Mobile operator TIM Brasil is now interacting with its customers through WhatsApp, in the first instance of an operator in Brazil entering into a commercial contract to use WhatsApp Business. This service allows communication between companies and clients in an easy way that fits their daily habits.
The operator has been testing the new feature with a group of customers who now receive their invoices via WhatsApp and, from now on it will extend the initiative to other users and use the channel for communication with clients. The use of WhatsApp Business is part of TIM’s strategy to continuously improve its customer service. By 2020, the company predicts, over 80 percent of contacts with customers will be made in this way.
We have written on quite a few occasions about the challenges faced by MNOs from OTT players, and about the encroachment of said players upon the territory traditionally occupied by operators. And as have also chronicled, over time the most prevalent strategy among operators for confronting this challenge has come to be one of embracing, rather than opposing or restricting, services of this kind, of which WhatsApp is the most dominant in the market.
We find this move from TIM Brasil remarkable because it betokens a new level of accommodation to OTTs. While most of what we observe has to do with zero-rating or discounting data for WhatsApp or co-branding, TIM has gone to the next level, actually adopting WhatsApp’s interface to communicate with its own customers. It can be seen as an extension of co-branding, a “join-them-don’t beat-them” type of strategy, but it can also be seen as an acceptance of the reality that WhatsApp Business actually offers not only the most seamless way to communicate with clients, but also one that most closely fits the clients’ existing habits. As such, it may not hurt the operator’s brand in any way, but rather make subscribers feel more comfortable and make interactions faster and easier. Still, to see this is to be forced to acknowledge that WhatsApp has made itself indispensible on grounds that the MNOs formerly occupied exclusively.