WhatsApp - fast and personal - a direct channel to the customer

Stefano Viani

Management

16 Aug 2016 Digital Agency Consulting

Making customer service open, transparent and satisfactory for both sides is admittedly a challenge in times of shitstorms and review platforms. Fast, direct contact with customers via messenger apps should improve the service of many companies in the future - but is still in a legal grey area.

Every second smartphone owner now uses WhatsApp

While by no means every customer in Germany has a Facebook profile (around 6.25% in the 20-29 age group and exponentially decreasing between 4.1 and 1.2% in the 30-60 age group), WhatsApp is now on almost every second smartphone. Teachers using a WhatsApp group with their pupils to plan a school trip, friends forwarding shopping tips via WhatsApp or colleagues chatting about business topics after work - the messaging service has long since arrived both privately and in the workplace.

WhatsApp: persönliche Kundenkommunikation digital - Blackbit

Data frenzy and data security

The use of WhatsApp in a commercial context is currently still prohibited by the platform's terms and conditions, but many companies more or less ignore this by asking customers for their active consent. Since April of this year, the data transfer service has become more secure with end-to-end encryption, has renounced data storage and promises its users more control over their communication.

Using WhatsApp for customer communication

The demand for commercial use of WhatsApp has grown steadily. Parent company Facebook has long since responded to this demand. In this context, CEO Jan Koum announced at the beginning of the year that he would make it easier for companies to use the service:

"Calling customer service today takes too long and is often frustrating. We know many ways to make this communication much better." The objective is therefore clear: customer service instead of spam slinging.

A large number of companies now use more than one channel

Even in the digital age, it often takes little more than a smile to make customer communication efficient and empathetic for both sides. Customer service should be responsive, friendly and time-saving. Communicating via a messenger service such as WhatsApp offers added value for both sides. The customer is happy about the uncomplicated, quick sending of their enquiry via short message and the associated fast, usually personal response from the company. The company, in turn, saves time and personnel thanks to the limited number of characters and the resulting brief description of the problem and the opportunity to engage in more personalised communication with the customer. In addition, when using messenger apps, companies naturally benefit from the higher number of users across all age groups compared to conventional mobile apps.

Newspapers and radio stations offer added value in terms of content

It doesn't always have to be dialogue. Added value and real-time relevance also characterise content via Messenger with exclusivity. The radio station FFN in Lower Saxony, for example, communicates with its listeners after voluntary registration on the website as if they were friends and sends puzzle games and information on competitions. Local editorial offices throughout the country promise "fast and convenient news service direct from the newsroom".

Exclusive product recommendations

The distribution of an attractive link, such as that of an online shop, to family, friends and colleagues via the share button has long since become common practice for most smartphone owners. A small image or a short teaser does not leave the recipient guessing what lies behind the link, but prompts them to click directly. In this way, online shopping on the smartphone has become even more attractive. Blackbit now has another application for xt:Commerce online shops: product recommendations via WhatsApp can be forwarded to friends and family using the Messenger share button in the web shop. This is recommendation marketing in the digital age.

CONCLUSION: Individual communication creates exclusivity

A messenger service like WhatsApp should only be one of a multitude of options for customer communication, but it offers added value on both sides. Ideally, it creates a very personal and exclusive level of communication as a way for customers to contact customer service. The medium itself ensures that your customers experience this form of service in an appreciative manner. If the communication is professionally customer-orientated and you can solve your customers' problems in an uncomplicated manner, you have the best prospects of turning your customers into promoters.

About the Author

As Executive Director of Blackbit digital Commerce GmbH, Stefano Viani manages all areas of the agency in the offices in Göttingen, Hamburg, Berlin and Kiev. His passion is the development of marketing strategies and their implementation in concrete measures.

In his free time, Stefano is passionate about riding his motorbike or working out in the gym.