Sunday, December 13, 2020

Google business messages and chat agents-A match made in heaven

Google has launched Google business messages without much fanfare. It's just a small button that pops up when someone searches for your business on Google. But from the conversation industry perspective this is HUGE.

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Do you know that the small call button drives 60 million calls in a year for a pizza joint in the US. Businesses spend $1.3 trillion supporting 265 billion customer service calls each year. Now imagine how many chat conversations the "Message" button can drive. 

Think of how customers interact with business.

1. Search on Google.

2. Click on web site link.

3. Web site shows chat pop up and tries to force the user to chat.(Annoying. I know :))

4. User clicks on chat and starts conversing with a bot or an agent.

This flow can now be completely changed. The new flow can be:

1. Search on Google.

2. User clicks on Message and starts conversing with a bot or an agent.

What if you could design a customer experience that helps people directly in the time and place that their need arises?

The website can be taken out of the equation. The irony of this is that a site which indexes websites is taking the web site out of the equation :)

Obviously the above flow works for well known brands where the user need not visit the brand web site to learn more about it.

Monumental change to conversation landscape

Chat as a conversation channel has been there for decades. It suddenly had its moment in the sunshine because of the hype of chat bots and the prevalence of instant messaging apps like WhatsApp. When WhatsApp launched it's business API it was supposed to take over the world. But it did not happen. I was as surprised as anyone as to why it did not take off. I mean it had all the ingredients. It has widespread use. Almost everyone has already installed it. Everyone knows how to use it. It supports multimedia and location features. So, why is it not being used more. 
The answer came when I was talking to a founder. I was asking him why they are not opting for a WhatsApp channel. First he said price(he was a startup founder, so duh! Price is of paramount importance :)). But what he said later made a lot more sense. He said the WhatsApp number was not searchable. 
Think about it. He liked the chat channel and he liked WhatsApp as a chat channel. But his customers couldn't search and find his channel. Let's say you have a shoe store. You have done great SEO and when people search for shoes your website pops up and people visit the website and buy shoes. But you can't do SEO for your WhatsApp number.
WhatsApp business API has solved a lot of problems, but it has not solved discoverability.

This is why for most chat agents, the first step is search on Google and then come to website and start a chat session.

But now, with this new feature your chat agents are DISCOVERABLE. And that is a big thing. You can now update your SEO and nudge your customers to start chatting with you right from the Google search page. And you can be sure, if you are not nudging, your competitors are.

How to get started

Right now, to get started, you need to sign up with a Google business messages partner(we are one). And then the partner will help you link up your chat agent with Google business messages. If you have an existing chat agent, then it is pretty straightforward and you can map the chat agent to the current chat agent. If not, the business partner can help you setup a new chat agent. Google also allows you to link a Dialogflow agent to your business messages account. This will allow you quickly setup your chat agent and make it available on Google search.

For a quick start, you can setup a FAQ chat agent and back it up with real agents to answer the queries of your customers. This will allow you to observe the kind of queries coming your way and then update your chat agent accordingly.

While choosing a business message partner, check if they support only chat bots or chat bots+human chat agents. I would suggest you to always staff human agents to handle your chat queries as these are coming from Google search and can be high quality leads.

Use Cases

Google knows that to get any help, customers around the world start with Google. Google classifies these as:
  • Know: Best cloud telephony company, best lawyer etc.
  • Go: Where is Ozonetel?
  • Buy: Best rate for iPhone? Where can I buy an iPhone, Book a hotel etc
  • Do: Airtel customer service etc
Every business with an online presence can take advantage of this, some more so than others. Lets look at some scenarios. Some exist already and some I thought up with my great creative mind :). But the possibilities are endless.
  • Restaurants: Get table booking status, open table status etc.
  • Lawyers: Get quote for a writ etc.
  • Retail: Get price of items from local store. Ask about delivery details. Find opening and closing times.
  • Doctors: Book appointment. Find opening and closing times.
  • Edtech: Doubts in homework. This can be a good lead gen.
  • Recipes: You get stuck in cooking, directly talk to an expert.
  • Real estate: Get quote. Book site visit. Get queries answered about projects.
  • Insurance: Get quote from a chat agent.
  • Healthcare: Get queries answered by doctors. Find availability of medicines.

You get the idea :)

Cons

So far we have seen the advantages of this feature and how we can use it. Let us look at some points which we have to keep in mind while implementing this for our business.
  • Gatekeeper: The first thing we need to thing about is how now Google becomes more of a gatekeeper to your business. But given the prevalence of Google and the impact of search on business, there is no way but to implement it for your business.
  • Spam: Your chat agent may get a lot of spam. For example job seekers will spam your chat system with queries about job offers. You can try to filter some through bots, but you can be sure you will get a lot of queries which are not directly related to your business.
  • Chrome dependency: Currently, this only works on Chrome. And you will also need to have Google maps installed for this to work. So this works for people who search your business on Chrome on a mobile. Just keep this in mind.
  • Features: Not all features are supported right now. Text, images and suggested replies work currently.

Please share in the comments what are your thoughts on this new service by Google. If you have any queries on how to use this for your business please feel free to ping us at sales@ozonetel.com and we would be more than happy to help you out.