Earlier this month, Whatsapp for Business (which is owned by Facebook) announced it will be launching its own API that will let businesses respond to their customers through messages, for free--with just one minor caveat that is genius. If the business fails to respond within 24 hours, it must pay per message to respond back to its customers.
If a customer reaches out to a company through the app, the clock starts. Like a childhood game of freeze tag, the business must respond within a day, or they will have to pay a fixed fee per message.
This strategy may seem innocent enough at first. However, I can assure you this is leading somewhere, and it's going to be big. Here's why: The more customers get used to immediate responses from businesses, the more likely they are to use and prefer WhatsApp to all communication.
Facebook isn't necessarily interested in the amount of money it receives from businesses who respond slowly. It would probably prefer not to charge you at all. The more active users it has, the more ads it can serve, and the more money it can make.
That's why this is a genius move. Customers are happier, businesses make more money and Facebook makes more money from ads. It's a win-win for everyone involved.
It should also teach us a few things about how we run our own businesses. Here are the three biggest lessons I'm planning on taking away from this announcement:
Use the tools that your customers use, and you will make them happier.
Customers can use WhatsApp to track things like shipment for deliveries, quality care questions, and more. This makes it easy for businesses to make the switch to using it as a preferred means of contact over outdated mediums such as customer call centers.
Imagine sending a text and getting a quick response as opposed to spending thirty minutes on hold with a call center just to change the login password for your favorite online retailer. There are countless times that I wish I could just text businesses during meetings.
Place a bigger focus on the tools your customers are using and adapt them to communicate with them more effectively. You can easily start to see where this is going.
Responsiveness is a great sales tactic.
The announcement cited two specific metrics that will now be offered to users: "conversations started" and "messaging replies."
Facebook is almost purely data-driven. It doesn't make decisions in the dark, so when I saw these metrics, I knew Facebook confirmed something we've all known for a long time: You need to communicate quickly and often to your customers.
Active conversations with customers drive new business, plain and simple. Facebook knows that sending emails is a traditional approach that sets the tone that responses aren't needed right away. Messaging is a great tool to interact with your customers and not having them refresh their inboxes every five minutes.
Embrace real-time messaging with your customers--not just your friends and family.
Echoing back to Mark Zuckerberg's meme-worthy response to Senator Orrin Hatch's question of how Facebook makes money, I think this is a good move for the social media giant. (If you don't get the reference I just made, it's worth a thirty-second laugh, so Google it.)
Aside from just earning them revenue, this could become something much bigger for new advancements in customer service and sales. If this takes off it could open up new revenue streams and inspire new emerging companies to think about customer interactions differently.
With A.I. making new advancements happen faster, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for automated interaction and getting customer needs met more efficiently and expediently. Embrace the new ways to communicate with your customers.