In Industry Insights

Following on from our article on the benefits and perils of using WhatsApp last Autumn, we asked Chris Barley from Converso to elaborate on using WhatsApp in a business setting. Converso is trying to solve these issues, specifically focusing on the compliance issues surrounding law firms.

Increasing use of messaging for business – WhatsApp compliance becoming more pressing

Use of WhatsApp for business communications is growing fast, and it’s easy to see why. Compared to email and phone, WhatsApp is easier, quicker and more convenient – and this usage trend is set to continue. 

Since the pandemic, there’s been a shift to more flexible ways to get in touch with businesses, evidenced through a spike in help requests dealt with by support teams originating from messaging channels such as WhatsApp.

Mobile messaging is popular because of its conversational nature and interface. Responses are quick and to the point. In comparison, email can be formal and slow, and this has contributed to its gradual decline in use, along with the phone.

 This is reflected by the fact that 70% of customers expect to be able to use conversational channels when communicating with businesses

Problems with personal WhatsApp use

So messaging, and more specifically WhatsApp, is becoming a key part of the communications mix for many organizations and their clients. 

This is especially true for advisory firms such as legal, accounting and financial services.

Here, the nature of the service is more conversational than transactional. Each question, comment or response that’s stored as part of a thread, adds to the picture of the client, and helps the firm address their specific needs. That’s why keeping records of interactions is so important.

But increasing use of WhatsApp has meant escalating from the occasional message sent from a personal account, to managing multiple conversations from a wide range of clients. 

This has highlighted a number of operational challenges when using WhatsApp that originate from the same issue – messages are stuck on your device and there’s no way to share them amongst your team.   

This is obviously a major drawback if you’re more than a couple of people, and it can also present a real compliance and regulatory headache for legal firms, as the following issues show:

  • Other employees can’t respond to messages if the user’s on holiday, sick, or has left the company
  • Increased pressure to reply in short time frames and out of hours, results in work overload and burnout, as messages cannot be shared with colleagues
  • No central record keeping, or message history exists, either for individual use or as a business. This can also result in difficulty recording billable time against a client for WhatsApp messages handled. 
  • No way of enforcing GDPR requirements for retention or removal of personal information  
  • Once the employee leaves the company, all conversations and contacts walk out with them
  • Conversations can be deleted or tampered with by the employee making comprehensive file reviews and audit trails impossible
  • Searching conversations for audit purposes can be very challenging, and difficult to cross reference against other communication channels 
  • Uploading conversations to CRM and CMS systems involve screenshots and manual uploads, making the process very time consuming

So whilst WhatsApp promises a better and faster way to connect with clients, it can also be an operational headache, as well as represent a potential compliance risk.

So what’s the answer?

WhatsApp Business API – designed for multiple users 

WhatsApp was designed as a peer-to-peer service for personal use. But Facebook (now Meta) know that in order to monetise the network, the product needs to better address business requirements. Hence the introduction of WhatsApp Business API (Application Programming Interface). 

WABAPI enables communication service providers, such as Converso, to integrate their messaging platforms with WhatsApp in order to manage messages more effectively. 

A useful analogy is the phone service. When you’re a small company with a couple of people, you can survive with a phone line and handset. You take it in turns to answer calls during the day. 

But when you start to grow, you can’t distribute the increasing number of calls with only one line and handset. So you need a switch or PBX to direct calls to your growing number of employees.

WhatsApp is the same – the standard service allows you to manage a small volume of messages on a single device and account. WABAPI is the phone network, which plugs into applications like Converso, which are like the message version of a PBX/switch, directing multiple messages to the right employee.

This arrangement overcomes the operational challenges of the standard product, and also opens up additional benefits in meeting compliance requirements. 

Converso has integrated WABAPI with the aim specifically of providing compliant services to advisory services, such as legal and accounting. 

This architecture gives us better control of how messages are handled, and enables a  shared team inbox, which has the following benefits:

  1. Allows users in a department the option of viewing all client messages for a more complete client view
  2. Client conversations can be assigned to specific users depending on availability, skills etc for more productive working
  3. Standard users can archive conversations but can not tamper or delete them   
  4. When an employee leaves, all their client conversations remain archived centrally for as long as required
  5. When an employee goes on holiday, their conversations are still viewable and actionable by other employees
  6. For audit and file review purposes, archives are easily searchable for fast data retrieval.
  7. Ability to integrate with CRM and CMS systems, so that conversations can be seamlessly uploaded to client profiles, saving time.

The WABAPI is a step change for organisations of all sizes in being able to offer message communications at scale to their clients and customers. 

You now don’t have to manage multiple clients and multiple messages from a single account – you can share and manage all conversations as a team, with each employee having their own account, able to work on one number or range of numbers, all coordinated from a single place.

And most importantly, compliance requirements for data retention, message archiving and file reviews can be easily met, giving you complete peace of mind, as well as providing a more convenient, conversational service to your clients.          

If you would like to find out more about this, you can contact Chris on chris@converso.io

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