WhatsApp Template Messages: Rules, Best Practices and Examples

If you’re getting started with the WhatsApp Business API, you’ll eventually run into template messages.

These automated messages play a critical role in your WhatsApp business setup. Template messages are so that you can:

  • Follow WhatsApp’s rules for good customer service via messages that are both opted into by customers and directly approved by WhatsApp.
  • Manage the scale of your customer communication through fast and convenient communication of automated messages.
  • Adhere to data privacy regulations by sending only messages that customers have consented to.

As useful as WhatsApp template messages are, however, each one goes through a strict approval process by WhatsApp. To help you with this process and get the most out of your template messages, we will cover:

  1. What are whatsapp template messages and why do we use them?
  2. How to set up WhatsApp template messages
  3. Rules and best practices for WhatsApp template messages
  4. Handy examples of WhatsApp template messages
  5. How to get started with WhatsApp for Business with Userlike

What are WhatsApp template messages and why do we use them?

WhatsApp template messages are pre-written, pre-approved messages that are sent by a business to opted-in customers via WhatsApp API. Examples might include confirmations, delivery updates, and support-related automatic replies outside of the "service window” (more on this below). WhatsApp charges a small fee for every such message sent. You can find more information on pricing here.

WhatsApp conversation screenshot showing difference between session and template messages.

In the WhatsApp for Business infrastructure, control has been firmly assigned to the end consumer. Unlike with email and phone, "cold outreach" from business to customer is not possible with WhatsApp.

For communication to take place, a customer must first take the initiative by explicitly indicating that they wish to receive a message from the business. They do this by either 1) sending the business a message first, or 2) opting in to receive notifications from the business.

If the customer sends a message first, the business has a 24-hour "service window" to reply free of charge. This can be done manually by a service agent (with non-template “session messages”) or automated by a chatbot.

If the business does not answer within 24 hours, the service window ends. After this point the business can only send pre-approved WhatsApp template messages asking the customer for permission to continue the conversation.

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If the customer opts in to receive notifications via WhatsApp, these updates can only come in the form of template messages. Notifications can include anything from payment confirmation to delivery updates. Customer opt-in for these notification messages usually happens on your website. If you’d like to know more about how to get this opt-in, and what rules you must follow, check out Facebook’s guidelines.

The reasoning behind WhatsApp template messages, as stated before, centers on customer experience. WhatsApp is committed to preventing “spam” (just think about your email inbox) and making the customer experience as enjoyable as it can. The messaging service has set up relatively strict messaging parameters as a result.

How to set up WhatsApp template messages

WhatsApp template messages are a part of the WhatsApp Business API, so you will first need to apply for access. If you don’t already have access, you can get it through Userlike. Simply apply with this form and we will be glad to set you up!

If you rather use another business solution, then you can also request access through Facebook here. Just note that the process of approval can be a bit confusing.

Image of Userlike's Message Center with sample customer conversations.

Once you’ve been approved for the WAB API, the process of creating and sending template messages depends on the business solution that you’ve chosen to use. You can set them up within Facebook’s Business Manager. You can find more information on that process here.

If you're using Userlike as your WhatsApp support solution, you can add new templates within the Userlike Dashboard and send them to WhatsApp for review:

  1. Click on “Add template” in the lower right part of your WhatsApp channel settings.
  2. Define the template’s language, category and content.
  3. Click “Create Template” to submit it for review by WhatsApp.
Screenshot showing how to create a WhatsApp template within Userlike.
Creating a WhatsApp template within Userlike.

You can monitor the status of your message template in the lower part of your channel settings. Once a template has been approved, you can select it as your default template message in your WhatsApp channel editor.

Screenshot showing how to select the WhatsApp template in your WhatsApp channel.

When one of your operators then tries to reply to a conversation of which the service window expired, they get to see this message and the option to send the template.

Screenshot showing notification message within Userlike's Message Center that the use of a template message is requires.

Rules and best practices for WhatsApp template messages

Because of WhatsApp’s focus on customer experience (which we agree with), there are several rules and best practices to follow that will raise the odds of getting your template message approved.

Template messages must be sent after the 24-hour window

We’ve been over this already, but the 24-window for template messages bears repeating. If a customer starts a chat, you can continue the conversation on WhatsApp for up to 24 hours after the last message sent to you as you would in a normal WhatsApp conversation. After this window has passed, you may only continue the conversation through approved message templates that you will be charged for.

If this window does pass, make sure you mention the previous conversation thread to make it clear to your customer.

Promotional material is strictly forbidden

WhatsApp template messages are designed for a business to provide helpful information to customers. Not to make a sale.

Any sales or promotional-oriented submissions will be rejected. This can include anything from coupon codes to data gathering surveys. Keep this in mind while creating your template messages, as “promotional” is an easy line to cross.

The name of your message template may only include lowercase letters, numbers, and underscores

That’s right - no weird special characters allowed.

Remember that your message title will be read by someone outside your business, someone that has the power to reject your message. It’s important here to be as clear as possible about what your template message contains.

The content of your message should be mistake free and shorter than 1,024 characters

Clean spelling and grammar should come as no surprise. WhatsApp wants its customers to be satisfied with their business interactions, after all.

As for the 1024 characters? This ensures businesses are clear and to-the-point in their communication.

Various topics are not allowed in your template messages

There are quite a few things that will get your message rejected, including mention of explosives, drugs, illegal services, and harsh or inappropriate language.

Basically, if it sounds sketchy to be sending to a customer, it’s probably not allowed. Use common sense and make sure to check out the full list here.

Remember WhatsApp’s message limit

The number of users you may contact in a 24-hour period is broken into three tiers: 1,000, 10,000, and 100,000. These limits do not apply to messages sent in response to a user-initiated message within the 24-hour window.

The frequency of the template messages you send per user is also something you should keep in mind. While Facebook is vague regarding the number of messages you may send to each user (and how frequently you may send them), you should try to avoid appearing "spammy" as much as possible.

Your message should follow WhatsApp-specific formatting guidelines

Creating WhatsApp template messages isn’t as simple as writing whatever message you want. Instead, WhatsApp has very specific formatting requirements which every template message must follow.

The most important thing to remember is that dynamic content that changes based on the customer (names, reservation dates, etc.) is represented by double curly braces: \. Again, guidelines can be found here.

Handy examples of WhatsApp template messages

Of course, none of this information about WhatsApp message templates does you any good if you don’t know how to use it. That’s why I’m showing you some of the best WhatsApp template messages you can use once you’re set up and ready to go. These template messages are essential for most businesses - regardless of the industry.

a) Reaching out to a customer over 24 hours after they last contacted you

What to name it: 24_hour_window

What to say:

I’m sorry that I couldn’t respond to your question yesterday, but I am happy to help you now. If you’d like to continue this conversation, please reply with “yes.”

b) Providing a customer their receipt information after a recent purchase

What to name it: payment_update

What to say:

We have received your payment for your recent order \. We will ship it as soon as possible. Here is your payment receipt.

c) Letting a customer know that their product has shipped

What to name it: shipping_update

What to say:

Your order for \ has been shipped and is currently on its way to you. The expected delivery date is \. With this tracking code you are able to follow the progress of your shipment \. Please let us know if you have any questions!

d) Giving a customer information on an upcoming appointment

What to name it: appointment_update

What to say:

You have successfully scheduled your appointment at \. It will take place on \ at \. Send us a message if you have any questions. We look forward to seeing you then!

e) Giving a customer information on an upcoming reservation

What to name it: reservation_update

What to say:

Thank you for your reservation at \ on the \. We look forward to welcoming you! You can check in on the day of your reservation anytime after 14:00. Feel free to send us a message at \ if you have any questions.

f) Updating a customer about a scheduling change or delay to a planned trip

What to name it: transportation_update

What to say:

Your scheduled flight from \ to \ is currently delayed. Estimated departure time is \. We will let you know about any further updates.

g) Sending ticket information to a customer

What to name it: ticket_update

What to say:

Here is your ticket information and boarding pass for your flight from \ to \. Send us a message if you need more information. Enjoy your flight!

h) Letting a customer know that they have successfully created an account with you

What to name it: account_update

What to say:

Dear \, you recently registered with us as a customer. Just letting you know that your account registration was successful. Thanks for joining!

i) Informing a customer of their financial situation (if you are a financial institution)

What to name it: personal_finance_update

What to say:

We have received your balance request. Your current balance for account \ is \. Please send us a message if you have any further questions.

j) Giving your customer a status update about a problem your company is currently experiencing

What to name it: issue_resolution

What to say:

We are currently experiencing an issue with \. We will let you know as soon as it is resolved. In the meantime, you can reach customer service at \ should you have any questions.

k) Giving the customer a general information alert

What to name it: alert_update

What to say:

Hi \, welcome to \! We are happy that you registered with us. If you have any general questions, feel free to send us a message. Hope to hear from you soon!

l) Asking a customer who has inquired during a holiday to message again within working hours

What to name it: auto_reply

What to say:

Thanks for your message \. Unfortunately we are unable to respond to your request during holiday hours. Please reach out again during our normal working hours (Monday-Friday, 8 AM - 7 PM, EST) and we will be happy to help you.

How to get started with WhatsApp for Business with Userlike

WhatsApp template messages may at first appear as an administrative nuisance, but they are actually a great way for WhatsApp to safeguard the customer experience – ensuring that it stays everyone’s favorite communication channel.

Userlike logo circled by various messenger app logos.

If you’re looking to offer this channel to your customers, then Userlike can help. Besides an easy setup of template messages, we offer you effortless and quick access to the WhatsApp Business API. Unlike most other business solutions for WhatsApp, we offer one flat fee – no unexpected charges.

What also sets us apart is that you get more than just WhatsApp. With any of our plans, you also get an advanced website chat solution, and access to other messaging channels like Messenger, SMS and Threema.

While WhatsApp is the leader, your customers are actually divided over the different messaging apps. With Userlike, you cover the most important ones – and always offer the optimal contact channel wherever your customers are. When they are on your website, through website messaging; when they are going about their day, through their favorite messaging app.

As just one of many examples, Userlike client Toyota uses WhatsApp as a contact channel between them and their customers. WhatsApp not only allows Toyota to communicate quickly and effectively with a large customer base, but ensures a wonderful customer experience all around.

Interested in doing the same?

Userlike offers:

  • An expert set-up that guarantees your WhatsApp template messages work straight from the beginning.
  • An easy-to-use interface so you are always on top of your customer communications.
  • Features like tags, smart routing, and analytics that maximize the effectiveness of your customer service.
  • All-inclusive pricing structure that includes all template costs.
  • Integration with a wide range of other messaging apps (not only WhatsApp) to ensure you are reaching your audience on all platforms.

Want to take full advantage of the power of WhatsApp API in customer communication? Fill out Userlike’s WhatsApp API access form here!