How to set up a Twilio WhatsApp inbox in Front
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Millions of businesses use WhatsApp to communicate with their customers, and Front’s WhatsApp integration allows you to easily manage those conversations as a team. Instead of juggling multiple mobile devices to handle WhatsApp conversations, you can efficiently receive and reply to WhatsApp messages from your Front inbox, and respond faster to every customer.
Why use Front to manage WhatsApp?
- Share access to WhatsApp with your team and assign clear owners for every conversation and respond faster together.
- Consolidate your customer conversations into Front and eliminate context-switching: email, WhatsApp, Twitter, and more in one easy-to-use inbox.
- Automate workflows so that you can tag, assign, and even respond to WhatsApp messages with automated rules that help your team stay focused on the most urgent tasks.
- Easy to access on desktop and mobile, so you can manage WhatsApp whether you're at your desk or on the go.
Your team can manage WhatsApp conversations right from a shared inbox, just like they would email, SMS, or chat. Like other team channels, WhatsApp channels will need to be set up by a Front admin.
Front's WhatsApp channel is exclusively powered by Twilio, so you will need to use a WhatsApp-enabled number from Twilio. Twilio manages the approval process to enable WhatsApp Business. You will need to secure approval before setting up a WhatsApp inbox in Front. The approval process follows WhatsApp's Commerce Policy, so be sure to abide by these guidelines to avoid any unnecessary delay.
Part 1: Twilio approval
Sign up or log into your existing Twilio account. In your Twilio dashboard, click on the # sign to open the Phone Numbers section, then select Buy a Number.
If you've already purchased a Twilio number, you can also use this existing number. You can also port a number into Twilio by following Twilio's usual process.
If you are purchasing a new number, choose ‘ANY’ for capabilities and complete the check out process to select your number.
You can skip this step if you already have a Twilio number.
Select the chat bubble icon in the left sidebar to open the Programmable SMS section. Expand the WhatsApp section, and click on Senders.
Click the New WhatsApp Sender, and fill out the form that appears.
Click Submit Request to start the WhatsApp approval process. It may take several business days for Twilio to complete your approval.
You can monitor number approvals in the Status section of your WhatsApp Enabled Senders dashboard.
Once your number is approved, proceed to Part 2 to set up your Twilio WhatsApp inbox in Front.
Part 2: Add the inbox in Front
Click the gear icon on the top right of Front and into the Company or Personal settings tab, depending on which space you are working with. Select Inboxes on the left menu and click Add a team inbox.
Enter a name and description for your inbox, and click Create.
You will then be prompted to choose a channel type for your inbox. Select WhatsApp.
Next, fill out the information for your WhatsApp channel.
The Account SID and Auth token are found in your Twilio Console Dashboard, by clicking on the house icon in the upper left corner of your Twilio sidebar.
Once you've entered your Twilio account credentials, your Twilio phone numbers will automatically populate in the Select a phone number section. Select your WhatsApp number from the options.
Click Verify account in the top right corner. You may see a screen stating that there is already a webhook associated with your phone number. If you see this, click Yes to override it.
Choose which teammates will have access to this inbox, and whether you'd like to pin this inbox to your teammates' workspaces.
Complete the remaining settings for your inbox, then click Finish.
Part 3: Updating your webhook configuration in Twilio
In your Twilio dashboard, click the # sign to open the Phone Numbers section, then click on Active Numbers. Select your WhatsApp number.
In the settings for your WhatsApp number, scroll down to the Messaging section. Copy the full URL from the 'A Message comes in' Webhook section-- you will use this later in the setup process.
Click on the chat bubble icon in the left sidebar to open the Programmable SMS section, then click on Senders in the WhatsApp section. Select your WhatsApp number to open its settings.
Under How would you like to configure this sender?, select Use webhooks. Paste the webhook URL that you copied in Step 2 into the 'Webhook URL for incoming messages' field.
Click Update WhatsApp Sender.
Refresh your page to ensure the webhook URL is present. If it is not displayed, repeat Steps 4 and 5 until you've ensured that the webook URL appears after saving/refreshing the page.
Now, test the connection by sending a message to your team inbox from another WhatsApp number (such as your personal phone). Your message should show up immediately in Front!
Who uses WhatsApp Business?
WhatsApp is used by many businesses in the events, hospitality, retail, and e-commerce sectors, as it is a platform that many consumers are already on. It’s used as a customer support and sales inquiry tool to meet customers where they are and provide instant responses.
Is there 2-way sync between WhatsApp and Front?
Yes, with Twilio as an intermediary. New messages and replies sync instantly between Front and WhatsApp for real-time communication, while Front stays invisible to your customer the whole time.
What does my customer see?
Just as when you respond natively through WhatsApp, responding in Front will display your company’s WhatsApp profile to your customer. It will not show a specific Front teammate’s name or profile.
Is there a time limit for responding?
Yes, WhatsApp gives you 24 hours to respond to an inbound message. If you try to reply to an inbound customer message that is more than 24 hours old, you will see an error that looks like this:
You do have the option to reply outside the 24-hour window by creating Message Templates that are approved by WhatsApp. These can be created and submitted for approval directly in your Twilio account.
In Front, the text of your message (or your saved message template in Front) simply needs to match an approved Message Template to be delivered. There is an additional per-message fee to send a Message Template charged by WhatsApp via Twilio.
Can I initiate messages to customers?
You are able to outbound to your existing WhatsApp contacts if you use an approved WhatsApp Message Template. You cannot send messages to phone numbers that are not already WhatsApp contacts.
I'm using WhatsApp with a bot. Will outbound messages sent by the bot sync to Front?
Yes, but not immediately. Outbound messages sent directly via Twilio, or via a bot connected directly to Twilio will not sync to Front. See the "Do you import WhatsApp history?" point below for details on how these outbound messages are received in Front.
Do you import WhatsApp history?
When you receive a new message from a customer in Front, we will import up to 15 of the most recent messages in the history so that you have context. If there is available message history through Twilio, Front will also import the most recent 100 messages when you first connect the channel.
Can I use the same number for separate SMS and WhatsApp channels in Front?
No, you need to use separate Twilio numbers for SMS and WhatsApp channel. One number can only map to one channel in Front.
Can I send images?
Yes, you can send and receive images.
Can I receive audio messages?
Yes, you can receive and listen to audio messages. Audio files will appear as an attachment on a message.
Does the integration work with group chats?
No, as this is not supported by Twilio at this time.
Do you display customer profile data?
Front matches your customer’s phone number with your Front contacts and CRMs like Salesforce and Pipedrive for quick context on the conversation. As long as the customer’s WhatsApp number matches the number in your other CRM integrations linked to Front with the same formatting, the information will be displayed.
When can I send a WhatsApp Template message?
WhatsApp templates will only work if you receive an inbound message from the customer first.
What about special international number formats?
Countries such as Argentina and Mexico will have special international number formats beyond what Twilio will provide Front. WhatsApp documents this here. Please contact us when adding numbers that require this format.
Hi carlos. alvarez! WhatsApp only allows you to use the templates when you are responding to a message that a customer initiated. You aren't able to start a conversation with the template. To use templates, you will just recreate the text in Front as canned responses, and then you will be able to send them in Front as responses. This section has more details on message templates. Feel free to contact our team directly if you have specific issues in your account and we can take a closer look!
Hi Helena, that's odd
According to Twilio Docs, you can start a conversation with a pre-approved template
If a WhatsApp user has sent your application a message — whether it’s a reply to one of your outbound messages, or they have initiated communication themselves — your application has a 24-hour window (sometimes called a “24-hour session”) to send that user messages that don’t need to use a template.
When your application sends a message to a WhatsApp user outside a 24-hour session, the message must use an approved template."
Hi carlos. alvarez - thank you for the additional info - I can expand on my previous answer (apologies that my response was not clear, as I was making the assumption that your customer was contacting you first). If you want to start the message to your customer, they must still first opt-in to receive messages from you (if they don't initiate this first step, you still cannot message them). From there, if they have either sent you a message over 24 hours ago or if you want to start a brand new conversation, you can use message templates (not free-form messages or non-approved message templates). You just need to copy and paste the exact approved message template into Front in order to use it. If you're having trouble sending out approved message templates, could you send our support team a quick screen recording of what's happening? We can then pull up your account for a closer look.