Providing AI-enabled customer service in Africa over WhatsApp


min read

Proto’s AI Customer Experience (AICX) solutions can automate customer service across WhatsApp, making digital banking more scalable and accessible for customers in Africa. Read our guide to learn about why and how to use WhatsApp for digital banking, and how Proto can help.

With over 2 billion users around the world, WhatsApp’s ubiquity makes it one of the best channels for mobile banking. That is particularly true in Africa where WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging channels, with a strong potential to make banking more accessible and increase financial inclusion.

However, it is difficult to scale financial services when relying on live agents – and high cost-to-income ratios are a growing concern for Africa’s banks. Automation is a good solution, but many common WhatsApp chatbot providers don’t offer automation in local languages. 

Proto’s AICX solution aims to solve this problem with chatbots capable of automating WhatsApp messages in local languages such as Swahili, Kinyarwanda and Twi. Digital banks can also use Proto chatbots to automate messaging on channels such as Africa’s Talking, SMS, and webchat.

Why WhatsApp is a popular channel for digital banks

There are several advantages to WhatsApp for banking, including:

  • A cloud API that allows users to broadcast and send multiple messages at once with end-to-end encryption.
  • Functionality on feature phones, with messaging features that ensure messages are sent after internet service disruptions.
  • The ability to check usage and payment through Meta, instead of using a business service provider, which can be expensive.
  • A proxy support feature which ensures the app will continue to work even amid internet shutdowns.
  • Green check marks on WhatsApp which can verify businesses, increasing credibility and trust among financial consumers.

However, while WhatsApp has many advantages, scaling mobile banking over WhatsApp is costly when banks rely on live agents to handle messaging volume.

Automate multilingual conversations in WhatsApp

Proto chatbots are trained with localised and industry-specific language data for finance, so banks can automate communication in local languages across WhatsApp more easily. This also reduces the cost of customer service, improves wait times, and enables 24/7 support for services such as:

WhatsApp's 24-hour window

When customers send your business a message, you have up to 24 hours to respond – after the 24-hour period is up, you will no longer have access to the chat. This is an additional reason why chatbots for WhatsApp can be beneficial: they provide instant responses within the 24-hour window, making it much more likely that no query will go unanswered.

However, WhatsApp allows business users to send proactive messages after the 24-hour window, provided that:

  1. The user has opted into the chat
  2. They use a WhatsApp approved template for the message

In order to take advantage of this feature, you can create templates and submit them to WhatsApp. It takes up to 48 hours to have them approved, but afterwards you can use them to send proactive messages in three different categories:

  • Marketing: use this template for announcements, promotions, and other messages that increase awareness. Banks might use this category to announce new banking products such as loans, insurance, new account types, and more.
  • One-time passwords: use this template for codes that give your customers access to their accounts. This allows financial service providers to offer safe, encrypted 2FA via either WiFi or cellular networks.
  • Transactional: this category is for important information such as account updates and alerts. Banks can use transactional templates to notify customers about issues such as overdrawn accounts, due date reminders, and more.

WhatsApp templates can also include parameters to personalize messages based on the customer and their device location. However, it’s important to follow the template guidelines to ensure that your template is approved by WhatsApp, including their rules about the placement of variables.

How to get started using Proto for WhatsApp

Banks can start using Proto for WhatsApp using the following steps:

  1. Book a demo. You may follow the next steps below, or reach out to one of our team members to assist you.
  2. Have your bank verified by Meta to enable the green check mark.
  3. Sign up for a Meta developer account to configure WhatsApp.
  4. Follow the next steps in the docs section of our website.

For a full list of supported channels, take a look at our channels page.

No items found.

Observer Guide

Learn more about the observer role in the Proto platform

Read guide