Making WhatsApp work for small businesses

It's tough attracting customers’ attention nowadays.

 

Whether you’re pitching your latest product or providing essential support, using traditional channels such as email and phone can lead to communication tumbleweed, with calls going unanswered and emails getting ignored.

 

This trend has accelerated since the pandemic, with email and phone slipping in customer preference as users increasingly adopt a more mobile-native approach for easier communications. Sticking to “older” channels can make it difficult to, well, get your message across!

 

This can be evidenced through a spike in support requests dealt with by customer service teams originating from messaging channels such as WhatsApp, as customers have increasingly sought out more flexible and convenient ways to get in touch with businesses.

 

So for those organizations that want to get noticed by busy, out-and-about customers, using messaging can make a lot of sense.

 

But that’s only part of the story – messaging is more conversational than email and this in turn can help create more longer lasting customer relationships.

 

 

Conversational rather than transactional

 

Mobile messaging is popular because of its conversational nature and interface. Responses are quick and to the point. In comparison, email can seem formal, structured and slow.

 

This is reflected by the fact that 70%of customers expect to be able to use conversational channels when communicating with businesses - and it’s not just for convenience.

 

Customers don’t want their interactions to feel transactional. They expect personalised service based on conversations that they’ve already had. Each question, comment or response that’s stored as part of a thread, adds to the picture of the customer, and helps the business address their specific needs.

 

The increasing use of mobile messaging for all aspects of our lives means that businesses can leverage this shift to create more direct customer connections, helping to build longer term, more personalized relationships.

 

As well as being more convenient for the customer, messaging also offers more flexibility and time saving for support agents. Rather than having to co-ordinate a synchronous phone call, agents can engage in asynchronous conversations, avoiding lengthy calls or the delight of leaving endless voicemails (we’ve all been there!).

Agents can also handle multiple enquiries simultaneously as opposed to managing one call at a time, reducing support costs and saving considerable amounts of time.

  

 

WhatsApp shared inbox

 

So messaging channels such as WhatsApp are increasingly being preferred by customers for quick and easy interactions. But making life easier for your customers also has operational challenges, especially if you’re a business with more than one or two people responsible for customer replies.

 

Using WhatsApp in most cases involves use of the personal or Business application. With one account, it’s difficult to share the workload of replying to customers and clients, and when an employee leaves with their device – well, your customers’ message history and contacts leaves with them!

 

These issues are due to WhatsApp being a peer-to-peer service, designed for personal rather than business use, with messages stuck on your device with no easy way to share. This results in other employees not able to get context about what may be happening to a customer at a particular point.

 

So Facebook (now Meta) has introduced the WhatsApp Business API (Application Programming interface) - or WABAPI to give it its catchy title - to address these challenges, making it possible now to integrate WhatsApp messaging with business communications and helpdesk software.

Here at Converso, we’ve done exactly that, and integrated WABAPI with our customer communications platform so that businesses can better manage their customer interactions. We are especially suited for small businesses that may not have a comprehensive helpdesk app but need to provide ongoing customer support, such as service-based verticals, or businesses that sell high ticket items.

 

A key component is the shared team inbox which provides a range of benefits to help small businesses manage customer communications without the need for separate (and expensive) helpdesk software:

 

1.    Authorized agents can now view all WhatsApp messages for a more complete customer view

2.    Work more productively by assigning customer conversations to specific users, depending on availability, skills etc

3.    When an employee leaves, all their client conversations are archived for as long as required

4.    When an employee is out of the office or on holiday, their conversations are still viewable and actionable by other agents in their team

5.    For review and support purposes, archives are easily searchable for fast data retrieval

6.    Enables integration with accounting and CRM apps for seamless updates to customer profiles

7.    Connect with groups of customers via personalised, broadcast messages, to send support updates, product news, marketing messages etc.

8.   Add notes within a conversation for other team members, so you can discuss a solution before responding to a customer.

 

Now you don’t have to handle multiple clients with a single login - you can share and manage all conversations as a team, with each employee having their own account, able to work on one number or range of numbers, all coordinated from a centralised place.

     

 

 Ease of use

 

As people love using WhatsApp, it can also become a victim of its own success. Ease of use and additional entry points, such as customers using QR codes and clickable links to open new conversations, can result in an increase in messages.

 

However this is where chatbots can help take the load, as WABAPI makes it straightforward to build bots for triaging enquiries, handling queries, taking payments, providing account status, alerting customers, etc. For instance, simple actions such as verifying the identity of a customer can be performed by a bot quickly and efficiently, cutting out repetitive actions for agents and increasing the speed of response for customers.

 

And chatbots, of course, are available 24/7. Achieving this level of automated customer service with email would be an almost impossible task.

 

WABAPI also allows for quick action buttons with pre-defined replies, making customer response convenient and super-fast. Tapping is always better than typing!

 

Add support of rich messaging features like GIFs, video, images, PDFs, location etc, and it’s easy to see how your customer support experience can be transformed with WABAPI compared to just using traditional channels such as voice and email.

 

 

Business branding

 

Equally important for customers is identification of the message sender. This is important in order to authenticate delivery notifications and payment requests.

 

An example of where this is important is payments. APP (authorised push payment) fraud has been increasing recently and therefore authenticating who the message sender is also helps verify that the contents are genuine.

 

Otherwise messaging (and email) can be used by fraudsters to “phish” for customers’ personal, bank and card details. Trusting the authenticity of the sender can help guard against these attacks by not opening messages sent from unknown sources.  

 

WABAPI helps provide sender authentication by including a business verification process for the sender that also includes adding a green checkmark that confirms brand authenticity. It also helps provide a more professional image by personalizing your business profile with a logo, business description, website and dedicated number for your business.

 

This can help build brand presence amongst customers - and also means you don't have to use your personal mobile number for work communications!

 

 

Making payments easier

 

Talking of payments, a great use case for WABAPI is not just making the process more secure, but also easier and more convenient. After all, your banking app and biometric authentication run simultaneously on your mobile phone, which makes it the ideal device for quick and simple invoice payments.  

 

WhatsApp’s simple-to-use interface cuts through the noise of other channels, helping invoices get noticed and actioned by being friendly and personalized. And if the customer wants to ask a question about the purpose of the invoice or its payment terms, they can get right back to you, with all the context already present within the conversation.

 

This results in faster payments compared to impersonal, "no-reply" emailed invoices– which as we know, can also end up getting ignored in a crowded inbox or lost in junk.  

 

For making payment, Converso integrates with Open Banking and card payment processors. Open Banking provides a great new option to paying with a card; Pay by Bank is effectively a direct UK bank-to-bank transfer powered by Open Banking, and provides instant settlement completed in a couple of clicks.  

 

More importantly, Pay by Bank has low or zero processing fees, helping eliminate the financial hit that small businesses take when receiving customer payments via card (for international coverage, businesses can also use Stripe to collect card payments via Apple Pay or Google Pay).

 

Software should be all about convenience, and Converso’s integration with accounting software apps such as Xero or Quickbooks makes it possible to send your invoices seamlessly via WhatsApp, with payments automatically reconciled with your accounts. This saves time for bookkeepers and credit control staff.      

 

And as mentioned above, as payment requests are from a verified sender, customers can trust that the request is genuine, thereby reducing fear of fraud, which helps eliminate payment friction.

 

Automated reminders can also be sent to chase up unpaid invoices with personalised messages, taking the load off customer support and making it simple for customers to keep up to date with their payments.

 

In summary, WABAPI makes WhatsApp a great tool for sales and support teams to connect with customers in an informal, secure and compliant way.

 

But don’t take our word for it! Become an early user here and try it out for yourself.

 

If you have any questions, please get in touch at info@converso.io.

 

(You can also switch to Converso whilst also keeping your existing WhatsApp number, display name and approved templates).

[Photo credits: Adem Ay, Mourizal Zativa]

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