It seemed to be a sector that was ripe for the picking for WhatsApp. And on 18 January, the messaging service duly announced the launch of an application dedicated to small businesses, called WhatsApp Business.
WhatsApp Business has new functionalities that small businesses will love, but be warned: verifying the accounts of these companies requires answers to some rather sensitive questions.
Despite the fact that it already had 1.3 billion users, the app had no specific functionalities for business. So the Facebook subsidiary decided to create a new app to help companies communicate more easily with their customers.
WhatsApp Business offers various new communication tools
Using the app, companies can create a professional profile and enter practical information such as their address, company description, how to reach them, opening hours etc.
WhatsApp Business also has an array of communication tools to automate and organise tasks, as well as providing quick replies to messages.
The “quick replies” function allows set messages to be written and sent at the touch of a button, to provide a rapid response to a frequently asked question.
Companies can also add their own automatic replies, such as a welcome or unavailable message when a customer begins a conversation.
Finally, there is access to statistics and use of the messenger service via a computer with WhatsApp Web making life easier and more flexible for businesses using the service.
WhatsApp Business is included in the main app for customers of companies using it, so they do not need to download an extra app to communicate with business profiles. They can also block the number of a company should they no longer wish to receive messages from them.
Companies can have their account certified, which means that WhatsApp verifies that the telephone number of the professional account does actually correspond to the company’s. No other details on this functionality have been provided by WhatsApp.
While it is as yet unclear as to how WhatsApp will proceed with this verification system, which appears simple enough at first sight, issues could be raised.
How is it possible, for example, to distinguish between legal companies and those operating “cash-in-hand”? WhatsApp could also come under fire if it certifies companies with certain political leanings. Last November for example, Twitter had to suspend its account verification process after giving a green tick to an American neo-Nazi!
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