iOS Business Chat – Apple enters the live service market

Apple Business Chat

The iOS 11 update from Apple, will offer businesses the ability to provide live service functionality via iMessage, Maps, Safari and Spotlight searches. Here we explore what Business Chat means for ITSM and service providers.

Chat, chat bots and their impact on ITSM tools and the way in which consumers of service can interact with agents are hot topics at the moment. Until now, the majority of chat offerings have been supplied via independent third-party apps or technology that has been integrated with ITSM tools to cater for a growing interaction method. Chatbots, of course, offer a whole new level of automated support potential. But for those app suppliers that offer simple chat functionality as another route to the support desk, there is a new option of which they should be aware – Apple Business Chat.

What is Apple Business Chat?

Apple has launched Business Chat with functionality that has been squarely aimed at support desk functions. Indeed, it is touted as an Enterprise Customer Support Platform. Through a company’s contact information – available via Maps, Safari, Search and a company’s own apps or website on an iOS device, organisations will now be able to offer chat as well as show telephone contact information. If a customer clicks on the chat function, they will, in essence, be getting a branded version of iMessage that will connect to the appropriate agent team. Furthermore, the agents will be able to offer certain options and booking functions via the chat service. Business Chat will support Time Picker for appointments, List Picker for product choices and ApplePay for immediate payments via the app.

Apple Business Chat

Why is Business Chat important?

When an organisation with as much reach as Apple enters the realm of support tool offerings, we must take it seriously – especially considering the functionality that is immediately available.

Apple is increasing its share of the business market. Recent reports indicate that 99% of enterprise organisations are now using iPhone or iPad devices [1]. Many organisations, in the West in particular, are now choosing Apple mobile devices over Android devices. There are several reasons for the increase in Apple’s popularity among business users, including better security, guaranteed software updates and ease of support.

IoS is the only platform that offers guaranteed software updates with new features for the expected life of the device. Android phones may only get updates for a year or so, and then you are working on an outdated operating system that does not provide the services that are being offered elsewhere. You need to upgrade your handset regularly to benefit from updates.

Security and integration

If you are working on an old operating system, there is also a risk that your device will be less secure as it will not have new security updates installed. Another huge benefit is that all Apple updates are controlled and issued by Apple itself. Therefore, security is tight. Android updates are usually pushed out by the carriers, not the manufacturers, so updates may occur at different times. And as software security firm Norton says: “The fragmentation of Android devices across old versions plays into the hands of malware creators, so it’s vital to keep your own devices up to date. Apple has no similar problem, as each release of iOS quickly filters through to users.”

Support for Apple devices comes from Apple itself. With Android, you may have to go through the carrier, not the people who designed the device in the first place.

It is natural, then, that those organisations that work with Apple devices and can see the business benefits will consider the Business Chat function, both from an internal and external support perspective –  particularly if their current ITSM tool does not offer integrated chat functionality.

But just how integrated the iMessage chat function will be with third-party apps is an unknown. There is certainly an opportunity for developers to create useful integrations, and it will only be a matter of time before we see this in the market. Developers can learn more and get started already via the Apple developer site. Indeed, another key reason for enterprises selecting Apple and iOS as a preferred mobile platform, is the ability to create business apps that are easy to deploy and support.

But what about AI?

Many vendors and chatbot suppliers have been using Amazon Alexa to provide their machine learning and AI backbone. Now that Apple has released its own fully integrated HomePod, which takes advantage of Siri, it doesn’t take much of a leap to consider the effect that opening the Siri backbone up would have on chat integration and development strategies.

With the US recently taking steps to ban certain Android-based mobile device providers from government agencies, Apple is the clear choice in terms of security. Any push by them into the service delivery market is likely to gain major traction immediately. Service tool development teams will no doubt already be investigating the potential of Business Chat. It will certainly be interesting to see if this move makes strides into the enterprise service delivery market during 2018. ITSM, CRM and other key sectors will all have a lot to gain from this update.