When WhatsApp first introduced the possibility of a business account with small business owners in mind, companies jumped at the chance – not just the small ones. Using WhatsApp Business web to provide customer support became a real hit.
A few months after, the messaging app rolled out its beta of Business API advertising it as WhatsApp solution for large enterprises. While the API offered the necessary tools to automate, sort and quickly respond to messages, only to carefully selected large enterprises were chosen to test this beta solution which also wasn’t that cheap.
However, that was in 2018 which is long gone.
In 2020, WhatsApp API is much more accessible. Still, many small and medium businesses stay faithful, for better or for worse, to managing all conversations with customers via WhatsApp Business web. Others that are thinking about entering the business messaging game are in doubt about which solution is the right fit.
This article presents:
- The workings of WhatsApp Business App on mobile & web
- 3 signs your business needs have outgrown the WhatsApp Busines App (Or it’s not the best fit)
- The benefits to be gained from WhatsApp Business API solution
- Guide to how to manage the transfer
WhatsApp Business App allows businesses to set up and official business account separate from the usual WhatsApp messenger profile. The phone number used for a business account cannot match any phone number used for a private account.
Still, WhatsApp Business is a free-to-download app available in the Google Play store as well as in Apple’s App Store which made it a number one WhatsApp solution for many companies.
The key benefits of WhatsApp web for business include:
- An app that supports WhatsApp web allowing you to manage conversations on a desktop instead of mobile.
- Free unlimited messages (as long as you have a contact number, you can send a message).
- Broadcasts which allow you to send the same message (without any content restriction) to a group of people equal or under 256 at a time.
- Labels that allow you to tag users/conversations and so create your own categorization system (e.g., new customer, new order, order complete, etc.)
- “Greeting” and “Away” messages to manage customer expectations
- Quick Replies which are, in fact, pre-written answers for the most common inquiries you can use by typing a “/” and title of the quick reply in question into the input bar.
For small businesses, WhatsApp web for business is a godsent as it allows them to leverage the most popular messaging app in the world for customer services and even sales. Hence, small business owners can establish a virtual presence without having to build an app or a website.
WhatsApp Business profile opens a space to create a trusting community and close-knit relationship with the customer base.
However, the system starts to collapse when the business grows or daily conversations simply climb into hundreds making it impossible for one agent to keep the instantaneous nature of messaging alive.
Thus, the key shortcomings of using WhatsApp web for business include:
- Having only two screens (one mobile & one desktop) at any given time.
- Inability to share information and data between different phone numbers (e.g. if each company branch/location has its own WA Business account)
- No possibility of multi-agent support
- Using WhatsApp web for business has its perks… the biggest one being that it’s free.
There is no cost involved.
However, just because something is for free, it doesn’t mean that it’s not costing you other resources and opportunities.
You should seriously consider transferring from WhatsApp Business web to API solution if any of these is becoming an issue:
Maybe when you got started with using Whatsapp Business web application, the service wasn’t that popular yet. Maybe your business and customer base have grown since.
Either way, when the amount of incoming messages is too much for you to handle and keep organized in the limited ways available, using WhatsApp web for business becomes a problem, not the solution.
The hundreds might as well be a billion messages… Two tabs (mobile and web) simply aren’t enough to provide appropriate service.
If you are experiencing discoordination in information, responses, and timing it’s probably happening in one of two ways:
- Your sole agent is overwhelmed by the number of requests coming to your business account (as mentioned above).
- You have managed to register more than one number (e.g. by having a separate account for each of your locations/branches or using several unofficial numbers for business as well).
Whatever the case, the information is likely to get forgotten or “lost in translation” and a growing number of bookings, orders, refund or return resolutions go wrong. There is no automatic communication between your WhatsApp profile and your internal CRM as well as no automatic way to pass information between individual agents.
When using WhatsApp web for business, there is no way to centrally oversee and control your agents. Each of then has its own WhatsApp number associated with a specific phone.
Without that phone, you can’t really check anything. If you ever get around to it you need to dig through the accounts and conversations associated with that account individually.
The more and more of your customer support, reservations or even sales rely on WhatsApp communication, the thinner the ice your are skating on. There is no way to centrally uphold and oversee service quality and consistency.
When the three instances above accurately describe the situation you have found yourself in, it’s high time to give WhatsApp Business API solution a chance. After all, a lot has changed since its launch and many providers offer solutions tailored to small and medium business needs.
Here are the key benefits, you’ll be buying into with WhatsApp API:
Unlike WhatsApp web for business, API allows you to associate multiple numbers with your official account and manage all of them (and the conversations associated with them) under one roof.
You can easily check on any of the numbers associated with your account as well as review all of the conversations – even the ongoing ones.
With API, your agents are no longer limited to 256-people broadcast lists to communicate key information or updates about your business.
You free to pre-design WhatsApp message templates for a variety of instances throughout the customer journey and send them out when appropriate. Still, despite automation, you can personalize the notification with the use of “floating parameters”.
3. Conversation Automation
Message notifications are not the only thing you can automate. Thanks to API, you are able to go way beyond quick replies and build case-specific chatbots.
Chatbots on WhatsApp can pre-screen users before transferring them to your agents or act as an end in themselves.
WhatsApp API enables businesses to create multiple agent seats regardless of the number of phone numbers associated with your account. Better yet, these agents can access WhatsApp user conversations from multiple devices at the same time.
The API allows you to connect WhatsApp with your CRM tools and other software you are already using as part of your daily business processes.
This way, purchases, requests, complaints, refunds, and any other data can be logged automatically, in real-time, eliminating the probability of errors and mistakes.
Switching from a free WhatsApp web for business to WhatsApp API solution provider is not a matter to take lightly. Below are the steps to keep in mind as you go along.
Although WhatsApp API hasn’t been around for long there are already more than enough providers to choose from but nor all suitable for small and medium businesses coming to from WhatsApp Business Web.
The main two aspects you need to consider in your selection process is
- Scalability (Affordable starting point and reasonably scalable pricing plan)
- Ease of management (The degree of control and ease of use in terms of bot building and WhatsApp campaign management)
For instance, Landbot’s WhatsApp API solution featured throughout the article was built with the small and medium businesses in mind. Its pricing is based on a pay-as-you-go format centered around monthly active user conversations. This means you can start small and simple and adjust the pricing your business needs to grow, paying only for what you actually use.
It’s possible to obtain API on your own. However, If you don’t have a WhatsApp API yet, Landbot will help you along with the process. Alternatively, you can learn more about how to apply for WhatsApp Business API here.
To apply for WhatsApp API, you need to create a business profile with the Business App first anyway. Hence, if you already have one, you can simply keep the same number and ad more if need be.
However, since Landbot WhatsApp Business manager offers a centralized interface to deal with all the conversations and allows for multiple seats, you don’t really need more then one number if you use WhatsApp for just one use case (e.g.customer service).
Having another number becomes handy in case you want to expand the variety of your use cases by, for instance, launching a conversational marketing campaign, doing a product launch or introducing new services such as shipping and delivery notifications.
The difference between WhatsApp Business App and API is the need for the user to officially consent to be contacted via this channel.
This precaution was put in place to avoid phone number abuse and so trashing WhatsApp’s good image in the eyes of users. It’s called WhatsApp opt-in.
Because of the opt-in, you can’t simply migrate your existing contacts to your new API account as that would be a serious breach of the strict rules imposed by WhatsApp.
You need your existing user base to actively consent to be contacted via WhatsApp by your business under the new circumstances that lift the limits of 256-member broadcast lists and enable automation.
So, when transferring from WhatsApp Business web to API, you need to think about how to gain these opt-ins and rebuild your contact base.
There are a few rules to follow like:
- The opt-in must be active (not automatic – users have to click something or input their number manually)
- It has to happen outside WhatsApp
- It must feature the official WhatsApp name and logo
- Clearly state what kind of communication the user is agreeing to receive
You can find a detailed description of what is WhatsApp opt-in and how it works in one of our tutorial articles.
Still, don’t be put off, opt-in only ensures the messaging app will retain the quality of UX as more and more businesses join the platform. Also, there are plenty of creative ways to collect opt-ins such as:
- Campaign-driven landing page
- Email campaign
- Conversational campaign (use web chatbot to collect opt-ins for your WhatsApp chatbots)
4. Create Message Templates for Different Occasions
The next key step on your wat to WhatsApp automation is creating your Highly Structured Messages (HSM) – more commonly known as message templates.
Drafts you create will be sent to WhatsApp for approval. Indeed, nothing in API is without rules and this is no exception. All in all, the app tries to avoid being too sales and bothersome. Remember these rules only apply to automatic notifications. Once the user replies, your bot or agent is free of the restrictions.
But still, it’s always good to study up on the message template rules in more detail.
For example, Landbot has an automatic process to submit them on your behalf. So, all you need to do is fill out a simple conversational form.
5. Create Bots to Automate Processes
Last but not least, you need to start creating your first WhatsApp bot. Landbot interface makes the process completely code-free whether you want to:
- build a true AI bot driven by natural language processing
When it comes to WhatsApp bots you have two options. You can design a bot experience that is an end in itself. Or, you can also use the chatbot as a screening system before transferring users to your human employees.
If your life with WhatsApp web for business is getting extremely difficult and you are experiencing any of the issues mentioned above, it’s time for a change.
People love using messaging apps but that’s a way to get away with bad service. Quite the contrary, the popularity of WhatsApp makes the user standards for services on this channel even higher.
While a year ago, there was no way a smaller business could get its hands on an API solution, times have changed. You better take the chance!