WhatsApp introduced the WhatsApp Business App in 2018 to aid businesses – both small and large – to connect with customers in a personalised, 1×1 manner. Currently, WhatsApp is the world’s most popular app, with over 2 billion monthly active users, and delivering over 100 billion messages a day
Given that everyone from millennials to boomers in virtually every country are comfortable with the app, most WhatsApp Business users are aware that the app helps them connect with their customers, no matter how old they are, or where they’re located. This article discusses all about chatbots for WhatsApp and how you can use a bot to handhold your customer service interactions.
What is a WhatsApp Chatbot?
Chatbots are a type of virtual assistant. They leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) to interact with customers through a messaging app. A WhatsApp chatbot allows businesses to set automated conversations with clients via the WhatsApp messaging app. Here’s an example of how MakeMyTrip uses the WhatsApp chatbot to provide live updates of trains’ arrival status:
This is just one example of a conversation type that you can automate with a WhatsApp chatbot. With such a chatbot, you can also automate:
- Lead conversions
- Conveying shipment tracking information
- Conveying product availability status
- Processing and responding to customer service queries
Do I Need a WhatsApp Chatbot?
If you are an existing WhatsApp Business App user, you can easily set up automated replies and greeting messages, both of which will benefit your business. But do keep in mind that this is not the same as a chatbot, and has limited functionality. If you can handle the messages personally or through employees, the in-built functionality of the business app may be sufficient for you. However, if your business is growing fast and you find yourself overwhelmed by the number of customer queries coming in, you should consider implementing a chatbot to reduce your burden.
Medium and large businesses definitely require chatbot functionality for enabling seamless interactions with their growing customer base.
How Can I Build a WhatsApp Chatbot?
To build a WhatsApp chatbot, you need access to WhatsApp Business API, which is managed by Facebook. An Application Programming Interface or API is a software intermediary that allows two applications to “talk” to each other and . Here’s everything you need to know about getting access to WhatsApp Business API:
- Eligibility checks, compliance, and limitations
Businesses are not allowed to use WhatsApp chatbots for promotional activities or for marketing purposes. A chatbot is best used for customer service and/or to provide non-promotional notifications. You must also make sure that a direct chatbot-to-human escalation path is available. This means that if a chatbot cannot adequately resolve a customer’s query, you should have a human agent standing by to take over the conversation.WhatsApp also requires you to ensure active “opt-in”, i.e., your customers should either message you first, or you should explicitly seek permission from them before you can interact with them on WhatsApp.For the full list of compliances, check the following resources:
Note: The WhatsApp Business App is designed as a small business solution, while the WhatsApp Business API is targeted towards medium and large businesses. If you are a small business, it may be difficult for you to get access to the API, although it’s not impossible.
- Requesting access:
There are three methods to get access to the WhatsApp Business API:
- API self-request:
You can send a direct request to Facebook by filling out this application form. Be aware that it may take up to 6 months to receive a response from Facebook. This method is only recommended for very large organisations and business conglomerates.
- Approaching a WhatsApp Business solutions provider:
WhatsApp has partnered with 65+ business solutions providers to help businesses accelerate the process of receiving API access. Facebook prefers to work with organisations through its partner network, rather than encouraging the direct approach. These partners act as a kind of API hub, and can get you API access in just 1-4 weeks. They can also help you meet the necessary eligibility criteria, and cover all your infrastructural requirements for building a chatbot.
- Through a WhatsApp chatbot builder:
Chatbot-building companies usually partner with one of the above-mentioned official partners to provide end-to-end services to build business chatbots. This method is especially suited for small- and medium-sized businesses. Many chatbot builders also let you tinker with a sandbox. This means you can start building your chatbot even before you get API access. This way, you can really speed up the whole process, and get a customer-ready chatbot in next to no time.Chatbot-builders usually charge both an upfront fee and a monthly fee to help you get set up. Consider going with a reputed organisation with competence in both WhatsApp chatbots, and other chatbots that you can integrate on Facebook and your website. This way, you can maintain consistency in all your customer interactions, and you will have one unified place to collate and analyse all your business analytics data.
Does Facebook Charge You for Sending Messages Using a WhatsApp Chatbot?
Sending messages is free when you reply within the 24-hour customer service window. Beyond this window, you will only be able to send template-based notifications (like automated shipment tracking updates). If you take more than 24 hours to reply, you can send an active opt-in message like “We have a new response regarding your ticket. Please respond if you want to continue support.” If the customer replies, the 24-hour window opens again, and you won’t be charged.
What Next After Getting Your API Access?
Once you get API access, pat yourself on the back, as you are now eligible to get the “green tick” badge and become an official business account! Here’s how to get your green tick verified.
Now it’s time to start building the bot itself. It pretty much follows the same path as Facebook chatbots. Here’s the roadmap you can follow for building yours:
- Define the goals of the chatbot.
- Enlist the project requirements.
- Create a user persona (or more than one) for the chatbot, design a chatbot flow, and a logic tree.
- Scrutinise your security.
- Build a Proof of Concept.
- Build the full version of the chatbot.
- Add integrations and connect all must-have tools.
A WhatsApp chatbot can be an incredibly useful tool to help you build a personalised connection – not to mention meaningful, long-term relationships – with your clients. While there are some limitations that you must work through before final implementation, you will find that your efforts result in a tremendous engagement opportunity with a massive audience. Going with a trusted partner can help you iron out the kinks and launch a stable, well-built customer service platform that’s available at your fingertips 24X7. Then why not take advantage of it?!
- API self-request: