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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.