Apple is expanding further into the enterprise space with the launch of Business Chat.
In simple terms Business Chat is just like iMessage or any other instant message app but Apple has opened it up to businesses so they can use it to communicate directly with their customers.
Consumers can use the Business Chat app to ask companies for information, schedule appointments, and make purchases in Messages on their iPhone or iPad. Apple says this makes connecting with people’s favourite companies as easy as texting their favourite people.
Apple is working with a variety of companies which are partnering to create customer experiences that they can deliver through Business Chat.
These companies include stores such as Home Depot, and Lowes; hotel chains such as Marriott, and Hilton; and financial companies such as Ameritrade and Wells Fargo.
Of course there are many ways a customer can communicate with a company, but some of them are a little slow or lack immediacy to perhaps meet the demands of younger consumers.
Making a telephone call usually feels like it takes forever and the hold music might be terrible; email seems impersonal and takes hours or days to get responses to; and absolutely no-one sends letters anymore.
One relatively new technology that has grown in popularity is chatbots, which are often embedded on the company’s website.
Websites initially use automated software to chat with the customer and ascertain what the nature of their enquiry is, and then a human operator will take over if necessary depending on the complexity of the task, as in the case of RBS Assist “hybrid bots”.
However there are shortcomings and companies are always looking for more effective ways to communicate with their customers.
Rob LoCascio, CEO of LivePerson, which provides the artificial intelligence behind chatbots to companies, predicts that something called “conversational commerce” will have a big impact going forward.
LivePerson is working with companies to help bring their customers service to the new Apple Business Chat app. LoCascio says major brands “will shut down their websites in favour of conversational commerce”.
He says: “The brand will shift how it connects with consumers to conversations – with a combination of bots and humans – through messaging platforms like SMS or Facebook. We are already working with several large brands to make this a reality.”