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, you can efficiently receive and reply to WhatsApp messages from your Front inbox to respond faster to every customer.
Why manage WhatsApp in Front?
- 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.
Set up instructions
WhatsApp can be added to Front as a channel in a team inbox, just like email, SMS, or live chat. You must be an account admin to connect WhatsApp.
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 customers for WhatsApp Business, and you will need to secure approval through Twilio before beginning your Front inbox setup. The approval process follows WhatsApp's Commerce Policy, so be sure that you abide by the guidelines to avoid any unnecessary delay.
Part 1: Twilio approval
Sign up or log into your Twilio account. In your Twilio dashboard, click on the # sign to open the Phone Numbers section, then Buy a Number.
You can also port a number into Twilio following their usual process, or use an existing Twilio number you've already purchased.
If you are purchasing a new number, choose ‘ANY’ for capabilities and complete the check out process to select your number.
If you already have a Twilio number, skip this step.
Click on the chat bubble icon in the left sidebar to open the Programmable SMS section, then on WhatsApp. In the expanded WhatsApp section, click on Senders.
Click the blue button that says New WhatsApp Sender. In the popup menu, choose the Twilio number you want to enable for WhatsApp and fill in the rest of the fields.
Click Submit Request to start the WhatsApp approval process. This can take several business days to complete.
When you have a Twilio number approved for WhatsApp, proceed to the next step to set up your inbox in Front. You can monitor your number approvals in the Status section of your WhatsApp Senders dashboard:
Part 2: Add the inbox in Front
Click into Company settings.
Click on Inboxes on the left menu and Add a team inbox.
Fill out the name and description of your inbox. Click Create.
Choose WhatsApp from the channel menu.
Fill out the information shown on the screen.
The Account SID and Auth token are found in your Twilio Console Dashboard. To navigate there in your Twilio account, click on the house icon in the upper left corner of your Twilio sidebar.
Once your Twilio account credentials are entered, the phone numbers will automatically populate for you to choose from. You can then select your WhatsApp number.
Click Verify account in the top right corner.
You may see a screen that says your phone number already has a webhook associated with it. If you see this, click Yes to override it.
Choose the teammate access for this inbox, and whether you'd like to pin this inbox for teammates.
Complete the remainder of the inbox settings, and 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, find your WhatsApp number in the list, and click on it to open the settings for that number.
Scroll down to the Messaging section. Copy the entire URL from the 'A Message comes in' Webhook section and save this for later.
Click on the chat bubble icon in the left sidebar to open the Programmable SMS section, then on Senders in the WhatsApp section. Click on your WhatsApp number to open its settings.
Make sure that you select Use webhooks, and paste your copied webhook url from above into the input field for 'Webhook URL for incoming messages'.
Click Update WhatsApp Sender.
Because this feature is still in Beta with Twilio, refresh your page to ensure the webhook url is present. If it is not displayed, repeat steps 4 and 5 until you see the webook url after saving and refreshing the page.
At this point, your inbox setup should be complete. Test the connection by sending a message into your team inbox from another WhatsApp number (like 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 spaces, 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.
What is the pricing?
The WhatsApp integration is available on Front’s Prime plan and above. You will also need a WhatsApp-enabled Twilio number and pay per-message fees to Twilio separately. Learn more about Twilio's WhatsApp pricing here.
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.
You will need to be on the Prime plan or above to access this feature. Some legacy plans with different names may also have this channel. If you'd like to purchase the feature, you can update your plan in-app or reach out to us.