With the release of iOS 11.3 in the spring, Apple will launch Business Chat – a new feature in iMessage that enables customers to engage directly with businesses. Business Chat allows a customer to open an iMessage window from Safari, Maps, or Siri, and start a conversation with a business. Through this chat, customers can talk with a business’s service representative, make payments via Apple Pay, and even schedule appointments.
A Tech Crunch article from the initial announcement of Business Chat last year calls it, “Apple’s bid to turn iMessage into a communication platform that can compete with Facebook Messenger – and perhaps, make iMessage one of the main ways you interact with businesses.” In addition to Facebook Messenger, Business Chat is positioned to compete with other major messaging platforms such as Google, Twitter, and WhatsApp (which has just launched its own business app).
According to Apple’s website, “Business Chat is a new way for users to communicate directly with businesses right within Messages. This feature will launch in Beta with the public availability of iOS 11.3 this spring, with the support of select businesses including Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s, and Wells Fargo. With Business Chat, it's easy to have a conversation with a service representative, schedule an appointment or make purchases using Apple Pay in the Messages app. Business Chat doesn’t share the user’s contact information with businesses and gives users the ability to stop chatting at any time.”
So what could Business Chat mean to your business? In this article, I talk about the importance of meeting your customers where they are – enabling them to contact you with a request or input when they want, how they want. And the reality is, messaging apps are increasing in relevance as an important form of communication for businesses. As Tech Crunch points out here, a Facebook-commissioned study by Nielsen found that 56 percent of respondents want to text, not call. Another 67 percent said they expect to increase messaging businesses over the next two years.
It makes sense – I know for me personally, being able to open a messaging window from Safari and ask a question or schedule an appointment would be far preferable to having to place a call, or even send an email. Your customers want easy, seamless service – and business messaging like Business Chat offer another form of communication that allows your customers to reach you the way they want to, when they want to. While this doesn’t detract from the importance of effective phone and email communications, there’s no doubt that the preference for this type of interaction with businesses will continue to increase.
If you haven’t already, prepare yourself for the next step of the communication evolution by expanding your channels to include some sort of business messaging. Apple’s Business Chat certainly has some stiff competition with Facebook Messenger, Google, Twitter, and WhatsApp Business (among others) – it’s worth exploring these different options to see what fits your needs best.