What is RCS messaging, and how can it improve the customer experience?

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

By Emily Miels, Contributing Writer

Published August 3, 2021
Last updated December 13, 2021

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’s a little different: 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.

There’s a palpable difference between SMS (short message service) texting and RCS (rich communication service) messaging. As the name implies, RCS messaging includes updated features that businesses can use to provide a more enjoyable messaging platform for customers.

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

What is RCS messaging?

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 messaging and social platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. But with RCS messaging, all those features are built into the texting capabilities through the customer’s cellular device and carrier.

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

Customers need to have both the right carrier and the right device to use RCS messaging. Most major carriers—including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint—now offer RCS capabilities on newer Android-powered Google and Samsung devices. (You may also know them as Samsung Messages or Google Messages.)

3 reasons why RCS is important for sales and customer service

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

  1. RCS messaging makes for a better customer experience

    With RCS messaging, customers get a much better user experience. RCS messaging provides seamless workflow capabilities—including one-click options to complete a purchase, contact an agent, or sign up for a newsletter—via text message.

    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.

    Because many social platforms already offer these capabilities, some businesses have defaulted to these applications. But achieving the same or similar workflow via text message provides opportunities to connect with (and impress) the 28 percent of American adults who don’t use social media.

  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 capabilities of advanced messaging apps. In addition to read receipts, typing indicators are helpful because they tell agents when a customer is responding. SMS and MMS don’t provide that type of information.

    When using RCS, support and service agents can clearly see whether customers have read and engaged with their messages. That data can then be used to note what’s resonating and improve communication strategies. It can also help you build out detailed customer profiles, complete with insights about response times and preferred communication channels.

  3. Recognizable branding puts customers at-ease

    Security is also key, as text message scams are on the rise. The Federal Trade Commission received more than 334,000 complaints of fraud via text in 2020—that’s up from 167,000 in 2019—so consumers are often wary of texts from unknown numbers.

    With RCS messaging, brands can get verified by a specialized verification authority and then be marked as verified (similar to the blue checkmark for brands on Twitter and Instagram). Verified companies are able to brand messages with their distinct colors, fonts, and logos. This provides instant recognition and a sense of legitimacy, increasing the likelihood that the customer will engage.

    branded RCS message

    Many customers also consider texts to be more secure than social media messaging. “A lot of people are becoming more and more aware of privacy—or the lack of privacy—on different social channels,” Langlois says. “I think RCS messaging is a really nice alternative.”

How to use RCS messaging to engage with your customers

RCS messaging takes messaging software to the next level for businesses engaging with customers on this channel. The plethora of features simplifies and enriches interactions by making the experience more visual and straightforward for customers.

  • Provide suggested replies and actions

    Suggested replies and actions make it easy and efficient for customers to take the next step with your business. Plus, they save customers from having to type out a response or search for more details on their own.

    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 time and date, you could also have a “yes” or “reschedule” autoresponse to make it easy for them.

    For customer support issues, you could include a “contact” button in text messages so users can quickly escalate their problem to an agent. In the past, customers likely had to click on a link to your website for the contact information.

  • Showcase products with high-quality images and assets

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

    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, on average, than regular posts. So, it makes sense that they’d do well in a text message format, too.

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

    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, too. With RCS messaging, users don’t have to click on a separate website or download a separate app to make a purchase or access receipts, tickets, and other documents. This provides added convenience and minimizes unnecessary friction on the path to purchase.

    Being able to do business directly via texting is beneficial for companies as well: According to ZipWhip’s 2019 State of Texting Report, 61 percent of consumers would not install a new app to communicate with a business.

    There are numerous ways to use RCS messaging for managing transactions. For instance, concert venues can send admission tickets through text rather than through email or a separate app. Similarly, airlines can send boarding passes via text, saving travelers from having to download another app.

    airline ticket sent via RCS messaging

Start using RCS messaging

All in all, RCS allows for a simple, unified customer experience. Luckily, getting started with RCS messaging is easy and only takes a few minutes.

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—like Zendesk. After that, you can easily manage RCS alongside your other messaging and support channels to reach customers with devices and carriers that support RCS messaging.

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

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