Who Needs an App When You Can Use Rich Media Messaging?

Text messaging -- ask anybody -- has become as much a part of our daily lives as brushing our teeth. It's second nature. Why call when you can text?

The messaging trend has been well documented on No Jitter and elsewhere. A couple of weeks back, for example, mobility expert Michael Finneran tracked the rise of enterprise text, the role of over-the-top messaging apps, and consumerization's impact in his post, "Texting Two Ways." And I've written some time ago about the deepening integration of SMS into business processes and the more intelligent use cases that were sure to follow, and, in a separate piece, the inevitability of text-enabling toll-free numbers (see "Don't Call, Text... Maybe?" and "Text-to-Toll Free: Coming to a Contact Center Near You").

Here I'd like to pick up on that last point. Just as contact centers are well advised to add text channels for customer support, so too must they text-enable their non-cellular and toll-free customer service numbers. Consumers will text to voice numbers without distinction -- and won't be too happy when they get no response. How are they to know those texts have gone into an abyss from which they can never be retrieved?

But what about MMS, the multimedia messaging counterpart to SMS? Contact centers are going to want to start supporting MMS in addition to SMS, believes Flowroute, a "software-centric carrier" that's been offering integrated SMS and voice calling since early 2016 and earlier this month added MMS support, too.

Dave Rich, VP of products at Flowroute, described one potential use case during a No Jitter briefing. From the roadside, a driver could snap a picture of a just dinged-up bumper and send it off for a quick estimate using the toll-free customer service number conveniently listed on his insurance card. He also described the key difference between SMS and MMS: "Text messaging is really just a call to action, while MMS conveys information." In that regard, he added, MMS has the potential to provide greater value.

For Flowroute, MMS completes its product set for long-code and toll-free numbers, letting customers not only call but text and send pictures, audio files, and video clips to text-enabled phone numbers, Rich said. And contact centers don't need to change their customer service numbers as they seek to deliver better customer experiences.

Of course, MMS isn't just applicable for contact center use cases. I know one recent morning I would have loved to have had a picture of my boarding pass sitting in an MMS message while I tried, to no avail, scanning my boarding pass from within the airline app while standing at the TSA kiosk. The kindly TSA agent said sometimes the images just won't scan, and wondered if I might have an email with a link to the boarding pass. No, I didn't -- and that meant exiting the line and heading off to get a printout of my boarding pass. Where were you, rich media message, when I needed you?

Ultimately, some believe, Rich Communication Services (RCS) messaging will come into vogue as the replacement for SMS. Cloud communications company CLX Communications, in one example, is working on an RCS Business Messaging service with Google. The ultimate goal is to create "an app-like experience in a message," Rob Malcolm, VP of marketing and online sales for CLX, told me in a briefing.

Will RCS messaging be secure enough for enterprise use? "More trust is key to seeing a really exciting next generation of use cases, Malcolm said. But once that comes, he added, "a lot of apps will fundamentally be replaced by messaging." With my boarding pass experience fresh in mind, I can't help but to think that an airline app makes the perfect case in point.

And businesses shouldn't really care one way or another, Malcolm added. The point is to provide the right channel for any customer at any point in time. That might be SMS or MMS, or as Finneran pointed out in his "Texting Two Way" piece, a business chat service or a consumer-grade OTT app.

Finneran will be expanding on his exploration of business messaging at Enterprise Connect 2018 in the session, "Making Mobile Messaging Work for Your Enterprise." Join him to learn more! Enterprise Connect 2018 will take place March 12 to 15, in Orlando, Fla. Register now using the code ECNL18 to save an additional $200 off the Advance Rate or get a free Expo Plus pass.

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