On a consumer level, WhatsApp is known by most as a popular instant messaging tool to keep in touch with family and friends.
But some will have also realized that it goes beyond personal use and have started to use it to contact businesses for customer service-related queries.
Likewise, if you’re a small business, you’re perhaps already using the WhatsApp Business app yourself to respond to these queries.
There’s no denying that the free app offers plenty of handy features for small businesses and entrepreneurs. But as you scale your company, you may start to find them limiting and insufficient and be on the hunt for more advanced features.
Enter: WhatsApp Business API.
If you’re in the process of growing and need a tool to handle your business’s customer service at scale, read on.
In this article, we’ll provide you with an overview of WhatsApp Business API, what it offers, how to get it, and more.
To understand how WhatsApp Business API came about, we need to take a quick trip down memory lane.
WhatsApp itself needs no introduction and we’re going to take a not-so-wild guess that you’re already familiar with the messaging app so we’ll keep this part short.
Launched in 2009, WhatsApp Messenger was designed for personal use—mainly for people to chat and keep in touch with friends and family.
Easy-to-use, completely free, and with the ability to communicate across borders, the app was eventually also picked up by businesses and organizations around the world.
Understanding that there was a demand for more advanced and enterprise features, WhatsApp got to work.
In early 2018, the company launched WhatsApp Business, a standalone app catered to small business owners so they can easily manage everyday interactions with customers.
Though it offers plenty of useful features, this free-to-use app is ultimately insufficient for larger enterprises that need to communicate with customers at scale.
So in August 2018, the WhatsApp Business API was rolled out.
To learn more about WhatsApp’s business tools, we recommend that you give our article on the differences between WhatsApp Messenger, WhatsApp Business App, and Business API a read.
Designed for growing businesses and bigger companies, the WhatsApp Business API has a lot to offer. Some of its benefits include:
With so much to offer, it’s no wonder that more and more organizations around the world are turning to WhatsApp Business API to manage their communications with their customers.
The large-scale broadcast that WhatsApp Business API offers has become particularly pertinent in recent months with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Governments aside, even the World Health Organization has jumped on the bandwagon to offer messaging services on WhatsApp for people looking for the latest information on COVID-19.
As mentioned, one of the advantages of WhatsApp Business API is that it offers plenty of integrations with other systems like CRMs, contact center tools, ticketing platforms, etc.
Without question, the most sought-after integration is with popular CRM software like HubSpot, Salesforce, to name a few.
If you’re already using WhatsApp to interact with your clients and are thinking about integrating it with existing systems your business is using, the first step would be to get WhatsApp’s approval to access and use its business API.
In the next section, we’ll explore how you can do that.
Gaining access to the WhatsApp Business API is a process that’s simple yet complicated at the same time—depending on the amount of resources you have and are willing to dedicate and what route you take.
Keep in mind that APIs are essentially a set of functions and procedures that transmit information between different applications. On its own, it has no front-end interface.
In layman terms, it means that a top layer of design is needed so that you can easily sort, interpret, and understand the information that’s being sent and received, which can be very technical.
So unless you and your team are trained (and willing) to read endless lines of code, you’ll need a dashboard or panel to visually organize the information to comprehend and manage the data and code that’s going back and forth.
This leaves you with two options: developing a platform in-house or hiring an external provider.
If you have an internal team of developers, you can sign up for access on WhatsApp’s website yourself and then commission your team to create a platform to interpret the API.
However, there’s a big “but” to this process.
Given the number of elements involved (segmenting customers, handling queries, managing orders, automating replies, tracking metrics, etc.), this can all be pretty time-consuming and not to mention a significant drain on resources.
A quick and easier solution would be to partner up with a WhatsApp Business Solution Provider (BSP) like WATI and use the platform they’ve created.
Not only is this an immediate solution, but you can also do away with the technicalities and headaches that come with creating your own. Plus, as you’ll be working with WhatsApp-approved partners, you can rest assured that their services are fully compliant and compatible.
Once you have your WhatsApp Business API set up, you can start communicating with your customers.
However, there’s one important aspect of its messaging feature that must be highlighted.
Interaction via the WhatsApp Business API is through an opt-in service only. This means that, as a business, you can only communicate with customers who:
With the latter, there is a 24-hour window (from the customer’s last message) during which businesses can respond at no cost. Any messages sent after this period expires will incur a charge to be borne by the business and varies according to the customer’s country.
Charging to reply after 24 hours have passed is WhatsApp’s way of encouraging prompt responses from businesses. This will, in turn, increase consumer satisfaction with communicating with businesses through WhatsApp, which will ultimately create a preference for the messaging app over other communication channels.
As the saying goes: My house, my rules.
There’s no surprise here—using WhatsApp’s Business API will require you to comply with their policies and guidelines.
These are in place to protect consumers and prevent illicit transactions from taking place on its platform. Some, like prohibiting the sale of drugs and weapons, are expected. But there are some that may not be quite as obvious.
Note that any failure to comply or violation of their policies may result in your access to the WhatsApp Business API being revoked.
The benefits of WhatsApp Business API are clear.
As one of the biggest communication channels available on the market, brands who have yet to take advantage of what it has to offer are losing out.
If you’re looking to get started with WhatsApp Business API, we welcome you to check out how our team at WATI can help and sign up for a free trial today.
WATI is a product of Clare.AI, a digital assistant startup that combines the latest advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence to create innovative digital tools and provide top-notch customer communication experiences to its clients. Clare.AI’s solutions have been proudly adopted by multinational firms and Fortune 500 companies including Cigna, AXA, Birdie, Everbright Sun Hung Kai, Fidelity, Bupa, and lots more.