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Since it was acquired by Facebook in February 2015, WhatsApp has gone viral recently acquiring over a billion users. Instant Messaging, including WhatsApp, is still far from having peaked. By 2018, these apps will have another billion users according to a study by Activate. So, is this a good enough reason to use WhatsApp as a customer feedback channel? 

For businesses these days, using WhatsApp seems like an opportunity to develop stronger customer relationships that are more satisfying on both ends.

WHY USE WHATSAPP IN CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS?

Simply: to have a closer relationship. The platform offers complete and instant responses. These kind of real-time responses are expected by modern consumers, who want concrete, quick and direct replies.

With human interaction playing a central role in customer relationships, discussion is inevitable. This is exactly what the customer is looking for when they start a conversation with a brand. Customer services can then provide the customer with a personalised and confidential answer to their problem. Instant and private messaging is much more personal than sending an email to customer services that will get lost amongst all the others or calling an automated platform.

WhatsApp is also more flexible. Customers begin the conversation when they wish and no longer have to prepare to contact customer services within a fixed timeframe. They can reply very simply, with no hassle. They can also add contacts to the conversation if necessary. What's more, the service is free and comprehensive for customers, who may not have an unlimited phone package.

To make customers even more loyal, companies should be investing in a personalised and sustainable relationship. This is what instant messaging provides: a continuous and open relationship with the brand, the conversation history is always there and the relationship develops over time. Each time a brand comes in contact with the customer, they are picking up from where they left off and can use the conversation history to their advantage. They can also analyse the relationship and understand how the customer is feeling.

FIND OUT MORE: Read our eBook on customer feedback channels where we mention instant messaging.

By using a network that is so popular across the globe as a new customer feedback channel and by integrating it into their CRM, brands no longer need to develop their own apps. They can also make significant savings whilst engaging with their customers like never before.

HOW TO START USING WHATSAPP FOR CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS

Many local businesses are already using WhatsApp to communicate with customers informally and to make restaurant or taxi reservations, for example. Nevertheless, companies who really want to use it as a customer relationship channel need to focus their efforts. This focus is needed to set up an efficient platform that will both extract data and implement a defined process.

As promising as it may be, WhatsApp usage is still a developing trend. It should become part of an overall strategy, alongside the other customer feedback channels used by companies.

Recently, several companies have become specialised in using WhatsApp as a customer relationship tool. Meteordesk or Wasify in particular come to mind. These companies can connect a WhatsApp number to hundreds of computers through their platform. Customer service representatives can manage communications and customer questions simultaneously via the cloud, transfer customers to the relevant department and send predefined or personalised messages with photos or videos to solve an issue.

Some companies started using it right away, like African e-commerce giant Jumia. They use WhatsApp to handle customer complaints with the help of their local polyglot team.

There’s Openbank, too, the online subsidiary of Spanish bank Santander. They tested WhatsApp on 17,000 customers who could request transaction verification in real time for example. For 99% of young users, the service is “very useful” and 98% of them have confirmed that they “will keep using it.”

Customer relationships and more?

Not just a customer relationships tool, WhatsApp can also become a conversion tool. A concrete example would be Suitsupply. They use the app to advise customers and even validate payments. If a customer is interested in a suit, they can ask the brand directly if their size is in stock. After checking product availability, Suitsupply puts the order through and sends a unique payment link via the WhatsApp thread. It’s a personalised and private transaction, similar to an in-store experience only through a mobile app.

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By linking WhatsApp to the CRM, customer data archives become an important source of information for personalised customer interactions, adding that personal touch. Suitsupply has been able to connect WhatsApp to its Salesforce CRM and Adyen payment system. Be aware though, connecting WhatsApp to CRMs is still rare and hard to achieve. WhatsApp does not provide an API to facilitate linkage with a CRM.

SOME LIMITS FROM A CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS POINT OF VIEW

In terms of customer knowledge, the app can collect qualitative data in the form of feedback. On mobiles however, the text-like aspect of the conversation doesn’t always encourage customers to express themselves fully. This inconvenience is partly compensated by the availability of an online extension allowing users to message via their computer. All the same, collecting feedback is still difficult to handle in terms of data management, unlike data with scores or ratings such as NPS, intent on buying, overall satisfaction, etc. For now, WhatsApp doesn’t provide this kind of data, making it a conversational tool but not one that will assist in customer knowledge.

Another thing to remember: although advertising isn’t WhatsApp’s main priority yet, this may change in the future, even if Mark Zuckerberg has said otherwise. If there is anything that would be detrimental to customer relationships, yet alone a private messaging app, it’s advertising.

WhatsApp’s small number of limitations won’t hinder the opportunities it presents for companies. In terms of customer relationships, it’s an excellent way of building engagement with customers, creating a sense of closeness and trust whilst being more responsive. Now we’ll just have to see if the app can be easily integrated into company CRMs.

Call To Action Ebook Collect Customer Feedback