Why Bupa tapped WhatsApp for new customer messaging channel

As customer calls grew in the wake of COVID-19-related store closures, the health fund had its new customer messaging channel ready to go

Looking to create a point of difference on customer service, health fund, Bupa, has launched a WhatsApp messaging channel that customers can use instead of waiting on hold.

It comes as more customers are calling contact centres due to COVID-19-related closures of Bupa retail stores. The WhatsApp service means customers who are on hold are given the option to use a secure WhatsApp message with a real person and instead of speaking with someone over the phone.

Bupa customer service director, Daryl Niemandt, told CMO it made sense for the fund to add in messaging as another communications option when it’s used so much in many people’s social lives already. “It made sense that some customers would prefer to communicate with us in this way,” Niemandt said. 

“All businesses have busy times and using Messaging as an alternative to minimise on-hold times during peak periods seemed like a good place to start. We chose WhatsApp because of its wide-spread use and simple interface,” he said.

Bupa has bolstered the numbers of messaging agents and delivered specialised training on WhatsApp customer service delivery and Niemandt said iInitial results are promising with customers appreciating the freedom to get on with other things while having their enquiry addressed. During the launch phase, WhatsApp Chat invitations have been offered to around a third of all callers with WhatsApp installed on their devices.

“With customer appetite for using the service growing steadily, our intent is to open this up to 100 per cent as soon as possible. We are extremely excited about the possibilities,” Niemandt said.

WhatsApp customer comms channel

Bupa tapped LivePerson for the messaging integration and Niemandt said it's a first for the Asia-Pacific region to have customer queries able to be diverted to WhatsApp via Interactive Voice Response (IVR) which has been made available for public-use. Previously, companies were only able to divert customers to SMS.

While already using LivePerson through its digital sales team, Niemandt told CMO the health fund chose it for the messaging function because LivePerson had a single safe platform that could merge all of its comms channels, such as WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat and web while also protecting customer data. Their platform is also easy to use and very functional and we had already started using 

The Bupa internal IS team worked with LivePerson to develop the customer diversion service from scratch. The collaborative approach enabled Bupa’s contact centre team to feed its customer knowledge and experience into the process. 

Yet, like most of life in the last few months, the coronavirus pandemic has brought challenges to the development process.

“With most of our staff working from home, collaborating on the finer details has been slightly challenging with meetings and working groups taking place over Microsoft Teams and Skype instead of face to- face,” Niemandt explained to CMO. “However, these challenges also presented some advantages with homebound customers looking for more digital options which has accelerated the take-up of the service.”

Refining the message

Looking back, Niemandt said the development has reinforced the understanding that any innovation must be developed with a clear plan around what customer problem is trying to be solved and the intended customer experience with the new tool or functionality. “The actual application is always secondary to the customer,” she said.   

“It’s vital to communicate regularly with your team and vendor to ensure everyone is aligned on expectations and progress. Our team currently schedules daily catch-ups with LivePerson to talk through any issues or ideas.”

Niemandt said Bupa’s received great feedback from customers with very positive Net Promoter Scores (NPS) from its customer research. “Some of the most common call-outs has been the customers’ ability to multi-task while receiving support,” she said. 

As for next steps, it’s more of the same with the fund continuing to roll this messaging channel out in a measured way to ensure it follows the test-and-learn approach.

“But based on early positive results we are keen to ramp up the capability over the coming months with a focus on delivering consistent and quality customer outcomes,” Niemandt said.

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