CPaaS software is becoming increasingly popular because customers are looking for more ways to communicate with their favorite brands. When you order an Uber, the driver texts or calls you to confirm things like the address where they will pick you up. This is mostly done using something called an editable API. This kind of functionality is convenient, and many customers prefer the ease of a quick text message for confirmation. Simply put, SMS texting is the new customer service go-to.

Unfortunately, SMS texting has its issues. It has a 160-character limit and doesn’t handle file transfers well. This is where rich communications services (RCS) messaging stands out as a new way to foster better interactions with your customers. This messaging is currently available on Android phones. It expands on the functions that you would find in standard SMS or MMS, which is the most well-known multimedia texting system.

In this guide, we’re going to show you how it works and hit on some of its strengths and weaknesses.

 

What are Rich Communications Services? 

This messaging is a type of text-based protocol for mobile devices. It was designed as a replacement for SMS and MMS messaging. While this protocol has been making waves as the next best thing in communications, it’s actually more than a decade old. 

It first appeared in 2007 and was adopted by the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) in 2008. Since then, it struggled to gain a foothold on mobile devices. This lasted until December 2019, when several U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, committed to supporting the protocol. 

This was called the Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI), and the agreement to roll out the protocol finally brought this kind of messaging into the general public’s awareness. Moreover, the agreement adheres to the GSMA’s universal profile, which means that it will work with any phone that supports the protocol.

But why are RCS networks gaining so much attention?

Well, anyone that’s used Facebook or WhatsApp knows that text messaging can be very nuanced. The reason is, these platforms offer features that usually outshine standard SMS. These include message receipts that tell you that a message has been received and seen by the recipient and more complex media transfer features. In fact, iOS users already have many of these features in their iMessage text messaging applications. 

This messaging system brings these kinds of features to Google Android users. Phones from manufacturers like Samsung and LG have long been without a feature-rich messaging service. With RCS, there’s no 160-character limit, you can send larger attachments, and receipts are available. That way, you know that a message has been received. 

Additionally, there is a major limitation of SMS which is now neatly bypassed. You send RCS messages via mobile data or Wi-Fi, so when customers don’t have cell service but they are on a wireless network, you still have the ability to send them messages without a problem.

 

What Makes RCS Unique? 

RCS service doesn’t use the same file formats as SMS or MMS. Besides the text transmission features, the messaging protocol allows users to send multiple data types such as pictures, video, location data, pdf. files, and even Microsoft Word documents. Customers can also complete transactions within the messages app. 

While it does have some security concerns (more on that later), one feature that a business will find valuable is sender verification. With this system, any texts a business sends will have to be verified first. That way, customers won’t have to worry about being spammed by third parties pretending to be their favorite brands. When a message is sent, the recipient will see the verified sender’s information – not just the phone number. 

Unlike SMS, recipients can also see when someone is typing a message. In the user interface of an RCS messaging app, when a sender is typing, ellipses will appear. This is particularly useful for those businesses that want to resolve customer issues and provide top-notch customer service. These three dots let a customer know that their concerns are being addressed immediately.

 

How Does RCS Benefit Business?

This system is very convenient for the average user, but how does it provide new opportunities for your business? 

 

More Interactive Messaging

 

One of the best benefits of this system is its file sizes. Unlike SMS and MMS, rich communication messages have a file size limit that spans into megabytes, not kilobytes. This means that you will be able to send more multimedia content to your customers. 

Consider this: with traditional messaging, you can send a small .jpeg or .gif image to your customers, perhaps with a link, but is this enough to engage them? With this system, your messages can have high definition images, clickable buttons and branding, which will create a more browser-like messaging experience. This system provides a much more detailed user experience, which results in better engagement.

 

One-App Functionality

The protocol also brings the ability to complete entire transactions right inside the messaging app. Instead of providing a link that opens in a mobile browser, RCS Android messages handle all of the functionality on its own. Without the need to change software this creates a universal profile for users.

While browsing through an app like Samsung Messages, the customer can select different color options for the product and click various sizes. Once they’ve selected the variation of the product that they want, RCS messaging allows them to complete the transaction by providing their payment and mailing details.

This is another way of increasing engagement by making things more convenient for your customers. Instead of waiting for pages to load on their browser app, they can complete a transaction inside their rich communication services-enabled applications.

 

Easy Feature Integration

You’ll be able to integrate various features into your software easily. For example, as we discussed in our chatbot vs live agent guide, chatbots are very useful for helping customers navigate through menus. They also save money because there’s no need to involve your agents when self-service is enough. It’s very easy to implement inside RCS software, and you can use a FAQ-style setup or incorporate AI to help your customers receive resolution.

Additionally, since this messaging easily sends location data, brands send information to the customer through the messaging app that will tell them how to reach their nearest brick and mortar location. This is also useful for those receiving deliveries since purchasing, shipping, and delivery confirmation are all possible with the messaging application.

RCS’s expandability is a major benefit for modern business. It’s even easy to create video calls within the app, which helps businesses benefit from the use of third-party software.

 

Better Verification

With features like branding and sender verification, customers will know it’s your business that’s sending them communications/offers. Additionally, read receipts also help businesses better keep track of messages sent to customers. For example, you can use it for collections activities. When you send a message about a late payment, you will always know that the customer received and read it.

 

CPaaS Providers with RCS Messaging APIs

Communications platform as a service (CPaaS) providers help your developers add messaging APIs to your applications so you can extend your communications channels. This lets your customers reach your brand in ways that they find convenient. Remember, as we covered in our State of the Contact Center piece, modern customers typically use more than three touchpoints to reach a brand. This means that you have to find the one with the best messaging features to meet your customers’ needs.

Here are four providers that include APIs for messaging. These will make reaching out to Android users on the mobile operators that support the system easier.

 

Twilio

Twilio RCS

Twilio is a CPaaS provider that makes it easy to send messages to customers. Even though we talked about the top Twilio Alternatives recently, we still feel that Twilio is a great option for businesses that are looking to upgrade their customer experience by switching to RCS messaging. Their options are scalable so that messages are deliverable across the globe, and they have an uptime guarantee of 99.95%. Twilio also has an RCS app with a drag-and-drop builder that can be used to customize your messages to create a better user experience for customers.

Messaging APIs Available through Twilio

  • SMS 
  • MMS
  • RCS

 

Vonage Nexmo

Vonage Communications APIs RCS

A few years ago, Vonage acquired Nexmo to create a CPaaS provider that delivers strong options for businesses to send messages globally. Vonage’s Communications APIs options let you change the type of messaging that you are creating based on the needs of the customer. This will ensure that videos and audio files are sent to customers quickly without sacrificing quality.

Messaging APIs Available through Nexmo

  • SMS
  • MMS
  • RCS
  • Facebook Messenger
  • WhatsApp
  • Viber

 

Sinch

Sinch RCS

Sinch has messaging capabilities that provide an app-like experience that will make customers more comfortable. You will be able to send images, audio, and video files in these messages as well as create and customize the message to make an interactive experience for your brand. You will know when messages are received and whether the customer is sending a response back. If this kind of messaging fails with Sinch, there is a failover that will change your message into either an MMS or an SMS message to ensure that it is still sent. 

Messaging APIs Available through Sinch

  • SMS
  • MMS
  • RCS
  • WhatsApp

 

Kaleyra

Kaleyra RCS Messaging

With Kaleyra messaging, you don’t have to worry that audio and video files are incompatible with the MMS messaging system that you use. This messaging delivers a unique branding experience that customers will enjoy and a faster response rate when messages are sent. RCS messaging will help you build the trust of your customers and track their engagement with your brand.  

Messaging APIs Available through Kaleyra

  • SMS
  • MMS
  • RCS
  • WhatsApp

 

The Pros and Cons of RCS Messaging

As we discussed, there are multiple benefits that make RCS messaging great for business. Let’s take a look.

  • There are no strict limitations when it comes to size, so you can send higher quality images and larger messages.
  • Location sharing is integrated into the messaging app as well as other group chat features that are useful when sending a message.
  • Video calling is supported by default, so it’s easy to connect with teams on the go.
  • You can send and receive documents with a customer that you’re already sending messages to.
  • You can use calendar integrations for scheduling meetings and invoice integrations for scheduling payments.
  • You can create a web-like experience for customers. Instead of just text, limited images, and links, you can brand your texts, add image carousels, and add clickable links to your messages.

RCS messaging is far from perfect. There are aspects that fall behind other types of messaging that may prevent a business from using it. Here are some weak points to consider when it comes to RCS messaging.

  • RCS messages do not have built-in end-to-end encryption. The service provider will have access to messages that you send.
  • RCS messaging only functions with a mobile phone number, so devices like tablets and standard Microsoft Windows and Apple desktop computers are not compatible.
  • The service is still relatively new, so it’s not available through all carriers at this point.
  • iPhone devices do not support this type of messaging with Android users. Non-iOS users can only send standard SMS messages to Apple devices.

 

RCS vs SMS vs MMS

To give you a better idea of what rich communication messaging offers, take a look at this comparison chart so you can decide whether to use SMS, MMS, or RCS messaging.

 

SMS MMS RCS
Character limit 160 160 8,000 
Connection requirements Cellular connection Cellular connection Cellular connection or Wi-Fi
Message receipt confirmation No No Yes
Messaging capabilities Text, links, and emojis Text, links, emojis, images, video files, audio files, and contact cards Text, links, emojis, images, video files, audio files, contact cards, and data files
File size limitations N/A 300KB (MMS 1.2) and 600KB (MMS 1.3) 10MB 
Mobile platforms Any smartphone  Any smartphone  Android smartphones

 

Is RCS a Valid Successor to SMS Messaging?

It’s hard to ignore the fact that five billion people around the world send and receive traditional text messages. With their limitations (since they were invented almost three decades ago), it’s a surprise that they remain so popular. RCS universal messaging delivers all of the traditional features of SMS but with a less limited design, and it’s clear that carriers and businesses are beginning to warm to the protocol. 

RCS isn’t perfect – Apple’s iMessage has yet to really embrace the technology, which may be a major roadblock for some businesses that are looking to adopt. Also, RCS doesn’t currently provide end-to-end encryption. This type of encryption makes it very difficult for third parties to access messages, and without this encryption, VoIP security can be compromised. Fortunately, there were several hints that Google will soon be adding this feature.

This advanced messaging provides you with a key feature that helps you reach customers where they are most comfortable – in their favorite messaging app. Looking for additional ways to connect with your customer base? Check out our breakdowns of the best call center software solutions on the market.