Is WhatsApp for Business really needed?

When we learnt of WhatsApp for business, currently still in its testing phase, our immediate thought was, is it really needed? With so many free messaging business applications, such as email, could WhatsApp really be the must have business tool of the future?

Our initial thoughts on WhatsApp for Business

For a digital marketing agency in Bournemouth like ourselves, we have no real requirement for a messaging service outside of work hours, and we use Basecamp for a record of interaction. I gave my co-workers a brief overview of the business platform, summarised in our digital marketing blog, and founder Zhara had some initial concerns,

Zhara Woods | Founder of Upperdog Ltd
“WhatsApp is generally for informal conversations and I’m not convinced that fits well in a business environment. I have reservations about a possible influx of advertising on the app, and how easily businesses could talk to me. Invasion of privacy is a big consideration too. Even if I have to contact the business first, I don’t think opening a channel of communication through WhatsApp is something I’d do. Based on that I’m not sure I’d advocate this as a service for our clients until I’ve seen a proven, successful example.”

Fortunately, a business will have to be contacted by a user first before they can respond with organic or sponsored messages. As for advertising, WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum has promised the app will never show ads, but we’re unsure whether businesses will be able to send sponsored messages.

Useful for customer service, but what about security?

Another colleague likes the customer service and instant answer capabilities it may have, as demonstrated with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Users can receive their boarding bass, ask to change seats and send questions, streamlining B2C communication and service. As with any platform that sends personal details, security is a fear for the consumer but WhatsApp uses end to end encryption, making it securer than most email programmes.

What do businesses that already use WhatsApp think?

I spoke to a manager at an enterprise phone company in the UK who are currently using the regular version of WhatsApp for business communication. His thoughts were,

“I don’t like it. It removes true, professional communication between colleagues. I’ve also found that rather than anyone self-educating by looking for an answer to a question themselves, they’ll use WhatsApp to message a group of 20 colleagues who must take the time to open their phone, read it and answer. The major difference between WhatsApp and email is that email promotes professional conduct, with a greeting, body of text and a sign off. WhatsApp is used for single line communication, more casual in context and often unprofessional. Whilst a great tool for instant communication, I’m an advocate for more traditional business methods. Hence why WhatsApp notifications are silenced, I check them when I’ve the time. I see far too many people that allow WhatsApp to dictate their day!”

Conclusion

We’re a generation of instant messaging and our demand for faster, more easily accessible customer service is only growing. For B2C business, I think WhatsApp for Business is going to be great (if they limit advertisements). However, for use as an internal communication tool, it’s a potential time waster. We’ll be watching the WhatsApp space…

Interested in learning more about the latest releases from social and digital platforms? Read the Upperdog blog here.