February 20, 2015

6 Scary Risks of Using Whatsapp for Business

With over a million customers joining the Whatsapp user base every day (with no marketing budget), no one can question the popularity of the instant messaging tool. Facebook’s acquisition of the app in 2014 is another indication of its potential.
Many small businesses in India are using Whatsapp to communicate with customers and teammates. Small retailers of FMCG and consumer durables are taking orders on Whatsapp, answering queries, closing deals and sending out promotions. But is that such a good idea?
Maybe it makes some sense for small entrepreneurs where sales, marketing and delivery is a one-man show. Even so, I’d say it messes up with measurement and analysis. But if you have others selling your product or service, even if that’s just one person, I would strongly suggest you don’t rely on Whatsapp. The repercussions could be scary for you and your business.
Allow me to elaborate.

1. How secure is Whatsapp?

Whatsapp’s own terms and conditions adjure users to use it for personal conversations. Why? All Whatsapp media is saved on the device in a regular folder in the gallery. There is no password protection or encryption.

Communication on Whatsapp could easily be eavesdropped on because there was no security at the application layer till November 2014. Since Whatsapp has enabled end-to-end encryption. But anyone with physical access to your phone can see messages and media.

Consider these scenarios:

  1. Your sales executive’s phone gets lost or stolen. Anyone with access to the phone now can see the proprietary data sent to your sales guy on Whatsapp.
  2. Whatsapp messages can be easily forwarded without your knowledge – maybe to your competitor.
  3. Your sales guy leaves. You remove him from your Whatsapp group or even your phonebook. That does not mean earlier Whatsapp messages sent to him (which could include strategy, ideas and data) no longer exist. They’re still on his phone, available to share with whom he pleases.

While these facts alone would stop me from using Whatsapp as a sales tool, others may disagree. The convenience of Whatsapp is just too appealing.

A business owner could argue that he doesn’t share proprietary data on Whatsapp, just has customer conversations. Or maybe the owner is the sole salesperson? But what if the owner’s phone gets lost or stolen?

2. No selective email option for Whatsapp chats

Let’s say you’re responding to customer queries on Whatsapp. Typically, people have a group for this so they can broadcast messages to customers. Your customer shares important requirements with you and you tell her what she needs to know. More people join in and the conversation grows in length.

At the end of the day, you want to document the specific customer exchange for later reference. You have two options: Either email the complete conversation to yourself, extract relevant data and document or search in the chat, selectively forward or copy.

Neither looks appealing, not even if you have to do this for 5 conversations a day. It would take away productive time.

3. No documentation support

Unlike a CRM system or an enterprise-grade mobile sales enablement app, you cannot add your own notes to an exchange with a lead or customer. No annotations, no notes to self, no reminders, nothing. If you want to do that, you must copy messages from the Whatsapp chat into some other documentation tool.

Wouldn’t it just be simpler to switch to an app that comes with inbuilt support for Notes, Calendar, etc.?

4. Does not offer measurement or analysis

To say Whatsapp doesn’t support measurement and analysis sounds silly. It was never meant to be used as a sales tool.

If your salesforce uses Whatsapp to engage customers, there’s no way to record the exchange, measure or analyze it for trends or best practices. Workarounds of copying messages, etc., are too long-winded and clumsy, not to mention needless when much better mobile sales tools are available at an affordable cost.

5. Whatsapp may prove counter-productive

Many small business owners take to Whatsapp as they don’t have the bandwidth to attend calls and work simultaneously through the day. But how much time does Whatsapp save? You would need to respond to multiple Whatsapp users some days. Even if you announce messages on a group, there will be follow up questions that’ll need to be answered – one-on-one.

6. Whatsapp is text marketing. Do you have opt-in?

Engaging customers on Whatsapp can become intrusive. Unless you have explicit permission to connect with them on Whatsapp and a legit reason to do so, you’re on shaky ground.

Whatsapp is a great tool! I love it myself but not to talk to leads. Small shops and retailers are buying into the idea of Whatsapp for the convenience and availability of customers but they’re missing out on valuable insights that churn out of true mobile sales solutions. Your historical data could go to waste or worse, into the hands of a competitor.

Are you using Whatsapp as a sales tool too? How do you manage the above?



Monica is a digital marketer, content creator and technology enthusiast. Her dream is to help more small businesses understand and leverage digital marketing for brand awareness, growth and profit.

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