There is no denying it… WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps in the world, with over 2 billion active users as of 2021. Originally designed for personal use, it has now become a vital tool for businesses to communicate with their customers and employees. In 2018, WhatsApp launched its business version, known as WhatsApp Business, which is specifically designed for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to enhance their communication with customers. In this blog, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of using WhatsApp for business, its functionality, and the challenges that come with compliance and oversight.
The Popularity of WhatsApp for Consumer Use
WhatsApp was first introduced in 2009 as a simple messaging app for personal use. It quickly gained popularity due to its easy-to-use interface and ability to send messages, photos, videos, and audio messages. In 2014, WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook, and since then, it has grown in popularity and functionality, becoming a vital communication tool for people all over the world.
One of the main reasons for WhatsApp’s popularity is its end-to-end encryption, which ensures that messages sent between users are only visible to the sender and receiver. This makes WhatsApp a secure and private communication tool for individuals and businesses alike.
The Adoption of WhatsApp in Employee-Customer Communication
In recent years, businesses have increasingly adopted WhatsApp as a tool for communicating with their customers. This has become particularly prevalent in industries such as retail, hospitality, and e-commerce, where customer service and support are essential.
WhatsApp allows businesses to communicate with customers in real-time, responding quickly to queries and providing immediate solutions to problems. This can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, which is critical for any business.
Furthermore, businesses can use WhatsApp to send promotional messages, offers, and updates to their customers. This provides a direct and cost-effective way of reaching out to a large customer base, without the need for expensive advertising campaigns.
Advantages of Using WhatsApp for Business
There are several advantages to using WhatsApp for business communication. Firstly, WhatsApp is a free app, which means that businesses can save money on expensive communication tools such as SMS or email. Secondly, WhatsApp allows businesses to communicate with customers in real-time, which can lead to faster resolution of queries and issues.
Thirdly, WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption ensures that messages sent between customers and businesses are secure and private, which is crucial for businesses that handle sensitive information. Fourthly, WhatsApp allows businesses to send promotional messages and offers to customers, which can help to increase sales and revenue.
Disadvantages of Using WhatsApp for Business
Despite the advantages, there are also some disadvantages to using WhatsApp for business communication. One of the main issues is that WhatsApp is primarily designed for personal use, and as such, it can be difficult to separate personal and business messages.
This can lead to confusion and miscommunication, particularly if employees are using their personal WhatsApp accounts for business communication. Moreover, as WhatsApp is a mobile app, it can be challenging to manage and archive messages, which can make it difficult to keep track of communication with customers.
Another significant disadvantage of using WhatsApp for business is that it can be challenging to maintain compliance and oversight. This is particularly important for businesses that operate in heavily regulated industries such as healthcare, finance, and legal services. It can be challenging to ensure that all messages are being recorded and archived, which can lead to fines and legal issues.
Functionality of WhatsApp for Business
WhatsApp for Business offers several features that are designed specifically for small and medium size businesses (SMEs). One of the most important features is the ability to create a business profile, which allows businesses to provide customers with essential information such as contact details, website links, and business hours.
Another key feature of WhatsApp for Business is the ability to set up quick replies and automated messages. This can help businesses to respond to common queries more efficiently, saving time and resources. Businesses can also use WhatsApp for Business to create and send templates, which can be customized with customer details and sent out quickly.
WhatsApp for Business also offers a range of messaging tools, including the ability to send photos, videos, and audio messages. Businesses can also send documents and location pins, which can be useful for providing directions or sending invoices.
Notable Limitations of WhatsApp for Business
Despite its functionality, there are also some notable limitations of WhatsApp for Business. One of the most significant is that it is currently only available as a mobile app, which can make it challenging to manage and archive messages. This can be particularly problematic for businesses that need to keep a record of communication for compliance purposes.
Moreover, WhatsApp for Business is limited to a single phone number, which can make it difficult for larger businesses that need to manage communication across multiple departments and teams. This can lead to confusion and can make it challenging to track customer communication effectively.
Another limitation of WhatsApp for Business is that it does not currently offer any paid advertising options, which can make it challenging for businesses to reach a wider audience. While businesses can send promotional messages to their customer base, it can be difficult to attract new customers without the ability to target specific demographics or interests.
Challenges with Compliance and Oversight
One of the most significant challenges with using WhatsApp for business communication is compliance and oversight. As mentioned earlier, businesses that operate in heavily regulated industries such as healthcare, finance, and legal services must ensure that all communication with customers is recorded and archived.
WhatsApp for Business offers some tools to help with compliance, such as the ability to export chat histories and the option to use a third-party tool for message archiving. However, these tools are not foolproof, and businesses must take care to ensure that they are complying with all relevant regulations.
Failure to comply with regulations can result in significant fines, which can be particularly damaging for small businesses. In 2017, a company in Brazil was fined $6,000 for failing to provide records of WhatsApp communication to a regulatory body. In the same year, a company in Canada was fined $15,000 for failing to archive its employee communications on WhatsApp.
WhatsApp for Business – What’ Next?
WhatsApp for Business offers a range of benefits for small and medium-sized businesses, including cost-effective communication, real-time customer support, and the ability to send promotional messages. However, there are also some limitations and challenges associated with using WhatsApp for business communication, particularly around compliance and oversight.
Businesses that choose to use WhatsApp for communication with customers must ensure that they have appropriate policies and procedures in place to manage and archive messages effectively. This may include the use of third-party archiving tools or other solutions to ensure compliance with relevant regulations.
Overall, WhatsApp for Business can be a powerful tool for businesses to enhance their communication with customers and improve customer satisfaction. However, businesses must be aware of the limitations and challenges associated with using the app and take steps to mitigate these risks to ensure effective and compliant communication.