WhatsApp for Business: A complete guide to a better customer experience

Learn how to provide a faster, more engaging customer experience with WhatsApp for Business and the WhatsApp Business API.

Last updated November 21, 2023

It makes sense that WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app companies use. It’s a must-have for companies that understand just how important asynchronous messaging—the ability for participants to stop and re-start a conversation when it’s convenient—will be in the future.

For companies just dipping their toes into the messaging waters, adopting WhatsApp comes with a host of questions. Our guide will help you understand WhatsApp for Business, the WhatsApp Business API, how to build a WhatsApp chatbot, and finally, how to integrate it with Zendesk.

What is WhatsApp for Business?

WhatsApp offers a business app and/or an Application Programming Interface (API) to companies looking to communicate with customers on the WhatsApp platform. Both the app and API are often referred to as WhatsApp Business.

Who uses WhatsApp Business?

Here’s an eye-opening fact: According to the Zendesk 2022 Customer Experience Trends report, the number of support tickets on WhatsApp rose by a whopping 370 percent from 2020 to 2021. In addition, 31 percent of the app’s users fall into the 18-34 age bracket—suggesting these types of messaging channels will continue to rise as preferred methods of communication as technology evolves.

WhatsApp Business App is geared toward small business owners who experience a nominal amount of support requests—enough to keep the owner busy but not enough to hire a customer service team. Accordingly, they can use the WhatsApp for Business app on a single device—perfect for a hustling entrepreneur who is just starting to build their business.

WhatsApp Business API is for enterprise, commercial, and larger SMB teams managing more customer requests. The API is designed for support teams that are scaling and have outgrown the WhatsApp Business inbox, which we’ll discuss later in this guide.

What is the difference between WhatsApp, WhatsApp Business, and WhatsApp Business API?

  • WhatsApp is a free messenger service made for personal one-to-one or group communication. Unlike standard text messaging, the chats go over the internet—meaning no phone network or SMS fees are required.

    WhatsApp is both the most popular chat app used by billions of consumers and the leading messaging app for businesses. In many regions, including much of Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, the Indian subcontinent, and several communities in North America, WhatsApp is the de facto mode of communication.
  • The WhatsApp Business app is a tool built for small business owners looking to engage with customers and handle a manageable volume of requests. Similar to other social messaging channels, WhatsApp Business has advantages over session-based live chat. It lets customers respond to conversations in real-time or at their own convenience without losing conversation history. That means customers don’t have to repeat themselves and agents can use conversation history to personalize the interactions.

    Despite certain limitations, WhatsApp for Business is free and beneficial for small business needs. It supports voice calling, and while automated replies, greetings, and away messages are enabled, customization is limited. The app, however, is limited to only one device and cannot be shared with your coworker’s team.
  • The WhatsApp Business API is designed for enterprise, commercial, and larger SMB support teams that need to manage a higher volume of customer requests. Most businesses that move to the WhatsApp Business API are scaling and need more capabilities and features than what the WhatsApp Business inbox offers or they need to share access to their WhatsApp Business account with multiple users.

    With the API, you can integrate WhatsApp with your current CRM and customer support software to meet your customers where they are. Your support teams can easily respond to customer requests and queries through WhatsApp—alongside other all your other support channels—to keep all conversations in one place. You can also use AI to deliver faster support and take requests off your agents’ plates.

Why use the WhatsApp Business app?

Research shows that customers prefer communicating through preferred messaging channels over calling. The WhatsApp Business app is a free option for small business owners to meet customers where they are with the right amount of functionality to achieve their goals. When scaling businesses outgrow the app, it’s an easy transition to the WhatsApp for Business API.

What are the benefits of WhatsApp Business?

The benefits of WhatsApp Business

Here is a look at some of the reasons why adopting WhatsApp Business can help your company:

  1. Meet your customers where they already are: WhatsApp has been adopted by billions of users across the globe. Though most users are younger, it’s not limited to that generation as 27 percent of 35 to 44-year-olds are on the app.
  2. Provide more engaging customer service: WhatsApp Business’s rich messaging types such as quick replies, chatbots, media messages, and Reply Buttons make conversations more interactive, which improves customer engagement.
  3. Build trust: WhatsApp Business builds trust by keeping customers’ personal information secure with end-to-end encryption. Branded profiles also assure customers that messages are from a reliable sender, a feature that SMS lacks.

    Additionally, WhatsApp prevents spam through strict business policies and guidelines for outbound messages, including restrictions around certain message types. Customers must also consent to receive outbound messages and can influence quality ratings based on feedback.
  4. Improve customer loyalty: WhatsApp for Business can help you provide personalized offers, membership rewards, ease of transactions, support, and feedback—boosting the customer experience and building stronger relationships, leading to increased customer loyalty.

    WhatsApp for Business is also easy and convenient for the customer, enabling opportunities for deeper conversations that help build stronger personal connections.
  5. Have asynchronous customer conversations: WhatsApp enables asynchronous conversations with customers, which provides more flexibility and convenience for your customers.
  6. Enhance proactive conversations: Proactive, templated messages are a great way to kick off a conversation with a customer to build a personal connection, drive sales, and increase brand awareness that sets you apart from competitors.

WhatsApp for Business features

Both the Whatsapp Business app and API offer rich, interactive features for companies to build better customer relationships. However, the API unlocks more advanced features than the app alone to increase customer engagement, build brand loyalty, and drive sales.

Here are a few noteworthy WhatsApp features for businesses to use:

Business profile

Customers expect a formal, professional business presence with the companies they choose to do business with. With WhatsApp Business, you can create a branded profile that makes it easy for customers to find information about your business and feel comfortable that the company they’re connecting with is legitimate.

Your branded profile can include information like:

  • Business name
  • Address (with an embedded map)
  • Hours
  • Description
  • Category
  • Logo and cover photo
  • Contact information
  • Website links
  • Social media accounts

Within your branded profile, you can create a catalog that showcases your products and services, so the customer doesn’t need to leave the app to find information. You can include the product name, images, price, description, links, item codes, and more.

What a branded profile helps businesses achieve:

  • Adds legitimacy to your communication
  • Boosts engagement
  • Enhances your brand image


The WhatsApp Business app features an identical interface to the consumer version but with a few extra helpful elements, led by the Catalog feature. Catalog enables business owners to create a mobile storefront with up to 500 products that offer customers images, prices, product codes, and a website link. Customers will also see your verified business profile, so they will know that your business is legitimate.

What Catalog helps businesses achieve: Catalog provides a full shopping experience and product links to drive the customer to the website to make the purchase.

Quick replies

Support teams can use quick replies to create keyboard shortcuts for common, frequently asked questions. Your agents will have a fast response ready to go so they can answer the customer quickly without having to type out a brand new reply each time. The replies can include media, like images and videos.

What quick replies help businesses achieve:

  • Faster response time
  • Reduces work for the agent
  • Creates a more interactive customer experience

Media-rich messages

A great way to make communication with your customers more engaging and add more personality is to include different types of media. Media-rich messages make the messages feel more human and welcoming to your customers.

Some examples of media-rich messages include:

  • Audio
  • PDFs documents
  • Images
  • Stickers
  • Videos

Including media can make communicating information far easier and more clearly than simply using text. For example, you may want to send a reminder to your customer about their abandoned cart. Including the image of the product and a link that drives them back to the cart is a great way to nudge them to finish the purchase.

What media-rich messages help businesses achieve:

  • Builds a stronger connection with the customer
  • Adds personality
  • Creates memorable experiences

Interactive messages

Compared to text-based messages, interactive messages, such as List Messages and Reply Buttons, achieve significantly higher response rates and conversions, according to WhatsApp.

List Messages serve customers with a menu of up to 10 options that allow customers to make quick and easy selections. Some uses for list options include:

  • Delivery times
  • Store locations
  • Delivery options
  • Appointment times

Reply buttons present customers with up to 3 options, presented as buttons. They’re great for YES or NO responses or picking saved information, like shipping addresses or payment methods.

What interactive messages help businesses achieve:

  • Higher response rates
  • Increased conversions
  • Personalization opportunities

Outbound notifications

Sending proactive communications to your customers provides transparency and conveys an unspoken message that they are valuable to your company. There are two types of outbound notifications: transactional and non-transactional.

Transactional outbound messages include communicating order details like order confirmations, shipping updates, tracking numbers, payment reminders, and support ticket updates.

Non-transactional outbound notifications can include:

  • Personalized messages based on preferences, history, or behaviors
  • Sales, promotions, discounts, or coupons
  • New product information
  • Reminders, terms of service updates, or policy changes

You can use message templates to proactively communicate with customers and send outbound messages to customers at scale. Templates communicate details from your other business systems like shipping confirmations, support ticket updates, appointment reminders, payment updates, promotional offers, and more.

These proactive messages serve as an icebreaker to start conversations with your customers. Rather than simply sending a ‘do not reply” text, these notifications allow the customer to reply and engage with the company.

What outbound notifications help businesses achieve:

  • Increases conversion
  • Reaches customers at scale
  • Initiates conversations
  • Enhances customer experience
  • Creates leads
  • Improves response times

With the WhatsApp Business PlatformWhatsApp Business and WhatsApp Business API, you can create 250 templates. If you need more than 250, you can contact WhatsApp for up to 1500 templates.

Labels and filters

Keeping your contacts and chats organized is crucial for effective communication with customers. WhatsApp Business App allows you to use labels for easy scannability and filters to find and select your chats and contacts faster and easier. Labels are customizable with text and colors so you can see the status of every conversation.

Some recommended labels include:

  • Needs resolution
  • New customers
  • New orders
  • Pending payments
  • Customer feedback

WhatsApp Business App allows you to quickly add and manage 20 labels so you can start communicating more effectively.

What labels and filters help businesses achieve:

  • Finding chats and contacts more easily
  • Organizing chats into relevant categories


Chatbots have become a crucial part of customer service, offering 24/7 support and providing answers to common questions—while lessening the workload from agents. Chatbots can also use customer data to deliver a great customer experience with personalized responses, automated cross-sell and upsell activities, and help customers resolve issues to common issues.

What chatbots help businesses achieve:

  • 24/7 support
  • Routes customers to the right departments
  • Suggests self-service options, like FAQs and help center articles

Determine your WhatsApp Business staffing needs

WhatsApp is a valuable support tool for customers who want quick replies and to pick up any conversation where they left off. But many businesses are still figuring out how to operationalize it. With our staffing calculator, you can ensure your team has enough support professionals to effectively manage the channel.


Weekly utilized hours for a full-time agent:


Total utilized hours (weekly):


Estimated full-time agents needed:


Average handle time calculator

Solves per hour:


Average handle time:


Disclaimer: The above formula should be used as a guide—it shouldn’t replace a typical workforce management staffing calculator. Teams will also need to consider factors such as breaks for agents, multiple shifts, and different customer requirements.

What are some limitations and considerations for the WhatsApp Business app?

Perhaps the biggest limitation of the WhatsApp Business app is that scaling companies will quickly outgrow the app because it’s not designed for those handling high volumes of customer requests. One sticking point is that it is designed so only one person can respond to customer requests (which makes sense for small businesses), reporting functionality is light, and businesses can’t manage conversations alongside their other support channels, meaning important context can get lost and making it hard to track and prioritize conversations at large. That’s where the API comes in.

What is the WhatsApp Business Platform?

Phone and message bubble

The WhatsApp Business Platform was built for businesses that need to handle more support requests than the WhatsApp for Business app can handle. It integrates the WhatsApp API into your existing tech stack for more complex business needs. Whether your business is a growing SMB, an established firm in the commercial space, or a global enterprise, WhatsApp for Business Platform is the next step for managing messages.

What’s the difference between the WhatsApp Business app and the WhatsApp Business Platform?

WhatsApp for Business comparison

WhatsApp Business app WhatsApp Business Platform
More than one device
Business profile
Verified business accounts
Team inbox
Integration with third-party software
Chat groups
Voice & Video calls

What are the advantages of the WhatsApp Business API?

Unlike the entry-level WhatsApp for Business, the WhatsApp Business API allows for seamless integration of your WhatsApp Business account with customer support software, like Zendesk, to scale customer service. That means handling much larger volumes of messages via tracking and prioritization. The integration is especially useful when customers have multiple social accounts or channels to manage on top of email or phone.


Say a customer initially reaches out by Facebook Messenger or email, then switches to WhatsApp to continue the discussion. The API keeps the WhatsApp messages as a part of the overall customer record to ensure that conversations and data aren’t fragmented across systems and software. Agents won’t have to toggle between different tools and will have context at their fingertips.

The API also helps businesses connect this vital messaging channel with a CRM, creating more opportunities for automated responses and chatbots to handle common questions and requests. Combined with a customized chatbot to meet your business needs, the WhatsApp Business API frees up your agents so they can address more complex customer service issues.

How much does the WhatsApp API cost?

WhatsApp API cost will vary based on the vendor you purchase it from. Since you don’t buy it directly from Facebook, WhatsApp Business API must be bought through a third-party vendor or partner. Those partners usually charge a fee per message sent.

WhatsApp Business API is set up with a three-tier system based on the number of messages you send in a rolling 24-hour period. Here’s a breakdown of how the tiers work:

  • Tier 1: You can send messages to 1,000 unique customers.
  • Tier 2: You can send messages to 10,000 unique customers.
  • Tier 3: You can send messages to 100,000 unique customers.

Pricing example:

If your business is in North America and you’re on Tier 1, you’ll pay $0.0085 per templated message plus the markup fee of your provider. As you move up tiers, that price will drop to as low as $0.0058. Knowing this rate structure—what partners pay—will help determine if a WhatsApp Business API partner offers you a competitive rate.

With Zendesk, for example, the API costs are included with certain plans. That means you’ll spend less time thinking about costs and more about how you can best use the WhatsApp Business API to provide better customer service.

How to use the WhatsApp Business API

Because the WhatsApp Business API is a programming interface rather than a messaging app, integrating it with a customer service solution like Zendesk helps consolidate conversations, interactions, media, and customer data from WhatsApp—and other channels—all in one place.

Some best practices include:

  • Sending compelling, personalized messages that follow the WhatsApp messaging guidelines
  • Maintaining a high-quality rating through good customer feedback
  • Find a good balance of messaging frequency to avoid the illusion of spam

How to get started with WhatsApp Business

Messaging with your customers is the fun part. But there are a few technical things you need to do to get started.

  • Set up a Facebook Business Manager account
  • Verify your business
  • Open a WhatsApp business account
  • Establish a line of credit for your WhatsApp business account
  • Have a command line tool such as Terminal or an app that can perform cURL requests.

Install the WhatsApp Business API on a cloud provider such as Zendesk. After installation, simply update your settings then send out test messages to ensure it’s working properly. You can use 800 numbers, but you must include a country code.

Important: Before sending proactive notifications to customers, you must obtain opt-ins from customers. That can come via your website, over the phone (via IVR flows), or in a WhatsApp thread. Spamming is strictly forbidden by WhatsApp, so only message folks who have already given you the thumbs up.

What is a WhatsApp chatbot?

A WhatsApp chatbot enables teams to leverage automation to assist with answering simple queries using pre-programmed responses, but it’s important to note that WhatsApp itself doesn’t offer an out-of-the-box chatbot. Wondering how to get WhatsApp for Business API chatbot integration since there isn’t an out-of-the-box solution?

If you’re a Business API customer, there are a host of third-party tools that will help you build a chatbot for WhatsApp. Certain customer service software providers will offer both WhatsApp Business API service and chatbot functionality. With Zendesk, you can build a bot in minutes with no coding. It also integrates with all the systems your team depends on, including third-party bots or bots you build yourself.

Person messaging with WhatsApp chatbot

Why use chatbots with WhatsApp?

Chatbots can deflect customers and save your customer service agents time, which boosts your company’s efforts to scale its customer service operations.

Chatbots aren’t meant to solve every issue, so when more complex questions arise, you’ll want to be sure your bot can escalate the conversation to a human agent. Customers get frustrated when they need to speak with a live agent, but there isn’t an option to do so. With the right support software, you can ensure every conversation routes to the right agent for the task and that key context and conversation history are passed along so customers never have to repeat themselves.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a WhatsApp chatbot?

A WhatsApp Business chatbot can direct customers to helpful self-service options like FAQs, related products and services, and automate certain alerts and reminders. Most importantly, it can provide a measure of service to customers during off-hours like evenings and weekends.

WhatsApp Business chatbots can also collect key customer information upfront, direct customers to a specific department, and help them complete transactions or other tasks that don’t require the human touch.

How much does it cost to build a chatbot for WhatsApp?

One of the biggest factors will be the complexity of the chatbot you intend to build and the tools your WhatsApp Business API provides.

To build a WhatsApp chatbot, consider your technical resources. You’ll need customer service software that provides access to the API. With the right provider, the process can become much easier, faster, and cost-effective.

How long does it take to build a WhatsApp chatbot?

In general, a simple chatbot in WhatsApp built with a provider-supplied tool can be up and running in a matter of days. However, building one without assistance may require additional resources—perhaps more than your business is willing or able to field—and can take several weeks. Start by asking yourself a few questions like:

  • Are you building a relatively simple rules-based chatbot or a more complex AI-driven tool?
  • How easily does it integrate with your customer service software?
  • Do you want to automate simple questions, such as FAQs, or is your use case more niche?

Once you’ve set the chatbot up, you’ll want to test it before unleashing it on your customer base. If the chatbot works as expected, simply connect the chatbot to the number associated with your WhatsApp Business Platform account. To make it even more effective, with automation features from Zendesk, bots can be easily configured and deployed on WhatsApp or any other messaging channel.

How to build a WhatsApp Business platform

The right customer service software partner makes the process easy. If you have an existing WhatsApp Messenger account, you’ll want to migrate that first. Simply download the app and follow these steps: verify your business phone number, set your business name, and then build your profile.

  • Find customer service software that offers the WhatsApp API
  • Set up or verify your business phone number with WhatsApp
  • Add your WhatsApp channel to your agent workspace
  • Edit your business profile
  • Start communicating with customers at scale, alongside all your other support channels

Connecting WhatsApp with Zendesk

Two people smiling at their phones

In just a few simple steps you can connect WhatsApp to Zendesk to unlock a wealth of valuable features. This includes all communication channels in one place, automated messages, triggers, 24/7 chatbot support, and more. Included is Zendesk support software that allows service teams to provide conversational support from across channels, through WhatsApp.

To start, you’ll need a verified Facebook Business Manager profile and an approved WhatsApp Business account. Your business operations must adhere to the WhatsApp Commerce Policy and its naming guidelines.

If you need help, Zendesk customer support can walk you through setting up your WhatsApp Business integration.

Ready to demo WhatsApp for Business?

Did you know Zendesk is a turnkey WhatsApp Business Solution provider ? But don’t just take our word for it. Let WhatsApp for Business do the talking.