Podcast | Deep Dive on RCS, the Next-Gen SMS – how businesses can use RCS to engage with mobile subscribers.

Jean
Shin

Director, Strategy & Content | Podcast Host of Mobile Interactions Now

20min Podcast
Episode 33 Guest: Pedro Silva, Presales Engineer at WIT Software

In this episode, we check in with Pedro Silva, pre-sales engineer at WIT Software. We’ll be going over the latest on RCS Messaging as a Platform (MaaP), and its unique features that businesses can use to engage with mobile subscribers. Expect some history lessons on the evolution of mobile messaging – plus brilliant new possibilities.

Podcast Transcript

Jean:

Pedro, welcome to the show. Happy to have you on the show and talk about the latest on RCS. It's a topic that's making a reappearance among marketers in terms of brand to consumer communications, which is really very exciting. I was in the early rounds of discussion, but it sounds like we're going to cover real progress that happened. But before I get totally lost in that, I would love you to tell the audience who you are and just introduce yourself.


Pedro Silva:

Hi Jean, thank you so much for having me in your podcast. I'm very happy to be here. I'm Pedro Sa Silva, the Pre-Sales Engineer for Automation and Conversational Services at WIT Software. I have the privilege to work in the company that is one of the main RCS solution providers, and also have the opportunity to follow closely the RCS deployments in the countries like India, Japan, and now more recently in the USA. WIT provides an entrance solution for RCS. And in that space, I am focused in this team to bring in AI chatbots to RCS. So I'm here and very happy to talk about RCS and chatbots because they are two topics that I really love. Thank you for having me, Jean.


Jean:

I have to tell you, we, being in the industry, RCS comes off our tongue very naturally, but it's really not that easy for many enterprises because they haven't been really interfacing with it as RCS. So I would love you to just give us a little bit of an overview, what has been happening, and why we all of sudden start talking about this in terms of how to engage with the consumers?


Pedro Silva:

Sure, Jean. RCS is not a new topic, of course. And in short words, RCS is a high value, high integrity messaging channel that allows you to create sophisticated use cases, supported by artificial intelligence, like conversational commerce, customer care, or also customer support. So RCS stands for Rich Communication Services and it is a messaging protocol created by GSMA together with mobile operators and smartphone manufacturers among others in order to define the evolution of the SMS. Because as we know, SMS, we just send and receive text message, right?

So the RCS specification defines things like images, videos, locations, funny stickers, and also of course, chatbots. And working aspect, to enlight, is that RCS is a worldwide agreement between the global stakeholders to achieve this standard for this new SMS. So it will be always constantly evolving. Okay? And of course it will take some time in order to create this worldwide agreement. So once RCS is in place, the SMS will be upgraded to RCS.


Jean:

I kind of remember talking about this a few years ago, about the evolution of SMS, but I'm just curious how much of the user base are we talking about these days?


Pedro Silva:

Yeah, currently RCS publicly stated that RCS is deploying worldwide in 90 countries. And they're currently with almost 500 million monthly active users.


Jean:

Take us into what has been happening last few years, where this whole brand to consumer communication is becoming more of an enabler.


Pedro Silva:

Sure, sure. There is important milestones for brands in RCS. This extension, it was directly to embrace brands. So with this Message as a Platform, the MaaP, specification to find the protocols for the APIs to allow sending RCS messages. This openness, the onboarding process for our brands to sending RCS messages through those APIs and bring also the automation and to enhance the customer experience.


Jean:

So, when it comes to messaging, these days there are more options. What do you think RCS is really adding as a communication channel between brand and consumer?


Pedro Silva:

Yeah, good question. Those, the existing [inaudible 00:04:59] messaging channels allow us to chat with our friends and brands, right? But RCS is bringing all of that and bringing more conversational elements to enhance the customer experience. So for instance, like in WhatsApp, RCS has the ability to communicate with consumers through their mobile number with a verified sender also, like in the WhatsApp. For instance, like in Messenger, RCS is bringing rich content like quick replies, buttons and carousels. Okay?

But not only that, because also RCS bring new things, like for instance, the ability for you to personalize your messaging chat window with the brand colors. Also, you have the control about different sizes of the carousels, which allow you to highlight a product or something that you want to highlight inside the carousel and also brings the one huge topic, which is the suggestive actions, okay, which is some actions that you can assign to buttons, like sharing locations or even to create calendar events. So as a consumer, I believe that we all appreciate the more visual experience when running our messaging channel. Right?


Jean:

It sounds like…because RCS is somewhat of a late arriver, when it comes to rich media experience, replacing SMS, it sounds like it has learned a lot from other chat messaging and even adding to it. For businesses to imagine how they can use it right now, there are different categories…businesses can use it for their customer service and so on. So maybe we can talk about use cases.


Pedro Silva:

To go through and try RCS, don't have that heavy thoughts about the new channel and new challenge. Okay? Because the RCS supports everything that the other channels support. Okay? And for brands will be very easy to map what they have now in the other messaging channels. Okay? So what they can have on RCS, because it's very similar. And again also you'll have even more conversational actions that you can bring to RCS.


Jean:

I actually love that idea. I mean, basically what we are talking about is just decide what you want to communicate about and don't worry about which channel it is. And there are platforms and solutions that exist that will pick the right platform and make those decisions to make this easy. And I think that is the direction we are going. If that is the case, brands want to do what their customers want. Right? Because that's the winning hearts part. So how do I make sure RCS is something that my customers want?


Pedro Silva:

Yeah. It's a very good question because first of all, for brands, all it comes to about the reachability, right? To ensure that we deliver the message to our customers. Okay? And here, RCS is in a very good place because RCS in the specification holds mechanisms, if the customer doesn't have the RCS installed in their mobile phone and specification defines how to deal with handover this or to deliver, not in RCS, but on SMS, because as you know, RCS, quite a few have that. Okay? But everybody have SMS. So for the brands perspective it's very important to understand the reach and what they will deliver. Okay?

From the consumer perspective, you can achieve very useful use cases. Okay? For instance, imagine a hospital or a clinic sending you appointment notifications with buttons. Okay? And that buttons will allow patients to confirm or reschedule their appointments by just pressing buttons. So as a consumer, this is convenience. My brand is helping me to make something that is important for the brands and for me. Okay? And this is the main point. For the consumer it's providing a rich messaging experience, but also to pick the right use cases that are important for the brand and also important for the consumer. Choosing the right use cases in order to don't send a huge amount of messages and wanting messages to consumers is a challenging that is equal for RCS, WhatsApp, SMS, Facebook Messenger because this is about the communication strategy.


Jean:

I totally get that. If I were to start looking at RCS, is there some content that’s inherently better to use RCS?

 

Pedro Silva:

Yeah. It's a very good question actually, Jean. Currently RCS allows sending this engaging messages, or is known as campaigns, or A to B message on the system and in the space in the less restrictive way with our other channels like WhatsApp, because this is quite challenging for brands because as you know, to create, some channels needs to preapprove the message that you want to send to engage with the customers. Okay? And sometimes this creates some difficulties in order to frame a good phrase or a good text in order so that feed that licenses or that conditions, and that may change on the future.

So now RCS still allows you to do this in a less restrictive way. So not only you have the freedom to send billing messages for their customers, but also you have the power to send rich content on those campaign messages. Okay? For instance, with RCS, you can send a carousel with a nice video and text about a new product or something new that you are about to launch. This is some examples that brands usually you look for to make this engagements with their customers in the less restrictive way or a more flexible way.


Jean:

So, versus few years ago, when RCS was first being discussed, I think there's some development, a progress that was made with the MaaP.


Pedro Silva:

Yes, this MaaP, that stands for Message as a Platform. And this Message as a Platform is something quite new on the RCS space because the RCS specification was increased on 2017 with this embrace of this Message as a Platform. This MaaP or Message as a Platform is the one specification involved to provide and to specify APIs, to allow sending the RCS messages. So by this, this opens the door for the onboarding process with brands because brands now can deliver their messages by calling the APIs in the standard way to deliver this to all of their customers. And of course on this MaaP, it was a huge thing on the MaaP's specification, it was bringing the automation, bringing the chatbots in order to enhance the customer experience.


Jean:

So in terms of brands to decide where and when to use RCS…part of the RCS topic was whether it covers the world. Is this different when it comes to RCS?


Pedro Silva:

Yeah. Good question. Here it helps a lot to think about what happened now with SMS. Okay? So currently, if you want to send campaigns or outbound messages through SMS, it needs to communicate directly with your mobile operator or communicate with messaging aggregators that will do this for you. And what I mean by that is that RCS is a specification that is spreading out in the world. And there is some operators that doesn't have this new MaaP that allows brands to send these messages through APIs. So what I mean by that is if you want to start onboarding on RCS, you need to go to your national mobile operator and check if they already support this MaaP, this Message as a Platform. Or you can just go to your company aggregator that already handles that for you on SMS. And just go there and ask them about to be ready and to be able and connect it to the RCS.


Jean:

Is anything happening in the backend so that brands don't have to really think about the issues like that? Is it pretty doable to define it as such and let technology solve this?


Pedro Silva:

Of course, it's all about the right channel to reach your customers. Of course, you have the challenge to understand what is the preferred channel that your customer loves to use. But here, my suggestion is not to just okay, forgot all the channels. Okay? My suggestion is this RCS is rising. Okay? The operators in their normal speeds are embracing that. And so currently with all of this noise about privacy issues and things like this, this is creating this new appetite for RCS, as a new channel, another channel to use in your omnichannel presence. Because at the end of the day, with running out the RCS in the world, everybody will have this new SMS because the operators are working so hard to have this.


Jean:

How does opt-in get managed or is it relevant at all for RCS?


Pedro Silva:

Currently you need to request to create an account directly to the mobile operator or the aggregator, and then in the verification process they will ask you a lot of questions just to ensure the consumer that you are talking with a real brand. The main difference that I see in the other channels is when you are onboarding with RCS, you have another section that will ask you about your brand colors, your brand icons, and things that you can put inside the platform to personalize even better with your brand.


Jean:

Does that mean the customers don't have to opt in to hear from brand?


Pedro Silva:

Yes. They need to start chatting with the brand in order to give the consent to start chatting. But it's very similar what we have with the other channels. Okay? The user needs to consent to chat with this brand.


Jean:

Since you're an engineer, I have to ask you this question. Are there any favorite features that you like that made you do something you weren't able to do before?


Pedro Silva:

Yeah. I have one that I love the most, and I believe that brings the value and the power to RCS, which is this SMS failover mechanism. Okay? By specification, RCS specify that if you are not able to deliver that message through RCS message, you will deliver this in SMS. And this is very important for brands to ensure that the message will reach the destination.


Jean:

So now I have to really imagine hard whether end users will be able to tell the difference when the channel switches, the format changes. I think people will start seeing different things. Do you think it's going to work pretty smoothly in terms of end user experience-wise?


Pedro Silva:

Yeah. We don't have the numbers. Right? But as a consumer, chatting only with text, it's not very nice or it's not very friendly, right? It's just text. And with this approach, we are providing the ways for the customers that are more demanding to switch this to a more visual experience with images, videos, and buttons because otherwise on SMS, I will need to type everything. Okay? And for me, I just love to get the buttons and just type whatever I really, really need.


Jean:

Yeah. I'm with you. Pressing buttons is something I got pretty good at. Hello. If I were to think about from use case point of view, what do you think it really, exciting opportunity... What type of use case will be exciting opportunity for us? Yes.


Pedro Silva:

The use case that you can achieve with RCS is the same use cases that you can achieve now with other channels, right? Because RCS have all that components that the other channels have, and it also brings to use cases like customer care, customer support, or even conversational commerce inside RCS, of course, with this chatbot, this automation in order to guide that. For instance, imagine a hospital or a clinic to sending appointment notifications. Okay? This is nothing new. Okay? You receive through SMS, right? It's just text, okay? To say yes or no and things like this, you need to type it.

But with RCS, you can send that through a rich content like a carousel. Okay. And that carousel, you may send buttons in order to confirm that appointment, or even to follow or reschedule that appointment. Okay? Everything this about pressing buttons. Okay? Because once we press that button, imagine for rescheduling the appointment, the chatbot can communicate with calendar systems in order to provide you the next available appointments for you. Okay? And everything, by clicking the buttons, everything with automation and simplicity that chatbots can deliver this on RCS. And of course, then you can add that event to your agenda.


Jean:

And that sounds like a process happening there. The back and forth is actually achieving certain steps to complete a entire workflow in a way. So I absolutely love what it's promising.

Part 2 of the interview with Pedro Silva will be released in two weeks, following this release of Part 1.