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 rating platforms. Fast, direct contact with customers via messenger apps is expected to improve the service of many companies in the future - but is still in a gray area from a legal perspective.

Every second smartphone owner now uses WhatsApp

While by no means every customer in Germany has a Facebook profile (in the 20-29 age group around 6.25%, in the 30-60 age group exponentially decreasing between 4.1 and 1.2%), WhatsApp is now on almost every second smartphone. Teachers who use a WhatsApp group with their students to plan a class trip, friends who forward shopping tips to each other via WhatsApp, or colleagues who continue to exchange 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

Using WhatsApp in a commercial context is still prohibited by the platform's T&Cs at the present time, but many companies more or less bypass this by asking for active consent from customers. Since April of this year, the data switching service has become more secure with end-to-end encryption, renounces data storage and promises its users more control over their communications.

Using WhatsApp for customer communications

The need for a commercial use of WhatsApp has been growing steadily. This demand has long been met by parent company Facebook. In this context, CEO Jan Koum already announced at the beginning of the year that it would make it easier for businesses 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 target direction is thus clear: customer service instead of spam.

A large number of companies now use more than one channel

To make customer communication efficient and empathetic for both sides, it often requires nothing more than a smile, even in the digital age. Responsive, friendly and time-saving is what it should be, the optimal customer service. Communicating via a messenger service like WhatsApp offers added value for both sides. The customer is happy about the uncomplicated, quick sending of his inquiry via short message and the associated fast, usually personal response from the company. The company, in turn, saves time and personnel due to the limited number of characters and the resulting short description of the problem and the possibility to have a more personal communication with the customer. In addition, when using messenger apps, companies naturally benefit from the higher volume of users across all age groups compared to traditional mobile apps.

Newspapers and radio stations offer added content value

It doesn't always have to be dialog. Added value and real-time relevance characterize content via Messenger, even with exclusivity. The Lower Saxony radio station FFN, for example, communicates with its listeners as if they were friends after they have voluntarily registered on the website and sends out puzzles and information about competitions. Local newsrooms across the country promise "fast and convenient news service directly from the newsroom."

Exclusive product recommendations

Spreading an attractive link, such as that of an online store, to family, friends and colleagues via sharebutton has long since caught on with most smartphone owners. A small image or a short teaser doesn't leave the recipient guessing what's behind the link, but instead invites 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 stores: Product recommendations via WhatsApp can be forwarded to friends and family using the Messenger share button in the web store. This is recommendation marketing in the digital age.

CONCLUSION: Individual communication creates exclusivity

A messenger service like WhatsApp should be just one of a variety of ways to communicate with customers, but it offers added value on both sides. As a way for customers to contact customer service, it ideally creates a very personal and exclusive level of communication. In this way, the medium alone ensures that your customers experience this form of service in a way that is appreciative. If the communication is professionally customer-oriented and you can solve your customers' problems in a straightforward 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.