Apple Business Chat: The Next Big Disruptive Force in Customer Service?

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• Apple Business Chat will launch in 2018; it will allow businesses to add live support features that enable customers to communicate, utilize Apple Pay and more.

• Any iOS 11 user will be able to start a chat thread with businesses they find through Siri, Maps, Safari, and Spotlight search.

The Internet revolution has transformed the way customers shop, share their experiences and look for support. Websites, mobile apps, and social platforms shape the way customers do business. Different customers have different communication preferences and in today’s digital environment, many companies are recognizing this shift in customer preference and are implementing new technology to foster greater customer engagement.

Following in the footsteps of Facebook’s WhatsApp Business, Apple early next year will debut Business Chat, which will provide businesses with a chat-based method for communicating and engaging with customers through their iOS11 devices, make payments through Apple Pay, track orders and perform other tasks. Incorporated into Messages and discoverable through Maps, Siri, Search, as well as an organization’s app and website, Business Chat integrates with customer service platforms from the likes of Genesys, LivePerson and Salesforce. Missing from Apple’s list of Business Chat launch partners, however, is Cisco; given Cisco’s strategic partnership with Apple, the optimization of Apple devices on Cisco Wi-Fi networks, and the enhanced ‘iOS join’ experience for Cisco Spark and WebEx, its absence seems somewhat remiss.

Apple has created specific functionality for developers in its hitherto-unknown foray into the business-to-consumer (B2C) world: Apple Pay, Time Picker (scheduling functionality that integrates with Apple’s calendar app) and List Picker (a way of allowing customers to make choices from a list). Developers will also be able to include intent links, so if a customer starts a chat within a product page, an agent will know exactly from which page the chat initiated. Additionally, group links allow developers to direct chat sessions to specific groups of customer service agents (e.g., product specialists to handle support issues). As Business Chat supports attachments, photos and videos can also help agents better support their customers and pre-populated suggestions (e.g., email address, telephone number and location) from QuickType can help customers fill in forms or be utilized in other support use-cases. The next obvious step for Apple would be to integrate business chat with FaceTime to provide real-time video communications between agents and customers – something Amazon tried four years ago with its Mayday button on Fire HDX tablets.

As software companies and manufacturers look to grow their revenue streams through the direct support of B2C, it is likely that Google will watch this space with envy and interest. With the ability to sell directly to consumers, B2C is likely to disintermediate the likes of Amazon, eBay, and others entirely – especially when you have your own ePayment service. Given that WhatsApp has 1 billion daily active users and Apple has more than 1 billion active devices in the world, Facebook and Apple are likely to become two significant disruptive forces not only to businesses, but also to traditional communications, collaboration and contact center markets.

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