How to Create a WhatsApp Chatbot: Getting Your Business on WhatsApp

The secret's out. WhatsApp chatbots aren't just a novelty; they're adding real value to business models all over the world. From lead generation to customer care, the uses for WhatsApp chatbots are growing every day.

Creating a WhatsApp chatbot, though, is still uncharted territory for most businesses. It requires access to the WhatsApp Business API--access that is being rolled out on a limited basis.

That leaves businesses with questions about the application process and where to start. Keep reading for answers to the most common questions related to creating a WhatsApp chatbot.

how to create a whatsapp chatbot 2021

Why should you build a chatbot on WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is the most popular mobile messenger app in the world

You want to build a chatbot that people are actually going to use. By building your chatbot on WhatsApp, you're meeting people on the channels they already prefer.

This means that companies that open WhatsApp are going to receive a high volume of messages. Customers are likely to use your WhatsApp phone numbers for queries about everything from general business information to whether their credit card will be accepted.

In short, you will need bots to serve up an appropriate answer automatically, so as not to overload your services team.

WhatsApp's framework enables a richer user experience

WhatsApp is a perfect environment to build out rich user experiences. Instead of relying only on text-based interactions, you can build use buttons, carousels, calendar views, and other rich elements that make things simpler and more engaging.

chatbot-platform-rich-user-experience

The WhatsApp API (which we'll talk more about later) also makes it possible to use purposeful automation. Of course, you can't build a WhatsApp bot without automation.

WhatsApp chatbots increase customer satisfaction

WhatsApp chatbots enable digital transformation

In the wake of COVID-19, building a WhatsApp bot is more important than ever. Consumers are moving online, and businesses are doing whatever they can to operate remotely.

According to new research from McKinsey, 80% of companies believe that their core business model should be digitized to remain economically viable. This paradigm shift requires a new approach to customer communication.

A chatbot is necessary to adapt and hold one on one conversations at scale. Sending messages at this volume requires automation.

Examples of WhatsApp chatbots in action

Although the boundaries between marketing, customer service, and sales are becoming less clear, it's still helpful to explore how a chatbot can improve the metrics that are typically associated with each.

WhatsApp bot for customer support

A WhatsApp chatbot will have both immediate and long-term ROI. In the short term, businesses that adopt a WhatsApp chatbot improve metrics that are tied to business efficiency.

For example, chatbots decrease the response window and decrease costs per contact. This has a significant and measurable impact on a company’s bottom line. In the long-term, WhatsApp chatbots increase customer satisfaction rates, which increases brand loyalty and sales.

These metrics are key to building sustainable and longstanding business models. Other ways a chatbot solution impacts customer support include:  

WhatsApp chatbot for marketing

With more competition online, it’s becoming harder than ever for marketing teams to win the attention–and loyalty–of customers. Ads and other tactics that aren't relevant to customers only frustrate them.

Instead, personalized engagement through a chatbot is the new competitive differentiator. With a chatbot, businesses can effectively:

WhatsApp chatbot for sales

The window of opportunity to influence a sale can be short. A WhatsApp bot is always on and ready to engage with users. Sales teams in banking, ecommerce, insurance, and real estate use WhatsApp bots to: 

While WhatsApp chat solutions are usually seen as a post-purchase or after-sales tool, they are equally as impactful for lead generation.

WhatsApp Chatbot for airlines

Frequently asked questions about WhatsApp chatbots

Is it free to build a WhatsApp chatbot?

Facebook does not charge a fee to use the WhatsApp Business API, but building a WhatsApp bot usually comes with a price tag. You'll need to work with a third-party solution provider with access to the WhatsApp Business API.

Who can use the WhatsApp Business API?

It depends on company size

Right now, the WhatsApp Business API is for large businesses and enterprises. Large businesses with thousands of customers can't use WhatsApp effectively without automation. For that reason, they need to build more complex workflows on top of the WhatsApp platform.

With that in mind, WhatsApp released the WhatsApp Business API. This allows larger businesses to build on the standard messaging experience that WhatsApp offers. Now, you can create a WhatsApp chatbot and the tools you need to deliver great customer service.

Certain industries have a harder time gaining access

API access is harder for businesses in certain industries. The following industries usually have a harder time with the application process:

Access to the API is granted through Business Solution providers

Again, not everyone has access to the WhatsApp API, which means that not everyone can create a WhatsApp chatbot. WhatsApp only works with a handful of WhatsApp Business Solution Providers (BSPs) worldwide. In fact, working with unauthorized solution providers is a violation of WhatsApp’s terms of service.

At Hubtype, we’re proud to be one of the few BSPs that WhatsApp trusts. We've helped brands like Levis, Caixa Bank, Volkswagen, Michael Kors, EPSON, Guess, and other household names develop a chatbot for WhatsApp.

Steps to create a WhatsApp chatbot: 

Step 1: Request access to the WhatsApp Business API

The first step is to request access to WhatsApp's API. Your application must go through an official BSP (like Hubtype). Fill out this form, and we will reach out to you if you are eligible to use a WhatsApp API key.

To date, we have seen the majority of companies accepted by WhatsApp are multi-national or enterprise-level companies.

If you’re a small or medium-sized business, it’s still early to jump on board, but you can apply through Hubtype now. Even if you aren’t approved immediately, we will notify you when the API becomes more broadly available.

Given the popularity of WhatsApp, we receive many applications from all over the world. This means it might take a while for your application to get approved, so it’s best to apply early.

In the meantime, we encourage you to talk with us about how you can use chatbots on WebChat and other messaging apps.

Step 2: Log in to Business Manager

After your application for the WhatsApp API is approved, your Business Solution provider will help you with the onboarding process. The first step will be to log in to Business Manager and find your Business Manager ID.

Step 3: Approve messaging on behalf of your business

Your BSP will send messages from your WhatsApp business account on behalf of your business. When your BSP sends you a "messaging on behalf of" request, you will receive a notification from Business Manager and by email.

To approve this request:

Step 4: Verify your business

After you approve a “messaging on behalf of” request, you will need to verify your business information in Business Manager.

Note: “Start Verification” is disabled until you approve a “messaging on behalf of” request from a BSP. After your business is verified, your BSP will be able to message on behalf of your business.

Work with your WhatsApp Business solution provider to:

Define the business objectives

How exactly will your WhatsApp chatbot help your customers? Consider your audience's unique needs in the awareness, consideration, purchase, and care phases.

A well-defined chatbot strategy will help you set expectations both internally and with users.

Discuss which type of chatbot you'll create

After you've defined your use case, get started with Minimum Viable Automation (MVA). This is just enough automation to make things easier, not more complicated.

The two most common types of chatbots are rule-based chatbots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots.

Rule-based chatbots

In general, decision tree chatbots are a good fit for the majority of our clients. Decision trees help you define the pathway of conversation to guide people to a specific goal.

If you're not sure which type of automation is right for you, read: Rule-Based Chatbots vs. Artificial Intelligence Chatbots: Key Differences.

Decision trees are like flowcharts; they begin with a single question and then serve the user follow-up questions based on the previous choices. They are excellent for solving specific and well-defined use cases. It’s best to never have more than 5 layers of decisions, nor more than 3 choices at any level.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots

Artificial Intelligence is something that should be considered carefully. If your chatbot is lacking context, needs to understand multiple languages, is going to customers about a wide range of topics, AI might be a good fit.

AI complements chatbots well, but unless you have the technological resources, AI should not be a core part of your strategy.

Other best practices to consider when building a WhatsApp chatbot

Manage customer expectations

Your WhatsApp bot should build trust and loyalty. Don't try to fool users. Make it clear when a customer is talking to a bot and when they're talking to a human.

If the customer experience is excellent, it won't matter whether or not customer queries are being solved by a human or a WhatsApp bot. Most people, when given the choice, would prefer to solve their issue faster-- even if it means their interaction is with a chatbot.

Being transparent and authentic about this builds trust and shows that you respect your customers.

Replace text with graphics where possible

Again, one of the benefits of WhatsApp is the ability to use rich elements. The human brain processes images faster than words. So, choose visual elements to replace text where appropriate.

Take advantage of buttons, quick replies, carousel selectors, and list selections to improve the conversation flow.

For example, it is easier to select a date on a calendar view than to write out a date in a message. If there are two choices in a decision branch, two buttons work better than requiring the words to be written out.

calendar selector whatsapp chatbot

Remember that experiences have evolved beyond text-only conversations. A good WhatsApp chatbot uses calendars, buttons, carousels, time selectors, and other rich elements. 

Using these features significantly speeds up a massive number of processes for a customer, and increases the chances of a customer completing a goal.

whatsapp business chatbot features

Plan for the chatbot-human handover

A clear and direct path to human escalation is necessary when using automation. Common chatbot handoffs include:

For responses to complex cases, it's always good to have live support available. Also, if the bot fails too many times before giving the user the option to reaching an agent, your customer satisfaction ratings will drop.

Focus on a seamless transition from your WhatsApp chatbot to a human agent and back again. Prioritize immediate responses and low friction.

It's important to note that WhatsApp has specific rules about making human help available. Direct human escalation is a requirement in all user-initiated messages when a business chooses to use automation.

Businesses should have a direct and prompt human escalation path available for the user in message threads, whether it is a live agent, an email address, or a phone number.

Have an out of office hours strategy

A WhatsApp chatbot helps provide service to customers 24/7. If your human agents won't be available for a handoff, make sure you have a backup plan. At the very least, you'll want to clearly communicate the operating hours of the channel to the customer.

Make sure to collect opt-ins from users

In order to send proactive pushes to any phone number, people must opt-in to messaging. Ask users to opt-in on your website during a transaction, or to update their preferences in their account profiles.

Tip: The opt-in messaging must clearly state the type of information the user is signing up to receive and how they will receive it.

Start fast, scale later

Lean on user data to determine how people are interacting with your chatbot, then adjust accordingly. Learn from the limitations of your WhatsApp chatbot, train your chatbot based on where you're seeing the most opportunity.

For example, if a large percentage of people are asking your bot a question that it cannot answer, it's a good idea to update the conversation flow. Just don't lose sight of your original use case, and make sure that the potential actions your users can take are clear.

Train your agents to collaborate with WhatsApp chatbots

Dedicate full-time agents that specialize in written communication. Agents that talk to customers via text messages must possess specific skills. Depending on your brand's tone of voice, you may want your agents to use emojis or GIFs.

A good practice is to develop a conversational flow guide or brand guidelines for your agents. Developing tools like this will help you onboard new hires and empower current employees.

Use APIs to build better bot experiences

Combine messaging with APIs to deliver exceptional customer experiences. Open-source frameworks like Hubtype’s allow for robust integrations with providers of AI libraries and speech recognition tools. We can also integrate bots with machine learning providers, CRMs, APIs, analytics, and other business tools.

The result of linking a WhatsApp chatbot to other tools is hyper-personalized experiences. Customer details and purchase history can be saved to deliver comprehensive conversational experiences that beat even some of the best customer service representatives.

Are you ready to create a WhatsApp chatbot? Fill out this form, and we will let you know if you're eligible to use the API.

In 2021, 85% of businesses will compete on customer service alone. In fact, 33% of Americans say they’ll consider switching companies after just one instance of poor service.

WhatsApp chatbots help businesses meet these growing expectations. They truly customer-centric communication, which improves experiences in support, marketing, and sales.

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