Facebook has begun to give some idea of what it intends to do with WhatsApp: after presenting a program to give business accounts verified green badges in August, it has now announced a business application designed to encourage communication between companies and their customers, which would initially be free for small or medium-sized businesses, but could involve payment for larger companies.
After becoming one of the costliest technology acquisitions, Facebook has managed to retain WhatsApp’s strong growth with very little management, simply providing more resources. That progress has led WhatsApp to become, in some markets, the standard application for instant messaging, with 1.3 billion monthly users and 1 billion daily users worldwide. This means that in many countries, WhatsApp is one of the best options for communicating with customers, inbound or outbound, for marketing and promotions, or to provide a service. This requires the development of rules and procedures that, as indicated in the verification program, assure that the company will be there when the user requires it, and that it will be able to use the channel for marketing purposes, provided users have given authorization, with overly persistent companies liable to be blocked.
Facebook’s plan is for WhatsApp to be the benchmark for communication between companies and users, developing a series of income streams from it as a corporate tool that many companies will be practically forced to adopt in some markets. This would lead to the development of features to allow companies to integrate WhatsApp into their business or service operation, with features we now consider completely basic in any interaction management tool: multiuser management, relationship tracking with the client and connection with the CRM and corporate databases to contextualize the relationship, profile indicators, links to the knowledge base for repeat contacts, usage analytics, redirection and forwarding functions, automatic generation of certain documents, chatbots, etc.
Facebook has been developing its presence in the corporate market for some time: its application for internal communication, Workplace, already has a growing portfolio of clients, seems to be gaining traction, and although it offers a free version, also has a premium tranche which companies pay based on the number of users. Achieving a significant penetration in the same corporate market thanks to WhatsApp would partially answer one of the big questions we all asked ourselves at the time of its acquisition: how to put value into an application that almost immediately gave up the only income option it had: payment for a download, in order to encourage its adoption, and maintains its intentions are not to include advertising, true to its principle of “no ads, no games, no gimmicks”. With these limitations, achieving a position whereby it could charge the corporate market for a tool companies consider essential to talk to their customers could be a very interesting move, which would place Facebook in open competition with many other similar apps, but with a much higher level of adoption among customers.
For the public, using WhatsApp to talk to companies could turn out to be as natural as using the phone. Twitter has already achieved this to some extent, albeit with a lower level of adoption, perhaps because conversations are very public. WhatsApp is a more natural medium, reflecting more closely the dynamics of customer interaction companies are already familiar with, while offering the public some control to avoid misuse. The Dutch airline KLM published yesterday a YouTube video outlining how their customer service will look like using WhatsApp:
Facebook is preparing WhatsApp as the perfect customer service tool for today’s world. Will our WhatsApp screen soon look like the image at the top of this article?