This article, written by insideARM's CEO Stephanie Eidelman, is part of the iA Think Differently series. Written by or recorded with members of the iA Innovation Council, the series of articles and videos showcases thought leadership in analytics, communications, payments, and compliance technology for the accounts receivable management industry.
Are you familiar with the term, Rich Communication Services (RCS)? It’s possible that you are but may not realize it. RCS is the communication platform that is likely to replace SMS text messages. And I predict it will revolutionize the way collectors communicate with many consumers.
We engaged in an RCS brainstorm session at the recent summer meeting of the iA Innovation Council. A poll of members revealed that just under half the group was familiar with RCS prior to hearing about the term in the meeting agenda, while just over half was not. Members generated a list of exciting ways this technology could be applied. But first, a little background.
What is RCS?
In a nutshell, it’s like SMS on steroids. There are no character limits. You can include branding, color, images, documents, and even applications (think, for instance, interactive seat selection for a flight). Most importantly, it’s native to Android devices. Rather than requiring the user to download an app (think WhatsApp, for instance), it is the default messaging app already installed on the phone. It’s the Android answer to Apple Messaging.
One feature that’s very important to highlight is the fact that RCS includes a “verified sender” component. If truly effective and trusted by consumers, this could be a game-changer for debt collectors. It’s the concept that the calling industry is working to create through the complex STIR/SHAKEN framework.
Here is a super quick introduction to RCS:
RCS isn’t actually new, so why are we now talking about it?
It’s not new. What is new is the rate of adoption. Suffice it to say, there were a lot of politics involved among major corporations around agreeing to a standard. But circumstances have evolved and it’s reached a tipping point. The Global Messaging Standards Association (GSMA) estimates that the number of monthly active users has already surpassed 300 million and that by 2021, the total market value of RCS services is expected to reach $74 billion.
And, it seems, the pandemic has only accelerated the need. According to MobileSquared,
Business messaging has never been in a better position. In fact, we’d go as far to (sic) say that the pandemic should be viewed as the defining moment that transformed business messaging from a functional channel into the mainstream alongside TV, the internet, and social media.
What are the new possibilities for consumer interaction?
These are just a few of the brainstorm ideas developed by Innovation Council members:
- Use RCS to create a branded warm transfer between a creditor and agency or debt buyer. Having the logos of both companies would be preferred. It would increase the speed and level of engagement with the consumer, and the overall appearance looks more professional which may help to reassure consumers.
- Verified RCS is really cool as text messages are now being blocked by carriers. This would prevent that from happening.
- The ability to send notices including validation is an interesting possibility. It could include buttons that consumers can click on to request validation, make payments, FAQs, etc.
- Use for documentation exchange for validation
- Leverage for payer management (e.g. issue payment reminders and allow the consumer to acknowledge a plan, or to negotiate date or amount adjustments)
- Use to obtain channel-specific consent
- Expedite the collection process – send a quick RCS message to the consumer while on the phone with them, providing the information needed allowing the consumer to make a decision quickly on the call, and proceed with payment.
- Before calling a consumer, an RCS can be sent as an introduction that we’ll be calling. It can provide the opportunity for self-service before making a call.
Are there compliance and regulatory questions here? Of course. And it’s important to work through them before diving in. But with that said, those who successfully improve the consumer experience and incorporate automation into their process will be the companies most likely to be left standing at the end of the day.
Want to learn more?
Here is a collection of excellent videos and whitepapers explaining RCS:
Why Is Everyone Talking About RCS Message Marketing? (~7-minute explanation, YouTube, July 2017)
RCS: Busting the 5 biggest myths (12-minute overview, YouTube, November 2018)
RCS demo (8 mins., Kroger use case, December 2018)
Is 2019 the Year of RCS? Interview with Interop Technologies (13 mins., YouTube, March 2019)
How RCS is Redefining Business Communications (whitepaper, Infobip, November 2019)
The iA Innovation Council is a collaborative working group of product, tech, strategy, and operations thought leaders at the forefront of analytics, communications, payments, and compliance technology. Group members meet in person (and lately, virtually) several times each year to engage in substantive dialogue and whiteboard sessions with the creative thinkers behind the latest innovations for the industry, the regulators who audit and establish guardrails for new technology, and educators, entrepreneurs and innovators from outside the industry who inspire different thinking.
2020 members include:
Absolute Resolutions Corp.
AllianceOne Receivables Management
Capital Collection Management
Crown Asset Management
Enhanced Recovery Company
Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group
NCB Management Services
Phillips & Cohen
Professional Finance Company
Radius Global Solutions
Spring Oaks Capital
State Collection Service
The CMI Group