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WhatsApp Automation: A WhatsApp Business Automation Guide

Román Filgueira García
Content Writer, Respond.io
January 6, 2023

One of the biggest advantages of using WhatsApp as a customer communication channel is the possibility of automating repetitive or time-consuming tasks through WhatsApp automation. But for beginners, the word automation might sound a bit daunting. In this guide, we’ll explain WhatsApp Business automation benefits, automation options for different business sizes and how to build your own WhatsApp automation bot.

What is WhatsApp Automation?

In simple terms, WhatsApp automation is the automation of customer conversations on the WhatsApp Business App or WhatsApp Business API. Micro and small businesses can set up basic automation on the WhatsApp Business App from their phone or desktop.

This gets trickier for medium and large companies looking to automate repetitive or complex business tasks like chat routing and agent assignment. In the past, this wasn’t possible due to the app’s limitations. But in 2018, WhatsApp API was launched.

This image shows a visual example of WhatsApp for business automation. Read this article to find out what is the best WhatsApp automation tool.
An overview of WhatsApp chat automation

The API has no front end and has to be connected to a messaging platform like respond.io to send and receive messages. Depending on the platform’s capabilities, businesses can build advanced WhatsApp automation that suits their needs.

Due to the increasing popularity of conversational sales and support, we see companies using automation to facilitate customer communication over WhatsApp. WhatsApp automation is on the rise. But why?

Why Use WhatsApp Automation for Business?

Every now and then, we hear someone complaining because when reaching out to a company, they could only “talk to a robot.” When poorly executed, automation can indeed lead to a deficient customer experience.

However, clever use of WhatsApp automation brings a number of benefits for both customers and company agents. For a start, automated welcome and away messages improve response times.

Generally, it’s not possible to manually answer every single inbound message as it arrives. Setting up an automated response for new inbound messages instantly assures customers their message was received and makes them feel acknowledged.

Some customer inquiries can be partially or totally handled by automation. For example, an interactive FAQ menu can provide automatic responses to common questions, freeing up agents for more urgent matters and reducing their load

This image shows the benefits of WhatsApp automation via WhatsApp. Whereas WhatsApp Business app offers a free WhatsApp automation tool, WhatsApp Business API automation costs money and comes with plenty of extra functionalities.
Benefits of WhatsApp Business automation

Another example would be building a pre-chat survey form to collect customer data and determine conversation purposes. With this information, businesses are able to route conversations to the right team faster so customers can be attended to promptly.

WhatsApp automation is also used to guide customers down the sales funnel with reduced agent input so that only qualified leads reach agents. This saves time and allows agents to focus on genuine sales opportunities.

Perhaps you are wondering what is the best option for your business when it comes to building automation for WhatsApp. In the next section, we’ll cover WhatsApp automation on the WhatsApp Business App.

How to Create WhatsApp Automation: WhatsApp Business App

The WhatsApp Business App has some basic automation features, which are free to use: Greeting messages and away messages. Let’s see what they look like.

Greeting Messages

Greeting messages are one of the most basic WhatsApp automation businesses use. Customers appreciate a warm welcome message, and there are several business benefits to using WhatsApp greeting messages.

When enabled, these greeting messages are sent to customers who message you for the first time or after 14 days of inactivity. Greeting messages are customizable, and you can select who receives them from your address book.

This image shows an example of automation WhatsApp used to greet customers.
WhatsApp automation bot on the WhatsApp Business app: Greeting message

Setting up greeting messages in the WhatsApp Business App is quite easy. You can tailor your WhatsApp greeting message to suit specific purposes and apply recommended best practices to make the most of the message.

Away Messages

Unless your business can guarantee immediate responses to all inbound messages, you should have a way to manage wait time expectations.

When enabled, WhatsApp away messages are sent to customers who contact your business outside of office hours or when you’re unavailable. In the WhatsApp Business App, you can define your availability by setting your schedule.

This image shows WhatsAp automation free with the WhatsApp Business app. One of the things you can do is building a WhatsApp away message like the one in the image.
WhatsApp automation bot on the WhatsApp Business app: Away message

With only two types of auto reply, the WhatsApp Business App is only suitable for small businesses. Medium to large-size businesses will benefit from a more powerful WhatsApp automation tool.

How to Create WhatsApp Automation: WhatsApp API Automation

Businesses looking to implement advanced WhatsApp API automation with respond.io need to fulfill three requirements:

  1. Sign up for a respond.io account
  2. Apply for a WhatsApp API account
  3. Connect WhatsApp API to respond.io

For respond.io users, the Workflows Module is the place to build a WhatsApp automation bot. This module is available in all the respond.io plans.

First of all, you’ll first need to acquire some basic knowledge of inbound conversation Workflows. If you are already familiar with this, here are some of the WhatsApp automation you can build from the Workflows Module.

WhatsApp Business Automation: Greeting Messages

Greeting messages for WhatsApp can be created from scratch or from a Workflow template such as the Welcome Message or Welcome Message & Ask for Email templates.

By choosing the latter, customer emails are saved as Contact Fields for future reference. Email requests will only be sent to customers whose email addresses haven't been recorded previously to avoid asking repetitive questions and annoying them.

This image shows WhatsApp automations built with respond.io Workflows. With this setup, you can automatically greet customers who contact your business via WhatsApp
WhatsApp automation bot: Greeting message

To implement greeting messages exclusively for WhatsApp, replace the Last Interacted Channel in the Send a Message Step with your WhatsApp API channel.

In addition, you can customize WhatsApp welcome messages using Dynamic Variables. For example, use the dynamic variable $contact.firstname to greet customers personally and create a friendly first impression.

Greeting customers is important, but so is managing their expectations. Next, we’ll explain how to use Workflows to build a WhatsApp away message.

WhatsApp Business Automation: Away Messages

To create a WhatsApp away message with respond.io, build one from scratch or choose a Workflow template.

Choose the Away Message template to automatically send a notification every time a customer starts a conversation. The Workflow needs to be switched on and off manually, so it is suitable for businesses that offer 24/7 support and are seldom unavailable.

This image shows WhatsApp bot automation built with respond.io's Workflows. With this setup, you can send and away message when WhatsApp customers contact you outside business hours.
WhatsApp automation bot: Away message

Conversely, use the Away Message with Business Hours template to automatically send a WhatsApp away message outside of operating hours. You just need to enter your business hours in the Date & Time Step to define when away messages will be sent.

So far, we’ve explained how to greet WhatsApp customers that open a conversation with you. Let’s take it one step further by creating a question bot to ask customers questions automatically.

WhatsApp Business Automation: Ask a Question

The simplest way to build a question bot with respond.io Workflows is through the Ask a Question Step. This Step has several subcategories to formulate different question types, such as those with multiple choice answers, text or ratings from 1-5 as responses.

There are multiple reasons why a business might ask customers questions when they reach out over WhatsApp. Some businesses like to have a fallback contact method to reach customers after the conversation is closed, so they might ask for an email address.

This image shows reasons why businesses use WhatsApp Business API automation to send automated questions to customers.
WhatsApp automation software: When to ask an automated question

Although open-ended questions are difficult to categorize and tabulate, businesses may use them to collect qualitative data and insights into customer behavior. For example, a business may ask customers What were the main reasons you chose our service?

To resolve recurring customer queries on the spot, businesses can build automated FAQs using the Multiple Choice question type. This can provide instant answers to common inquiries about pricing, terms and conditions or shipping costs.

This image shows how to send an automated question to customers who contact you via WhatsApp. This is possible with WhatsApp automation API and respond.io's Workflows.
WhatsApp automation bot: Ask a question

CSAT surveys are used to gauge the level of satisfaction a customer experiences after a specific interaction with a company. You can build a simple Workflow to create CSAT surveys and save the answers to Google Sheets or a data warehouse.

Last, an Ask a Question Step can be used to route customers to the right team and auto-assign them to available agents based on the responses provided. Let’s see how it’s done.

WhatsApp Business Automation: Chat Routing and Agent Assignment

Enterprises with many daily conversations can’t simply rely on their agents to manually pick them and resolve them. They need a business solution to route conversations and assign them to agents automatically.

With respond.io, you can build your own routing Workflows from scratch or choose a Workflow template like Multi-team Routing: Shifts, which is ideal for companies with different teams working round the clock that want to assign conversations by shift.

Multi-Team Routing: Multiple Choice by Contact is a Workflow template made for businesses that prefer to route customers based on team functions such as sales inquiries or support requests.

This image shows chat routing and agent assignment with respond.io's Workflows
WhatsApp automation bot: Chat routing and agent assignment

When it comes to automatic agent assignment, Workflow templates will help you get started with two logics to choose from: Round-robin to assign conversations equally among agents or by least open contacts for faster service by agents.

Every company has its own routing and auto-assignment logic. While Workflow templates are a good way to start, they only scratch the surface of what’s possible with respond.io's Workflows.

As a medium or large-size business, you probably use other software for marketing, sales and support. We’ll cover the types of WhatsApp automation you can apply to them in the following section.

WhatsApp Business Automation: HTTP Request

The HTTP Request Step is a Workflow Step only available for Business and Enterprise plans. With it, businesses can execute callbacks to third-party applications to transfer data between them and respond.io. These are some common use cases:

But there’s more: Connecting respond.io to Zapier will give you access to more than 5,000 app integrations. Analytics tools, calendar apps, databases… you name it. And just like respond.io's Workflows, Zapier automation does not require code.

WhatsApp automation bot: HTTP request

We’ve explained the differences between WhatsApp Business App automation and WhatsApp API automation. To wrap it up, let’s discuss which one is the right option for your business.

If you are a micro or small business using the WhatsApp Business App for customer communication, the free in-app automation features may suffice.

However, as a medium or large-size business, you probably need to connect WhatsApp API to an omnichannel messaging platform with a powerful automation builder to systematize time-consuming tasks and handle large numbers of messages efficiently.

To get started with WhatsApp automation, try respond.io for free and connect your WhatsApp API account.

Further Reading

Did you find this reading interesting? If so, we suggest you have a look at the following articles.

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