It appears that Google is discontinuing Google SMS in the Google My Business dashboard and in doing so leaving large companies in the lurch.
As a result companies that previously committed to the solution will be left with nothing until Google gets its local messaging act together. Dan Leibson from LocalSEOGuide described the problem to me:
We have a few clients (both are 500+ locations) that have heavily invested in website chat and integrated that provider into GMB chat for pre-sales support and customer service. It’s has been a great lead producing and review management (via solving customer service issues before it comes to a review) tool.
These large clients that were using Google SMS for GMB in their communication strategy were told by their SMS vendor that they will have to stop using GMB chat when Google deprecates SMS. And that no solution on the immediate horizon but that a solution “was coming”.
Now this revenue and support stream will be completely cutoff.
What is going on?
The new Google My Business App messaging, while a very solid release, is very focused on small single location businesses. It doesn’t scale beyond a few locations and doesn’t really offer a multi-location solution.
Unfortunately, if one assembles these tea leaves it appears that Google GMB SMS was using the soon to be retired Allo back end and that the new(ish) Hangouts back end is not yet ready for prime time.
Google has long had problems with their messaging strategy. This past fall they announced the “simplification” of their messaging products from 7 to 5. Allo, Google’s big push into modern messaging announced with big fanfare in 2016, was one of the high profile products to take the axe.
Hangouts was also noted at the time as receiving the axe (despite Google denials) but Google recently noted that they were updating Hangouts by deprecating the current Hangouts and creating two new apps; Hangout
Slack Chats and Hangout Skype Meet.
They noted in the article that:
Between April and September, Google says that Chat will integrate with Gmail and gain the ability to exchange messages with external users. Additionally, it’ll get an “improved video calling experience,” plus voice calls powered by Google Voice.
As for non-enterprise users, Google says they can expect to see a free version of Chat and Meet following the G Suite transition
OK, if you are not yet confused, I am a better writer than I thought.
This all leaves GMB SMS out on a very thin branch ready to be sawed off with no idea (if?) when it will once again become a real, enterprise scale functioning product.
Google has always been terrible at making these large scale transitions transparent and providing replacement products in a timely fashion. This has left many businesses who have attempted to integrate Google’s technology into their workflow feeling like they were on thin ice and that a product could come and go before they knew it.
We had seen some stead progress on this front with the GMB and particularly the steady, freddy reliable updating of the API. It was almost as if a business could trust that the folks at Google Local understood their needs.
But this is a huge step backwards. The least Google could do in this situation is to provide meaningful communication to the businesses affected, provide a detailed transition plan and communicate necessary next steps.
When will Google publicly make a statement detailing the apparent SMS deprecation and providing a path forward?
Who knows but yesterday would have been good.
I fully expect that the Google GMB will in fact support some sort of enterprise level SMS, something that integrates with current SMS tools and products and functions well at scale.
They have to if they want to compete with Facebook who is currenlty consolidating Whats App, Facebook Messenger & Instragram messaging into a single back end and Apple that has been slowly building out their Business Chat tool for iMessage users.
The question is whether multi-location businesses, already burned by Google, will be around for the uptake.