Apple Officially Unveils Business Chat, or Chatbots for iMessage

Business Chats

At Snaps, we are firm believers in building technology that enables businesses to develop personal relationships with their customers. Launching with iOS11 this fall, Apple is touting Business Chat as “a powerful new way for businesses to connect with customers directly from within Messages.” As Apple states on their developer site, “Business Chat connects businesses with their customers to answer questions, schedule appointments, make payments with Apple Pay, and more. Business Chat makes the connection with customers possible by integrating with the business’s existing customer contact center.” iMessage Chatbots have arrived. A monumental moment we’ve been waiting for at Snaps!

With iMessage Chatbots, a customer discovers a business using Apple apps, services, and features (for example, Siri, Maps, Safari, and Spotlight), then chats with the business using the Messages app on their Apple device.

The decision to bring customers and businesses closer together via one of its core apps mirrors moves by Facebook Messenger. Adding customer service features in iMessage increases the likelihood people will stay inside Apple more regularly instead of going to a brands website, or Messenger bot.

Technically speaking, Business Chat routes messages between a customer and business using what Apple calls the “Business Chat Server”. The server exchanges messages with the business by way of the Customer Service Platform (CSP), which is a web service implemented by the business or third party. The CSP provides an abstraction layer between the Business Chat Server and the business’s customer contact center. Using the CSP, Business Chat can support any customer contact center in use by businesses. All a business needs to do to take advantage of these iMessage Chatbots is provide a CSP on top of their existing contact center.

If customers need more information that can’t be delivered via text, businesses can prompt them to download standalone apps. iMessage extensions are also supported for more complex tasks, like selecting a seat in a concert venue or on a plane.

People will be able to shop directly with this iMessage Chatbot too! Apple states, “With Business Chat, you can ask for payment from a customer using Apple Pay.” Apple Pay’s appeal is definitely growing. Customers can already pay through their TouchID, and Apple announced their Venmo & PayPal competitor just this week. Now, a user can stay within iMessage for peer-to-peer payments between family and friends, and businesses. This is the definition of conversational commerce.

What is lacking from the Business Chat announcement was the actual mention of chatbots and quick reply-like buttons, like Facebook Messenger, Kik and other messaging platforms have. Apple’s intent is make this person-to-person business messaging. But with so many ways to reach a business (both large companies and SMB’s), who will be there to reply? That’s where bots have to fit in. As it stands today, Apple wants users to type their support questions or commerce inquiries. Brands will have to focus on NLP & AI to answer questions correctly to scale this and become sophisticated in their hybrid Human-AI customer support handoff.

Apple is already the largest messaging platform in the west, boasting over 1B users. At Snaps, we’ve powered almost a billion peer-to-peer branded engagements. We’re excited to start translating our brands chatbots into iMessage.

To learn more about iMessage Bots, reach out to us here.