Apple wants to turn its iMessage into a more complex communications platform and to that extent, it officially introduced Business Chat in the latest iOS 11 developer preview.

As the name itself suggests, Business Chat aims to serve as a tool to facilitate interaction with businesses. This should position iMessage to better compete against Facebook Messenger and other messaging platforms, so let's see what it's all about.

What Is iMessage Business Chat?

Rolling out with the latest iOS 11, Apple's new Business Chat for iMessage will enable users to talk directly with real customer service representatives from various businesses, as opposed to interacting with AI chat bots.

"Business Chat is a powerful new way for businesses to connect with customers directly in Messages," says Apple. "Using Business Chat, your customers can get answers to questions, resolve issues, and complete transactions on their iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Customers can find your business and start conversations from Safari, Maps, Spotlight, and Siri."

iOS 11 Business Chat: How It Works

In iOS 11, Message icons will appear next to business names in Maps, Spotlight searches, and Siri, or when scanning a QR code with the smartphone's camera. Tapping one of these icons will allow users to start a Business Chat conversation in the Messages app. Such conversations will have regular text chats, but more complex interactions are also possible.

Businesses could offer options for scheduling appointments, list items for sale, use the related chat thread to notify customers about various things, or provide other services. In other words, businesses will be able to offer some of their app functionality within a chat conversation on Business Chat, which could make things easier for all parties involved. Users could select their airline seat straight from the business chat, for instance, without having to fire up a separate app.

At the same time, the QR codes or Message icons can also include specific details linking users with a location, or a related service or product. It could even give the customer care representative more details to better serve the customer, such as the user's native tongue, or relevant customer account details.

Other Business Chat Perks

Siri will make it easy for the customer to share various details with businesses, showing various predictive suggestions such as addresses, phone numbers and the like. Other tools also aim to make the whole interaction as easy and streamlined as possible. A List Picker, for instance, allows users to choose the type of items they're looking for, such as groceries or shoes, and Apple Pay is ready to handle the transaction. A Time Picker tool, meanwhile, enables users to easily pick an appointment date and time right within the conversation.

Apple's iOS 11 Business Chat will integrate with various customer service products, with a number of partners already on board including Salesforce, Genesys, LivePerson, and Nuance. LivePerson CEO Robert LoCascio tells TechCrunch that businesses will be able to handle their Business Chat conversations from within the LivePerson product, along with all other customer service messages.

Apple is allowing businesses to create their own iMessage App extensions, which should translate to more options and functionalities in the future.

Business Chat could turn out to be a game changer in terms of how customers and businesses interact with each other, making the whole process easier and more straightforward. For now, businesses and developers are welcome to create and test integrations with Business Chat for the upcoming iOS 11.

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