WhatsApp Vs. Skype: Revolutionizing the Future of Customer Engagement
These types of tools could make it possible to have a single app or portal through which a customer can request service or support for any product.
Earlier this week WhatsApp announced it is crafting a business service as it eliminates the 99-cent annual subscription fee it had long charged most users for its messaging and calling application.
The WhatsApp folks do not seem to think that they have been very successful with their fee model, despite the app's use among nearly one billion people. In a blog post announcing the decision, WhatsApp wrote, "For many years, we've asked some people to pay a fee for using WhatsApp after their first year. As we've grown, we've found that this approach hasn't worked well."
While 99 cents does not seem to be a barrier in the First World, it is insurmountable to Third World users who do not have access to credit or banking systems.
WhatsApp went on to say that it intends to bring value and earn revenue by entering the enterprise market. It will charge enterprises a fee to communicate with their customers via their messaging app. It explained the strategy in the blog post:
"Naturally, people might wonder how we plan to keep WhatsApp running without subscription fees and if today's announcement means we're introducing third-party ads. The answer is no. Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. We all get these messages elsewhere today – through text messages and phone calls – so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam."
Game-on for traditional contact center vendors.
Technically, WhatsApp does use some components and techniques from WebRTC. It is peer to peer, and uses the Silk/Opus codec. Microsoft Skype for Business users may recognize Silk, which is an audio codec developed at Skype. Opus branched from Silk several years ago.
A note of caution, WebRTC is part of more than 800 solutions on the market today, with Comcast and Vonage among the technology's largest users. Many customers are drawn to WebRTC because it is open source, but they often have the false impression that this makes WebRTC apps portable and easy to integrate. This idea is far from the reality.
What most WebRTC buyers fail to realize is that WebRTC does not define a standard signaling set. What this means is that WebRTC solutions may use common function calls, encryption, firewall traversal techniques, architecture and codecs, but none use the same signaling set. In other words, once you integrate an app with your legacy systems and build an IP and security infrastructure around a given WebRTC solution, you are locked into that vendor. Choose wisely! Many competitors typically populate any technology sector. In most cases, we are familiar with the most successful. Typically, these are the solutions that reach a billion users first. Facebook, eBay, and Google are all good examples of this phenomenon.
But many competitors in the technology business never reach such critical mass. Many of these technology companies are profitable in the niches that they define for themselves, but there is little upside. The primary reasons for this is are a lack of a growth strategy and/or the lack of innovation. The challenge for the enterprise communications industry is that WhatsApp's innovation and growth will be at the expense of other vendors.
Literally, WhatsApp is competing with Skype to be the largest communications service provider in the world and both are now focused on contact center and customer engagement solutions. Would it be nice to have a single app/portal where a customer can request service or support for any product? With these types of tools this is possible. The next couple years will revolutionize customer engagement.