WhatsApp for better customer service

The impact of personal messaging on your business

★★★ includes 5 best practices and lots of tips & tricks ★★★

Introduction


"Why I love conversational commerce"

Floris, Chief Happy Customers Casengo

Let’s get it over with: you should know that I sell Casengo, software for better customer service (including a WhatsApp integration). You could indeed interpret everything I write as if I were trying to sell the Casengo application to you. But there are better ways to sell software than writing a book [1].

I just want to share some of the lessons I learnt in the more than 15 years I’ve been active in the customer service field. This book is my two cents worth of wisdom about the influence of personal messaging apps on the way businesses treat their customers. I’ll also be talking about the role of artificial intelligence – and of China – in the messaging landscape. Quite the adventure!

All of these topics have something to do with a magical idea that is coming up frequently these days: conversational commerce.

I love conversational commerce.

I started thinking about it around the time I was preparing to found Casengo in 2011. Turns out I wasn’t the only one[2]. Three years later, conversational commerce had turned out into a trendy but slightly intangible term, well described by Chris Messina, Developer Experience Lead at Uber:

Conversational commerce is about delivering convenience, personalization, and decision support while people are on the go, with only partial attention to spare.[3]

Convenience, personalization, decision support on the go – that’s conversational commerce right there. If it comes into full bloom, I’m quite certain it will make our lives in the Global Village better. But it can only succeed if both the seller and the buyer are on the same page, on the same wavelength, communicating clearly with mutual respect. Customers love brands, but brands need customers. They should take the time to get to know the members of their audience, and offer support tailored just for them.

It’s the marketplace of the old days; commerce just as authentic as the Friday market where everyone knows the bald fishmonger and his son by name, and where the cupcake girl is always in for some chitchat on the weather (followed by an order of 12 cupcakes, because it’ll make her smile).

Keep the conversation going

If you want to use WhatsApp as a professional business tool, it’s vital you’re interested in your customer. The whole conversational commerce thing rests on this assumption. Customer is king. You help him where you can, and you use personal messaging to do so. For the first time in history, there’s a potential direct line between every company world-wide and every consumer with a smartphone, anywhere. WhatsApp acts like an umbilical cord between a business and a big chunk of its customer base. If you provide your customers and prospects with enough nourishment, the bond between us all in the Global Village will not disappear after one transaction - instead, it will get stronger, and the world will thrive.

With apps like WhatsApp, you are in your customer’s pocket. You live in his smartphone. You’re in his comfort zone, and he in yours.

It’s crucial, then, that your customer doesn’t grow bored or annoyed with you. He’s the king of the castle, and will throw anyone out who treats him like a living dollar bill. Be willing to invest some of your precious time in him – and him alone. That means: use WhatsApp as the one-on-one channel it is, not as a social media channel.

This doesn’t mean you have to be in constant touch with your customers. Leave those poor people alone! But when you talk to a customer (be it on the phone, via email, or through live chat or WhatsApp), be at your very, very best.

‘I love you, Little Bing!’

AI might scare you. Or you might find it too science fictional. Or perhaps the idea of robots and digital bots thrills you. Either way, we’ll need it. Conversational commerce is only scalable if we accept AI to become part of our lives. ‘It’s no longer a question of if bots are coming, but how,’ Ted Livingston, CEO at chat app Kik. ‘For the first time ever,’ he added, ‘bots will let you instantly interact with the world around you(link#sources title:[4]).

Yes, they’re here. As we speak, Google, Facebook and Apple are fighting for the best AI experts out there. In March 2016, Alphago (made by Google) beat a human Go champion at Go, a very complex game. Not complex enough for AlphaGo…

And let’s not forget about Microsoft. Those guys allegedly developed a chatbot that 10 million people have declared their love to her. That’s human beings telling a robot called XiaoIce (Little Bing) that they have feelings for her. A very successful Turing Test indeed! I hear Little Bing comes close to Scarlett in that intriguing AI movie, “Her”[5]. Bizarre, for sure.

Once AI becomes very good, very human-like, we won’t know whether we’re chatting with a bot or with a human being – and neither will we care. As long as the voice on the other side feels human to us, and is interesting (or fun, or convenient), we’ll love chatting to brands.

The power of conversation is a thousand times stronger than Facebook likes or Twitter followers. Facebook and Twitter are nice to have around, but personal messaging is a must-have. Build a true relationship with consumers, and watch them turn from perfect strangers into perfect customers, coming back for more again and again and again – even if you increase your prices. As long as you explain why, they’ll stick around.

Sharing = caring

Here’s a bit about me. The first serious company I co-founded, together with my brother Thijs, was Livecom[6], in 2003. It was a sort of Zendesk avant la lettre (Zendesk was launched 4 long years later): an application that allows large organizations to respond to customers more efficiently. Even back then, I felt it’s not the medium that matters, but the customer and his message.

I sold Livecom successfully in February 2016, which now allows me to focus on the company I founded in 2012: Casengo. Casengo started off as a Livecom spin-off. It’s a simpler product, aimed at small and medium-size businesses that appreciate the importance of excellent customer service. By blending the best of email and live chat, we promise our users – especially companies without a 24/7 customer service team – more happy customers. And we deliver.

In April 2014, Casengo raised 2 million dollars[7]. However, we didn’t hit the mark until January 2015, when – during an old-fashioned hackathon[8] with lots of pizza and even more beer – we were the first multichannel support platform ever to integrate WhatsApp. We made this integration available to some of our users in March 2015, well before the big boys did. When I saw them follow suit, I realized that conversational commerce was finally happening.

Mobile messaging: at the center of c-commerce

Good conversations are meaningful messages back and forth. It sounds so simple. And yet it kept Mark Zuckerberg up at night. Messaging is the next frontier, he said back in 2014, during his first public Q&A session[9] at Facebook HQ. That’s exactly why he’d forced his users to install his Messenger app a few months earlier. ‘Mobile messaging,’ he famously told his eager audience, ‘is one of the few things that people actually do more than social networking.’ So he quickly forced his users to install the mobile Messenger app, and bought WhatsApp, just to be sure.

A year later, people were (and still are) using messaging apps more often than social networks[10]. And the smartest companies are, too. They bravely threw a line into the sea of customers, and reeled them in, one after the other. A senior editor at WIRED saw it and wrote:

The company that controls the [world’s] messaging [landscape] will control the future of the way we interact with people and, quite possibly, with businesses.[11]

Mobile messaging – the game is on. Do you want to watch, or play?


We're humbled by the extraordinary ways
all of you
have used WhatsApp.

Whether it's sharing vital information
during natural disasters or health emergencies,
finding a date,
growing a small business,
buying an engagement ring,
or seeking a better life.

We're honored
to be a small part
of what people are doing
to make their lives
and the lives of those around them
better.

From ‘One Billion’, a blog piece written by the WhatsApp team after welcoming their billionth monthly active user, 1st February 2016


Sources:

  1. Like a direct, 1-on-1 message - or spend a bit of money on Google Ads...
  2. ‘Are You Ready for Conversational Commerce?’, February 2014, BIA Kelsey
  3. ‘2016 will be the year of conversational commerce’, January 2016, Medium
  4. ‘The Future of Chat Isn’t AI’, March 2016, Medium
  5. Intriguing movie from 2013, rated 8.0 on IMDB, with Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson’s voice. Must see!
  6. This was before Microsoft’s live.com got popular. I almost bought the URL once. Almost. It still hurts.
  7. ‘Casengo Raises $2M To Accelerate One-Inbox Approach To Customer Service’, April 2014, TechCrunch
  8. Check out the result of our hackathon on YouTube!
  9. Videos of all of Zuckerberg’s public Q&As can be found on Facebook’s Facebook Page.
  10. ‘Messaging apps are now bigger than social networks’, January 2014, Business Insider
  11. ‘Why Facebook has entrusted its future to the CEO of PayPal’, October 2014 WIRED