Chatting on WhatsApp is the only thing our elders are doing online.

Pratik Jain, Co-founder, Morph.ai

Convenience, Automation & Effectiveness. These 3 words come to my mind when someone asks ‘What is a WhatsApp Chatbot?’. Automation has always been an ingredient to any chatbot. But, convenience is where WhatsApp is acing the chatbot sport. Ok, let me start from the beginning so that the uninitiated are also on the same page.

What is a Chatbot

You can simply refer to Wikipedia for the most appropriate definition of Chatbot. Let me tell you what a chatbot is, not from a technical standpoint, but from a typical user’s point of view. For me, a chatbot is a technology that saves me from complicated navigation of any platform (be it an app, website, software, technical tool, or anything else). The best part of chatbot is that I can do just everything, deal with every challenge with conversations.

The term ChatBot was coined by Michael Mauldin in 1994. However, the first chatbot-Elizza was built way back in 1966. Chatbots started gaining popularity when Apple launched Siri on iPhones. Google, Samsung, and Amazon soon followed the trend with their own chatbots and eventually left Siri behind. They even opened their NLP engines for 3rd party companies to build their own chatbots. The most popular NLP engine is Google Dialogflow which is powering most of the chatbots in the world today.

A typical chatbot essentially has 2 parts, One – the algorithmic chat flows, Two – AI/ML-based query handling using NLP. Also, you can add a third element which is platform familiarity/exclusivity. Algorithmic chat flows define a structure for the conversation to proceed. Chat flows are more of decision trees, the bigger the tree the better will be the chat experience. Chat flows find usefulness in business processes like marketing, customer service, e-commerce, and many other use-cases. NLP handles more open-ended chats where no predefined structure is there. Platform familiarity/exclusivity is about the ease with which a chatbot can be implemented on a specific platform. Although most chatbots today are platform agnostic, I believe platform-exclusive bots give a more engaging experience to the user.

Why is there a buzz about Chatbots?

No matter how sophisticated or powerful our thinking machines become, there still will be two kinds of people: those who let the machines do their thinking for them, and those who tell the machines what to think about.

C.J. Lewis

Chatbots are at a stage where the internet was in the 2000s. Investors placed huge bets on the internet companies, some paid off while most just ended up as victims of the dot-com bubble. So why so much buzz around chatbot? It’s because of the possibility it brings to this world. Some experts say this decade will be of chatbots. There is a lot to happen in the chatbot world – vernacular bots will be built, machines will become more humanly, omnichannel integration of bots, and many more crazy things. In short, we are moving towards a world where humans will not do things, they will just say things to chatbots and it will be done. We are just two hurdles away, One, when machines acquire the human level of conversational intelligence, Two, when machines are integrated well to the network to perform all the tasks.

The 2000s was about the internet, 2010s about smartphones, 2020s is about chatbots. And, the 2030s will be the end of human civilization as we know it. Why? That is a different discussion altogether 😜.

Nobody
Photo credit – macrovector

If you look at human history, no matter how back you go you will find one inherent nature of human beings, i.e. we love to talk. In fact, every human being likes to talk to someone who is more intelligent than them (Otherwise we would be talking to dogs and trees and monkeys). Search engines became popular for the same reason. And now chatbots, which are getting more intelligent every day – will rule the decade for the same reason. Thus the buzz.

Website, Messenger and now WhatsApp Chatbot

Website chatbots were the first generation of bots used for business purposes. Today, almost all major B2C(Business-to-Consumer) companies feature some form of chatbots on their website. The website chatbots are equipped with ERP integrations and they can do various tasks like providing frequently asked information, take order requests, open accounts, apply for loans, etc. The chatbots were also featured successfully on some of the popular mobile apps. However, a big problem with Website/App chatbots was, consumers had to open the website or install the app in order to use the chatbot. To solve this challenge, companies came up with messenger chatbots, which became hugely popular among consumers from developed countries. The primary challenge solved by messenger bots was, consumers had FB Messenger app already installed on their phones. All consumers had to do is to open FB messenger and chat with the bot. Many brands like Lidl and Nissan are leveraging messenger bots to engage with their customers. However, the Facebook messenger also has one major disadvantage, i.e. they show advertisements inside their platform.

WhatsApp has solved all the challenges when it comes to instant messaging, it is convenient, it has an ad-free platform, it is secure, and it is massively popular. Seeing an opportunity, WhatsApp opened its platform in August 2018 for businesses to leverage the ecosystem that has evolved over the last decade. In fact, WhatsApp business is getting adopted so fast that 100s of companies will have tested their chatbots on the platform by the time you are done reading this article.

The technical process for building a WhatsApp Chatbot

There is a series of steps one has to go through in order to build a WhatsApp bot. You can go through this article on Chatbots Magazine to learn the detailed process involved. Let me summarize the process in brief

  1. Apply for WhatsApp API on Facebook’s official page or through a partner of WhatsApp. I would recommend you to go through a partner to save yourself from rejection.
  2. Choose an API service provider that will provide you with message credits and handle the infrastructure.
  3. After you get access to the API, activate your phone number, build WhatsApp integration on your ERP systems.
  4. Build the chatbot – a lot of coding work here
  5. Test the chatbot and make it live

The above process may look simple, but trust me it is not worth the time and energy you will spend on doing everything on your own. The easier alternative is the No-coding way of Building WhatsApp Chatbot, where you have to choose a Chatbot provider who will also take care of API application, activation, chatbot building, and other complexities involved. You can also try Morph.ai, which is a powerful self-serve platform where you can build WhatsApp bots from scratch in just 5 minutes.

Easy(No-coding) way of Building WhatsApp Chatbot

Search for it on google and on the first page you will find the top platforms offering WhatsApp Chatbots. Try at least 3 of them before finalizing your chatbot provider. Here is the step-by-step process you can follow to explore any of the WhatsApp bot builders (Note: I will be using Morph.ai’s platform for demonstration purpose, do not take it for promotion):

WhatsApp Chatbot Tutorial

1. Search on Google for WhatsApp Chatbot, choose any one of the providers and Signup

2. After you’ve signed up, before proceeding anywhere you must check if they have proper customer support infrastructure. Try the chat option which usually appears at the bottom right corner of the application.

3. Without wasting much of your time, check where you can build and test your chatbot

4. Build your chat-flow using drag-n-drop menu

5. Test the chatbot you have just build on your mobile WhatsApp

6. If you like the platform then proceed with payment and WhatsApp activation. Otherwise, you can go back to google and start it all over again with a different platform. Try at least 3 platforms before you come to a conclusion.

Read our article A complete guide to WhatsApp Business in 2020 before you proceed on building a chatbot for your business.

WhatsApp Chatbot Building Strategy

Now that you know how to build a WhatsApp bot and where to build it, the next step is to have a proper action plan before you proceed to execution. Here we will discuss a solid chatbot building strategy with some key metrics to look at.

1. Size of your business

In my experience, the free WhatsApp Business App is perfect for Micro and Small businesses. However, building a chatbot on top of it may not be a good idea merely because the expected message volume is going to be low and can be managed easily through the app.

Enterprises that are medium and large in size should ideally go for the WhatsApp API and build a chatbot on top of it. There is no golden rule though, but a good number to start with 500 repeat clients or 5000 one time purchasers. If your client base per month is more than that, then it makes business sense to go for a chatbot on WhatsApp.

2. WhatsApp Penetration:

What portion of your clients are on WhatsApp? If you are operating in markets like India where WhatsApp is installed on everyone’s smartphone, you can expect up to 90% of your users to receive your messages. However, these statistics differ from business to business even operating in the same geographical area. Unless a minimum of 50% of your customers are on WhatsApp, it doesn’t make enough sense to create a chatbot. This is solely my opinion and I would be happy to be proved wrong.

3. Promotional Messages:

WhatsApp has strict guidelines that prohibit from sending promotional messages to customers. Hence, if you are planning to blast advertisements to your prospect list, kindly drop your ambitious idea. Now you may be thinking – what else I am gonna do if I cannot send promotional messages? Trust me, you can do magical things with WhatsApp. A starting point would be shifting focus from advertisements to customer experience.

4. ROI from WhatsApp:

Typically you would be paying ₹0.15 for session messages and ₹0.60 for post-session messages in India (Note: Session messages are those sent within 24 hours of last response from the customer, everything else is post-session). So, it should have considerable ROI prospects otherwise the Chatbot building exercise will not be a profitable venture.

4. Aim for Inbound Messages:

As you have seen that ‘session messages’ cost you less than a quarter of what ‘post-session messages’ cost, your goal should be to initiate the chat from the customer’s end. Some of the best ways are A. Display chatbot on Website/Mobile App, B. Publish QR codes at all customer touchpoints, C. Send a link to open the chatbot via SMS/Email.

6. Objective:

Have a clear agenda on what you want to achieve. Most companies I have worked with planned to streamline their customer support and bring convenience to customers through WhatsApp. With a well-defined scope of the project, you not only shorten the timeline but also create a solid chatbot that serves your intended purpose.

7. Rough Flow Chart:

Once your plan is clear, create a rough flow chart of the conversation tree you want to implement in the chatbot. Be as detailed as possible and do not forget to mention integration requirements at each node/block of the diagram.

8. Integration Requirements:

Connect with the customer service team of the WhatsApp chatbot platform and confirm if they support the required WhatsApp integrations with your CRM, Support Desk, ERP, Marketing Cloud, Analytics Module, or any other tools that your company may use.

9. Training Plan

Make a training plan to teach your subordinates or concerned teams on how to use the multi-agent WhatsApp interface to have a one-on-one chat when queries go beyond bot’s scope. Also, train them on how to modify the chat flow when required and build FAQs.

10. Market Test:

Before launching the chatbot to the public, you must have provisions for beta-testing. Choose a segment of your customers, ask them to try the chatbot, and find areas of improvement. My suggestion would be to test it for one week at least before launching it to the public.

11. Tell the world:

Now that you have figured out everything from a technical angle your job is 50% done. You need a solid PR strategy to tell your audience that you are now available on WhatsApp. This is the most important step in this entire exercise. Sit with your marketing manager and draw out a solid plan. Assign a sizeable marketing budget for promoting your soon-to-be-launched WhatsApp bot.

Expected Benefits from WhatsApp Chatbot

At the beginning of this article, I had already mentioned the 3 key benefits of WhatsApp Chatbot, i.e. Convenience, Automation & Effectiveness. Instead of giving you pointers, let me tell you some of the interesting examples I have come across.

  • A major food delivery app reduced its average ticket resolution time by 63% after implementing WhatsApp
  • An online marketplace for new and used cars is getting 45% of its business from WhatsApp alone after launching the chatbot
  • A major placement consultancy from India reduced average job search time for candidates by 34% and started receiving more relevant applications after launching WhatsApp-only strategy.
  • A major pharma retailer reduced-order placement time by 27% and started receiving 42% more orders after launching WhatsApp bot
  • An e-learning company improved attendance rate by a whopping 281% for its live classes after it started sending notifications on WhatsApp.
  • A premium hotel chain from India got 54% more monthly bookings after it implemented WhatsApp only strategy for all customer interactions.
  • A major flight ticket booking app started getting 14% more sales after it introduced chat-based ticket booking on WhatsApp

Key Takeaways

We are certainly living in interesting times when consumer behavior is changing rapidly. Now, customers are more open to experiments. The Coronavirus epidemic is forcing businesses to reinvent themselves. At this juncture, I can see a lot of possibilities for brands to become more attached with consumers through conversations.

Having said all that, I would to leave you with 3 key takeaways from this article, One – Most of your competitors are going to adopt WhatsApp, sooner or later, Two – Early adopters will get a headstart which will help them acquire more customers and their brand value will plummet, Three – Even if all businesses adopt WhatsApp, not all of them will be able to provide the best customer interaction experience.

I am sure you are aware of enterprises like IXIGO, MakeMyTrip, OYO, and BookMyShow are using WhatsApp API to communicate with their customers. Read our article 20 Businesses which are WhatsApping in 2020 and check if any of your competitors are already leveraging WhatsApp Chatbots.

About Morph.ai

Morph.ai is a self-serve platform where enterprises can build WhatsApp chatbots without getting into technical complexities. It is one of its kind and state of art. Morph’s vision is to onboard all enterprises on WhatsApp so that consumers are benefited from Convenience, Automation & Effectiveness. Sign up to try our platform for free. We would love to hear your feedback or you can simply send us an unboxing video just like this.