01 Sep 2020 19:16 IST

WhatsApp for Business can be an indispensable tool

This ubiquitous application can be leveraged, especially by banks to deliver the OTP

Many people are unaware that the ubiquitous social messaging platform, WhatsApp, has a powerful cousin: WhatsApp for Business.

As anyone who uses WhatsApp knows, the app is extremely reliable. All messages are secured with 128-bit encryption, so there’s literally no chance that someone can snoop in on the contents of a WhatsApp message.

The app does not need a SIM card or data plan to function - it works just fine on WiFi. This makes the app extremely useful to international travelers; they can wait for their phones to connect to a WiFi signal at a public airport or hotel, and instantly be in touch with their address book.

Because of Covid, people are increasingly resorting to video calls on WhatsApp. These too are secured by 128-bit encryption, so people never need to worry about security. The app now allows eight concurrent users on the same video call.

And the app is free. Free, not like Google, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube which bombard you with ads. WhatsApp is free from any commercial interruption, period.

Largest user base

It is little wonder that India has the largest WhatsApp user base in the world. Indeed, nearly every Indian smartphone already has WhatsApp enabled. This further contributes to the network effect. If just about everyone else is using the app, it makes sense that you have the app too.

Now imagine if all of these incredible attributes are enhanced with sophisticated business features. The result is a killer app that no business can be without.

WhatsApp Business users can create a logo, add a business name, location with map, hours of operation, web site, contact email address, and a description. When a customer texts this user via regular WhatsApp, all of this business information is instantly available with just a tap. Since contact within the WhatsApp ecosystem needs only a user’s phone number, this feature is very powerful both for the business and the customer. A single phone number unlocking details of a business. What a novel idea.




Besides, when a customer messages the business for the first time, the app can be configured to send a greeting automatically, as in, “Thank you for contacting us. We will get back to you shortly!” And just as you can do with traditional email programs, business users can set up automatic replies when they are away, such as on vacation.

Payment details

Quick Replies is another neat feature. Suppose a business person wants to provide customers with NEFT or PayTm information to get paid after providing a service. The business owner creates a standard message with all the payment details and saves it once, with a keyword, as in “/NEFT.” Each time the business person wants to send this information out, typing the backward slash key “/” brings up all the keyboard shortcuts. Choosing “/NEFT” from the list automatically populates the text box with the required information, ensuring correct content delivery (without any typos).

For retail WhatsApp users, every person - an elderly relative or a high school friend - appears the same in the message list. This is a particular problem when the names are similar. Are we forwarding a message to Srinivas, the high school classmate from years ago, or Srinivas, the maternal uncle? Veteran users, after being burned by sending inappropriate messages to the wrong destination, may resort to changing the name in the contact book, such as Uncle Srinivas, to prevent such errors. The delete feature is a boon, of course, but delayed deletes can create havoc because the recipient may already have read the message.

Label a customer

In the business world, sending incorrect messages can have serious consequences. You don’t want to send a promotional quote to an existing customer when you reserved it only for new customers. So WhatsApp Business allows you to assign each customer a label - such as new customer, existing customer, problem customer and so on. By organising customers and chat messages using colour-coded labels, business owners can prevent such costly snafus.





So, is WhatsApp Business only relevant to small business owners? Hardly. TataSky has already perfected this method of communication with its vast retail base of customers, who can add or drop channels from their line-up by simply texting a WhatsApp message.

An easy adoption of WhatsApp could be in India’s banking sector, especially for delivering the vaunted one-time-passcode, or OTP. As internet and mobile banking rapidly advance in the country - more so in the Covid era - the telecommunications infrastructure is coming under heavy loads during peak times of the day. The SMS-based OTP is unreliable when customers are in dead zones, where the signal between the handset and mobile site antennas is blocked or severely reduced, usually by hilly terrain, dense foliage, or physical distance.

The OTP is much like an elevator in a building. When it works, it works like a charm, and life goes on without a hitch. When it doesn’t work, life comes to a grinding halt. There are no statistics about how many OTP requests fail, but even a 0.1 per cent failure rate means lakhs of incomplete or abandoned transactions.

Given WhatsApp’s reliability and security, banks can forever retire the OTP Anxiety Syndrome by sending their one-time passcodes using WhatsApp. Any takers, people?