In this article we will talk about how your company can use WhatsApp Business APIs to provide customer support in scalable, form through the most popular messaging app in the world.
Communicating through WhatsApp is becoming an increasingly widespread need among companies that wish to establish a relationship of trust and proximity with their customers. Statistics show a significant increase in the use of WhatsApp at business level and a parallel reduction in the use of email as a communication tool between companies and clients.
Yet there are some significant limitations (such as the fact that a single WhatsApp account cannot be opened on multiple devices at the same time) that complicate the lives of those companies that would like to use WhatsApp as the main communication channel with their customers.
In order to allow companies to structure a support channel through WhatsApp, the company owned by Facebook, in August 2018, made available a first version of its APIs (Application Programming Interface). To date, this service offered by WhatsApp has finally completed its beta phase and is accessible to all those businesses that wish to implement solutions that help integrate WhatsApp into their customer support channels.
So in this article we will understand how a company, which finds the native WhatsApp app limiting to provide assistance, can use WhatsApp Business APIs to make sure that the support team and/or the sales team can communicate with customers by centralizing chats into a single WhatsApp number/account.
How to request access to WhatsApp Business APIs
Before analyzing how WhatsApp Business APIs can be used to structure a support channel within your business, it’s first necessary to understand how to request access. In fact, WhatsApp’s APIs are not publicly available and require prior authorization and verification by Facebook for each company that wishes to use them.
The first necessary requirement to request access to WhatsApp Business APIs is to verify your Facebook Business Manager account. This means that you will need to send your company details to Facebook, including a document certifying your company address (an invoice, a utility bill, a registration document for your company).
This process can take up to 3-4 business days and can be started directly from the About My Business Manager section. If you don’t have an account on Facebook Business Manager yet, you can follow this guide to create one and verify it. Once you have verified your Facebook Business Manager account you will necessarily have to get a number that has never been used to create a WhatsApp account.
It can be either a mobile number or also a fixed line. You will need this once the verification process has started in order to be able to configure your virtual line. The last step to follow to get access to WhatsApp Business API is to choose the most suitable Business Solution Provider for your needs: if your goal is to use Whatsapp to send notifications, it will be convenient to use platforms such as Twilio; if, on the other hand, your goal is to use WhatsApp to provide customer assistance, we recommend that you first choose the platform you will use and carry out the process through the chosen company.
How to provide customer support using WhatsApp Business APIs
In order to be able to take advantage of the WhatsApp Business APIs to provide assistance to customers, it is necessary to use tools and platforms that allow shared and structured management of incoming chats. In most cases, the most suitable solution would be to use a platform that reflects the experience of WhatsApp Web or Facebook Messenger but at the same time that includes all the features necessary for collaboration within the support or sales teams.
Some of the features that are typically needed to ensure an effective customer service are, for example, the ability to assign a chat to a specific agent, being able to tag (with labels) ones own contacts, search between chats, and establish different levels of responsibility and/or access by the different agents who will work within the same account.
In addition, companies that need to manage a large volume of chats will have the opportunity to take advantage of WhatsApp Business APIs to create chatbots to automatically manage the most frequent customer requests. Fun fact: the World Health Organization also used WhatsApp Business APIs during the coronavirus epidemic to provide real-time updates to people who had texted the organization’s WhatsApp number.
Before choosing the right tool for your customer support or sales team, you will need to choose the right partner to go through the Facebook approval process to use WhatsApp Business APIs and then configure your WhatsApp profile which will be based on a virtual line. As mentioned above, it will be necessary to provide the partner with a phone number that has never been used previously, to create an account on WhatsApp.
If you are looking for a platform that reflects the experience of using WhatsApp but that is at the same time meant for sales and support teams, you can take a look at the Callbell’s home page and try the platform for free.
How to use WhatsApp Business APIs to send notifications
In addition to the classic customer service cases, you can also use WhatsApp Business APIs to send notifications to your contacts or customers. This is very useful for all those communications between the company and the customer of transactional nature.
For example, we think of cases in which an e-commerce needs to notify a customer about the status of the shipment of the goods or when a food delivery app wants to notify the customer of the arrival of their order.
Sending notifications via WhatsApp requires a prior authorization from the contact to receive communications from the company. To do this, WhatsApp requires the company to collect what is defined by Facebook as a double-opt-in; this means that the contact must authorize the company to send notifications via a text message or by filling out a web form. It will therefore not be possible to send communications or any form of notification to contacts who have not previously authorized a specific business to communicate with them.
This mechanism allows WhatsApp to block companies that want to use this tool for marketing purposes, avoiding any type of abuse of the messaging channel. In order to start sending notifications via WhatsApp, it is necessary, as well as what regards to customer support, to request access to WhatsApp Business APIs.
Since the implementation and management for sending notifications most likely requires the intervention of a developer, the best solution is to obtain access to WhatsApp Business APIs by using a Business Solution Provider such as Twilio.
WhatsApp Business APIs: costs and timing
WhatsApp Business APIs are currently the main monetization tool for the company owned by Facebook. To use WhatsApp’s APIs, it is necessary to pay a cost for each sent message received which varies according to the client’s country of destination. Furthermore, we must specify that there are two categories of messages: session messages and template messages. In fact, WhatsApp, similarly to Facebook Messenger, establishes that, in principle, the customer always contacts the company first.
When this happens, the company will be able to reply with all the necessary messages during a 24-hour time window: the messages exchanged in this period are called session messages. If the company wishes to contact the customer on WhatsApp after 24 hours or send a notification/message despite the fact that the contact has not interacted first with the company, they will have to use a template message. On average, a session message costs $ 0.001 cents; this means that with a dollar we could send about 1000 messages.
A template message can cost between $0.04 and 0.07 cents depending on the country of destination of the contact. As for the timing, today the verification and approval process by Facebook can last from a minimum of 24 hours to a maximum of 5 working days.
The total duration of the process depends on whether or not the company has already verified its Facebook Business Manager account: once this step has been completed, the final phase of the procedure that requires the approval by WhatsApp of a number that will be used to create a virtual line, will not take more than 48 hours.
If you are looking for a solution that allows you to provide customer support or a platform that allows your sales team to sell via WhatsApp using WhatsApp Business APIs, don’t forget to take a look at Callbell’s home page from here.
If you found this article useful, and to get more information on how to use Whatsapp Business and Facebook Messenger for your business, visit our blog or contact our team!
Thank you for reading and see you next time!
About the author: Hello! I am Alan and I am the marketing manager at Callbell, the first communication platform designed to help sales and support teams to collaborate and communicate with customers through direct messaging applications such as WhatsApp, Messenger, Telegram and (soon) Instagram Direct