Apple has rolled out Business Chat – an iMessage communication platform to rival Facebook’s Messenger in the style of Chinese messaging app WeChat. The important difference is that businesses won’t require a social media presence to join.
As part of iOS11, Business Chat can be launched from within the Safari browser, Maps, Spotlight or Siri. It does what it says on the tin: enable consumers to start conversations with businesses. Aside from basic text, attachments can be added and the company is offering scheduling tools for appointments which integrate directly with the iOS calendar app.
Apple also demonstrated the capability to integrate Apple Pay within the app as well as letting a customer choose an airline seat.
These are all just some examples of what has the potential to make Business Chat a powerful customer service but also purchasing platform.
Among the initial partners to trial the service are LivePerson, Salesforce, Genesys and Nuance. However, Business Chat is not restricted to businesses of a specific kind or with/without retail locations.
One of the most attractive features for retailers will certainly be the opportunity for customers to purchase products from within the app.
Importantly, the experience is limited to human-to-human interactions. No chatbots are allowed. The latter isn’t necessarily a big deal breaker for consumers though. A survey among 1,000 adults by Aspect Software Research found that 44% of them preferred chatbots for customer service enquiries. That still leaves 56% of consumers who do prefer the human touch though.
Business Chat is now available for developer preview and businesses can already register to start building out their own service.