Apple Business Chat, Apple’s new platform for allowing companies and brands to communicate with customers over iMessage, is expanding. In addition to Dish becoming the first TV provider to support Business Chat, Apple says it has also added four other brands, Aramak, Four Seasons, Harry & David, and American Express, in addition to five new technology platforms businesses can integrate with.
The platforms that now support Apple Business Chat include Cisco, eGain, Kipsu, Lithium and Quiq. They allow the brands to develop their Business Chat systems with a variety of features, integrate them with their own apps and services, track activity through reporting, and more.
The new brand partners represent a variety of use cases for Business Chat, from real-time ordering to shopping to general customer service.
As noted last week, Dish will now allows its pay TV customers to reach a live agent with their questions over iMessage, make account changes, schedule an appointment, and even order pay-per-view.
Meanwhile, the Four Seasons will allow guests to search for any Four Season property and engage with “Four Seasons Chat,” a multi-lingual service that will connect guests with the hotel’s team for any need.
Harry & David will help customers shop over Business Chat, by allowing them to ask questions about products and services and get help from a gift concierge. When customers are ready to buy, they can check out with Apple Pay – as they can with 1-800-Flowers, an existing Business Chat partner.
Aramak is piloting a 10-game “Brew2You” program at Citizens Bank Park, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Fans will be able to scan a QR code on their seat back in three sections to order beer or water over iMessage, and have it delivered right to their seat.
And American Express is piloting a program for card members to allow them to get their account information, including their balance, payment due dates, and points balance over Business Chat. They’ll also be able to ask for a card replacement, dispute a charge, or get information about card benefit.
In addition to the five new brand partners, Business Chat also powered the official concierge service for the Cannes Lions festival in June, with LivePerson, notes Apple.
Launched into beta in March with the release of iOS 11.3, Business Chat offers companies an alternative to using social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, to reach their customers.
It arrives at a time when messaging is becoming an important means of addressing the needs of consumers, including the millennial audience, analysts claim.
According to Gartner, support requests over consumer messaging apps will exceed those coming in from social media by 2019. And Nielsen says that 56% of consumers prefer messaging to calling, with 67% expecting to message more over the next two years.
Research from Sapio says that 63% of consumers cite satisfaction when reaching out to brands via messaging to resolve their issues. And digital natives (aka millennials) turn to direct messaging to first reach out to brands 40% of the time.
To some extent, businesses may prefer Apple’s Business Chat system, as it allows them to get closer to their customers – their chats live right in the same Messages app, alongside conversations the customer has with friends and family. Plus, they can brand their service as they like – like as Four Seasons is doing, for example – and keep their customers’ data in-house, instead of making it available to a third-party like Facebook.
Plus, Business Chat can benefit from integrations with other macOS and iOS apps and features, including Spotlight Search, Siri, Apple Maps, and Safari, and can be added to brands’ websites and apps.
However, it’s not likely that businesses will drop social media-based customer service and support for Business Chat, so it becomes another platform for them to manage and support.