Apple Business Chat launched earlier this year as a way for consumers to communicate directly with businesses on Apple’s messaging platform. Today the company announced it was expanding the program to add new businesses and support for additional countries.
When it launched in January, business partners included Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s and Wells Fargo. Today’s announcement includes the likes of Burberry, West Elm, Kimpton Hotels, and Vodafone Germany.
The program, which remains in Beta, added 15 new companies today in the US and 15 internationally including in the UK, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, Italy, Australia and France.
Since the launch, companies have been coming up with creative ways to interact directly with customers in a chat setting that many users prefer over telephone trees and staticy wait music (I know I do).
For instance, Four Seasons, which launched Business Chat in July, is expanding usage to 88 properties across the globe with the ability to chat in more than 100 languages with reported average response times of around 90 seconds.
Apple previously added features like Apple Pay to iMessage to make it easy for consumers to transact directly with business in a fully digital way. If for instance, your customer service rep helps you find the perfect item, you can purchase it right then and there with Apple Pay in a fully digital payment system without having to supply a credit card in the chat interface.
What’s more, the CSR could share a link, photo or video to let you see more information on the item you’re interested in or to help you fix a problem with an item you already own. All of this can take place in iMessage, a tool millions of iPhone and iPad owners are comfortable using with friends and family.
To interact with Business Chat, customers are given messaging as a choice in contact information. If they touch this option, the interaction opens in iMessage and customers can conduct a conversation with the brand’s CSR, just as they would with friends.
This link to customer service and sales through a chat interface also fits well with the partnership with Salesforce announced last week. Salesforce president and chief product officer, Bret Taylor described how Apple Business Chat could integrate with Salesforce’s Service Bot platform, which was introduced in 2017 to allow companies to build integrated automated and human response systems.
The bots could provide a first level of service and if the customer required more personal support, there could be an option to switch to Apple Business Chat.
Apple Business Chat requires iOS 11.3 or higher.
By Ron Miller