Looking for a new way to engage with customers in the digital landscape using Google My Business Chat? In recent years email leads have declined as customers are increasingly reluctant to give up their email addresses when contacting businesses, making GMB chat a great option for meeting the needs of a changing customer base. Read on for a full breakdown of what Google click-to-message is, how it works and ways to set it up on your GMB listing.

Google My Business Chat Feature

Google processes more than 5 billion searches each day; most of that traffic is attributed to mobile users. With form leads on the decline and customers becoming increasingly comfortable texting a business, Google created its click-to-message app as a way for businesses to adapt to this shift in the way customers communicate with businesses.

Nowadays almost 90% of consumers want to communicate with businesses through text messaging, but less than 50% of businesses aren’t equipped to handle any kind of messaging.

Luckily for us Google has launched a new way for users to text message businesses via their Google My Business listings within the search engine results.

How To Set Up Google Text Messaging

Once you sign into your GMB account, you’ll click on the “messaging” tab, where you’ll be brought to a screen prompting you to add a textable phone number. The only caveat is you need to have Owner or Manager-level permissions to set up messaging for your GMB listing. It’s also only available to U.S. dashboards, with support coming to Brazil and India shortly.

How To Set Up Google My Business Chat Photo One
Attribution: Text Request

From there you’ll have the option to set up a custom welcome message that auto-sends to customers after they text you from the search results.

How To Set Up Google Text Messaging
Attribution: Text Request

After setting up the proper information in GMB, Google will text you a confirmation number; once you enter that code, you’ll be able to receive text messages through your Google Business Listing!

Google Messenger Features

All GMB users have the capability to add Messaging to their listing, but how does it work?

After setting it up through your GMB account, a message button will appear on your Google My Business Listing that customers can click on to directly message the number that you inputted via the messaging tab. They will be taken to their native messaging app to compose their message to your business.

Google Messenger Features
Attribution: Text Request

On the other side, Google will show customers a proxy number, or a different number than the one you initially provided, to protect your confidentiality if you aren’t using a business-only phone. The messages will be correctly forwarded to the number you inputted.

There are analytics available in the GMB dashboard for click-to-message, allowing you to track whether the feature is worth using and areas of opportunity for lead management.

Right now Google doesn’t have the option to turn off messaging based on your business’s hours, which can be troublesome as your average response time is displayed on your GMB listing, or if you aren’t equipped to handle leads after hours. A workaround is to manually toggle off the Message feature, which will remove the message icon from your Google search results listing.

Turning Off Google My Business Chat Photo
Attribution: Callrail

Users can mute messages from a contact by replying with IGNORE, which will prevent further messages from that specific contact being sent to you. There’s also a way to mark messages as spam by replying with SPAM, which flags the contact to Google and prevents further messages from being sent via that contact.

You can also turn off all messages by replying with STOP, which will opt you out of the messaging feature.

Instant Messaging On Google Aims To Replicate Facebook Messenger’s Success

With Facebook Messenger on Facebook Business Pages, owners have taken advantage of the connection where customers can opt in to receive messages like shipping notifications or automatic orders and reply to these messages if they have questions or issues.

GMB messaging isn’t quite as robust, but it’s a step in the right direction for enhancing the experience of low-funnel customers who are looking to schedule an appointment or make a purchase.

While GMB click-to-message is easy to set up, the user experience can be frustrating as there isn’t a concise message across different versions of the feature as it’s named different things in different places.

When you click to turn the feature on, it’s named messenger; if businesses elect to turn it off, it’s called chat; a third variation is Google SMS.

The feature should be available via the desktop login of GMB, but some of my clients have been directed to download the GMB app to their smartphones and don’t have an option to turn on messaging via their desktop.

There are also three different ways to connect with customers with this app; via SMS, Allo and App Preview Messages on Android. Allo is Google’s attempt at creating a cross platform Android iMessage.

Users have experienced issues with their Welcome Messages not being sent through on SMS, only being available on Allo or App Preview Messages, which aren’t as widely used as SMS. 

Issues With Google My Business Chat Welcome Message
Attribution: Callrail

Issues With Google’s New Texting App

With GMB click-to-message you would think that you could use the feature in tandem with getting more phone calls. On the business-side it’s not exactly intuitive for converting messaging to phone call leads.

For example, if you’re texting a customer you may want to call them to provide more details regarding an appointment or reservation. Through the GMB messenger app setup, the messages come from an unknown number with the actual customer phone number provided in the body of the very first text message.

The business owner would have to scroll up to the first message, copy the number, open a dialer, paste the number and then call the customer, which isn’t the most user-friendly experience.

On the customer’s side, if they were to call via GMB messenger they would be met with a message stating “We could not complete your call. Please try again.”

GMB messenger uses a Google forwarding number that isn’t an assigned number for the business or verified for use with the business’s main phone number on GMB. It also has a different area code than the business and the searcher, which can lead to confusion and a missed lead opportunity.

For searchers GMB messenger labels this feature as “Google SMS” in its auto reply, which may confuse the consumer and is different from how GMB’s click-to-call function works.

Issues With Google’s New Texting App Photo
Attribution: Callrail

GMB click-to-message at this time offers a single number to be used, which can be troublesome if you’re on vacation or only have a single phone to dedicate among your employees. You can change the number that’s used at any time, but it may take some additional planning to determine who’s in charge of answering customer messages on a day-to-day basis.

It’s also only available to Android users; the feature won’t pop up for anyone surfing with an Apple device, which is frustrating when that information isn’t provided. Lastly, the chat button only appears on the GMB listing and isn’t available on Google Maps.

Google Click To Message Privacy Concerns

While the above observations are rather nit-picky, the bigger problems that GMB messenger faces stem from a lack of privacy and HIPAA compliance issues.

There’s no consent about how it works as far as collecting information goes or consent opt-in option available. This is especially troublesome with businesses in the medical field who are using the feature, as their text message interactions most likely contain Protected Health Information, which is strictly regulated under HIPAA laws.

Even for non-healthcare businesses, no explicit information is offered in that a searcher can’t call the number they’re texting and a 3rd party number is used in place of a business-verified one, causing potential legal ramifications if employees are requesting private information from customers via GMB messenger.

Best Practices For Communicating With Customers On Your Google Business Listing

Below are a few messaging guidelines from Google on best practices for communicating with customers:

Make sure that you don’t provide or request sensitive information during a chat with customers. Sensitive information includes, but is not limited to:

  • Credit card numbers
  •  Social Security, passport, or other government identification numbers
  • Login credentials, like passwords

Avoiding sensitive content during chats keeps your and your customers’ information safe. Using personal information in ways that the other party has not consented to is strictly not allowed.

Slow or unreasonable response times to messages received from users represent a bad user experience for your customer. For example:

  • Failure to respond to the user
  • Waiting an unreasonable period of time to respond to the user

It is also unacceptable to send irrelevant or unwanted messages to users who have contacted you. For example:

  • Messaging about a product or service unrelated to the original request
  • Repeated messaging with no response
  • Excessively long message or excessive use of emoticons and URLs

Do not impersonate an organization or individual. Do not make false statements about your identity or qualifications, such as falsely claiming to be an authorized representative of a company.

Do not provide inaccurate promotion information that omits or obfuscates how the user will be billed or charged.

Conversations should be focused on the business and services offered, avoiding any inappropriate content, including:

  • Content that promotes or condones hatred or violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity
  • Harassing, bullying, or threatening content towards individuals or groups
  • Graphic or violent materials for the sake of disgusting others
  • Sexually explicit or pornographic images or videos
  • Content that exploits or abuses children

Chat is intended for quality conversations between merchants and users.

  • Do not spam, including sending unsolicited messages or unwanted promotional or commercial content.
  • Do not share content or engage in behaviors that harm or interfere with users’ devices, network operations, or other infrastructure.
  • Do not use this service for phishing scams

Why You Should Try Out Google Text Messaging

GMB click-to-message is another way to communicate with your customers and drive leads to your business. It’s not fully fleshed out and is only available on desktop, mobile browsers and the search app on Android, limiting your overall audience, but the convenience of the feature is promising.

I would note that this feature isn’t for every business, especially those that handle private information, but it has its merits for a few different scenarios:

  • Business owners in the trades that don’t have staff to answer phone leads and don’t want their voicemails blown up;
  • Emergency-services like roadside assistance or DUI lawyers that have the convenience of answering incoming leads at all hours;
  • Dealerships or other B2C businesses that are looking to shift from declining email leads based on recent customer marketing trends; and
  • Getting more out of online local searches if you aren’t getting a lot of leads.  

Google Messaging Tips and Best Practices

Here are my personal tips on how to maximize your click-to-message on your GMB listing:

  • Stick with a cell phone number and avoid using Allo or the Android Preview Messages Feature
  • Set up a clear schedule on who is responsible for answering customer leads if multiple personnel are operating in your BDC department
  • Avoid asking for private information and drive the conversation to a secure email address or a phone call
  • If your business isn’t equipped to answering messages after-hours, turn off the feature when your business isn’t open to avoid losing potential leads
  • Write down talk tracks as a memo in your phone to quickly copy and paste answers to customer inquiries; this will ensure consistent messaging and quick respond times

How To Create A Google Business Listing

Don’t have a Google My Business Account & Listing? If you don’t have either, it’s a quick and free to set up.

  1. Go to google.com/business and click Start now at the top right corner.
  2. Sign in to your Google Account, or create one if you don’t already use Google services.
  3. Enter the name of your business and click Next.
    Note: You can also select your business from the suggestions that appear as you enter information.
  4. Enter the street address of your business and click Next. You may also be asked to position a marker for the location of your business on a map.
    1. If you manage a service-area business, follow these extra steps:
      1. Check the box for I deliver goods and services to my customers. Optionally, check the box for Hide my address (it’s not a store) Only show region –.
      2. Click Next.
      3. Select a delivery area option and click Next.
  5. Use the search field to select a business category and click Next.
  6. Enter a phone number or website URL for your business, then click Next.
    Note: You’ll also have the option to create a free website based on your information.
  7. To complete sign-up and verify your connection to this business, click Continue.
  8. Select a verification option:
    1. To verify at another time, select Try a different method and click Later. If you’re not authorized to manage the business, find the person in your organization who’s authorized and continue the process.

Note: If you see a page that says “This listing has already been claimed,” click Request access and follow the directions to claim your business.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my latest post on Google+ permanently shutting down in 2019.

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