WhatsApp is about to change its pricing model and those companies that don’t put the customer at the front will be paying for it with loyalty and money
February 2022 marks the date that WhatsApp for Business will be changing its pricing from the current notification-based model to a conversation-based model. This new way of costing conversations puts the customer at the centre of every engagement and can be used by savvy companies to fundamentally change customer service.
According to Hayden Callaghan, Product Manager at INOVO, companies need to prepare now for what this change will mean in 2022.
“This is a fairly significant change to the pricing system so it’s important that companies make informed decisions now around how they plan to proceed with their WhatsApp communication channels,” he explains.
How the Current System Works
The current pricing system charges against notifications which means that the business is charged from the start of any engagement. The new model will result in an increase in costs for the business if they continue to operate within the notification parameters as they will be charged per conversation, not per notification.
It may sound complicated, but the nutshell explanation is simple: when a customer initiates a conversation with a company through WhatsApp, the moment the company replies, the 24-hour conversation session starts.
The company is charged one fee for each 24-hour increment or session, and each session starts from the moment the first message is delivered by the business. The first 1, 000 conversations per month are free, giving companies space to build experiences and engage with customers. After that, the fee per 24-hour session will start.
Putting the customer at the centre of service
“The new system is built around the customer,” says Callaghan. “Companies will now have clearly defined time constraints within which to respond to customer queries, if they wait or delay, they will incur costs. Companies that want to save money will need to refine their customer service approaches to ensure that they respond within the new time window.”
When looked at from the customer perspective, this is potentially a very nice change from the days of 48-hour waiting times, or from having a request forgotten entirely. It’s a pricing model that, when looked at from the top puts the customer at the centre of service, and that allows for the innovative company to really dig in and deliver better support. After all, a happy customer is a retained customer.
However, there are some considerations that the business needs to make as it moves towards this refreshed pricing model in 2022.
Automated response systems
“With this change, the business may need to rethink its automated response systems and timings,” says Callaghan.
“Using the current model, if a user interacts with you then automated systems can respond without any effective charge, but the new model will see this interaction incur a cost. This doesn’t mean that companies should remove the automated responses, but rather that they will need to optimise these systems to work faster, to notify the right people faster.”
Self-service and intelligent chatbots
The business should consider using full self-service 24/7 customer channels that use important keywords and phrases to interpret and solve queries at speed.
This can be from responding to the customer while notifying the relevant agent within a tighter time frame than the usual 10-14 hours, to investing in a comprehensive chatbot platform that’s capable of handling customer interactions intelligently, or ensuring that customers are directed to the right people within the 24-hour timeline.
“An intelligent chatbot solution coupled with a more streamlined customer service strategy and framework would immediately solve any issues the company has with the new pricing model,” says Callaghan.
“If your chatbots are optimised to ensure that customers can make informed use of the self-service facilities, then they will stop the interactions themselves as they’ve resolved their queries. This can be further enhanced with smart routing solutions that allow for fully automated channels to connect customers to people faster, escalating now rather than later.”
The new WhatsApp model pushes customer-focused support and engagement to the forefront of, well, every engagement. For many companies currently leveraging WhatsApp as a touchpoint in the customer service omnichannel, speed is not their highest priority. Now, it has to be.
“Those companies that take heed, plan ahead, and put the right frameworks in place will likely not just improve customer loyalty and retention, but improve their costs,” concludes Callaghan. “If they can optimise that 24-hour window to solve problems and provide customers with experiences, those customers will keep coming back.”