Customer support in WeChat- Mini Program or Official Account
Are Official Accounts or Mini Programs better for users?
Mar 5, 2018
Within the WeChat ecosystem, companies have two distinct channels through which they can engage their users in an officially branded capacity. The older, more established Official Accounts (OA), which include service and subscription accounts, typically engage users through content pushes and support users via customer service chat. The newer, less established Mini Programs (MP) allow companies to build more APP-like experiences within a WeChat branded account.
At Rikai Labs we’re putting together list of articles that help companies determine whether an MP or an OA is more effective for different customer and brand objectives. You can find all our articles here.
So let’s solve a customer problem.
User Journey: Helping a customer answer questions
Rather than try to assess which is better, an MP or an OA, let’s focus on solving a problem, like:
"It is too much work to manage all my users’ questions. I need help!"
In this case study we will walk a company through the following journey.
Below we will break down the pros and cons of each step of the user journey. While the answer now might seem obvious which channel is more effective for this specific problem, WeChat has opened up several very powerful capabilities that make this analysis much more interesting than you might initially think.
User enters a channel (OA or MP)
If you’ve not read our previous post, both OAs and MPs can be accessed via the following:
- Search in WeChat
- QR Code
- Shared via a card
While MPs can be accessed easily, MPs can be easily launched within an OA from either the menu or when a user initially subscribes to the OA.
- MPs can be easily launched within an OA from either the menu or when a user initially subscribes to the OA. While OAs can be linked to MPs, for this particular use case, the user experience is less intuitive and more complicated to implement technically.
- MPs allow companies to create more visually appealing and clickable material to share. While OAs can have beautiful shareable images to share, they must be embedded with a QR code. MPs on the other hand can dynamically generate thumbnail images when shared into groups.
However, in this instance, the key issue for the user will likely be discovery. And in this case, both solutions offer easily accessible if not different ways to find the channel.
If a user wants to find an MP or an OA, there are a variety of ways for the user to do both.
User asks a question
When a user wants to ask a question, they don’t want to have to search for a place to do so.
Because of this, the OAs are still the standard for users with questions. Users are accustomed to going there to ask questions and there is no user education or onboarding required for this action.
However, because MPs do have flexibility with the UI, they can indeed be designed to look like a chat interface. MPs UI flexibility also let companies design different ways for users to input their question. MPs can use buttons generated on user profiles or context, while OAs largely require users to type out their questions. Lastly, if the user wants to ask a question using audio and or some sort of image, MPs (after some technical build out) allow users to input media in a variety of formats.
Edge: OAs for now…
Even though MPs offer more functionality than OAs when it comes ways that users can ask a question, we can’t ignore the fact that users are trained to go to OAs to ask their questions. However, we believe that as users become more comfortable with MPs, this will change.
Company answers user’s question
OAs, specifically service accounts, were designed to answer users questions. While the WeChat backend UI can be frustrating, it is indeed usable, and WeChat does have many third party applications that allow companies to more efficiently answer customer questions.
In addition, there are several companies that use chatbots and Artificial Intelligence (including us here at Rikai Labs to automate responses in Official Accounts.
While responding to users is very simple and straightforward in WeChat, it is important to remember UI limitations in OAs. If the user inputs text and is expecting a text response, OAs are just fine. If however, the user wants to use the WeChat audio feature to ask a question and is expecting some other media type besides text, companies using the OA are somewhat limited in other media types that it can present to users.
While MPs might not seem intuitive as OAs, MPs do offer a lot of the same functionality. MPs can be customized to look like a chat screen, and they can respond to users questions using a variety of ways.
WeChat has opened up API’s that allow back end customer support tools to service individual MP users. Because MPs function like an APP, they are not limited to using the WeChat backend for things such as customer support, and handling of multimedia. In OAs, audio (compressed files), images (certain resolutions), and video (less than 20MB) must all meet certain limitations imposed by the WeChat OA back end. But because MPs can be customized, these limitations have been removed. Audio from both users and companies do not need to be compressed, images can be sent full screen and blown up, and videos do not have to be hosted on Tencent’s video service.
But perhaps most importantly (for Rikai Labs) A.I. powered chatbots can be integrated much easier because the A.I. engine can be more tightly integrated into the MP rather than having to integrate via the WeChat backend. This tighter integration provides better performance because integration between the A.I. engine and the MP can be customized to meet business needs as opposed to in OAs where A.I. engines need to be conform with WeChat before addressing business needs.
Edge: Slight Edge Mini Program
At this time, MPs do require additional third party development. But because Mini Programs can offer a wider range of responses, and also a much tighter integration between the users input and the backend business logic (No WeChat back-end intermediary) Mini Programs are better at responding to users questions than OAs.
User shares the answer / product with community
Good information and content is very valuable to communities. As a result, when a user gets a piece of information from a brand that is useful, it’s important for users to be able to share than information with their friends and WeChat groups.
OA’s are very limited in how you can share information. If the user asks a question and the response is an image or, then you can easily share the answer. But otherwise, it is difficult to share contextualized answers to users from an OA. Users often take a screenshot and then share it to a group of friends.
MPs on the other hand were designed to be shared. The underlying answer can be presented with a beautiful thumbnail and be shared with the group in only 2 taps of the phone. When new users tap on the thumbnail, they will be taken to the exact page the user shared and be presented with all the information that the original asker also had.
Edge: Mini Programs
- 79% of users monthly active users engage Jerry for cocktail recipes.
- 375 customers chatting with only 1 person from Tomorrow Staff
- 5.8% of total messages (User, Agent, Chatbot) were sent by a live agent
- 19.6% month on month user acqusition
- 5% increase in sales for every 6 chats with ChatBot
By blending A.I. powered chatbots with live customer support agents, Tomorrow China was able to open up a new distribution channel for Pernod Ricard that, absent technology, would have been too costly to operate. The chatbot not only helped to increase sales and revenue, but it also helped to automate and make internal work flows more efficient and automated. By blending the A.I. chatbot with live support, Rikai Labs helped Tomorrow China to make online sales more personal, efficient, and scalable.