WeChat Work adds Customers

The latest update to WeChat Work (WCW) brought several new updates that continue to enhance interoperability with WeChat. You can read the original posts in Chinese for updates to the user apps and admin backend.

With this latest round of updates, the ‘external contacts’ (外部联系人) functionality has been re-branded as simply ‘Customers‘ (客户). Tencent has clearly figured out that their consumer messaging monopoly in China via WeChat is a clear path to own enterprise messaging too. Their biggest enterprise competition is Alibaba’s Ding Talk (钉钉) messenger. Alibaba will never be interoperable with WeChat. Full stop. If your customers are all using WeChat, and enterprise messaging products are basically at feature parity, why would you choose anything other than WeChat Work?

WeChat Work continues to remove friction when adding WeChat contacts as customers

Tencent made the case at their developer conference in January that this is just the natural evolution of WCW as a connector (连接器). This is the discussed in the video below (all videos are Chinese-only, no sub-titles), framing it as an annual progression of connections:

  • 2016: Employees to Employees (v1.0)
  • 2017: Employees to office tools/apps (v2.0)
  • 2018: Employees to WeChat

Getting deeper into Tencent’s motivations, the Father of WeChat, Allen Zhang, spent a few minutes of his marathon four-hour sermon musing on the high-level concept of “People as a Service” (人就是服务). Over a couple examples, he notes that talking directly to a service provider is often what the customer really wants (跟一个人交互是比跟别的所有的都要更方便的). Beyond providing the consumer and business software that makes that connection technically possible, WeChat also plays a trust-keeper role by verifying the identity of service providers.

Finally, the third video gives some, admittedly vague, insight into how the team is executing on this mission; trying to answer the age-old question of how to scale service without sacrificing quality. Their answer is to think about people, service, and service tools as one product (你要把服务和人整合在一起…工具和人是一体的).

So what does that look like so far in the product? The WCW v2.7 update added a Contact Customers app in the Workspace. The app opens to a graph reporting how many customers you personally have added, and for admin users, how many your team has added in total.

Personal and team dashboard tracking customers added; customer list; sharing customer contacts with other employees

Several related features are accessible from the Customer app menu in Tools and Settings sections. There is a “Contact Me” (联系我)feature that allows you to generate personal or shared/team QR codes and Mini-Program contact buttons. From Allen Zhang’s example in the video, the pain point of saving many different contacts for dozens of couriers, MP developers could use this button feature to let customers in a Mini-Program contact their couriers using WeChat Work.

For Mini-Programs, after you generate the MP feature on the WCW backend, you can add it on your MP backend as a third-party plug-in or code the button yourself. When customers scan a shared code, the next employee in the rotation is selected as their contact.

Generate personal and shared QR codes and Mini-Program contact buttons

You can set a Welcome Message for your company that greets customers after they add an employee as a contact.

A simple but useful Quick Replies feature has been added to Customer chats for storing replies to frequently asked questions.

LEFT: Tap the + button when chatting with customers and select Quick Reply, RIGHT: Tap to load stored text to your chat

Customer profiles get a small upgrade with space for phone numbers and images — the perfect place for storing a shot of the customer’s business card.


Other updates

Tap the + button in an internal chat to reveal a new meeting invitation feature that lets you quickly share and track RSVPs.

Large enterprises with multiple business units can now more easily manage their workforce. Below, it’s now possible to easily switch between multiple verified entities when adding users or setting up their externally facing public profiles.

Select between multiple entities for employee public profiles.

And in a move likely being piloted before it appears in WeChat, WCW now lets you search your sticker collection.

Finally, external group chats get a few upgrades like the ability to search members by company name, the ability to transfer the group admin role, and the ability to enable/disable invite-only mode for the group. You can also search for group chats by listing multiple members’ names.




What’s New in WeChat Work v2.6.1

WeChat at Work v2.6.1 went live earlier this week. You can read the original posts in Chinese for updates to the user apps and admin backend.

Interoperability with WeChat

For our non-China readers, a big update to note is that real name verification no longer requires a Chinese ID. You can now use a passport, drivers license or other national ID plus your mobile phone statement covering the last three months. Real name verification is required to add external WeChat users as contacts. As opposed to the Chinese process which is instant and done with facial recognition, non-Chinese citizens will need to wait up to three business days for documents to be approved. (At the time this article went to press, our user had been waiting two business days with no result yet.)

The previous 2.6.0 update introduced group chats with a mix of up to ten WeChat external contacts and Work WeChat employees.

Work business cards get a spiffy makeover. Check them out:

Internal Customer Service

There is a new feature on the backend to enable and manage internal customer service contacts (“Employee Services”) to your Work WeChat.

Once turned on, employees with visibility to the service will see a folder for Employee Services:

Inside the folder are all of the customer service contacts you create. You can create multiple contacts and assign multiple employees to each role.

Employees who are designated as internal customer service providers will see employee service chats show up in their service app.

An employee service chat:


You can now create and share simple surveys from within a group chat.

The creator of the survey can export the data from the results page.

Chinese interface:

Other updates

The latest version of the desktop app now supports search across all chat history. Previous versions required you to search within a specific thread or group chat.

The Windows app gets the ability to give remote access to your desktop, eg. for IT support, allowing another employee to take over control of your computer.

For security purposes, all remote access events are logged on the Work WeChat admin backend with relevant metadata.

The do-not-disturb controls (“Take a Break” feature) get a small update so you can make exceptions for incoming voice or video calls.

There is an all-new help center with lots of updated FAQ content, but this is currently only available in Chinese.

Finally, you can now use your business online banking interface to charge your WeChat Work phone plan.

Connect Official Accounts to WeChat Work

Install Grata’s apps in your WeChat Work account to connect customers on your WeChat subscription and service apps to your mobile workforce for on-demand customer service and sales. More details at or check out Grata’s comprehensive bilingual Guide to WeChat Work.

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WeChat and messaging


Building simple, customer-focused businesses on WeChat

WeChatrepreneur Mikey Chee shares his story building a simple, customer-focused business on WeChat, crossborder brand management for celebrities, storytelling, and how to migrate followers from Weibo to WeChat.

Listen and subscribe to WalkTheChat and Grata’s weekly English-language podcast on all things China Digital Marketing. Available on iTunes and Stitcher.

Customer Service

How We Measure Customer Service Matters

If there are still any doubters out there regarding the generational shift from call centers to chat-based contact centers, take a look at this survey data from analytics firm Dimension Data. Preference for phone-based customer service drops from 90.4% in the oldest age-profile to 12.3% in the youngest age-profile:

blogpost 2 graphic of channel popularity by age profile

As we state in big bold print on our website: your next generation of customers isn’t going to pick up the phone to call you. At the same time, 80% of businesses complain that the technology isn’t keeping pace with these changes in consumer demand. With all of the change that is coming to call centers, we’ve been thinking recently about how the way we measure customer service success changes as well. As we move to chat and mobile messaging interactions, the qualities we measure, such as customer satisfaction and agent performance, do not change, but the way we measure them does.

Consequences of using the wrong metrics

As discussed in our previous blogpost, the fact that mobile messaging is asynchronous drastically devalues two of the traditional call center metrics: ticket resolution and handling time.

Using outdated agent performance metrics not only gives us an inaccurate picture of our service, but also risks promoting the wrong behaviors in our agents. For example, if agents know they are being judged by their handling time, we often see them push for an unnatural close of the conversation. We occasionally even have clients ask us to implement automated close messaging, such as: Is there anything else we can help you with? If you don’t respond in five minutes, this conversation will automatically close. Not only is this a poor customer experience, there’s also just no benefit to pressuring the customer to end a chat. Chats only “close” from the agent’s perspective, not from the consumer’s perspective.

While we still report handling time, we caution clients not to rely too heavily on this metric. Average handling time gives context to customer experience, but it’s imprecise visibility into utilization of contact center resources. A lot of what is counted in handling time may be agent idle time, or the agent jumping into another chat, while waiting for a response from the customer.

The real danger is targeting a goal handling time for each chat. Not all customer service events carry the same urgency. Handling time matters when a passenger got bumped from a flight and needs to re-book, but it doesn’t really matter when changing a passenger’s meal option on a flight that is still two weeks out. The transition to messaging-based contact centers brings with it much greater flexibility to intelligently prioritize chats. This just isn’t an option for call centers. An agent can only ask a customer to wait on hold for a very short amount of time before significantly affecting customer satisfaction. In contrast, messaging allows agents to have multiple simultaneous conversations open at once, constantly shuffling priority with a simple “One moment, please.” and “I’m on it!”. The customer can put their phone down and wait for the push notification telling them the task is complete.

Focus on customer experience

The asynchronous nature of messaging does present a challenge to contact center managers to update their thinking. The logical approach is to consider to what degree metrics like handling time, closed tickets, and first call resolution are still relevant to customer experience. Your team’s first response time, for one, is a much more powerful indicator of good customer experience than handling time. You may also find that tracking ticket resolution or first call resolution is difficult to automate for asynchronous messaging — these are probably better moved to customer satisfaction surveying.

In the end, the best way to judge your customer service success is still to let your customers tell you how you’re doing. These metrics, namely Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Customer Effort Score (CES), don’t require updating because they quantify customer sentiment. The quality of the customer experience will continue to be the ultimate barometer for agent efficiency and team productivity.

*For more information regarding NPS please click on this link to Forrester. **For more information regarding  CES please click this link to HBR.
*For more on NPS, check out these posts by Forrester and Bain.
**For more on CES, check out this HBR article.
Customer Service

Does Mobile Messaging Kill Customer Service Tickets?

A Bit of Background

There are more than ten million Official Accounts on WeChat. Facebook quickly followed up their April release of the Messenger Business Platform with a substantially updated version 1.1. WhatsApp has announced they will finally start supporting businesses officially this year, in recognition of the fact that thousands of businesses already found out how to do this, most notably in India and Brazil. Why are businesses flocking to the latest messaging products?

In the early days of WeChat Official Accounts, brand interest was primarily driven by opportunities in outbound marketing. As the platform has matured, easy wins in outbound marketing have evaporated and marketers are now challenged with providing real utility to keep a large base of followers engaged. In this second generation of brand behaviors on WeChat, inbound customer service and sales are getting more attention.

More generally, as business-to-consumer conversations move away from phone and email support and on to mobile messaging platforms, we see that the type, content, and frequency of conversations changes. This new relationship is characterized by higher frequency interactions that require lighter effort from the business, allowing savvy businesses to more closely monitor brand sentiment, better understand their customers, and win more loyalty.

Higher Frequency

Compare the difference in friction that it takes to start, participate in, and re-start a conversation with a business on a phone compared to a messaging app. One of the worst things you can do as a company is put me on hold. I’m not even able to kill time on my smartphone while I wait because my phone is stuck to my ear. To be fair, many businesses still struggle with consistent responsiveness in messaging, too. We have many successful clients that average less than one-minute response time at scale, with only one to three simultaneous online representatives. That’s faster than it takes for me to dial, wait for the phone to ring, say my hello, and get a response from just about any business out there.

Overall, web chat users receive an average response within five minutes according to this study by social media consulting firm Eptica. The same study found that businesses on Twitter, held up as a successful channel for low-friction social customer care, had an average response time of just over a day. The disconnect is that 64% of Twitter users expect to be served within an hour.

There are many techniques for managing customer expectations in messaging. In the end, you don’t even have to be faster than a phone call as long as the experience is that much better than calling. The key is that your customers quickly discover that they can message you and consider it done. If you can achieve this, you’re on a path to very loyal customers.

Lighter Effort

The beauty of messaging is that this quality of customer experience is within reach of most businesses. Because the channel is asynchronous, you can simultaneously manage multiple conversations, quickly opening chats, and triaging accordingly. You can use a hybrid of automated and live-agent messaging to manage expectations when you are offline or busy. Because it’s a digital channel, you are recording your entire chat history with each customer, so you can always see who at your business last spoke with the customer, what was said, and you don’t ever have to have customers repeat themselves. You have ready access to screenshots, stored text, images, and other FAQ content which bring exponential efficiency gains over a phone call.

A great anecdote of this happened while shadowing a concierge in a five-star hotel. A guest called down from his room to inquire about booking a tour, and the concierge’s entire attention for the next nine and a half minutes was explaining the different options to the guest, while he discussed them in the background with his wife. That conversation in a messaging app could have taken fifteen seconds of the concierge’s time to drag-and-drop the three options from his FAQ library and the customer would have actually had a better experience with photos, expert descriptions, and the ability to discuss with his wife at his leisure, before tapping to book.

So, no more tickets?

Ultimately a heavy burden of communication disincentivizes consumers from truly engaging in open dialogue with businesses. If it’s difficult to connect to your business, I’ll only contact you when I have a serious problem. This is the paradigm from which customer service tickets emerged. It is easier for businesses to myopically view customer service success by ticket resolution metrics rather than how successful they are at truly engaging customers over their entire relationship with the business.

If businesses make it easy to start, participate in, and re-start a conversation, it no longer makes sense to structure conversations as tickets. If the conversation is asynchronous, meaning I can leave it open without affecting either party, and I can easily add in other team members to a chat while we work together to resolve an issue for a customer, it doesn’t make sense to open and close tickets. What you have is an ongoing relationship.

Will there still be issues you create a ticket for? Sure. A ticketing system is still a common request from large clients during the sales process. Since we don’t find tickets a necessity, we try to convince the client to first go live with the service and then see if it’s really needed. Sure enough, it always slips down the list of priorities in their feature requests after they get started. Tickets are still good for organizations that haven’t mastered conversational service yet. They make accountability easier in the transition and can make sense for issue resolution that lasts longer than one day or one shift.

The Cost of Friction

Even incremental reductions in communication friction will bring benefits across the spectrum for most businesses: increased last-minute purchases, customer satisfaction, consumer evangelism, and long-term loyalty, and reduced churn and “shopping cart” abandonment. If you can achieve an initial “wow” moment with your customers, it starts to redefine how and how often they talk to you.

Your business to a greater or lesser extent competes on service. No customer wants to be treated like a statistic. The conversational history of interactions between you and your customer is in essence, a ticket that never closes.


In our next post, we will discuss how success metrics change moving from call centers and customer service tickets to next generation messaging-based contact centers.