Introducing WhatsApp Connect - Your Support Channel for the Mobile Age

8 January, 2016. Mark this day, because it’s when B2C WhatsApp Support became reality.

Today we start with the Beta of WhatsApp Connect. This new channel means that your customers can add and reach out to your business on WhatsApp, with your service team answering their chats using the Userlike Chat Panel.

Until this day, Userlike had been a channel for B2C website communication only. Considering Ecommerce's voracious growth rates, The Website has been a good place to start. But our plans are bigger. We're on a mission to break down the communication barriers between business and customers. WhatsApp Connect is an entirely new frontier on this quest.

Live chat is great to keep people on your site, to convince them to buy, and then buy a bit more. But when the chat ends, the connection is broken. With WhatsApp, on the other hand, a connection between the company and customer is maintained – whether a sale occurred or not. In other words, your company becomes a contact of your customer. That is – or should be – any marketer’s dream come true.

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All brands are aiming for top of mind awareness among their customers. They want their customers to think of them as a friend. Being added as a contact on WhatsApp doesn't automatically make you a friend, but it's a damn good place to start.

So are we the first ones with the idea of using WhatsApp for support? Of course not. An increasing number innovative eCommerce players have started to experiment with WhatsApp, showing promising results. Examples are Zalando and Outfittery .

But these poor pioneers have been forced to work with inadequate tools, with employees answering chats from WhatsApp Web , or even the smartphone app.

WhatsApp hasn't been built for service purposes – it’s like using a fax for Newsletter marketing. As you can imagine, this leads to an inefficient way of doing service. And we don't like inefficiency. Userlike's Chat Panel, on the other hand, has been engineered precisely for service efficiency. Now that it can be connected to WhatsApp, we can relieve all the pains that used to plague WhatsApp support.

So how can you use WhatsApp support? Well, it’s a new channel, so many of its applications still unknown. But we can share a few ideas to get you started:

Whatsapp for sales support

Some leaders in Ecommerce have already started to experiment with WhatsApp support, for example Zalando and Outfittery. These companies currently use it as an exclusive channel to consult customers with their product choice.

WhatsApp for after-sales

By adding your WhatsApp Service number to your checkout page or confirmation email, you give your customers a low-barrier channel to ask about their order: Delivery status? Worries? Product usage questions?

WhatsApp for follow up questions

You know that situation where you hang up the phone, only to realize a few minutes later that you forgot to ask a question? WhatsApp is the perfect channel for such pop-up questions, because nowadays people almost always have their phone with them. So they can ask the questions as they pop up.

WhatsApp for physical shop support

Now this is one we are excited about, because so far we’ve been restricted to the Ecommerce arena. Last week, however, I was walking through the mattress section of IKEA Amsterdam when it hit me. How useful would WhatsApp Support be here! Instead of making my way through model kitchens and baby rooms in search of one of those yellow-blue employees, I could easily send a short WhatsApp message instead (I hope you're reading this, IKEA). Similarly I can imagine many physical shops that could benefit greatly from WhatsApp support.

WhatsApp for Marketing support

Maybe you are running a campaign that makes your prospects curious. Adding your WhatsApp number to the ad so they can follow up directly can be a good way to power boost your ads.

Those are just some ideas to get you started. Get creative, go wild.

There is one concern that was aired here and there during development. WhatsApp is careful about their tool being used by businesses. They are concerned about spamming abuse – and rightly so.

However, B2C WhatsApp communication is already happening. That’s why we argue that it's better to happen with a tool that safeguards the safety of consumers – a tool like Userlike. We are as much against abusing WhatsApp Connect for spamming as a spirits producer is against mixing drinking and driving. So we've set up some security measures.

You may have noticed that I’ve only talked about customers adding businesses as WhatsApp contacts. That’s because the other way around is not possible. You cannot use Userlike’s WhatsApp Connect to gather a list of phone numbers and spam your way to Walhalla. You can only give out your own number for customers to contact you for a chat.

Furthermore, when the chat is over and the Chat Panel tab is closed, the business cannot send additional messages to the customer. The customer, however, can reignite the conversation whenever she feels like – since the business is now a contact of hers. The control is thus at the customer side at all times – how it should be.

All in all, WhatsApp Connect is a major step in MultiChannel Communication. We are looking forward to other platforms opening up, such as Facebook has already announced with Messenger for Business. The world is moving from fragmented conversations to long-term connections, and at Userlike we’re happy to play our part.

You are very welcome to join the Beta of Userlike's WhatsApp Connect. Just send an email to support@userlike.com.

Also check out: Telegram Connect