In March 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic spread worldwide, the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a covid information service on WhatsApp.
WHO decided to use a messaging service that was already widely used rather than create a dedicated app as it wanted to maximize its reach.
WhatsApp Business API
Allowed them to offer multilingual support – it initially launched in 15 languages – and a menu to guide users through available information. WhatsApp also offered the organization the option to issue guidance in rich media formats, including infographics and video.
WHO’s decision to launch its WhatsApp service highlights the reasons other government bodies will find the service useful. WhatsApp is the most widely used messaging service worldwide, with more than two billion users worldwide. In the Gulf region, as many as 80% of residents use WhatsApp.
Government bodies are under increasing pressure to digitize their services, including their interaction with clients. WhatsApp for Business API can automate much of the process of interacting with citizens and residents, and it can do so at a significantly lower cost than SMS messages or call centers, which helps keep costs down at a time when public bodies are under increasing pressure to reduce budgets.
Government bodies and public agencies, like any other organization, must go through an application process to use the WhatsApp for Business API. WhatsApp’s terms and conditions do not allow political posts – as they forbid promotional notifications from private companies - so the communications strategy must be based around services that will help citizens and residents.
An agent such as unifonic will help ensure the proposed messaging fulfills WhatsApp’s terms and conditions.
Users must sign up for the WhatsApp service, so it is not suitable as the primary means of issuing general alerts in the way that SMS or automated voice calls might be used. However, it offers many more options for sharing information, and the application process includes visible verification so users can be assured the information is coming from an official source.
Government bodies will generally see two forms of WhatsApp interaction with citizens and residents. The first will be notifications sent out by the agency, and the second when citizens and residents approach the agency for information.
Messages are typically sent using templates, which are pre-approved by WhatsApp and must be based on an interaction between the organization and the client.
Exactly what notifications are suitable will depend very much on the department, but might be grouped into broad classes – a notification that a document is about to expire, that a payment is due, that expected documents are available to collect or are being delivered, or an acknowledgment of receipt of documents or payment.
For example, a road agency might warn a driver that their annual car license, or their driving license, requires renewal, with information about how to do so – perhaps a link to a website – and a suggestion that the driver replies if they need more information. A residency department might let someone know their residency visa is due for renewal.
Because WhatsApp for Business API integrates seamlessly with existing databases and back-end systems, this notification can be sent automatically at a predetermined trigger –renewal notifications might be sent a month or six weeks before the renewal date, giving people time to prepare the documents they need to support the renewal, for example, ensuring their renewal process goes smoothly.
Client approaches will likely be dealt with first by a chatbot, such as a menu of options from a rule-based chatbot such as the one bundled with unifonic’s implementation of WhatsApp for Business API.
People approaching government bodies will likely be looking to report a problem or find information. A well-designed chatbot will make both processes easy.
Requests for information may guide clients through your procedures for applications, making payments, reporting issues, or for public information such as social distancing.
Because of WhatsApp’s rich media capabilities, you can supply the information as a video, PDF, or infographic instead of text. You could even send application or renewal forms for clients to fill in on their phone, or a link to an online application.
Complex queries may be beyond the capabilities of a chatbot to answer, even a smart bot, and it’s good practice to plan intelligent handover to a human agent if a querent can’t find the information they’re after quickly.
If a call center is under pressure, it’s also possible to move client queries from a call-waiting queue to a WhatsApp chat using IVR deflection – the system will check whether a call is using WhatsApp on their phone before offering the option to switch. This will not only help someone get their query dealt with quickly, but it will also reduce the overall length of the queue.