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Why my team at Sinch decided to add WeChat Support to our product

It’s time for contact centers to move beyond telephony and messages in bottles.

In 150 B.C., the ancient Greeks devised a complex system of smoke signals known as the “Polybius square” — wherein alphabetic characters were converted into numeric characters by a person wielding a pair of flaming hand-held torches.

Imagine trying to communicate with your co-workers today using such a system. You’d likely set off the fire-suppression sprinklers in your company’s office trying to inform a teammate that you’ve discovered they inadvertently declared the same Angular component in multiple different NGModules.

Throughout history, people have devised other ingenious — and equally impractical — methods of communicating with each other over long distances including semaphores, heliographs, carrier pigeons, and even messages-in-bottles. Not surprisingly, most of these early communication channels have fallen out of favor in today’s modern business and tech world. For example, very few companies today still maintain a fleet of trained carrier pigeons in their call centers.

While I personally enjoy an artfully written message in a bottle, even I reluctantly admit that relying on ocean currents and trade winds is not the most reliable method to contact colleagues, customers, or business partners regarding urgent matters. Instead, today we mainly rely on digital communication tools, of which there is no shortage, and unfortunately, also no agreed upon standard.

For example, when communicating with colleagues at work we use digital collaboration tools like Teams, Slack, Yammer, Chatter, Stammer, Stutter, and Mumble (ok, fine, I made up those last few). When we want to touch base with friends and family, we use smart phone apps such as SMS, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. And when we need to communicate with businesses, we are unfortunately forced to use whatever legacy communication channel the company’s IT system rolled out decades ago — usually email or telephone.

Omnichannel… not every channel.

At Sinch, we recognize that people want to interact with businesses using the same communication channels and tools that they use in their regular life with friends, family, and co-workers. For many people, that means the modern digital messaging tools I’ve mentioned before (such as SMS, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp).

Here, we believe organizations should offer communication channels that make the most sense for customers. For example, companies in the travel and hospitality industries should probably support phone and email, as these channels are still used heavily by travelers looking to sort out complicated logistics.

On the other hand, a small boutique Internet-based fashion retailer may decide to support channels like Instagram and Facebook where such companies often spend much of their marketing efforts. Similarly, ride-sharing companies, home-delivery services, and petting walking/sitting providers might want to support SMS in order to send important updates and notifications to customers.

Sinch Contact Pro — Sinch’s cloud-based contact-center offering — supports nearly every conceivable modern communication channel available including traditional PSTN telephony, web click-to-call, text chat, video chat, email, SMS, RCS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, LINE, Viber, Telegram, Instagram… and now even WeChat.

[Note: I’m still trying to convince our product team to add carrier pigeon and message-in-a-bottle to our roadmap.]

But just because we offer all these different communication channels doesn’t mean companies have to use them all, and certainly not all at once. Rather, we recommend that to get started, companies pick one or two new channels that make the most sense for their business — and their customers — and start with those.

Shall we chat… about WeChat?

With 1.3 billion active monthly users (including 1B in China), WeChat is the 5th most popular social media app in the world behind only Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Instagram. While used most heavily in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Singapore, WeChat is also used by Chinese-speaking users living abroad. For example, analytics firm Apptopia estimates that there is an average of 19 million daily WeChat users in the United States.

With our latest product release of Sinch Contact Pro, we recently rolled out support for WeChat. If you live outside China, you might be aware of WeChat but may not have used it personally. Similarly, if you work for a company that sells tractors to farmers in the Nebraska, or provides financial services to customers in Denmark, you likely haven’t used WeChat at work either.

On the other hand, if you work for a European fashion retailer who sells abroad, it’s quite possible that your company may support WeChat — or might be considering adding support for WeChat. After all, Chinese consumers account for one third of the world’s luxury sales (with companies like Burberry reporting that sales in China represents 40% of their business).

A company’s decision about whether to support WeChat will depend heavily of course on the company’s industry, business model, and customer base. And, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing decision. Many companies chose to support different communication channels in different geographic markets. For example, a company might choose to enable SMS for North America, WhatsApp for Latin America and Europe. And maybe, just maybe, message-in-a-bottle for those customers living on tiny, remote, hard to reach islands 😊.

Are you interested to learn more about our business and perhaps become a part of our team? Check out our Careers page!



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