1How Apple Business Chat Optimizes Messages App as Customer Service Tool
Apple on March 29 introduced Business Chat, an online service that’s still in beta test, but provides a way for consumers to communicate directly with companies via the Messages app on their iPhones and iPads. Business Chat is launching first with 10 well-known corporate brands, which Apple plans to expand to other companies in the near future. Apple envisions the service being used as a customer service tool or a way for companies to facilitate consumer purchases via Apple devices and applications. The company clearly believes that the combination of hundreds of millions of iOS devices and integration into the Apple Messages App could make Business Chat the de facto customer service tool for companies around the world.
2Apple Sends Business Chat Into Beta Tests
Apple Business Chat, which is undergoing beta tests, is designed to be a customer service feature for companies and consumers. Instead of consumer calling hotlines or sending emails through proprietary services, Apple Business Chat allows them to call up their iOS Messaging app on iPhones or iPads to communicate with a company’s customer service agents. Apple envisions Business Chat being used by customers to ask a question about a product or service or get help with basic problems.
3The Core Components
While Business Chat relies on the iOS Messages app, companies will need to use one of several messaging services that are integrated with Business Chat, including LivePerson, SalesForce Chatter, and Zendesk. All of the features inside Messages, including support for sending pictures, videos or documents during the course of conversations.
4Apple Integrating Business Chat With Multiple iOS Apps
Apple Business Chat is being integrated into the company’s other programs, including Maps, Siri and the Safari browser. When users look up a company from those services, they can tap the “Message” icon and immediately open a Business Chat conversation from the Messages app on their iPhones and iPads. Apple said that some businesses will also allow chats from their own apps or websites.
5There Are Built-in Privacy, Security Features
Apple noted that Business Chat can only be started by users and not companies. So iOS device users won’t be inundated with ads or unwanted marketing messages. Even when a conversation is underway, companies aren’t able to see users’ personal information, including names or phone numbers. Once users delete a Messages thread with a company, the company will not be allowed to contact them or restart a conversation.
6Apple Focuses on Live People
In a Business Chat page on its website, Apple said that its service will more often than not connect users with a live agent. The company said that Apple Business Chat could be used to deliver automated responses for simple questions, but it’s encouraging its corporate partners to use it for two-way conversation between live agents and customers.
7Apple Pay Is Built-In
Users have the option of purchasing products directly through Business Chat. To do that, users can access a product listing in Business Chat and when ready, place an order and confirm the purchase with Apple Pay. The payment feature is integrated into Messages, so users don’t need to leave the conversation to complete a purchase.
8Users Can Schedule Chats at Convenient Times
Apple Business Chat lets users choose a time to hold a conversation with agents and reply to previously received queries at the time of their convenience with a simple text message. Business Chat has a scheduling feature that will check against the events on users’ calendar and tell them when a delivery or support call might fit best into his or her schedule.
9Apple Announces Early Corporate Partners
Apple is offering Business Chat through its retail stores for product inquiries and its AppleCare division for customer support. Hilton, Home Depot, and Lowe’s are among the other retailers and hospitality companies supporting Business Chat. Financial companies Discover, TD Ameritrade and Wells Fargo are also using the service.
10Users Can Continue Conversations Elsewhere
Although Apple Business Chat is baked into the company’s iOS, it’s not limiting conversations solely to iPhones and iPads. While chats will start from an iOS device, once the conversation has begun, users can continue to hold their conversations with customer service agents from the Messages app on their Apple Watch or Mac.
11It’s Only Available in iOS 11.3—For Now
Apple launched Business Chat on iOS 11.3 and it will remain in beta for the undetermined period of time. Apple intends to add more corporate partners and new features as more users begin using the service.