Should Consumer-Based Messaging Systems Be Used for Business?
March 9, 2021
6 minute read
Free consumer-based messaging systems like WhatsApp® and SnapChat® are some of the most widely used apps on mobile devices. Statista estimates that Facebook alone has over 2 billion monthly users on Facebook’s WhatsApp® platform. They claim to send 100 billion messages per day. That’s more than 1.1 million messages per second. Per second!! Wow! WhatsApp also boasts 50 million daily active business users. If that wasn’t enough, Facebook also has another 1.3 billion users on its Facebook Messenger® platform. With such large numbers it should be no surprise that business people will likely use these systems for work. A recent white paper by google claims that 53% of frontline workers use messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp for work-related reasons. But is this a good practice?
It’s hard to imagine there would be significant problems associated with using consumer-based messaging systems for work, but there are issues professionals should consider. For example, provisions in the messaging provider’s terms of service and privacy policies may compromise your obligations, including confidentiality, rights to data, attorney-client privilege, and regulatory compliance. Some of the considerations business managers may wish to contemplate include:
- Company Policy Compliance: Compliance with company policies is difficult to manage on consumer-based platforms as there are no built-in monitoring capabilities. This could put an employer at risk if these systems are not used in accordance with their company code-of-conduct or other workplace guidelines. Unfortunately, the casual nature of these platforms makes it easy for users to “forget” that these systems are subject to corporate policies when used for work, which could put the organization at risk.
- Attorney-Client Privilege: While there is a reasonable expectation of privacy when using consumer-based messaging systems, the business model of any particular system may require the provider to “read” the user’s messages to retarget them and their contacts for advertising or other promotional purposes. While no system is perfect, attorneys should be careful and opt for a firm-sanctioned system whenever possible.
- Personal Data Management: Terms and conditions governing data are non-negotiable with consumer-based messaging systems so be careful to understand how they protect, use, share and leverge their end-user’s data. More than likely, end-users have lost control and have little recourse if something goes wrong, such as a data leak.
- No transparency: Though this is beginning to change, consumer-based messaging systems were not designed for business use but they are so widely deployed that company employees may very well be using them for both business and personal communications. This dual usage blurs the lines between business and personal rights to any communications and makes it virtually impossible for a business to gain transparency to business messages without compromising employee privacy. This problem is only going to get larger as privacy laws get stricter.
- Records Retention: Applying a company’s records retention policy to consumer-based messaging systems is virtually impossible. In some industries – especially those that are regulated – this can pose a serious information governance breach. Financial, insurance, healthcare, and government employees subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or their state’s open records requests should all be careful to consider how consumer-based messaging systems are used for business. With consumer-based messaging, regulatory and policy-driven disclosures are difficult and expensive for the business, and intrusive and inconvenient for the employee.
The above is by no means a comprehensive list of potential problems or issues that can arise when consumer messaging systems are used for business. Each business and each circumstance is different. In fact, in some businesses, there is very little risk to using consumer messaging systems whereas the consequences in others could be severe. For example, a clothing retailer could use messaging to notify customers of a new product’s availability. The communication is fast, efficient, and comes with very little risk.
A law firm however, might have a paralegal who shares a confidential strategy regarding a merger or acquisition with a publicly traded client. That information will forever be on that paralegal’s phone when they separate from the firm – and worse, could be part of the messaging provider’s ecosystem. In this latter case, the firm has no record of the exchange, and the data is now out of their control, creating a confidentiality risk.
Consumer-based messaging systems are terrific tools when used for their intended purposes but they may not be suitable for businesses that are regulated or that handle sensitive or confidential data. Here at Real Capture LLC, we’ve been working really hard to solve some of the above problems facing companies that wish to leverage the convenience and speed of text messaging for business without the risks associated with consumer-based messaging systems.
What is Tendant? Our Tendant™ smartphone communications governance platform provides (among other things) most of the features found in consumer-based systems (and many that are unique). But unlike consumer-based messaging systems, Tendant does not require both parties to have the Tendant app – only our subscribers need the app, so it can be used to communicate with anyone using a mobile phone. Secondly, it was designed for business, with powerful business-class communications capabilities are unmatched by consumer-based messaging systems or the “out-of-the-box” features delivered by mobile phone service providers.
Key Features: Like consumer-based messaging systems, Tendant has group chat, in-app calling, file sharing, encrypted communications, cross device support, etc., but it also has other powerful features not found in these systems as well.
- The Multi-Channel Inbox: One of them is our multi-channel inbox. It consolidates all communications into a single inbox – so emails*, text messages, call histories, appointments*, voicemail messages (transcript and audio), call recordings (subject to two party consent), and more, are all in a single inbox, eliminating “app hopping” and disconnected communications workflows.
- Enhanced Cell-Phone Voicemail: Another feature is our enhanced voicemail system which gives callers more options than “leave a message at the tone”. These include voicemail that’s never full, and caller-initiated requests for live service with our Call Transfer feature. Call Transfer transfers the call to up to 10 team members whose phones all ring simultaneously, the call is then transferred to the first person to answer the call, giving callers prompt, live service.
Alternatively, callers may elect to “Press 2” to receive a text-back link from the subscriber’s voicemail greeting. This will send them a text message with a link to any URL – as specified by the subscriber. For example, a customer service professional may configure their greeting with a ticketing system URL, a lawyer may configure theirs with a new client on-boarding URL, a human resource professional may send a job application page URL, etc. – it will literally send a text message to the caller with any URL specified – and the option is even available to landline callers.
Furthermore, the caller’s entire journey is also pushed to the multi-channel inbox so there is a complete record of the interaction with the other party – even a record of the service provided or requested when the subscriber was unavailable giving organizations complete transparency into the caller’s experience.
- Management Transparency: While these features are great for end-users, the major benefit to business managers is the transparency they gain into smartphone business communications by their team – all without compromising employee privacy. For records retention and other governance purposes, all business communications data are now available for compliance, risk, governance, and legal teams to facilitate compliance monitoring, regulatory archiving, business analysis, e-discovery production, and a broad range of purposes. It is equally functional in BYOD** or company-issued smartphone environments.
By using Tendant, organizations can avoid many of the pitfalls associated with consumer-based messaging systems while gaining capabilities that are unique, powerful, and business-oriented. It is ideal for any entity that values a professional image with faster and more expeditious client service, better overall communications experiences, or that is committed to steadfastly upholding client confidentiality and employee privacy. Regulated companies, professional organizations, highly dispersed or highly mobile teams, teams that face high litigation risk, or any organization simply looking to gain better control of their smartphone communications histories and assets can benefit from using Tendant.
Tendant is so highly scalable that anyone can register at Tendant.com to try the solution for free, but we prefer that you contact us for a demo. If you wish to try it on your own, simply visit: http://www.tendant.com/, tap “Get started” to register, then download the app at the Google Play or Apple App Store. For more information, you can also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 470-284-5500.
* Available Q2, 2021
** BYOD is an acronym for “Bring your own device”; the value of BYOD devices in use for business is expected to exceed $367B in 2021.