WhatsApp builds a customer service app for businesses

The Android app is available in select markets at launch.

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WhatsApp's push to get more businesses to use its platform, so it can finally rake in cash from its 1.3 billion users, now includes a full-fledged business app. It's appropriately dubbed WhatsApp Business and is available on Android in select markets including the US, UK, Indonesia, Italy, and Mexico, ahead of a worldwide rollout.

WhatsApp laid out its customer service strategy over a year ago, describing a place where you could contact banks about fraudulent transactions and airlines about delayed flights (like Twitter and Messenger before it). Sure enough, updates including verified accounts and yellow message bubbles for businesses followed in beta.

Those customer-facing tools remain, and are now joined by business profiles that display basic contact info such as a bio, email, address, and phone number (in the vein of Instagram's tools for companies). Plus, there's smart replies for FAQs and greetings, messaging metrics, desktop synchronization with WhatsApp Web, and the promise of more confirmed accounts. On the flip side, if you want to get in touch with a company, you needn't download anything -- just message them through the regular WhatsApp. You'll also retain the ability to block numbers and report spam.

For now, the app is aimed at small businesses, with WhatsApp claiming that 80 percent of small firms in the launch regions already use WhatsApp to communicate with customers.

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