RingCentral embraces text messages with new SMS tools

By Nathaniel Mott , written on November 28, 2012

From The News Desk

Text messages. I send 'em, you send 'em, and most everyone who owns a cellphone sends 'em. The text messaging protocol, Short Message Service (SMS), has been used for everything from monitoring a shepherd's flock to helping those affected by Hurricane Sandy communicate with loved ones and New York City officials. Now RingCentral, a cloud-based phone systems provider, plans to use the protocol to make it easier for workers to stay in touch with one another and their customers.

This new integration, set to go live for new customers in early 2013, allows businesses to combine their business, cellphone, fax, and office numbers into one. Users can then catch up on all of their correspondence via RingCentral's iPhone, Android, or BlackBerry app, ending the format rigamarole that plagues anyone who has to juggle multiple methods of communication.

By adding text messages into the mix, RingCentral believes that it is making life easier for people who send and receive messages on a consistent basis. Customer service in particular might be particularly receptive to text messaging – I have a suspicion that given the choice between "conversing" with an automated system, holding and being transferred from person to person, or sending a text message, many frustrated customers will opt for the latter.

The company cited SMS' non-intrusive nature as a key driver for its inclusion into the RingCentral product. A customer could, for example, text their bank for support to fix an erroneous charge or incorrect balance while out to dinner, and the bank worker could respond to that message while working with other customers or during a moment when they are...indisposed. (RingCentral chose to go with "in a meeting," but I can think of another, less sanitary place where texting may be preferable to a phone call.)

Conversocial, a social media-focused customer service company we covered earlier this year, operates on a similar principle. Instead of asking an already-frustrated customer to go through an equally painful process to solve their problem, why not make them happy and use their communication method of choice? (A word of warning, however: Be prepared to deal with a lot of "text speak," a displeasure I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.)

From a customer's perspective, being able to receive support via SMS is great. The support specialist (or whatever politically correct label is applied to these workers today) may also appreciate this switch, and even if they don't it's just sour grapes – the customer is always right. In this case, the thumbs are ready to cast their vote for SMS.