- Sprint added Apple Business Chat, which lets companies have private conversations and make direct sales on iMessage, to the wireless carrier's 24-hour helpline on its mobile platform. Sprint customers can use the messaging service to chat with a live agent and get more information about the carrier's wireless plans, among other services, according to an announcement.
- By visiting the "Contact Us" page on Sprint's website or searching for a store using the Siri virtual assistant, Safari browser or Apple Maps, customers can tap the "messages" icon to send a query to a company representative. Business Chat, which is still in beta testing, also lets customers start and stop a message any time and pick up earlier conversations without losing information.
- Meanwhile, TD Ameritrade announced that it now lets customers transfer money to a brokerage account with Apple Pay, the tech giant's payment service, using Business Chat on an iPhone or iPad. Using a debit card, customers can deposit up to $10,000 a day into an account via Apple Pay without having to visit a branch or speak with a representative.
Sprint and TD Ameritrade are demonstrating the ways that businesses are gradually integrating more of Apple's services into their mobile operations for on-the-go customers. Apple first introduced Business Chat in 2017 as social media rivals like Facebook continued to expand the range of features for businesses in Messenger and WhatsApp. Revelations that the social networking giant let big tech companies access personal user data led cybersecurity experts to warn last month against sending sensitive information on Messenger.
Here, Apple has an opportunity to wade deeper into chat-supported services with its better reputation of protecting user privacy. Apple Business Chat doesn't show customer contact information to an agent, giving people greater control of sharing their contact and payment information with private parties. Other companies that have also integrated Business Chat into their mix include Dish Network, Discover, Hilton, The Home Depot, Lowe's, Marriott and Wells Fargo.
At the same time, TD Ameritrade is working to similarly beef up its self-service functions through Apple's mobile features. The financial institution claims to be the first company to let customers instantly fund a brokerage account using Apple Pay. That added functionality likely will be extended to competing financial services firms that want to make mobile-based transactions easier for increasingly on-the-go customers. Funding a brokerage account is typically more time-consuming when done by phone or even on a website, a key friction point that TD Ameritrade is working to counter with fresh mobile features.
The Business Chat and Apple Pay deals are a reminder that brands and marketers need to consider incorporating chat-based services as mobile users grow more comfortable using messaging apps to communicate and conduct business. Almost four-fifths (78%) of the world's smartphone customers were forecast to use messaging platforms by the end of 2018, according to eMarketer data cited by Facebook. In addition, 71% of people surveyed worldwide by the social network last year said they're open to messaging businesses in lieu of visiting in person or making a phone call.