It used to be a common phrase: “What’s your PIN?” or “Send me your PIN.” I remember seeing people putting their PIN on the back of their vehicles in large white stickers pasted across fully tinted windows. It was called BBM or Blackberry Messenger, and it kicked off a craze in communications that have slowly taken complete control over the way humans interact. The way “video killed the radio star,” BBM killed the telephone call!

And then it happened, the fall from grace: The massive influx of Android and Apple iOS phones took over and killed off the device dependent BBM, and replaced it with iMessage and WhatsApp. Now, by saving a telephone number, your chat options are open and you have instant access to all your friends and others included on your chat lists. Communication via WhatsApp shows no signs of slowing down.

So, what is to be learned from this trend? And how can we apply this to our operational lives in the FM professional realm?

Well, it’s quite simple, and it has been happening for many years in the manufacturing sectors around the Globe; the breaking down,and re-collaboration of smaller parts to create the greater whole.

Vehicles, telephones, computers, other electronics, sports equipment and really anything that is automated or mechanical is manufactured across the globe by different niche companies and then assembled somewhere else. Parts are packaged into a single product and sent out the door for retail.

We know that service industries will be the same, and it is for this reason that ServeU has collaborated with WhatsApp for Business as a key augmentation to our helpdesk services for reactive MEP, Spot Cleaning, and Home Services.

What Does This Mean?

Through the WhatsApp for Business Application, we have integrated and opened our own Whatsapp number that is connected to our 800-helpdesk number. Clients simply need to scan a QR Code, either from our e-mail signature or from one of the many posters of the same QR code printed on the sites. Upon scanning with the QR reader, the ServeU business account is directly added to the users’ telephone and allows them to communicate with ServeU via the WhatsApp Application.

The users’ conversations are then integrated into the helpdesk activities tracking software to ensure we are conforming to the SLA/KPIs of the contract. The chat history is easily migrated into our CAFM system, and then ultimately to our onsite technicians. The entire process has effectively closed the communication gap between customers, helpdesk, and onsite technicians.

In the back-end portion, the helpdesk call tracking software and WhatsApp are linked together to ensure that all messages are responded, and that response times are tracked and monitored. Similarly, the helpdesk staff simply need to copy and paste the information into the CAFM system to be able to send this as a text to the PDA when work orders are created. This allows our technicians to be able to read and see the chat on their PDA devices on the site and when dealing with the clients. Any clarifications on this text can be managed directly with the client upon arrival at the site. In case of any confusion as to the word choice or vocabulary, our helpdesk staff and the technicians can clarify it directly.

WhatsApp for Business was released to select countries in January of 2018 and eventually within the UAE in August of 2018. ServeU adopted the idea and began working on feasibility studies of tangible and intangible cost benefits and associated payback periods should we integrate and adopt the system into our existing AMEYO Helpdesk Monitoring Software. The team sat down with a list of areas where the application integration could reduce costs, with the following areas being highlighted:

In October of 2018, Beta testing had concluded with one key project being implemented as a pilot project and a quarterly survey indicating the customer feedback and perception of the integration and their ease of use. At the same time, a study indicating the reductions in fuel consumption have been tracked by our finance team which tracked key operational vehicles costs to as an indicator of payback period.

Overall WhatsApp Utilisation Numbers
The below questions are taken from a specific survey to understand the initial uptake of the WhatsApp for Business integration. The statistics are taken from October:

  • 11,663 contacts have downloaded the ServeU WhatsApp for Business Application
  • Messages Sent to ServeU via WhatsApp for Business: 12,740 Messages
  • Messages Delivered to Customers: 12,492 Messages
  • Customer Messages Read: 11,513 Messages
  • Total Messages received/interacted (includes internal messages between staff and operations): 19,353 Messages

The above numbers indicate that the transactions through WhatsApp are significant, with an average of 135+ message sent on a daily basis to our helpdesk from our customers for a single project with total messages received of nearly 20,000 messages.

How Does It Work?
The screenshots below have been taken to illustrate the ease of functionality of WhatsApp (Video & Photo) for a reactive call. In the pictorial example, a tenant has sent both a photo of a water leak as well as a video of the severity and breadth of the leak via WhatsApp. The response from our team was within 2 minutes and the video and images have been taken and migrated directly into the CAFM system and sent via WhatsApp for the supervisor to rectify with his team of technicians.

It is relatively easy to understand that the time taken to record the video and send through a location would not have taken our customer more than 2 minutes, and the images and video say 1,000 words. In the traditional model, the tenant would have been asked a number of questions to try to ascertain the issue and the source of the issue. This would have definitely taken more than 2 minutes and would require the tenant to describe some technical terms surrounding the water leakage issues and the cause location of that issue. It is also clear, in the below images, that our attendants can prepare themselves prior to being dispatched to the site, and rectify it more efficiently.

Our team can assign a severity rating to that leak with an appropriate response time as per our contractual obligations. The image also outlines exactly where the location of the leak is to the exact parking spot and has not been prompted by our helpdesk staff. Rather, the tenant understands that he can easily point out the location to the team, and has done so without interrogation by our helpdesk team.

WhatsApp Survey Results

In short, our expectations of the utilisation have been beyond expectations. The below survey illustrates the satisfaction of our customers. And within 6 months from implementing, we shall issue another survey which will outline and ask the client to comment on their perception of the service response times.

The illustrations outline that most of the respondents have a history in dealing with ServeU so that they have a baseline experience and would reasonably be able to answer against any improvements versus the old status quo. The majority in this building have lived within the development for more than 3 years.

The chart is a clear indication that nearly all users or 66%, in this case, would prefer to use WhatsApp as the method of interaction with our helpdesk. In relation to the telephone interaction, it is nearly a 2:1 ratio that would prefer interaction with our helpdesk via WhatsApp versus a call. That is a significant shift to a new application and we anticipate that this will further expand in the next few months as familiarity with the application and the ease of use increases.

In terms of the ease of use, it is clear to see that the use of the application is easy and the uptake has been high. More than 60% of respondents indicated that it was extremely convenient.

Total Cost-Benefit Analysis
We have only measured 1 tangible cost over the last 3 months, is a relatively easy measurement to track from a cost perspective. We have tracked a reduction in fuel overburnt due to idle times and additional trips by 10% each month on an average. We have measured the overall consumption on vehicles utilising the company provided fuel card based upon the last 6 months, prior to the implementation of WhatsApp for Business. In the development, our mobile vans consumed on an average AED 2,500 worth of fuel per month, and we have saved approximately AED 250 per month per van.

The payback period for the installation of WhatsApp for Business Application with both our Helpdesk tracking software and CAFM versus the savings alone on fuel in this project will be 15 months. We anticipate the payback period of this implementation to be 8 months when all costs have been considered. This is a very short time period for payback and it will have a significant impact on our retention levels, capabilities to increase sales and overall brand image awareness. All of which are yet to be measured and will be completed at the end of 2019.

Where do we go from here?
WhatsApp for Business is the beginning of a digital paradigm shift away from the traditional helpdesk. We anticipate that as we roll this out to our other contracts, that the number of messages received will be at least triple and the burdened on our helpdesk team will diminish.

The WhatsApp functionality and broadcast functions allow our health and safety team to broadcast HSE alerts, our security team to post security bulletins across a community, and it allows us to illustrate road closures or PPMs in certain areas that will affect our clients.

The implementation has been one of the direct impact in results both tangible and intangible and we expect to reap the benefits in overhead reductions and increased service delivery across the year. Exciting and easy to implement with relatively low cost, the WhatsApp for Business is certainly befitting as a key growth driver for ServeU and we anticipate that the uptake will triple across 2019.