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How to Set Up Google’s Business Messages for Your Stores

  Convenience and customer experience have become just as important as price when it comes to making buying decisions. In fact, according to a recent PwC report, 52% of customers would pay more for a speedy and efficient customer experience.  86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. Customer wnservice is an area where physical retail stores A key ingredient in achieving that is the ability to engage quickly and easily with store staff before and after customers visit. Consumers have questions like the following:

“Do you have X in stock?” “Can you tell me more about product Y?” “I have a problem with the product I just bought. How do I return it or can you help me to set it up?”

This is where brick and mortar retailers frequently fall down. Typically, ringing the store or visiting in person are the only ways to get answers to these questions. Yes. Many consumers get onto Twitter but most of the time they’re told to contact the store or that the store manager will contact them. This contrasts starkly with direct to consumer (DTC) retailers where the website and/or app make it very easy for consumers to get answers to their questions.

The advantage brick-and-mortar retailers have is the ability to offer a physical and digital experience to the customer. You can offer a face-to-face experience with a product expert in a nearby store. The challenge is how best to digitally connect consumers to store staff for the pre and post store-visit parts of the customer journey.

A recent Nielsen study found that 56% of customers would rather send a message than call a business. Thus, there is significant demand for real-time messaging services, particularly among Millennial and Generation Z customers. It is the quickest and easiest way to chat with businesses and it comes naturally to the billions of consumers who already use WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and SMS texting throughout their day.

Google understands this challenge. That’s why they’ve recently expanded Business Messages, which solves the conundrum of how to digitally connect physical stores to customers in a cost effective and frictionless way.


What is Google’s Business Messages?

As a retailer, you may already be actively managing your Google My Business (GMB) account. You know the value of doing that because it’s where thousands of customers find your stores’ location, phone number and opening hours etc. It’s also the profile that appears when users search for your brand, or for similar businesses in your area (e.g. “shoe shops in Kensington”). For many years consumers have been ringing those same stores directly from the GMB listing using the “Click-to-Call” button. But as the Nielsen study pointed out, there is a strong preference for a messaging option among younger consumers, in particular. Google is now offering that channel directly from within search results and the Google Maps app. It’s called Google’s Business Messages.

By clicking on the “Message” button on the retailer’s GMB profile that shows in mobile search results or within the Google Maps app, consumers can message store staff directly (it’s also possible to have a central team managing the contact). Once the consumer clicks on the button, they’re taken to a new messaging feature in the Google Maps app on iOS devices or a native Android messaging interface (for now the feature is only available on mobile devices). These interfaces resemble many of the other popular messaging apps so the consumer doesn’t have to learn how to do something new. Store staff can reply instantly or a short time later using the My Business app or a Google partner’s mobile app.
Using Google Business Messages In Retail
Google’s Business Messages helps improve local searches to store visit conversion rates.
Google’s Business Messages is going to change the way retail stores interact with the local community. The pervasiveness of Google Search and the Google Maps app, as well as messaging as a channel, means there will be no barrier to entry for consumers. The sheer volume of people landing on Google places listings means traffic will pick up as soon as the channel is opened up. Never before have physical locations had such a frictionless digital connection to local consumers. For these reasons and more, Business Messages is a channel all retailers should consider adopting sooner rather than later. 

This is good news because introducing store-specific messaging as a customer engagement channel in a retail chain will drive footfall and sales when used properly. The impact will be even more remarkable during the current retail environment where social distancing measures are hampering staff’s ability to engage with customers in-store. 


How to set up Google’s Business Messages

You have two different options when it comes to opening up the messaging channel on your Google My Business page(s). The option you pick will depend on the complexity and size of your business.

(i) Independent Retailers (<10 stores) – Use the My Business App

If you are an independent retailer with a handful of stores, you can follow the steps below and switch on these messaging features in your My Business app yourself.
  • Open the My Business app and log in with the Google account that manages the page that you want to open the messaging channel on.
  • Turn on Messaging by clicking the three dots at the bottom right-hand-side of the screen and selecting “Settings”, then “Messages”. Tap “Turn on messaging” and enter your phone number. You will be asked to confirm this number via SMS text. Don’t worry, Google won’t share this number publicly on your Google My Business page.
  • Next, set up your customised auto-response by tapping “Edit your welcome message”. Take advantage of this feature to create a bespoke greeting that makes customers feel welcome. We also suggest asking them for details about their query in this message so you can respond with an answer to their question in your first response. This is more efficient for you and a better customer experience than responding with “Hi, how can I help you today?” 
  • Finally, be sure you or your staff have notifications switched on for the My Business app so that you don’t miss customer queries and can respond as promptly as possible.

(ii) Retail Chains – Use the Business Messages API by working with a Google Partner

Retail chains could also choose to use the My Business app to respond to customers. However, Google recognises the benefits of partnering with service providers like ServiceDock in order to facilitate multi-unit messaging. This is why they have recently launched the Business Messages API (Application Program Interface).

Working with a service provider like ServiceDock offers many benefits, such as the following:
  • We give you oversight and insight into the content of the messages being sent and received by your store associates with various metrics enabling you to track agent performance.
  • Our mobile app is designed specifically for in-store use on smartphones and tablets and is extremely easy to use so there is no learning curve for new hires (it works just like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger).
  • We aggregate other channels (e.g. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter DMs and Web Chat) into the same messaging inbox to make life easy for store staff. No matter which channel customers choose to contact the store on, store associates can respond from the same application, using the same workflow and with only one log in.

3 Tips to Help Retailers Use Google’s Business Messages Effectively

Google’s Business Messages will help your stores match and even surpass the level of service consumers have come to expect from online retailers. It can help drive footfall and in-store conversions, which will positively impact the bottom line. The following tips will help your stores get the most out of it:

1. Personalise the experience

Remember that you’re probably receiving messages from a customer who is either considering visiting the store to make a purchase or has recently done so. The chat should be an extension of the in-store experience, so make the tone as friendly and conversational as possible. Messaging is not a formal channel like email where every message sent needs to start with “Dear” and end with “Best Regards”.

Customers will feel valued when you break down barriers. Have your staff introduce themselves and ask for the customer’s name if not already provided by Google. Your staff should try to build rapport, just like they would in-store and use the details garnered to personalise the in-store experience as much as possible. A customer will have a better retail experience if she arrives at your store and there are no barriers between herself and store assistant Jenny because they’ve already been interacting over chat. Building relationships between customers and store associates becomes much easier in this scenario (e.g. you know each other’s name) and that is the ultimate way to build customer loyalty at store-level.

2. Make sure you respond promptly

The advantage of messaging is that it lends itself to short interactions, unlike contacting a call centre or sending an email. You should really be aiming to get back to customers within 15 minutes, where possible. However, as messaging is asynchronous (unlike voice calls), your staff have the flexibility to respond when they have the time. This reduces any stress about whether to answer the phone or talk to the customer standing in front of you. If your store staff can’t respond promptly (e.g. in the run-up to Christmas), consider having a central service team pick up the slack. The last thing you want to do is damage customer relationships by antagonising them by ignoring messages.

Make sure your staff is well equipped to quickly answer queries, and be aware that Google will post your typical response times on your Google My Business listing. They can even deactivate your messaging if response times tend to be longer than 24 hours. And remember, information sent through the app is not encrypted, so asking customers for any credit card or banking information is definitely not recommended (ServiceDock can redact such details if they are mistakenly sent by customers)!

3. Learn from the feedback you capture

Google has implemented some customer feedback features that can fire at the end of the messaging interaction with the customer. The results of this CSAT (Customer SATisfaction) question will give you an indicator of how consumers are reacting to the channel. If you’re using the right platform, it will also tell you which store associates are delivering great customer service and which ones may need a little more training. Messaging customers will be a new experience for many store associates so keeping a close eye on the satisfaction stores is strongly recommended.


Set Up Google’s Business Messages Today to Maximise Your Advantage

Today’s consumers demand convenience, speed and personalisation in their interactions with businesses. Google’s Business Messages empowers you to step up a gear on all of those fronts and help you drive conversions and customer loyalty at store-level. 

At a time when social distancing requirements mean in-store interactions are more challenging, setting up Business Messages creates an opportunity to extend the in-store experience into people’s homes and offices. Early adopters will benefit the most so start maximising store potential by setting up Google’s Business Messages today. Please contact us at ServiceDock if we can be of assistance.
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How to Set Up Google’s Business Messages for Your Stores

by Oisin Ryan time to read: 8 min