- Dish Network announced that it is the first TV provider to provide real-time customer support on Apple's Business Chat, which lets companies have private conversations and make sales on Apple's Messages app. Dish said its satellite TV subscribers can use Business Chat to reach a live customer service representative and make purchases of pay-per-movie movies or live sporting events with Apple Pay, according to a press release.
- Discover, Four Seasons, Harry & David, Hilton, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Marriott, NewEgg, T-Mobile, TD Ameritrade, Wells Fargo, 1-800-Flowers and Apple are among the companies that use Business Chat, per TechCrunch. Apple Business Chat doesn't show customer contact information to an agent, giving people complete control of sharing their contact and payment information.
- Customers can leave a conversation with Dish at any time and pick it up later, even on other Apple devices linked to the user's Apple ID. The conversation never times out and ends when a customer deletes the message thread in the Messages app.
Apple's Business Chat takes direct aim at the customer service capabilities offered by social media platforms. Facebook lets businesses chat with their customers on Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, while Twitter users can interact with companies by tweet or direct message. Facebook seeks to develop Messenger into a consumer support channel that businesses of all sizes can use to interact with customers. Apple has the advantage of having Messages preinstalled on every iPhone, and users can enter their debit or credit card information to use Apple Pay to make payments through Business Chat.
Business Chat may also help Apple promote other services like Apple Pay, which U.S. customers didn't initially embrace because debit and credit cards are easy to use at the point-of-sale. But Apple Pay is gaining traction globally, with the with the number of users doubling to 127 million last year, according to Loup Ventures. Meanwhile, the lines between chat and other services are blurring, as Chinese technology giants like Alibaba and Tencent have demonstrated. Their payment platforms have evolved into lifestyle apps that provide consumers with services like chat, money transfers, travel booking, ride-hailing, restaurant reviews and food ordering.
Dish is among the growing number of brands that are getting on board with Apple Business Chat, which the iPhone maker quietly started in June 2017 before adding the service to version 11.3 of its iOS mobile operating system this year. As with Apple's other services, customer privacy is a paramount concern, making Business Chat comparable to making a phone call. Caller ID had been a way for call centers to identify customers, but the widespread availability of spoofing software led companies to authenticate customers with additional methods.
The growing number of customer service channels means that businesses need to consider ways to manage the conversations among a wider variety of platforms. E-commerce platform provider Shopify last month launched the free mobile app Shopify Ping, which connects to the messaging apps its merchant customers already use, such as Facebook Messenger, Rep.ai and Chatkit. By doing so, the merchants' conversations are streamlined, allowing them to interact with their customers through social media, their respective online storefronts, email and more all in the same interface.