If you have recently done a Google search for a local business on your phone, you may have seen a small “message” icon appear for the business listing. Unlike a keyword/category search like “plumbers,” this message feature appears to be exclusive to a Google business name mobile search – you’ll find out why – keep reading.
When a potential customer (the person doing the business search) is presented with the extended layout of a Google business listing (usually because they searched by name and there’s a single result), the “message” icon appears as one of the options (alongside directions, phone number and website). This message option will only appear if the business owner has enabled messaging on their Google listing (more about how to do that later).
If the potential customer clicks the message icon, their SMS messaging app will open, and they can compose a message. This message goes to a Google number (not the phone number of the business or business manager), and the Google service relays the message to the business. Sending a message to the business takes the form of a text message:
Then a nominated business representative receives a text message with the question. The message arrives from a Google number, but the cell phone number of the customer also appears in the message.
The business representative can then compose a text message to answer the question:
And the message arrives again as a text message to the potential customer. The personal phone number of the business representative is not disclosed to the potential customer. If they want to call the business, they can use the number published on the Google listing.
This is like a delayed version of “live chat”, since it doesn’t require both parties to be online at the same time to interact. It’s almost expected that the business will respond when they are available rather than encouraging the potential customer to wait on the spot for a reply. But if you’re handling these inquiries for your business, take note — it’s valuable to respond promptly because the typical response time is displayed on the listing to help with expectations:
So how do you set this up as a business owner?
Note: Google cites this feature as only available in certain countries. We tested Australia, Canada and USA, and it only appears to be available in the USA at the moment.
The first thing to decide is whether this is of any value to you – any of these may be a good reason to activate it:
- Potential customers are likely to search for you by name specifically.
- People look you up when they are on their phones rather than at a desktop computer.
- If someone needs your service, they don’t require an immediate reply, but a prompt, short answer is usually enough to help people.
- You want to encourage people to message when they might otherwise not bother calling you (turn a complacent prospect into a lead).
- You want to encourage people to message rather than calling – for example, you are better setup to provide a delayed reply to text inquiries than answer calls as they come in.
Then to activate the feature:
- Go to Google My Business https://www.google.com/business/
- Log in using your manager or owner Google ID
- If you have multiple listings, scroll down a bit, and you should see List of Locations. Pick the local shop icon
- Then click messaging:
- Then enter the phone number of the business representative or employee who will receive messages on their cell phone. You will need to verify the number with an SMS code. This number won’t be published to your Google listing or exposed to potential customers who message.
And you’re all set up! It’s recommended you run a quick test between friends or employees to make sure it’s working and you know what to expect. You can now respond to client inquiries directly from your Google listing, and using SMS!
For extra info, check out more info on the Google help pages.