As the entire humanity is being tested during the time of the Global Pandemic, with each passing day we realize that there is enough to go around for all of us in nature to support our existence around us but only a few human inventions that are keeping us all together and strong.
A massive salute to the health researchers, workers, hospitals, law enforcement, and other utility workers! They keep us hopeful and sane during this time interval.
The people who are not being talked about as much are the people behind technologies like the Internet, Cloud Networks, Cell Phone manufacturers, and messaging services. These people have invented and deployed things and features that have stood strong and shone through these hard times.
If we were to make a list of technologies outside the health realm that has made the lockdown and social distancing bearable WhatsApp would sit right on top of it.
WhatsApp Platform for Businesses
WhatsApp as a platform has become a critical and inseparable part of our online lives.
Enterprises’s constant need for faster, engaging, and secure communication agnostic to the distance between the communicating parties have pushed messaging services to the top of our Smartphone augmented lives.
WhatsApp is at the forefront of this revolution and not undeservedly so. WhatsApp has approached communication to be clutter-free, personal, and easy to use. The ease of use has enabled everyone from 5-year-old kids to send voice notes and pictures and do school work without ever sitting down to learn how to use this platform, to the elderly to consult doctors and communicate with pharmacies, etc without ever being taught to use a smartphone, let alone WhatsApp.
There are no advertisements, no constant inflow of ‘publisher content’, and the feeling of individual space (that was missing on Social Media).
This de-construction of the User Experience in the era of more and more cluttered apps ensures quality and trust in users and has put existing and potential customers on a platform which is one of the 5 most used apps on smartphones today.
WhatsApp has been enabling these conversations for businesses with two specific methods.
- WhatsApp for Business App
- WhatsApp for Business API (WABA)
WhatsApp for Business App
WhatsApp for Business App is a standalone App available for Small and Medium enterprises to create a single point of contact for all their users for support and order taking purposes.
The range of features available in WhatsApp for the business app is :
- Free and open to download for everyone.
- Setting up a business profile.
- Setting up work hours and off-hours
- Setting up welcome and away from keyboard messages
- Setting up quick replies
- Label messages under categories like Existing customers, New customers, Payment related, etc.
WhatsApp does not charge the businesses for sending any content to the customer and responding to messages. The outgoing message from your WhatsApp for Business App will appear to be coming in from a business account but will not appear with Brand name and other branding essentials. The end-user has to save the number in their contacts for URLs in your messages to become clickable.
This setup requires a dedicated and operational SIM card with data and a smartphone.
The business can market their WhatsApp number registered on WhatsApp for business and all incoming queries will arrive at the dedicated handset. The user can open the web extension of the App(exactly like consumer WhatsApp) to answer queries through their computer web browser.
All incoming queries arrive at the handset and must be replied to manually one by one by a human user. WhatsApp allows only one number per WhatsApp profile and connecting to back-end systems like billing, ticketing, document servers, authentication services, etc is not possible in this App framework. End-to-end encryption is available as standard on this service for ensuring the security of messages.
Hence, the SME businesses deploy this solution to provide a direct human connection to its end customers, providing a personalized support framework. However, it does not offer scalability as the volumes and variety of incoming messages grow with the business.
WhatsApp for Business API (WABA)
WhatsApp for Business API (WABA) is a full-featured API framework that is designed to be deployed at scale and enable millions of conversations simultaneously.
There are policy frameworks, communication modes, automation, content rules, display name policy, commerce policy, etc associated with this framework to align with Corporate demands and security frameworks.
The rollout of this framework has been orchestrated using dedicated and verified Business Solution Providers(BSPs) in each country. BSPs have used the Base APIs to enhance their offerings by supplementing the APIs with enterprise-level features like fallback mechanisms, enterprise ESB integrations, Chatbots, etc.
The API packages offered by BSPs allow engagement, notifications, sorting, automating, and responding to customer messages at scale. The API allows thousands of messages per second speed and a secure platform to enable back-end systems integrations for delightful customer experience. The range of features available in WABA are :
- Available on request only.
- Setting up a business profile with a verified Display name and Business Information.
- Setting up chatbots and other automation techniques for around the clock support environment.
- Setting up back-end integrations to enterprise software and databases.
- End-to-end encryption for all messages in and out of the WABA.
- Ancillary services like fallback channel, human agent switching, etc
Yellow Messenger is at the forefront of this revolution and augments the WhatsApp API framework with Conversational AI platform and readymade connectors to all major ITSM, HRMS, Order Management, Cart Management systems. Enabling Elasticsearch, Similarity Search, and Disambiguation on a loved platform like WhatsApp has ensured the adoption and growth of users at an exponential rate, especially during the COVID-19 situation.
There is now a Bot by Yellow Messenger that clarifies the general queries on WABA policies and best practices: Meet ATOM: https://app.yellowmessenger.com/pwa/live/x1589098127071
To maintain security and privacy, we offer WABA as a docker container that contains an API client which is essentially a faceless version of the mobile App that users and businesses can download on individual phones. With the reduction of limitation of Operating Systems and App UIs, the API clients open up to enterprise-level applications like SQL databases, API endpoints, Authentication and Verification services, and other support frameworks.
The WABA comes with requirements of infrastructure, scalability, maintenance, and upgrades of the ever-changing API. Yellow Messenger comes in very handy for offloading the grunt work on them while dedicating corporate’s own resources to research and deploy use cases and strategies.
The WABA framework allows Businesses to go through a verification procedure and ensure that the outgoing messages appear with Brand Name without the end-user having to save the phone number.
Let us now look at the features of the framework and policies.
Communication Modes in WABA:
WABA allows 2 communication modes –
- Customer Support
Notification Mode can be used by Corporates to send out transactional notifications like Alerts, Account Updates, OTPs, Ticket Updates, Order Updates, Transportation Updates, Issue Resolution, and Reminders.
These outbound messages have to be templatized and approved by WhatsApp. Yellow Messenger takes care of this process end to end and has dedicated experts who are in touch with WhatsApp teams 24×7.
Images, documents, Buttons, and Text content are allowed in this mode.
Promotional content is not allowed in this mode.
Customer Support Mode is a rolling window of 24 hours that gets enabled as soon as the end customer sends an incoming reply. This window resets itself as soon as the user sends an incoming message and allows the corporate to reply for 24 hours from the last user message.
This window allows us to introduce automation through Bots and Human-agent connections to keep the engagement levels high.
This mode also does not impose any restrictions on content, formatting, and formats.
Bots can send text, images, videos, and documents that can be sent in this mode.
Consent for WABA
WABA policies enforce taking explicit consent(opt-in) from the users before the organization can send notifications to the users. Consent needs to be taken on 3rd party channels like SMS, Email, URLs, a checkbox on websites or apps, Miss call numbers, Outbound calls, and even physical forms.
Consent taken on WhatsApp cannot be considered as opt-in and only be considered for Customer Support window,
The consent framework defines the policy that the opt-in needs to be clear, containing the WhatsApp logo and checkboxes must not be pre-checked.
If the users do not remember opting-in, it has been observed that users block the number. Blocking has repercussions on number quality which will be covered in the next section below.
A more elegant setup is to provide opt-out options that can be taken within WhatsApp.
WABA Number Quality Ratings
WABA also allows WhatsApp to monitor blocks and spam reports on your enterprise number by end-users. If an enterprise sends unsolicited messages and/or provides incorrect information, users are free to block and report Spam the number. Based on the number of blocks and spam reports, WhatsApp manages number quality ratings.
These ratings also come with specific rate limits ranging from Low to High limiting enterprises to send from 1,000 messages/day to 100,000 messages/day, respectively.
Hence, enterprises are expected to follow opt-in guidelines and messaging etiquette to avoid a reduction in a quality rating.
WABA also exposes message metrics. The enterprises can consume the API to get metrics on the Number of Opt-Ins, Opt-Outs, Messages Sent, Delivered, Read, Failed, and Blocked in a real-time API method.
WABA has been created and launched with a specific audience and use-cases in mind. Any organization looking to extend its support services to WhatsApp needs to look at 5 specific scenarios before deciding on the platform of choice:
- The scale of operation—Number of queries?
- Nature of queries–Structured or Free-text?
- The direction of queries–Incoming from User or Outgoing from the organization?
- Scope of Information–Are back-end systems required to substantiate the User experience?
- Need for account verification–Does the organization have the scale of traffic to be recognized as an Official Business on WhatsApp.
A standing ovation to the unsung heroes who work tirelessly to ensure communication technologies continue to develop and stand tall in fortunate times and sad.