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WhatsApp Business: How companies are using app to cut costs and communicate better

Aniruddha Ghosh

Facebook-owned WhatsApp had more than 200 million active users in India as of February 2017. Given the substantial user base, several businesses, large and small, are leveraging the messaging platform s WhatsApp Business app an offering launched in January last year. The company recently said that more than five million businesses around the world use the platform. From disseminating information to offering customer service, WhatsApp is quickly emerging as a handy tool for businesses to engage with consumers efficiently.

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Saying it better
For online travel services company MakeMyTrip, WhatsApp solves refund and ticket related issues. Saujanya Shrivastava, group CMO, MakeMyTrip, says that by offering customer support over WhatsApp, the company sees a 15% reduction in refund-related calls to its customer care centres. The company also uses WhatsApp to provide customers with a way to receive and retrieve their booking information.
Meanwhile, food delivery company Swiggy, too, experimented with the platform, mostly to inform customers about the status of their order. It also integrated a map-based order tracking system so customers could be informed about the location of the delivery executive in real time.
Online ticketing platform BookMyShow, found out through its in-house survey that around 98% of users prefer communication via WhatsApp, instead of over SMS or e-mail. The company says the platform allows sending richer data, resulting in better user experience, as compared to traditional text messaging or SMS. For instance, it allows QR code, which is a requisite for entry into cinema halls, to be available offline.
Marketers, in general, agree that the platform is effective to improve user experiences rather than as a marketing tool. A BookMyShow spokesperson shares that going forward, it will look at adding more use cases such as enabling customer support directly via WhatsApp and sharing relevant content with users based on their interests. For the latter, users will be required to opt-in for such communication, if interested.

Spam check
To ensure that companies do not inundate users with unwanted messages, businesses using the WhatsApp Business API need to gain permission from customers to send them a message. For example, on an airline s website, users can opt to receive flight updates via WhatsApp instead of e-mail. Opting out of the service is also easy with BookMyShow, for instance, all that the user needs to do is send a STOP message to put an end to the updates. Users can also block businesses from contacting them.
Further, if a business responds to a customer s query in less than 24 hours, it will be free, but if it exceeds that time, messages are charged. That s another reason analysts believe the platform serves only as an essential information tool rather than a marketing tool. In fact, the platform is best used that way, says Sanchit Vir Gogia, an analyst at Greyhound Research. Customers are increasingly wary of sharing personal information and, more importantly, being targetted with ads. Businesses need to learn from customers irritation with SMS and e-mail spam, and steer clear of this, he adds.
For large companies, the WhatsApp chatbot integration allows responding to customers within 24 hours, avoiding extra cost. Several companies offer such chatbot service integration on WhatsApp.
Gogia believes that while WhatsApp Business is very useful for micro and small businesses traders and professionals who aggressively use the platform to communicate with customers and prospects it is also a great way to improve customer support and experience for both large and medium companies.
Given the nature of the platform, it is largely suited for online ticketing, e-commerce, and food delivery companies. But media/content firms like Netflix, too, are using the platform, albeit on a small scale.
Businesses could also benefit from the payments feature on the platform, which exists for some users. However, WhatsApp is facing several regulatory issues regarding a formal roll-out of its payments service. Should these hurdles be overcome, WhatsApp Pay could be quite lucra.