Jon Hall

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Hi all, I was hoping to find out your opinions on GMB's messaging feature. Now that it's been around awhile, are you turning Google Messaging *on* or *off* or *it depends*?

I have my own biases but I'll bottle them in for now ;) From what I can tell, it hasn't been huge topic here one way or the other.

@Brian Barwig posted an excellent overview of the feature here: New Google My Business Messaging Options And it sounds like Sterling Sky is turning Google Messaging ON: "We believe these are a terrific addition to the GMB rolodex and should be taken advantage of."

But there are also some mixed reviews from those using Google Messaging in different industries, notably the comments on this thread from people turning it OFF: Google My Business Messaging and Metrics are getting a boost

What say you? What say your clients? Are you turning Google Messaging ON or OFF? Thanks ❤️
 

Nicole Basham

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For service-area businesses, the messaging button shows up on profiles as Request a Quote. So for these clients, this is a valuable additional lead source. The flip side is that what usually happens is that these come in outside of normal business hours. Meaning, a GMB profile visitor will see the business is closed, so they will use the messaging function, assuming that they will get a quicker response. The next question then is: is the client positioned to actually offer estimates over text messaging? For most of our service-area clients, what this looks like in reality is the client asking for a phone number and address and saying they will call that person the next business day. So I expect with that approach, you'll lose some of the value of this function. But that would also happen when someone calls a business and leaves a message or when someone fills out a web form anyways.

Like most other GMB features, we encourage clients to test them out and see what works for them. Some clients do better with messaging than others. One decided wisely that they were not able to keep up with the volume of messages and decided that it was better to lose some leads than make people angry by not responding quickly enough. And I do see that if you don't respond to a message in under 15 minutes, that person is either upset or you have lost the lead.

We are pretty open and transparent with our clients about Google, so it's understood that free features can have drawbacks and that there is always the possibility that Google will monetize a feature down the road. But while it's free, if they can take advantage of it effectively, I guess our take is that it's just another way to improve their local search profile.

I'd probably always let a new client know about Messaging, but I can't imagine that it would be something I'd recommend for many industries and for clients that don't have the in-house capability to manage these effectively on their own. Apart from scheduling service calls, how many businesses can effectively communicate via text the way it's currently limited to just people who have the app on their phones? Even if you have some canned responses you can copy and paste from, it's a challenge. And right now if the person who originally messaged doesn't see your reply immediately, it goes to Maps, which makes sense, but means it's probably lost.
 
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  • Multiple user (or "agent") access and access control to conversations
  • Clear user "ownership" of individual messages or conversations
  • Conversation "status" setting to have visibility into and filters on open vs. resolved conversations, etc.
  • Contact segmentation to support targeted outreach, re-marketing, etc.
  • Centralized repository of "standard" messaging for the brand, i.e. message templates, automations
  • Hours-based automations that maintain responsiveness when agents are away but stay out of the agents' (and customers') way during business hours
  • Reporting that covers outcomes (leads/sales) as well as KPIs related to use of the channel: response times, customer satisfaction, etc.
In an absolutely ideal world, I'd love to have these features:
  • Clear indication of what location the customer is messaging via, including address and store number, to provide context to agents
  • Interplay with internal systems to allow agents to quickly access our own tools - for example, our internal informational site for each location, our CMS, and our reservation system
  • Message history, showing what interactions the customer has had through this channel with previous agents
  • Advanced tagging system for closed conversations which plays into the analytics, allowing agents to select the reason for the conversation and outcome
Some of these might be a little pie in the sky but I can dream, right?
 
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My wonderings about this surround whether it's going to be better, in the long run, to let Google into this area of customer service, or if brands would be better off doubling down on marketing their own text messaging capabilities, independent of Google. Of course, you could do both and have the best of both worlds, but I'm not 100% comfortable with inviting Google to become even more of a middleman between your brand and your customers. Thoughts on this from the community?
 
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From an enterprise perspective, it's off, 100%. GMB's interface for dealing with messages is made totally for SMBs. It's not scalable for larger companies, which is a damn shame. If it ever gets to the point where it has an interface which is useful on the enterprise scale, I could see us adopting it. It's important to meet the customers where they are. I can understand the hesitance to use Google's interface versus getting the website traffic but we'd get some good data off the conversations to improve our site and make it answer their questions better. We're implementing an online chat solution this year which I'm hopeful about and having that infrastructure built, the people who answer those messages, would make it much easier to expand into GMB's messaging system.
 

Amy Toman

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Late to the party here, but I'm inclined against these for two reasons:

1. If you turn Messaging on and use some categories, you opt into "Get a Quote," and the services listed are not editable. So if you don't provide those services, you disappoint clients.
2. The app issue stated above. If you're an SAB and the message is received on your phone, you may not be able to reply quickly, or from your phone, during your workday.

So while I think there's good opportunities for this feature, I generally recommend keeping it off, or trying it for a bit to see if it works for your business.
 

Contractor

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As an end-user, I like messaging because it allows me to qualify customers and leads without spending time on the phone doing it. For what it’s worth, it’s also a new avenue for spammers.

987ED854-8D3A-43C7-A0DF-D489CA980B07.jpeg
 

Eoghan_Aircam

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I work with chain brands mostly in restaurant, retail, banking verticals.

Haven't seen huge demand from clients to turn it on but can certainly see how it's a powerful channel for lead-gen focused verticals (Home Service, Financial Advisors, Real Estate).

APIs are available for enterprises to manage inside their existing customer service platforms too which is helpful. Managing self-serve if you're an enterprise is probably not feasible.
 

Jon Hall

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Fantastic, @Nicole Basham. Thank you! You hit on so many of the considerations involved in evaluating messaging strategies for SABs, I feel like I should try to systematize your thoughts into a kind of decision tree, like:
  • Is the value of a lead to your business high enough to warrant messaging with them?
  • If yes, can you convert a lead via messaging? (Maybe "conversion" isn't a sale or even providing a quote but scheduling an appointment or site visit, etc.)
  • If yes, does your business have the capacity to respond to inbound messages promptly...
  • ... during business hours?
  • ... after hours?
  • If yes, turn messaging ON.
... and so on, haha.
 

Jon Hall

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Very well said, @MiriamEllis!

From a brand standpoint, it seems like a no-brainer to at least *prefer* driving customer conversations into SMS/text. Text isn't owned or controlled by one entity. A direct customer contact via text is durable, it's "forever." And an SMS contact list is a business asset that can be built and leveraged over the short and long terms.

From a consumer standpoint, Google *owning* messaging means that Google can provide consumers insights about your company's responsiveness and history of outcomes. That seems pretty good. Until you realize, as @Nicole Basham points out, that the data is "limited to just people who have the app on their phones." But it *seems* trustworthy. Sigh.
 

Nicole Basham

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Fantastic, @Nicole Basham. Thank you! You hit on so many of the considerations involved in evaluating messaging strategies for SABs, I feel like I should try to systematize your thoughts into a kind of decision tree, like:
  • Is the value of a lead to your business high enough to warrant messaging with them?
  • If yes, can you convert a lead via messaging? (Maybe "conversion" isn't a sale or even providing a quote but scheduling an appointment or site visit, etc.)
  • If yes, does your business have the capacity to respond to inbound messages promptly...
  • ... during business hours?
  • ... after hours?
  • If yes, turn messaging ON.
... and so on, haha.

I hadn't gotten as far as a decision tree, but that's much more useful!

We started using this feature with clients in November of 2019, and I hoped that at the very least Google would offer scheduling options so you could only have messaging turned on certain times of day. And based on the results we had, I was hoping this feature would become more robust. But then COVID happened and a lot of the free or "beta" type features I'm sure got put on the back burner.

In November 2020, messaging was completely turned off at one point in the month and we lost all the data in the app from that point to date, although I had been tracking Request to Quote lead counts manually in a spreadsheet. Again, very frustrating!
 

Jon Hall

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Thank you, @Annika Neudecker! I'm really interested in your point about the messaging interface and its utility for larger companies (not least because I'm tasked with building a UI for text messaging used by SMBs, agencies AND enterprises :).

Here are some of the things that I've identified (or which have been identified to me LOL) as important to enterprise messaging use. I'm curious how you'd amend this list:
  • Multiple user (or "agent") access and access control to conversations
  • Clear user "ownership" of individual messages or conversations
  • Conversation "status" setting to have visibility into and filters on open vs. resolved conversations, etc.
  • Contact segmentation to support targeted outreach, re-marketing, etc.
  • Centralized repository of "standard" messaging for the brand, i.e. message templates, automations
  • Hours-based automations that maintain responsiveness when agents are away but stay out of the agents' (and customers') way during business hours
  • Reporting that covers outcomes (leads/sales) as well as KPIs related to use of the channel: response times, customer satisfaction, etc.
I'm big on building companies' own text messaging capacity independent of Google and Facebook products for all of the reasons @MiriamEllis mentions above. But also because we don't have to wait for Google to build the features we need ;) @JoyHawkins and @Nicole Basham above point out specific deficiencies in Google's messaging product, too, which seem to make it hard for brands to fully embrace.
 

Jon Hall

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Thanks @Amy Toman! For me, what you really distill down here is the "funny not funny" thing about Google Messaging: it simultaneously opens up an opportunity for businesses AND manages to turn that opportunity into a liability thanks to Google's constraints and control :rolleyes:

No wonder the consensus here seems to be to turn it off or use text/SMS unless your business happens to be able to work effectively within the confines of the Google product. For which I like your litmus test: "try it for a bit and see."
 

Contractor

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Supposedly they were bringing Messaging to GMB thru the browser for some people, but it has not changed for me yet.

I completely agree about the mobile app being one more hassle to deal with. I hate the fact that the browser version of GMB says to use the mobile app to "Get full access to your Business Profile" when that is a blatant lie. There are many things that you can't do on the mobile app, you have to go to the browser version of GMB to do them.
 

Jon Hall

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I hate the fact that the browser version of GMB says to use the mobile app to "Get full access to your Business Profile" when that is a blatant lie.
Haha, totally! The app is way stripped down from what I could tell.

Supposedly they were bringing Messaging to GMB thru the browser for some people, but it has not changed for me yet.
Typical Google!
 

Jon Hall

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Great point, @Eoghan_MomentFeed. Thank you! Yeah, it seems like the value could be to net more leads, especially those hitting your listing after-hours or those who are more comfortable texting than calling, etc.

But for Starbucks? Messaging is probably a liability, haha.
 

Eoghan_Aircam

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YUP. It is more meaningful customer engagement to manage though vs. an hashtagged tweet though so it's under consideration. Someone who messages is closer to POS than a tweeter! Also businesses with longer sales cycles seem to be more message friendly (quote requests etc)

One way enterprises can manage is in reality, the same questions will flow in over and over again. Many tools offer auto-responses/filtering/redirection to call center capabilities.
 

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