call.
This is going to completely change the way businesses will tele call people. If screen call becomes mainstream a lot of outbound calling processes have to be changed.
Given the fact that a lot of outbound calling voicebots are being used by businesses now, in the future there might come a scenario where two bots(one voice bot from the business and the second, the screen call bot on your phone) interact with each other and close the conversation :)
Google says the screen call feature does not use the Internet, so its using its on device ASR and TTS capabilities. I have tested this and it works fine for most cases.
So with these 4 products Google is planning to be in the center of business communication. Google has signed up partners to deliver all these services. Google itself does not provide any services. It just provides the platform.
They are also integrating across these products.
When you call a business and that business is registered with business chat, then a chat button pops up on the phone screen(in the Phone app) allowing customers to chat instead of talk. This might be useful, lets say when you are on hold when calling a business.
So web chat, SMS messaging and phone calls, whatever the medium, Google wants to be the platform of choice using which businesses can reach out to customers.
Google knows that its got a bad rap for collecting data, so they have gone to great pains to explain that most of these products don't collect any data. For example, they explicitly mention that in verified SMS and RCS, Google does not read any data. Similarly for verified calls. They also mention that chat happens directly with business and in the case of screen calls, everything happens on the device and no data goes out.
That said, a lot of meta data is still collected by the Google Phone app and Messaging app. So it's not as if no data is being collected.
So it's an exciting time for business communications. Contact centers will also need to update their stack to make sure they are upto speed on all the new technological advancements.