Chances are, you have a social chat app or two installed on your smartphone. And if you don’t, just ask your kids if they do. Chat apps have become the conversational medium of choice, especially for the new generation. For instance, WhatsApp has over 2 billion users, Facebook Messenger has 1.3 billion users, Viber has 1.1 billion users, Line has 217 million users, and Zalo has 100 million users. And there are many more social chat apps.

As consumers, we use chat to communicate with our friends, but we also use it to communicate with businesses. It is similar to SMS messaging but has more capabilities.

How chat apps and SMS are different:

  • SMS messages are like plain text. Chat apps allow for rich content to be sent, such as video, images, files, and more.
  • Chat apps enable you as the sender to track open rates in addition to delivery rates. SMS only enables tracking of delivery rates

Some of the best ways to use chat apps include:

  • Customer support: Provide your customers with an additional avenue to reach you with two-way conversation support.
  • Reminders and notifications: Ensure your customers are aware and ready for an impending delivery or status of an order.
  • Live updates: Keep your customers and followers updated on the latest in your industry through timely messages and drive traffic to your website through links.
  • OTP: Send a one-time passcode message to customers to increase security through two-factor authentication.

Expanding on how to use chat apps for customer support:

Using social chat apps for support makes sense because you can reach your customers on the channels they prefer. It can also create cost savings for you as a business because you can reduce the number of support inquiries coming in through phone calls. In fact, many call centers report that the number of calls they receive is reduced by incorporating chat and the cost per customer interaction dramatically decreases. A support agent can handle multiple chat conversations at once, which is much more efficient than having an agent handle one phone call at a time.

As you think about adopting chat apps into your support workflows, it’s important to consider your organizational and system design.

We typically see three distinct stages:

Early-stage

This is typically seen with smaller teams using a lightweight CRM or contact center or neither solution at all. For this stage, we recommend looking at chat app providers that can offer a portal that receives all of the messages, allow you to assign conversations to individuals, and respond to each inquiry in the portal.

Also, we recommend using a provider that allows you to initiate contact with the customer.. There are times when you will want to send a message to your customers and not want to wait for an inbound query.

Mid-stage

Companies in this stage typically are using one of the popular support systems such as Zendesk, Freshdesk, or Salesforce with a medium-sized support team. They probably offer voice as a channel for support but have not yet enabled chat apps as a support channel. For these organizations, it can be helpful to use a chat app provider that has out-of-the-box integrations or plugins to your primary support tool.

This way, your support team can continue to live inside their existing tool.

Advanced stage:

Organizations in this stage typically have advanced support software and multiple support teams. They have most likely built custom tools or have engineers available to integrate services. For these types of organizations, we recommend finding a provider that offers a chat app platform through APIs. This will enable their engineers to build it into existing systems.

Just for you to know, 8x8 offers all three of these options. We have an online portal, integrations, and one API for 7 chat apps.

About 8x8 Chat Apps API

8x8 Chat Apps API has a built-in orchestration system to send messages to 7 chat app channels based on user preferences. If all channels fail to deliver, it falls back to sending over SMS. The same capabilities are available through the portal and integrations as well.

This provides many benefits to you:

  • Reach customers on their favorite messaging apps. These include WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, Line, Zalo, and Google RCS.
  • Track metrics to see deliverability and engagement with messages and links.
  • Increase engagement through the use of rich content that automatically adapts to various chat app channels.
  • Ensure deliverability through SMS fallback for times when a user is out of data coverage.
  • Reimagine customer engagement through two-way conversations in multiple chat apps.

How to Integrate Chat Apps APIs without using a Platform Provider

Not interested in using a chat app platform provider? It is possible to do it yourself, but this is much more complicated. Here are the top considerations you’ll need to know about in order to do the custom software engineering integration work yourself and handle each chat app directly:

  • If you desire to use WhatsApp, then you will need to comply with WhatsApp end-to-end encryption, so you will need a Docker container, a SQL database, and to ensure high availability.
  • Identify which chat apps you want to incorporate. Determine if they allow marketing messages to be sent if you desire to do so. For instance, WhatsApp does not allow marketing content.
  • Investigate the opt-in policies for each chat app. For example, WhatsApp requires users to consent to receive messages from you using an active opt-in. This means it must be triggered by a user action, such as entering a phone number or checking a box to indicate consent. If the user initiates the conversation, no opt-in is needed and you can reply to the user.
  • Determine whether you will integrate it into your existing support software or if you will build the functionality as a standalone app.
  • Ensure ticketing and support agent assignment requirements meet the needs of the business.
  • Map the chat apps' unique identifier to your software system’s unique customer identifier. Some chat apps use mobile phones as the identifier, while others have a unique ID they’ve created.
  • Each chat app uses different deliver notification mechanisms, so ensure that your custom logic can encapsulate all of these.
  • Different features are available on different platforms. For instance, some have action buttons while others have payment systems. Determine which features you want to enable on your side.
  • Architect your fallback mechanism. If a user is out of data coverage, then your message will not be delivered until they are back in coverage. If it is an urgent message, then you should create a fallback mechanism such as sending an SMS message or sending through a different chat app.
  • Consider how you will maintain uptime. Missed messages or undelivered messages to customers can be very costly in terms of customer experience.

As you may see, there are many complicating factors if you decide to build it all yourself. Going with a chat apps platform provider like 8x8 enables you to reliably reach customers anywhere with just one API.

We’d love to hear how you are thinking about using chat apps. Reach out to us and one of our experts will respond, or check out our documentation to see the details.