4 ways Google is transforming the business communication space

Google has been making silent moves in the business communication space. Though it has mostly lost the instant messaging wars, 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. It’s 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. 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 let’s look at the products and their features while they are there and understand the approach by Google.

Google business messages

This is the biggest game changer. Consider how online interaction for buying happens currently, especially for B2B services. We search on Google, depending on SEO and SEM we click on a website, go to the landing page, fill a form or click on chat and talk to a representative of the business. The users repeat this for many websites from Google search page until they find a business that they 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 new flow for business communication. As a first step, a user can search for a business on Google and then chat directly with them from the Google search page. Done! 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, it’s the Google search page. The most used page of the Internet. But Google will control the chat experience. Google provides chat endpoints to 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 and will become a major channel by the next year.

Google RCS business messaging

While the first product takes care of web chat, Rich Communication Services (RCS) business messaging is planning to revolutionise SMS messaging. RCS is a communication protocol between mobile telephone carriers and between phone and carrier, aiming at replacing SMS messages with a text-message system that is richer, provides phone-book polling, and can transmit in-call multimedia.

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 someone has a new Android phone, they are 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.

Verified calls and verified SMS

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. It will then 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 the reason why the business is calling you and in case an individual do not want to take the call right way, they 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. Having said that, it will take about a year before this becomes mainstream. Very few percentage of Android phones have enabled this feature so far.

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. The screen call feature does not use the Internet but runs on the device’s ASR and TTS capabilities. This feature has been tested and it works well for most cases.

Google is planning to be in the centre of business communication with the above new features and launches. It provides the platform and has signed up with multiple partners to deliver all these services. Web chat, SMS messaging and phone calls, whatever the medium, Google is going to be the platform of choice using which businesses can reach out to customers.

With security and data privacy becoming the core of every business strategy, Google has gone an extra mile to ensure that most of their products do not collect any data. They explicitly mention that in verified SMS and RCS, Google does not read any data. Similarly, for verified calls the chat happens directly with the 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.

It is an exciting time for businesses to shape and ramp up their communications approach. Contact centres will also need to update their stack to ensure they are up to speed on all the new technological advancements.

The writer is CIO, Ozonetel

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