Companies: WhatsApp is not a service channel: don’t kill it!
All around me I see companies offering customer service via WhatsApp. Since WhatsApp doesn’t offer an API, the companies need to work with unofficial third party providers but that seems to work well. Companies even succeed to integrate Whatsapp in their CRM using these API’s and it looks like Facebook (the owner of WhatsApp) lets them. Allthough I always like innovations in customer service I do wonder if this is a good thing. Why? I’ll try to explain.
Whatsapp is private
First of all I think of WhatsApp as my private communication and community app. I build small communities and share with the people I want to share with. I used to do that on Facebook but on Facebook it is harder to control who sees my posts. That is one of the main reasons why people post less and less on Facebook. I think the other reason is because companies are killing it. Every now and then I like a company, because I do like them in real life. But on Mothers day I see more posts from companies about how to surprise your mother than posts from my friends (or from my mother!). I know Facebook is fighting this by bringing down the organic reach for company posts but the main result is that companies start to pay (more and more) to show up in my timeline. So WhatsApp took over a part of what I used to do on Facebook.
Twitter is something else. I love Twitter. It is great to share knowledge, to have discussions with people. But since I can’t control who sees my Tweets I don’t want to share personal stuff or posts that are not relevant to most of my followers. Again: I use WhatsApp for that.
I think that companies are right when they see that there is a lot of engagement on WhatsApp, and that people love the platform because it is simple and easy to control. So companies that are agile know they need to be where their customers are (something I often preach myself) and they start to offer customer service via WhatsApp.
And the feedback is great. That makes sense, it is very easy to use. Just add the mobile number of the company and you’re connected. And live chat (because that’s what it is) is a great channel for customer service, we all know that.
Marketers will take over
But I can predict what will happen next. The marketers will wake up one day. “How many customers are connected to our WhatsApp account? What if we send them a special WhatsApp only coupon. They’ll love it!” And companies will start to push messages. (I know, it is hard to do that because of WhatsApp spam regulations, but knowing Facebook they’ll find out a way to make it work if they can earn money with it.)
And then “my” WhatsApp, the tool that connects me with my family, will become a marketing platform. It is simply how companies (and marketers) work. When they see a way to reach a (targeted) group of people they think in opportunities and this seems like a great opportunity!
Messenger is the way!
So: what should companies do? IMHO companies should be where their customers are, and that is in this case on their mobile. So make sure that is where you are! And when you want to offer live chat you can use Facebook Messenger for that. Facebook is opening up official API’s for that and you will be able to do a lot more.
So please, please, please: leave WhatsApp they way it is. I am sure Facebook will integrate it with Messenger one day, but until that day, let me keep it! And marketeer: I love to engage with your brand. I love live chat. But let’s use Messenger for that, ok? That’s easier for you (you don’t have to build unofficial connections), it offers us both more features and Whatsapp stays what is it. My personal communication hub. Where personal means: to communicate with persons, not with brands.
p.s. If you have decided differently, please share why you did that. I am always open for a dialogue.