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How to harness WhatsApp for business

By SHAUN VAN ROOYEN, Strategic Accounts and Partnerships Manager for Infobip Africa

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Today, customers demand more than ever before from brands, including fast, personalised, reliable and free two-way communication.

Organisations that have realised how important it is to reach their customers where they are and on a communication channel that they know and trust, are increasingly looking to WhatsApp Business API (Application Program Interface) as their preferred platform to facilitate this communication, and with good reason.

World’s most trusted chat app

WhatsApp currently boasts 1.5 billion active subscribers, across 180 countries, making it the world’s most used chat app. Unsurprisingly, it is also the most widely used chat app on the African continent, as well as in South Africa, where nine out of 10 Internet users are active on WhatsApp, according to research findings.

Aside from the ubiquitous nature of the chat app, WhatsApp Business API has the potential to connect businesses with customers in a familiar and privately secure way. By providing services over the channel, organisations can expect to increase the likelihood of customer engagement and consequently loyalty due to convenience, trust and familiarity this chat app provides. As a result, they can ultimately move their business in a new direction by introducing a ‘pull strategy’ that is engaging, interactive and fun and move away from a more costly low ROI (Return On Investment) traditional ‘push strategy’.

The customer-centric approach to communication

The channel allows organisations to leverage rich and branded content, such as images, sound, documents and video, as well as conversations initiated by themselves or by their customers.Using WhatsApp Business API, a brand can build a rich multimedia two-way communication channel with its customers at an enterprise scale.

The benefits to mid-sized to large enterprises, is that they can use WhatsApp Business API for a wide range of customer-centric communications and queries that automate processes which include applications, and registrations, status confirmations and updates , location services, transaction alerts, one-time pin’s , Two Factor Authentications (2FA’s) and payment reminders, among others.

Essentially, it is the ideal communication channel for companies that have a large customer base and a large volume of Business to Consumer (B2C) activity, and whose call centres or offices are routinely inundated with repetitious queries. WhatsApp Business API is perfectly positioned to take over this form of communication and provide a self-service channel that is easy to use and can be automated without frustrating the customer.

Increasing automation to deal with critical issues

The benefit of introducing automation via a channel such as WhatsApp Business API into a call centre is that it frees up call centre agents to deal with more intricate and urgent queries.

A recent example of this is a local bus ticketing company that handles a call volume of about 10 000 calls a week, with about 80% of the queries being about whether a bus is leaving for a specific destination on a particular day, what the price of the ticket is and what the time departure is.

The company’s call centre agents had to repeatedly go through the same process, which was time-consuming,labour intensive and in some cases demoralising. Automating this communication via WhatsApp Business API, would take a massive load off the call centre and allow agents to deal with critical issues, such as attending to customers who have bought the wrong ticket, or those trying to trace a refund.

These are typical issues that need human intervention, however, a team of real-time chat agents and the customer can continue to use WhatsApp to chat rather than speaking to an agent telephonically.

Hence, there is no need to fear that chat apps will make humans redundant but could in fact create new positions for those who will need to become real-time chat agents, manage the system and teach the chat agents or Chatbot the required language to use.

Security is key 

It is also worth reiterating that WhatsApp communications are end-to-end encrypted to extremely strong standards. In fact, the chat app’s messages are more secure than many other digital channels and are just as well suited to confidential messages as SMS or email.

Innovative and forward-thinking companies, that are bold and agile enough to seize the opportunity, are upping the stakes on conversational commerce by enabling the customers to use WhatsApp Business API to communicate and transact with them. Can your organisation afford to be left behind?

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TikTok takes on COVID-19

The fastest growing social media platform in the world has also become an epicenter of public education about the coronavirus, attracting more than 30-billion views, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The young have been getting a bad rap for wanting to party on while COVID-19 sends the world into lockdown. But a different movie is playing itself out on the social platform that is growing fastest among teenagers: TikTok.

Awareness campaigns by TikTok itself, collaboration with the International Red Cross, and spontaneous videos made by TikTok creators have combined into a barrage of information, education, awareness and social consciousness around the coronavirus.

Both globally and in South Africa, TikTok’s COVID-19 campaigns have gone viral.

The local #HayiCorona challenge, designed to remind people not to touch their face and wash hands regularly, has passed 1.5-million views. The TikTok collaboration with the International Red Cross, the #WashingHands challenge, has passed 12.6-million views.

One of the best-known participants in these challenges is the past year’s icon of South African talent, the Ndlovu Youth Choir, took up the global challenge with a 20-second hand-washing video. It put together a performance that brings tremendous energy to what can be a clichéd message, and ends with a punt for the Department of Health’s WhatsApp information service. The video can be viewed below.

@ndlovuyouthchoir

Our community has limited access to running water. Follow these instructions on how to safely wash your hands using a bucket. ##coronavirus##washinghands

♬ original sound – ndlovuyouthchoir

“On a global scale, TikTok also partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that, while creators are still having fun and expressing themselves on the platform, they stay informed with COVID-19 information coming from a reliable source,” a TikTok spokesperson told us. “Through the partnership, the WHO has created an informational page on TikTok that offers information to curb the spread of the coronavirus as well as dispelling myths.”

The page can be viewed at https://vm.tiktok.com/GHTEGf

TikTok has hosted a number of livestreams with WHO experts, attracting users from more than 70 countries, tuning in for live question and answer sessions. It has also introduced labels on coronavirus-related videos, to point users to trusted information. Resources are also offered directly in the app and in a dedicated COVID-19 section of TikTok’s Safety Center, at https://www.tiktok.com/safety/resources/covid-19.

If users simply want to explore videos on the topic, they can search via the #coronavirus hashtag, or click on https://vm.tiktok.com/swKbn4. The hashtag has had an astonishing 33.8-billion views, indicating the scale of activity and interest around the topic on the platform.

Read more on the next page about how South Africans have embraced the campaign.

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On World Backup Day: backup, backup, backup

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It was World Backup Day yesterday, 31 March, at a time when business continuity is threatened as never before. That makes calls for protecting email and defending against ransomware all the more urgent.

The global coronavirus pandemic has brought into stark relief many organisations’ lack of business continuity plans and policies. With more than two billion people around the globe in forced lockdown in wide-ranging government efforts to stem the tide of infections, an unprecedented number of employees are working remotely.

This interruption to the normal way of work is precisely what an effective and resilient business continuity strategy should plan for, says Heino Gevers, cybersecurity specialist at Mimecast

“Companies need uninterrupted access to critical business applications during times of disruption, including safe and secure web and email access for workers that are now operating outside the normal perimeters of the organisation,” he says. “In addition, comprehensive backup and archiving solutions should be ready to restore access to critical business applications should there be any unplanned downtime to ensure continuity until the crisis passes.”

According to Gevers, the current global crisis is likely to push business continuity up the list of priorities for many organisations that have been disrupted by the effects of the coronavirus.

“Organisations are facing new challenges to their productivity; for example in terms of technical support. If a remote user is infected with malware or ransomware, how does the IT team restore that device or do any remediation without being able to physically access it?”

Gevers advises that organisations implement tools that enhances the data protection capabilities of commonly-used tools such as Office365 and can leverage archived data to provide quick recovery of email data in the event of accidental loss, malicious attacks or technical failure. 

“As adoption of cloud-based business applications grow in the wake of forced lockdowns around the globe, companies need to ensure they have the tools to recover in any situation,” he says. “This includes a data management strategy that combines archiving, backup and data protection capabilities to allow for quick restoration of critical systems and applications in the event of disruption.”

Jasmit Sagoo, head of technology at Veritas for the United Kingdom and Ireland, warns that this is a golden age for cybercriminals looking for ransomware opportunities.

“As the global cost of ransomware continues to grow, this World Backup Day, Veritas is saying: ‘don’t pay up, back up!’,” he says. “Ransomware is said to generate an estimated annual revenue of $1 billion a year, and companies who are not consistent in backing up their data are allowing criminals to line their pockets.

“Ransomware attacks exist only because some businesses can’t survive unless the hackers give them back their data.  So, the key to survival is removing that reliance and being able to regain access to data, without engaging with the cybercriminals.  The best way to do that is with a sound backup strategy.

“Sagoo advises organisations to create isolated, offline backup copies of their data to keep it out of reach of any attackers.  They then need to proactively monitor and restrict backup credentials, while running backups frequently to shrink the risk of potential data loss. Businesses should also test and retest their ransomware defences regularly.

“Ransomware strikes without warning and it doesn’t discriminate between its targets – it can happen to any organisation, large or small. Despite their best efforts, most companies will fall to at least one attack. What distinguishes one victim from another is the ability to bounce back, which ultimately depends on its backup strategy.

“When ransomware hits, organisations that aren’t prepared often feel helpless to do anything other than to submit to their attacker’s demands.   That’s why we’re urging all businesses to use World Backup Day as a catalyst to get ahead of the situation and get their data protected.”

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