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  • Richard Wardrop

Is WhatsApp the next big thing for social customer service?

Earlier this month, ScotRail tweeted their followers to say they’re set to become the first UK train operator to use WhatsApp as a customer service channel, following a sizeable investment of £4million! Needless to say, this announcement was met with a lot of positivity…followed almost immediately by a wave of scathing criticism from complaining customers - an outcome the social customer service team at ScotRail are likely very used to.

Social media customer service will be a constant challenge for businesses like ScotRail, who are no stranger to controversy, parody accounts and social blunders. As more and more customers ditch traditional contact methods, an investment into their reactive digital strategy is a positive step forward, but is WhatsApp the right channel? We think so, and here’s why…

ScotRail launch WhatsApp

Social media customer service is massive and there are huge benefits for businesses who offer it to their customers. In fact, around 67% of consumers have engaged with a brand on social media for the purpose of customer service. If handled well, it can build advocacy and showcase your brand values. This is why many brands focus on utilising social trends to consistently offer the easiest possible route for their customers to get in contact.


Why should you consider WhatsApp for your business?

  • For starters, WhatsApp is the most popular global mobile messenger app with over 1.6 billion users in over 180 countries

  • It’s an incredibly easy to use interface for both businesses and customers

  • It’s asynchronous, meaning an instant response from the business (or customer) isn’t necessary, unlike traditional customer service channels such as webchat

  • It has handy inbuilt features that allow file sharing

  • Customers ‘opt in’ (by starting a conversation) to be contacted by brands and businesses

  • It’s free for businesses of a certain size (as long as you respond within a 24-hour window)

  • There are currently no ads on WhatsApp, but the functionality is due to arrive next year

  • You can handle replies via mobile, WhatsApp Web, or using a 3rd party tool such as Falcon or Conversocial – both of which allow you to view all incoming messages, label them and assign them to different employees

  • Last but by no means least, allowing your customers to contact you via an offline channel such as WhatsApp could help improve your overall online sentiment by keeping a percentage of complaints out of the public eye

WhatsApp:helps you to take negative conversation out of the public eye


WhatsApp has the highest number of users of all messenger apps, it’s convenient for customers and it has loads great features. For many brands, driving conversation online is a key focus. However, for a business like ScotRail, who fight a constant battle against criticism and negative sentiment in the very public social arena, reducing predominantly negative conversation by directing complaints to a WhatsApp channel could have huge potential.

ScotRail’s current customer journey focuses on moving these types of negative conversation to private DMs in an effort to minimise brand damage. One look at their social feeds will show you this doesn’t always work. By giving their customers an already private, and asynchronous chat option, they’ll move some of the negative conversations away from the public space which could have a positive impact to their online sentiment.

So, in conclusion, we reckon there’s no better time to get on board!​


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