By James Waite, Head of Marketing, Europe
How seriously have you thought about WhatsApp as a customer service channel? To those executives who use it, WhatsApp is just a tool that makes it easy to send text messages. But could brands be missing out on the opportunities that this app really can offer?
I believe so. Let’s start with the fact that WhatsApp is fast becoming a channel of choice for today’s connected customers. And that’s because of the fact that WhatsApp is significantly more powerful than the traditional SMS messaging services we all used to use for text messages. For example:
- Security: WhatsApp uses point-to-point (P2P) encryption, which means that only the sender and receiver can read messages. Anyone intercepting a message in transit will see only an encrypted stream of data – even WhatsApp employees cannot decrypt messages in transit.
- Facebook integration: Facebook owns WhatsApp, and they have their own entirely separate messaging app. Although the tools are very distinct at present, it is likely that as Facebook evolves, many new features and innovations will flow between the various tools in the Facebook family.
- Multimedia: Traditional text messages worked well, but WhatsApp allows the seamless use of voice, text, photos, and video. It’s very easy to use in a rich, multimedia environment.
- Global: WhatsApp runs as an over-the-top service, meaning it uses either WIFI access or the data plan used by your phone to send messages. WhatsApp does not use your phone network for messaging. There is no charge per message, or extra charges for international messages. You are free to send as many messages to friends and family anywhere in the world as you wish.
- Popularity: WhatsApp has more than 1.5 billion regular users, and this demographic is rapidly growing, making it one of the most popular messaging tools in the world.
WhatsApp has created a business version of their app that allows brands to easily create and manage a WhatsApp channel. The business version has extra features, such as allowing companies to register the phone number used, so customers can feel assured that they are genuinely connecting to the brand. HGS has deployed WhatsApp with significant results, with one client in particular now receiving 60% of all inbound contact via WhatsApp, taking NPS to 90%+.
There are many global markets where WhatsApp has already become a very important customer service channel. In India or Brazil, for example, it’s now common for customers to book a haircut or nail salon appointment with WhatsApp. In fact, once customers are familiar with this channel, they no longer want to call for services that require an appointment.
The only missing WhatsApp feature to help dramatically improve the customer experience is a payment option. There are now more than 1 billion Chinese users of WeChat, which is a similar messaging tool, but with a payment facility and the ability to publicly post information in a similar way to Twitter. The Chinese payments market has been transformed by apps such as WeChat and Alipay, although these apps have not become very popular outside of China.
But integrated payment is coming soon to WhatsApp. It is already functioning in India, with Brazil slated as the next test market. After that, a global rollout is planned. With such a large user base in more than 180 countries, the implications for customer interaction cannot be understated. And, with WhatsApp payment functionality on the horizon, the CX and sales opportunities for brands are limitless. WhatsApp is a powerful proposition for any brand, and one that can’t be ignored.
If you’re considering WhatsApp as a customer service channel for your business and would like to hear further about the results for our clients here at HGS, please do get in touch by leaving a comment or though LinkedIn.