Apple Business Chat goes global as enterprises get the iMessage

Enterprises know their most affluent and engaged customers probably use iOS, so it makes sense to ensure it’s easy to speak together.

Apple, iOS, Messages, iPhone, iPad, Apple Business Chat
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Apple introduced its B2C Messages-based communication system Apple Business Chat to the U.S. earlier this year. The service has now gone global in multiple countries with dozens of big brands signing up to offer it to customers.

Apple’s live customer aid

Business Chat is now available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The service is like those bot-based messaging systems, but a lot more convenient. It lets customers speak to real people, and it gives users lots of control over how much information they share with a business.

A LivePerson survey claims over 70 percent of people choose a “message” button over a “call” button on a company website or app when given the option, and customer satisfaction rates are 25 percent higher for messaging than for calling.

There are now over 45 big enterprises using Business Chat, including 15 in the U.S. (such as DirectTV Now, Freshly and many more) and another 30 names announced early October worldwide.

Each company uses the service a little differently, for example:

  • Burberry will use Business Chat to let customers check availability, get sizing and fitting information, and help place orders worldwide.
  • West Elm is offering free home design expert services via Apple’s system. Customers can message or send photos to the Design Crew Expert to get advice on any room in their home through Messages.
  • Four Seasons lets customers use Business Chat to communicate with real people at many of its properties in many languages.

How it works

Business Chat is useful in that while other chat services like to grab and store your customer data, Apple’s system keeps you in control.

Part of the deal is that companies you contact can only use your details for as long as you keep the chat active — to prevent them from making contact with you, all you have to do is delete the chat you initiated.

While you are using the service, the enterprise you are communicating with cannot see any of your personal information, (e.g., name, phone number) unless you choose to share it with them.

To make Business Chat function, Apple works with customer service platforms, including LivePerson, Salesforce, Nuance, Genesys, InTheChat, and Zendesk.

“Today’s customer expects to communicate with businesses in the same way they do with friends, on whatever channel is most convenient for them.” said Caitlin Henehan, vice president and general manager of Zendesk Chat, when the feature was first introduced.

You can initiate a chat using big blue buttons situated on company websites, on Apple Maps, and elsewhere. Tap the button to start your conversation. While you must be on an iPhone or iPad to start a chat, you can continue them on any device that is signed into the same Apple ID.

Why it matters

Business Chat reflects Apple’s growing status within enterprise IT. The big enterprises that are purchasing so many iPhones and replacing a growing number of Windows systems with Macs are keenly aware that their most engaged (and possibly affluent) customers are also using iOS devices.

In that context, it makes sense for enterprises to reach out to those customers. Nuance Communications has previously said over 55 percent of consumers prefer to use some form of messaging to communicate with companies.

The future is also increasingly voice-based.

“We see a future where conversational AI combined with intelligent engagement allows consumers to engage from whatever end-point they choose whether that’s a mobile phone, TV or smart speaker, and brands immediately know what’s needed and can predict what to do next,” Robert Weideman, executive vice president and general manager of the Nuance Enterprise Division, told me earlier this year.

One day you’ll use Siri and Business Chat to organize a bank loan.

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Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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