Banking News

WhatsApp-Based Customer Service Survey: Swiss Companies Cautious

March 16, 2020 - Ralf Beyeler

Several Swiss companies are pioneering the use of WhatsApp for customer service. But a survey by moneyland.ch of major telecom companies, banks and insurance companies reveals that most companies do not currently consider WhatsApp-based customer service a viable option.

WhatsApp has long established itself in Switzerland as a text-, image- and video-sharing service. Independent online comparison service moneyland.ch surveyed major companies in the telecommunications, banking, insurance and health insurance sectors on their use of WhatsApp as a communications channel.

The results show that most companies do not consider WhatsApp to be an option for customer service communications. Privacy is just one of the many concerns cited. But there are also large companies – most notably AXA and Swisscom – which are using WhatsApp for customer communications.

Small businesses are also making use of WhatsApp. An example of this is the use of the app by customers of pizza delivery stores for placing orders. The app is particularly appealing to customers who prefer texting to calling.

AXA is the WhatsApp pioneer

AXA has been offering customer service via WhatsApp since December 2018. AXA’s customers can also contact customer support via the Facebook Messenger and Apple’s iMessage services. Of these three messaging services, WhatsApp is the most popular among AXA customers, with around 70% of customers communicating with AXA via the app. AXA receives several thousand customer support requests via WhatsApp every month. Of the remaining messenger-based support enquiries, 18% are made via Apple’s iMessage and 13% are made via Facebook Messenger.

Swisscom: WhatsApp is popular with customers

Switzerland’s leading telecom service provider Swisscom also offers customer service via WhatsApp. According to Swisscom, the WhatsApp-based customer service is very popular with customers. Simple customer service tasks – such as the delivery of new PIN or PUK codes or access to bills –  are handled by a chatbot.

Customer inquiries which cannot be handled by the chatbot are forwarded to the customer service department. Currently, Swisscom only provides WhatsApp-based customer services to users of Swisscom-branded services. Swisscom subsidiaries Wingo, M-Budget Mobile and Coop Mobile do not have plans to offer customer service via WhatsApp.

DoctorChat from KPT

Health insurance company KPT does not provide customer service via WhatsApp. However, the DoctorChat pilot project launched by KPT in February 2020 lets KPT policyholders communicate with doctors via WhatsApp. This service enables initial assessments of health inquiries by doctors. Alternatively, policyholders can use the service via other messaging apps or SMS messaging. Initially, the pilot project will run until the end of June, 2020.

Yallo: WhatsApp with Yallo Swype

Yallo Swype users can communicate with customer services via WhatsApp directly from the Yallo Swype app. Currently, Yallo only provides WhatsApp-based customer support for Yallo Swype customers.

UPC testing WhatsApp customer service

Switzerland’s largest cable network operator UPC is currently running WhatsApp-based customer service pilot projects in several customer service departments. UPC will evaluate the service at the end of the pilot period and decide whether to offer a standing WhatsApp for customer service.

Sunrise soon to use WhatsApp

Sunrise does not currently offer customer service via WhatsApp. However, Sunrise is currently testing a number of services with the aim of providing WhatsApp-based customer services as quickly as possible. The service will likely also be available to Sunrise subsidiaries Aldi, Yallo and Lebara.

PostFinance to use WhatsApp from 2021

According to PostFinance communications to moneyland.ch, the bank sees the introduction of WhatsApp for customer services from 2021 as realistic. A chatbot will be used as part of the service. Where necessary, PostFinance customers will be redirected to a secure communications channel.

PostFinance is only considering WhatsApp for its non-secured customer communications channel. Sensitive information will not be communicated over WhatsApp due to Swiss privacy laws and security concerns.

WhatsApp-based customer service is not an option for most banks

Many banks, including Migros Bank, Bank Cler, and the cantonal banks of Bern and St. Gallen told moneyland.ch that they are not planning to use WhatsApp in their customer services. UBS does not currently have a statement on if or when it may use WhatsApp. Credit Suisse does not currently offer customer service via WhatsApp.

Some Raiffeisen banks have tested the use of WhatsApp. Raiffeisen Switzerland stated that implementing a WhatsApp-based customer service is complicated due to the many privacy, security, and regulatory aspects involved. Valiant bank is considering the integration of a similar service in its new banking app.

The Zürcher Kantonalbank (ZKB) has already implemented the technical requirements for enabling communications via messaging services. However, the bank wants to further study the needs of its customers in this regard. In any case, the ZKB does not allow the exchange of sensitive customer information over third-party messaging services.

WhatsApp customer services not an option for most Health insurance providers

Currently, no Swiss health insurance provider uses WhatsApp for its customer services. Sympany summed up the basic concern of health insurance companies by stating that customer communications to health insurance companies often include particularly sensitive personal and health information. This need to meet high privacy and security standards rules out the use of WhatsApp as a communications channel.

Insurance companies are cautious

With the exception of AXA, insurance companies are cautious with regards to using WhatsApp for customer service. A Mobiliar communication to moneyland.ch stressed that protecting customer data was a priority for the company. WhatsApp does not meet the requirements for a fully secure communications channel.

Helvetia, on the other hand, is open to using WhatsApp as a customer communications channel. Baloise does not offer customer services via WhatsApp, but uses WhatsApp intensively for other applications. For example, Baloise offers a service by which students looking for apprenticeships can communicate with Baloise instructors via WhatsApp at a predetermined time. The Baloise instructors share work-related experiences, impressions and photographs with prospective apprentices over WhatsApp.

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Expert Ralf Beyeler
Ralf Beyeler is the telecom expert at moneyland.ch and also covers other areas of personal finance.