By Godwin Pinto
Facebook acquired Whatsapp in 2014. Around the same time, businesses were incorporating bots as messengers on their websites for in-time customer engagement and experience. Bots aren’t new; they have been around for over six decades in various forms. However, over the years, it is becoming apparent that bots could be integrated with the mainstream customer-facing businesses.
Most business websites boast a human-like bot capable of engaging with customers and handling customer queries. However, this requires customers to visit the business’ website and initiate a conversation on their instant messaging channel—a great move for first-time lead generation, but not a very efficient approach for returning customers.
Since its acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014, for USD19 billion, Facebook was looking at ways to monetize the popular messaging application that boasts of close to 1 billion eyeballs per month. Soon WhatsApp for Business was launched.
As part of its beta launch, WhatsApp introduced a survey link for businesses integrated with APIs, thus encouraging enterprises to try out the platform. Although many enterprises did participate in the survey, ultimately only a few requests were entertained, such as BookMyShow, OYO Rooms, and a few others. Many others were kept waiting for access. While some opted for alternatives provided by software vendors, however, with no stable solutions.
Facebook’s decision to open WhatsApp to businesses, meant WhatsApp users could interact with businesses via their most favourite and frequently used channel of communication. This also meant that businesses had a tool with which they could engage the customer in a direct and personal manner.
“People all around the world use WhatsApp to connect with small businesses they care about — from online clothing companies in India to auto parts stores in Brazil. But WhatsApp was built for people and we want to improve the business experience. For example, by making it easier for businesses to respond to customers, separating customer and personal messages, and creating an official presence.”
Although, it’s a good sign of opportunity for businesses to be on Whatsapp, getting an enterprise account is still contingent to approvals from Whatsapp. However, businesses can expect to have quicker approvals to this enterprise accounts by 2019 as per news and various tech forums.
What does this mean for businesses?
Enterprises are already running chatbots, reminders, etc through other messaging apps like (SMS, Emails, etc.). Businesses intending to leverage this tool by incorporating their existing chatbots with their WhatsApp for Business account will open a seamless communication channel between the customer and the business. Here are some of the benefits:
Multimedia messaging strategy. SMS has been the communication medium for promotional activities; however, the limit is due to text content only. This barrier can now be overcome with Whatsapp business API, through which files like PDF, images and videos can be shared. This could open possibilities of sending welcome kit documents, Interest certificates, subscription forms, etc.
Message security. With Whatsapp’s end-to-end encryption mechanism, it proves to be a more secure platform for sharing information in comparison to other platforms.
Hassle-free roaming. International roaming weighs heavy on the pocket, as a result of which many travel with their SIMs inactive. However, in today’s scenario where WiFi access is so easily available, Whatsapp for Business can help outreach even while customers are travelling, while making important notifications like OTP, etc. can be made available.
Delete erroneous messages. With the feature that allows Whatspp messages to be deleted from both ends within stipulated time, confidential messages sent by businesses can be deleted providing additional security to business communications.
Why businesses should sign up for Whatsapp’s enterprise accounts
No need for alien chatbot apps on mobile. Due to limited availability of apps like Facebook messenger, organisations would tend to deploy a separate app for chatbot. With WhatsApp already being present on most phones you need not focus on the interfaces anymore.
Emergency and safety communication. A feature yet to be explored with Whatsapp business would be a ‘live location’. A few use cases like insurance companies could provide assistance during vehicle breakdown or accidents to track users. It is a possibility that most of these mechanisms could also be automated using Chatbot and AI.
Customer Service. Usually organizations provide digital customer service through chat platforms; one medium being the web. However, WhatsApp would be the new medium for customer service handling.
Easy onboarding. Major messaging platforms usually need to have an onboarding process to map customer with their social platform ID. With mobile numbers being the core of WhatsApp user identification and the same being in the backend system, the onboarding and identifying users by bot systems becomes a step easier.
One would definitely come across several chatbot providers already promoting Whatsapp as a channel; however, they currently end up with a ‘notify me’ button when WhatsApp for business API is open. This only goes to show that chatbot providers have already geared up for the marriage between their chatbots platforms and WhatsApp. So it’s only a matter of time that WhatsApp fastens its approval process and makes it available to a larger audience.
The integration can exponentially increase customer experience and satisfaction, as this may also reduce customer wait time. Customers will no longer be waiting in long queues to speak to a customer service executive or wait indefinitely for their e-mails to be answered. This consequently will pave the way for a larger probability of customer retention.
Bots still exist on business websites, and will stay there for some time to come, but as bots start integrating more tightly into the instant messengers like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, for instance, and as technologies such as AI and NLP advance, businesses would largely interact with their customers via these instant messaging channels. In a day and age of instant gratification, this would prove to be a win-win situation for both business and customer alike.
Godwin Pinto is the Business Head of Mobility at CMSS, an integrated solutions provider for software products, application engineering, and other professional services.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius