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By Johan Carstens, EMEIA Manufacturing & Automotive CTO at Fujitsu

Customer communication is a priority for any business. If you can interact with your customers in a way that is effective and engaging, you will be more likely to build consumer loyalty and drive sales.

And in today’s digital world, technology is enabling many more ways for people to talk to one another.

So why are so many businesses still using text messaging, a technology which has remained essentially unchanged since it first emerged in 1992?

There’s a better way to connect to your customers.

It’s called Rich Communication Services (RCS), and in this blog post I will explain why it should be the communication method of choice for businesses.

Responding to the challenge of messaging apps

The vast majority of corporate communication – I would even suggest 99% – comes via text.

This makes sense on a number of levels. It’s immediate, it’s reliable, and since 87% of people in the US and Europe have a smartphone, you can be fairly certain that your customer will use SMS.

But the rise of new messaging services, like Whatsapp, WeChat, Kik and Viber have changed the game.

They can offer an exciting user experience beyond simple text, with emojis, gifs, video call, voice notes, group chat and read receipts.

So, the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GMSA) has developed a response to these messaging services with RCS.

RCS encapsulates all of the strengths of traditional SMS and adds the enhanced experience of a Whatsapp or a Kik, overlaid with some additional benefits.

We’re proud to be part of this by supporting the back-end analytics of RCS. This s particularly important and I will come back to this topic.

The benefits of standardisation

RCS is a messaging standard that ties together the strengths of SMS and other chat apps.

One of the major benefits of RCS for businesses is that it is tied to a user’s mobile number rather than an app. This means that there are no downloads required; anyone with a phone can use RCS.

With the current SMS system, the emoticon language differs depending on the carrier. If you’re on Vodafone and you send a smiley face to someone on O2, they will receive something slightly different to the version you sent them.

But everything on RCS is standardised, so all phones will speak the same language even if they have different carriers.

Security

On top of the benefits of standardisation, RCS offers serious advantages in the areas of security, payments and data.

One of the risky things about text messages is that you take them at face value. If you receive a message from an unknown number claiming to be your bank, you have to go somewhere different to check if it really is them. The actual SMS itself doesn’t allow you to verify identity.

But this will change with RCS. For an enterprise to be able to use it, they have to buy a certificate from the RCS provider. This certificate will verify who they are, so customers can use RCS with confidence.

On top of this, RCS offers a very secure way of tracking the user’s behaviour. The data generated by RCS means that if you are talking to a business from an unusual location, they will ask you to complete additional security checks, like a fingerprint scan, to verify who you are.

This protects the customer’s identity from scammers, so that their account cannot be accessed without permission.

Ultimately, RCS represents a progression from SMS in security terms, because it enables customers to transact, operate and communicate in a secure environment.

Pay

An additional feature of RCS that makes it so valuable to enterprises is the fact that customers can use it to make transactions.

British Gas has already started running RCS transactions, enabling their customers to top up their meter by simply sending a message.

There’s also the one click buy. This has a much wider and more important application than just convenient shopping.

In agriculture for example – a farmer can take a photo of a pest / locust they have found in their fields affecting their crops, and send via message to the IoT provider, who will reply telling them what action to take.

If the suggested action is ‘buy a pesticide’, the farmer will be able to purchase it immediately by clicking through from the message. Having these options available within the conversation itself will save vast amounts of time – and it provides an altogether improved experience for the user.

Data

If I send a link to a website via SMS I will have no visibility as to whether or not the recipient visits the site. This is really difficult for businesses who want to track where their customers are going.

But RCS is capable of recording this valuable information. This is something we, at Fujitsu, enable with the back-end analytics. We can track users and send information, such as how many messages are sent and what time the customer normally responds, back to providers so that they can tailor their services accordingly.

These details help us build a picture which we can then use to make customer communication more effective. For example, we might be able to see that this specific group of customers get paid on Friday morning. So we’ll send them a text on Friday morning asking if they want to pay the meter.

We’ll chose to send it on Friday morning, because the data shows us that if we send it on Friday evening they might be at dinner or in the pub and forget to pay!

RCS is special because it enables businesses to pick up on the real behaviour of their customers, so they can build better products that suit their wants and needs.

A service with huge potential

RCS has the potential to replace Whatsapp and other communication formats as the favoured communication channel.

There are so many use cases for RCS, we don’t know where to start: in retail, financial services and utilities.

Ultimately the back-end and the analytics are the crucial elements, since they allow businesses to learn about their customers – their preferences, habits, and normal behaviours. This enables enterprises to provide their customers with a safer, more personal experience – that’s why we’re so excited to be involved in this aspect of the RCS process.

But ultimately, all businesses should be excited about this, since it’s a chance to talk to customers in a new and better way, enhancing their brand and consumer loyalty in the process.

To understand more about how manufacturers can improve customer engagement through new technology innovations read my blog on consumer recognition technology.

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