Apple adds Business Chat to iMessage

14th Jun 2017

Apple has expanded the functionality of its iMessage service to include customer service and shopping via Business Chat.

Unveiled at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference, Business Chat enables businesses to connect to customers directly in iMessage, whether to answer questions about products and services, resolve any issues or even complete transactions through their iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch. Since Business Chat includes support for Apple Pay, customers can even buy products from within the chat.

Business Chat will be part of iOS11, which will allow people to open an iMessage window from Safari, Maps, Spotlight or Siri and start up a conversation with a business. Initially those conversations will be of a fairly simple kind, but more complex interactions will follow, such as the ability to book an appointment.

The advantage for a business is that it doesn’t need to have a social media presence to be contactable; the advantage for the customer is that they are in charge of the interaction – only customers can initiate a dialogue, not businesses and if a conversation is deleted, the business can no longer reach that customer.

Business Chat could provide a major boost for iMessage’s App Store, which has shown a slowing-down of interest in recent months following its promising launch in June 2016. Shopping accounted for just 2.2% of iMessage-enabled apps, according to a survey by app intelligence firm Sensor Tower, but a successful uptake of Business Chat could reasonably be expected to increase that figure dramatically.

The idea is that business can include some of their app capabilities within a chat – the example given at the launch was of a airline passenger being able to choose their seat without having to open a separate app for that purpose. It seems that this could be extended to selecting seats at, for example, a cinema, theatre or concert venue.

The initial customer service partners for Business Chat are the well-established platforms LivePerson, Salesforce, Nuance and Genesys. LivePerson CEO Robert LoCascio has described the advent of Business Chat as “really changing how consumers are engaging with business”.

The 2017 UK Customer Satisfaction Index showed that Apple is ranked several percentage points above the UK average for customer satisfaction (82.2% as compared to 77.8%), and the company will be hoping that Business Chat pushes them even further up the scale in the next year.

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