Long a staple of popular business directories like Yelp and Facebook, communicating directly with a business has been a curious omission from Google Maps for years now. While an attempt to integrate such functionality via the ill-fated Allo chat platform began last year, that obviously didn't pan out, and prior to that Google only allowed rudimentary messaging via business profiles on Google+ (which is also dying). Now, direct messaging support is coming inside the Google Maps app, which is really the only place it should have been to begin with, if you ask us.
Announced on Google's blog today, the functionality will be limited select regions for the time being, and businesses must opt in to messaging via their business profile settings in order for the feature to be exposed to customers.
There will be a new "messages" option in the primary pull-out menu of Maps (which, frankly, is too crowded already) where you'll be able to see all of your messages to businesses, as well as continue the conversation. Again, businesses have to opt in to this feature, so I wouldn't expect adoption to get going strong any time soon. If you own a business and want to turn on messaging for your establishment, you'll need to download the Google My Business app from the Play Store, here.
I might think twice before trying that, though - given the absolutely massive number of Google Maps users out there, it seems probable that a popular business might just disable the feature out of exasperation, because there really don't seem to be any options for filtering or categorizing messages from users. An endless stream of unrelated questions (and let's be honest: complaints) could be untenable, so I hope Google has some plans to make this more manageable on the business end. Still, I'd rather have the option than not as a consumer, because sometimes a phone call or an email just doesn't get the level of responsiveness I need. Sending someone the equivalent of an anonymized text is far more appealing (and something many businesses already do via Whatsapp).
The feature should be rolling out soon, though I'm not seeing it on my phone just yet.