A support team’s guide to WhatsApp Business app and API

Is your support team missing out by not using WhatsApp? Here's how the WhatsApp Business app and API can bolster your customer service.

By Molly Murphy

Published October 22, 2020
Last updated April 29, 2021

If your company is not using messaging apps for support, you’re missing a huge opportunity to connect with your customers.

Over the past five years, there has been a 200% growth in businesses using messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, to connect with customers. And there's no mystery why. Our 2020 Zendesk Customer Experience report found that 28% of customers (and a whopping 40% of millennials and Gen Z-ers) like to resolve their customer support issues using messaging.

Twenty-eight per cent of customers (and a whopping 40% of millennials and Gen Z-ers) like to resolve their customer support issues using messaging.

WhatsApp is the ideal communication platform for brands with global customer bases. It’s the most popular messaging app worldwide, with 2 billion active users in 180 countries. And with the WhatsApp Business app and API, support teams can keep communication fast, convenient and easy for customers.

What is WhatsApp Business?

WhatsApp Business offers an app and API to businesses planning to communicate with their customers on the WhatsApp platform.

The free WhatsApp Business app is meant for small businesses that need an out-of-the-box solution for messaging their customers on WhatsApp. Larger teams who need a little more control over their customers’ experience can leverage the WhatsApp Business API.

WhatsApp Business App

The WhatsApp Business app provides a simple, ready-to-go messaging solution. It allows businesses to chat one-on-one with their customers, similar to texting, but with an internet connection instead of SMS.

WhatsApp Business example

[Source] WhatsApp Business lets you easily connect one-on-one with your customers.

The app also lets you set up automatic replies for common customer questions and sort through your messages quickly and easily. The “labels” feature lets you organise your conversations into different buckets, such as "open customer issues" or "new orders."

Best part is, it’s free and fast to set up. This makes it the ideal solution for small teams who need only basic messaging capabilities.

WhatsApp Business API

The WhatsApp Business API provides even more features. You can use it to notify multiple customers at once about invoices, receipts and shipping updates. Customers can also opt in to sales and promotional notifications. With these features, WhatsApp Business makes offering customer support fast and simple.

However, these added capabilities come with a price and some complexity...

When the WhatsApp Business API for Support makes sense

Is the WhatsApp Business API a good fit for your company? It depends on your customers’ messaging app preferences and how much you can invest in the platform. Before you adopt the tool, make sure your target customer is using the platform and your team is able to implement it.

Your customer base is international

If you have many international customers, you should strongly consider using WhatsApp Business API for support.

WhatsApp is by far the most popular in India, with 340 million users in 2019, and 99 million in Brazil. Although the United States has 68 million WhatsApp users, Facebook Messenger is still more popular, with 106.4 million users.

WhatsApp users by country

[Source] WhatsApp is by far the most popular in India, with 340 million users in 2019.

You have the budget for it

To use the WhatsApp Business API, you’ll need to pay for integrations, such as connecting it to your CRM. Integration costs depend on which partner you go through and what pricing structure they use.

Each partner also has ongoing fees, though the structure varies from company to company. The two most common pricing structures for partners are a flat monthly fee, or charge per message. Depending on your provider and your message volume, expect to pay anywhere from $50-$1500 in flat monthly fees, or $0.002-$0.007 per message.

Along with equipment and software costs, make sure you have enough support staff to monitor WhatsApp. Over 40% of customers expect a chat response in less than an hour, so you’ll need agents who can resolve issues quickly.

Your target customers are younger

WhatsApp is popular with young generations. Fifty-five per cent of the platform’s users are between 18 and 35 years old.

This trend is true for many messaging apps, not just WhatsApp. Forty per cent of Millennials and Gen Z users expect to resolve issues with businesses using messaging compared with only 18% of Boomers.

If your target customer fits these age demographics—and you meet the other factors mentioned above—it’s time to consider investing in the WhatsApp Business API.

3 tips for connecting with customers using the WhatsApp Business API

To connect with customers on WhatsApp, you can’t treat it like any other communication channel. People are used to having fast, casual chats on the platform—not formal business conversations. Adapt to this communication style to keep customers engaged and eager to respond.

Be prepared for the WhatsApp business service window

The WhatsApp Business API gives you only 24 hours to respond to a customer’s messagesince customers expect a pretty quick turnround with messaging. If you miss the service window, the customer has to opt back in to continue chatting.

This creates more work for the customer, so they’re less likely to continue chatting. Keep customers engaged by always trying to respond within the business service window. Make sure you have enough live support agents to reply to customers. And when live support is not available, you can set up chatbots to keep the conversation moving.

Harness templates to speed up your messaging

Sometimes, support agents can’t respond to WhatsApp messages straight away. The agents may be dealing with other enquiries or may have signed off for the day. In these cases, you’ll need preset responses ready to keep the conversation going. That’s where message templates come in.

Create a standardised message based on common questions, and set up a WhatsApp bot to automatically send it to customers. The bot will customise the response based on the customer’s message and their unique information. These templates are especially useful for delivery confirmations, support ticket updates and post-support surveys.

WhatsApp template message example

An example of a WhatsApp template message.

Besides being convenient, message templates are also necessary for directly contacting customers. To minimise spam, WhatsApp asks businesses to create a template message before reaching out to customers. Until WhatsApp approves the template, businesses must wait for customers to reach out first.

Use conversational language to connect to your customers

Most customers are used to sending WhatsApp chats filled with emojis and exclamation marks. If your messaging style doesn’t match that of your customers, they probably won’t be interested in communicating with your brand.

Keep customers engaged with a casual, approachable tone:

  • Write how you speak. Practise reading sentences out loud to see whether they sound like natural conversation.
  • Use contractions like “can’t” instead of “cannot”.
  • Add colour to your messages, and set the right tone with emojis. Smiley faces are generally safe, but stick to only one per message so they don’t become overwhelming.
  • Keep the tone of your messages in mind. Use exclamation marks and incomplete sentences to keep messages upbeat and cheerful.

Apply these tips to your templates, and make sure your agents are familiar with them as well. If you use this casual style across your support communication, customers should feel comfortable messaging your brand.

Make sure your customers know WhatsApp is an option

You’ll only see the benefits of the WhatsApp Business API if your customers know you're using the platform.

a business promoting itself as being on WhatsApp

[Source] An example of a business promoting their WhatsApp presence.

Once your WhatsApp integration is live, make sure customers know about it. Use social media accounts to promote and encourage customers to connect with you on WhatsApp. Make sure there’s a visible, clickable widget on your website directing customers to your WhatsApp Business home page. If you have an app, make sure your WhatsApp is clearly displayed on that, too. The more chances you give customers to connect with you on their favourite platforms, the more engagement you can expect.

Access WhatsApp Business right from your CRM

For brands with international customer bases, WhatsApp is a powerful support platform. But managing a larger volume of customer conversations through mobile devices makes it difficult for agents to serve customers efficiently. Support staff will only be able to work from tiny screens, and they’ll need to switch from their phone to their computer to record interactions.

Zendesk WhatsApp integration

Zendesk’s WhatsApp integration lets your support team respond to WhatsApp messages right from their customer service dashboard.

Zendesk’s WhatsApp integration offers a seamless experience for your support pros. They’re able to send and receive WhatsApp messages direct from Zendesk, alongside other channels such as live chat, email and voice, so they don’t have to switch back and forth between different support management tools. Your customer records will also automatically update with the details of the interaction, just like any other Zendesk support channel.

Are you ready to step up your customer support messaging game? Get the Zendesk WhatsApp integration to grow your customer engagement today.

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