Why WhatsApp isn’t a good customer service channel

11/02/2017 - Jordi Ordoñez

WhatsApp confirmed that its business application, WhatsApp Business, had entered the beta phase and everyone started wondering what influence it could have on companies’ strategies. Yes, it’ll have an effect, but WhatsApp is not a good customer service channel.

What is WhatsApp Business?

Let’s look at what it is and what’s new that’s being talked and written about so much. Basically, it’s about creating verified business profiles. These company profiles are distinguished from personal ones visually by using a green tick next to the user name that tells us we’re looking at a verified account.

If we look at one of these profiles in detail, we appreciate that they have space to include more details like a contact email, customer attention hours, and of course, a link to their website. From the company’s point of view, it also has the additional feature of automatic responses.

Why WhatsApp isn’t a customer service tool

All that WhatsApp sells us as revolutionary is really nothing more than trying to organize a tool many people use for something it wasn’t created for. As an instant messaging application, we won’t discover the virtues of this tool right now. It has the enormous advantage of having a huge critical mass that uses WhatsApp every day and the financial lungs of a giant the size of Facebook just behind it.

The combination of critical mass and a large company always has an impact on the business and even more so in one like this that doesn’t have a clear financial plan. This leads them to try expanding the features and open areas that they’re not as competitive in.

An example of what I am referring to is the issue of what condition they’re in. Do they want to be a social network? Do they really think that with so little they can rival established and recognized platforms?

Well, WhatsApp Business is having the same problem, it’s not an application for corporate use like Slack, nor does it offer the benefits of a live chat like Oct8ne does, regarding the user. This lack of definition is a real problem when you’re up against specific tools. There’s not a good part to everything.

Disadvantages of WhatsApp for customer service

Apart from the lack of specific solutions, I see some clear limitations, large or small factors that tip the scale in favor of other options.

#1 Lack of integration

The tools integrated with e-commerce have an advantage that’s hard to beat. The user obtains the information without cutting the search flow.

It’s true that WhatsApp is as immediate as a chat can be but it requires an application and an external device to make the enquiry. This means asking the user to concentrate more and they lose focus on the task.

From a desktop, they go look for their cellphone, enter the password, see a notification from the bank, a message from a contact, they look back at Facebook, etc. We lose the person and this happens almost the same way on a cellphone since we make them go back and forth between apps.

#2 Lack of purchase context

Derived from the lack of integration, we have an added problem like the absence of context. For an agent, it’s also much more complicated to operate from an external tool because it has no references.

Asking the user to share a URL with us is, again, an additional task, and can be a technical obstacle that can slow down users who aren’t at a middle or middle-advanced level.

#3 Management problems

The new features of WhatsApp Business are apparently insufficient. A customer service tool needs a backend that lets it easily manage all communication on behalf of the agents involved.

It doesn’t seem very operational to have our team managing all the notifications on a single phone number. It’s true that there is a desktop app that works very well, but as a messaging tool, not for customer service.

#4 Lack of automations

Since there’s no link between WhatsApp and e-commerce, we lose the important advantage of automation. We can’t approach the client when they’re on a certain page or when they’re inactive, which could be due to confusion. For example, Oct8ne triggers let us be proactive and not depend exclusively on being reactive to what the user demands.

What will happen in the medium term with WhatsApp?

Everything that’s said now is pure imagination. But, there are some theories that are more likely than others. For example, the arrival of chat bots that Facebook is testing on their Messenger.

This would be a little closer to what we understand as customer service, but everything that happens through artificial intelligence or any other improvement that’s not an interface for the agent and CMS integration continues to have the same basic problems.

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