What­sApp, Busi­ness?

Pankaja Balaji ex­plores What­sApp Busi­ness and what it spells for busi­nesses, es­pe­cially the small play­ers.

Apparel - - Contents July 2018 -

A peek into what What­sApp Busi­ness spells for busi­nesses

What­sApp is a crowd pleaser. Sim­ple to learn and sim­pler to use. Well, it used to be.

What­sApp was launched in 2009 when those with Black­Berry, iPhone and An­droid, de­spite own­ing a phone, were strug­gling to com­mu­ni­cate with each other. Each op­er­at­ing sys­tem (OS) had its own mes­sen­gers which had their own quirks. Ex­clu­siv­ity, not com­mu­ni­ca­tion, was the thing of the hour.

Then en­tered What­sApp. And at zero cost, it took over. Avail­able on App stores, it al­lowed users to set sta­tus mes­sages, know when some­one read their mes­sage, back up chats on Google Drive and even call peo­ple across the world without the need to pay ex­or­bi­tant charges.

While all of this was fan­tas­tic, what made What­sApp so amaz­ing is how it be­gan mak­ing peo­ple that much more ac­ces­si­ble. Wait­ing for emails and an­tic­i­pat­ing long awk­ward phone calls were the things of the past. In­terns were fol­low­ing up with se­niors, col­leagues were con­firm­ing meet­ings over the mes­sag­ing plat­form, rental de­tails were be­ing shared and magazine ed­i­tors were eas­ing dead­lines for des­per­ate writ­ers.

An­other group of peo­ple who be­gan to take ad­van­tage of the app were ven­dors. Prod­uct pho­tos, de­liv­ery ad­dresses, bank­ing de­tails and even track­ing be­gan to be shared more in­for­mally. In­sta­gram and Facebook show­cased the prod­ucts; What­sApp en­sured it reached the cus­tomer.

While the cre­ators of What­sApp did not choose to mon­e­tise this, Facebook which ac­quired the app in 2014, has a his­tory of suc­cess­fully, if not eth­i­cally, mak­ing money of its var­i­ous prod­ucts. What­sApp Busi­ness (WB) is no dif­fer­ent.

What­sApp Busi­ness launched early this year in­ter­na­tion­ally and ar­rived in In­dia a few weeks later. It came packed with in­tu­itive fea­tures that might seem small but are crit­i­cal to cus­tomer ser­vice, es­pe­cially for its tar­get au­di­ence of small busi­nesses.

In­dia is home to 36.2 mil­lion MSMEs, who are strug­gling to get new or­ders, meet their pro­duc­tion dead­lines and en­sure ser­vices, all the while mak­ing sure that they don’t lose touch with their clients and cus­tomers. A free ser­vice like WB could be that crit­i­cal fac­tor that en­sured that com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the ser­vice provider and the cus­tomer was open. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is es­sen­tial to cus­tomer ser­vice and re­la­tion­ship, it can help build trust­wor­thi­ness, re­peat busi­ness, re­fer­rals and cus­tomer loy­alty.

THE FEA­TURES

WB’s new stack of fea­tures is about sign­ing up un­der a busi­ness pro­file. Users who have set up this type of ac­count will have a ‘B’ next to their name in­di­cat­ing that the num­ber be­longs to a busi­ness ac­count.

This busi­ness pro­file al­lows users to share their com­pany pro­file, in­clud­ing their lo­ca­tion, through Google Maps, email ID, web­site and a de­scrip­tion of the busi­ness. What­sApp has an­nounced that it will even­tu­ally start ver­i­fy­ing the pro­files, ad­ding an­other layer of au­then­tic­ity. This will work much like how Twit­ter-ver­i­fied ac­counts work, with a mark or sym­bol in­di­cat­ing WB has done its due dili­gence.

This set of pro­files come with the perks of a va­ri­ety of com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools, cus­tomised au­to­matic greet­ings, smart mes­sages to re­ply to FAQs, away mes­sages to in­di­cate of­fice hours and la­bels to or­gan­ise dif­fer­ent types of on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tions in­clud­ing new cus­tomers, new or­ders, paid and oth­ers. Im­por­tantly, con­ver­sa­tions are en­crypted with the pos­si­bil­ity of set­ting up a two-step ver­i­fi­ca­tion, which en­sures pri­vacy and data se­cu­rity.

WB is a sep­a­rate app that can be down­loaded which makes it pos­si­ble to man­age both pri­vate and of­fi­cial ac­counts. Also, keep­ing in mind their tar­get au­di­ence of small busi­nesses, WB has al­lowed the op­tion of reg­is­ter­ing with a land­line num­ber.

The new busi­ness ver­sion also gives ba­sic data an­a­lyt­ics, such as the num­ber of mes­sages sent, num­ber read and oth­ers. This is to help users tweak their out­reach.

THE BIG VS THE SMALL

Though WB is for the small busi­nesses, the big play­ers are en­thu­si­as­tic about it.

Ko­tak Mahin­dra and ICICI have both shared that they will be test­ing the app for its cus­tomer en­gage­ment. Ko­tak Mahin­dra pi­loted it amongst its cus­tomers for ver­i­fy­ing Aad­haar, up­dat­ing PAN and other de­tails, as well as putting re­quests or stop­ping stand­ing in­struc­tions.

Any work­ing adult would tell you how con­ve­nient it would be to man­age all these bank­ing con­cerns on a week­day. But it is yet to be de­ter­mined if the bank will be able to man­age the in­flow of cus­tomer re­quests and re­spond with the min­i­mal turn­about such com­mu­ni­ca­tion might de­mand. ICICI, on the other hand, will test it with a closed group be­fore tak­ing a call.

BookMyShow has al­ready be­gun rolling out its pi­lot part­ner­ship with WB. They are send­ing ticket con­fir­ma­tions via What­sApp on the reg­is­tered mo­bile num­ber. Of course, clients can opt out any­time. It begs the ques­tion, why are cus­tomers not be­ing asked if they wanted one more av­enue of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the busi­ness and how long will it be be­fore it be­gins send­ing mar­ket­ing spam?

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