Citizens Advice Manchester have this week launched resources which will help debt agencies to utilise WhatsApp as an effective tool for delivering money advice.
After receiving Innovation Grants funding from the Money Advice Trust in 2017, Citizens Advice Manchester ran a successful pilot delivering debt advice via WhatsApp. People were able to get in touch with the project via a unique number, and then communicated with an adviser through text and photo messaging to provide details of the issue and receive personalised advice and support.
In its year-long pilot, the project successfully supported 490 individuals, and 88% of people did not need any additional support following contact on WhatsApp. Users have been overwhelmingly satisfied with the service, with one user saying:
“They got back to me straight away… They gave me a lot of information, gave me a few options, and were very empathetic to my situation and that always helps because I feel like the problem has been shared with someone.”
Key benefits of using this channel include free access, a recognised platform used around the world, a quicker advice process, and a feeling of anonymity helping users to feel more comfortable disclosing the problems they are facing. Citizens Advice Manchester have now taken the learning from this project and developed a toolkit for other agencies looking to deliver money advice in this way; these can be accessed via Wiser Adviser, part of the Money Advice Trust, which provides training and support to the free debt advice sector.
Dan Pye, Head of Specialist Advice & Legal services at CAM said:
"Receiving an Innovation Grant provided us with an exciting opportunity to use WhatsApp to deliver debt advice has been invaluable in allowing us to provide support to groups of clients who may not otherwise have used our service. This has proved incredibly popular, and we will embed this into our service for follow-up support to our clients where needed."
Joanna Elson, Chief Executive at the Money Advice Trust said:
“We are delighted to have funded the WhatsApp debt advice project and I want to congratulate Citizens Advice Manchester on their work.
“Testing new advice channels, like WhatsApp, helps us to continue learning and broadens the options available to access debt advice.
“One initial finding shows that the use of WhatsApp was particularly helpful in engaging people whose first language was not English.
“I encourage advisers and advice agencies to look at the project resources available via Wiseradviser to see how they may be able to use this approach in their setting.”