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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
It is also unacceptable to send irrelevant or unwanted messages to users who have contacted you. For example:
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:
Chat is intended for quality conversations between merchants and users.
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:
Here are my personal tips on how to maximize your click-to-message on your GMB 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.
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, or the latest coronavirus SEO structured data types that were recently launched. We also just released our latest guide on How To Add A User To Google Search Console.