Jon Arnold
Jon Arnold is Principal of J Arnold & Associates, an independent analyst providing thought leadership and go-to-market counsel with a...
Read Full Bio >>

Jon Arnold | September 26, 2017 |


Apple Business Chat: Tough to Beat on Messaging, Mobility, Brand

Apple Business Chat: Tough to Beat on Messaging, Mobility, Brand As messaging reaches into the contact center, Apple becomes an important company to watch.

As messaging reaches into the contact center, Apple becomes an important company to watch.

Much of my current research focus has been around messaging and chatbots, both of which tie into broader trends around UC&C. Increasingly, this extends into the contact center space, and with that come companies we don't normally focus on. Apple is one of them, and with the recent release of iOS 11 and the iPhone 8, the timing is good to revisit why it's an important company to watch.

The starting point is its June update around Business Chat, the details of which were ably covered here on No Jitter by my UCStrategies colleague and mobility expert, Michael Finneran. In this post, I'm going to filter Michael's coverage through a messaging-centric lens. Aside from providing a different frame of reference around what makes Business Chat relevant to No Jitter readers, I want to keep the dialog going about whether industry outsiders like Apple, Amazon, and Facebook represent threats or opportunities. I'll do my part here by summarizing the implications and drivers from three points of view.

What's In It for Apple?

  • In terms of the bigger picture, having largely saturated the consumer market, Apple needs an enterprise play -- not just for its own growth prospects, but to hang in with fellow outsiders and others that are following the same path. It has correctly identified the contact center as a pressing need, and Business Chat provides an immediate entry point that can pay dividends quickly at both ends.

  • The messaging angle is particularly relevant here because Business Chat is about the customer experience and improving operational efficiency in the contact center. Today, most messaging applications in the customer service realm are about driving e-commerce and automating service via chatbots. This set of needs is important to the contact center as well, but is fraught with all kinds of challenges that hold back adoption. Business Chat does support e-commerce with Apple Pay -- and that's another value driver. It's potentially huge, having been validated big time by the likes of WeChat in China. However, for now, it's secondary to the benefits of enabling a new channel for messaging, which is emerging as the channel of choice for the digerati.

  • Another messaging angle has to do with which companies Apple is really up against. Business Chat isn't about competing with Avaya, Cisco, Genesys, et al; rather, the targets are the big players, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, coming at this with their messaging platforms. I think this says a lot about how the competitive landscape is shifting, and the market power of these majors is impossible to ignore.

  • Since Business Chat ties into the full Apple ecosystem -- Siri, Spotlight, Safari, Maps, etc. -- the contact center opportunity presents another way to broaden adoption of all these applications, tying users evermore tightly to its almost self-contained universe.

  • One of Apple's partners-of-convenience in this foray is Nuance, for digital voice technology. That voice is part of Apple's thinking becomes especially important when taking that broad view of its competition. Nuance's Nina is the digital assistant of choice for Amazon Echo, Google Home, and other leading chat platforms. Connecting the dots here, Business Chat integrates with Siri, and to close this loop, Apple now has HomePod, an easy-to-overlook part of its iOS 11 update. HomePod may not be part of the story today, but it's not hard to see how it can be the starting point for a Business Chat session, either to the contact center or any other part of a business that interacts with customers.
  • What's In It for the Contact Center?

  • First and foremost, this is about live, person-to-person engagement -- and not with chatbots. That's a different opportunity/problem set, and Business Chat speaks to a challenge all contact centers are trying to address. Contact centers should view this as an opportunity for using a great UX to drive a great CX. In the consumer world, Apple is pretty hard to beat for UX, so the value for this form of messaging should be clear.

  • Building on this point, Business Chat also helps to validate messaging as a viable -- and even preferred channel -- for customer service. This is what's really disruptive for the contact center, and while much of the demand for messaging is driven by digital natives, it's also important to note the wide range of Apple endpoints that make this is a comfortable option for customers. Not only is Business Chat accessible across all these popular devices, but messaging is becoming their mode of choice. Contact centers are lagging in their support of messaging, so Business Chat makes sense, not just to bridge this gap, but also to help wean customers off voice.

  • Conversely, contact centers have too many channels to manage already, and omnichannel remains a long-term project at best. Furthermore, Business Chat will only increase the demands on live agents, so getting this to the top of the contact center priority list won't be easy. Contact centers will have trade-offs to consider here, and adoption will really depend on how pressing the need is to improve the CX. On that note, Business Chat can also gain adoption through lines of business, especially Marketing, which could use messaging in a variety of ways to drive deeper customer engagement.

  • Related to this, Business Chat as a messaging channel may make reaching the contact center too easy, and that has to be considered as well in the cost/benefit analysis. Going down-market, however, Business Chat could be a boon for smaller businesses with little or no contact center presence. Businesses could leverage Business Chat as a discovery vehicle to engage more with customers comprising its huge and loyal user base or to create awareness beyond that circle. This scenario may ultimately be more of an e-commerce play, but remains a good way to use messaging to engage with customers and prospects.

  • Operationally, Business Chat can be a productivity driver by enabling agents to manage multiple inquiries at once by using messaging. While it only supports inbound inquiries, Business Chat does so intelligently and protects privacy. The caller's identity is initially protected, but options are provided to indicate the reason for the inquiry -- called "intent" -- and that allows for a form of intelligent routing to the right type of agent or skill set. The privacy element is also important, since the contact is coming direct from the Apple ecosystem to the contact center. This form of engagement is very different from Apple's main messaging rival -- Facebook -- as customers have valid privacy concerns about using social media platforms as a channel to the contact center.

  • While Apple prefers end-to-end control, this isn't its native land, and to accelerate adoption, it has to come to market with some strategic integrations, namely with Genesys, Nuance, Salesforce, and LivePerson. At least for contact centers already working with these partners, this should make the business case easier to justify, along with mitigating the deployment risk that comes with new -- and unproven -- partners.
  • What's In It for Consumers?

  • Consumers are the most important cog in this machine, and if everything delivers as advertised, they'll get a more personalized CX. This is the Holy Grail now in the contact center, and it applies equally to customer engagement with live agents as it does to automated -- and hopefully personable as well as authentic -- engagement with chatbots.

  • As noted above, consumers should have fewer privacy concerns with Business Chat than they do compared to messaging options from social media platforms. Not only does Facebook have a past here, but as noted in Michael's analysis, privacy has always been a strong suit of Apple's, at least in the consumer world.

  • Another strong suit is the brand, and for Apple lovers, Business Chat makes for an even more complete universe. Familiarity and trust go a long way to driving adoption along with retaining your base, and Apple has both in spades -- on three fronts. First, at least in North America, the Apple brand rules for many if not most consumers, and the company doesn't miss very often with new offerings. Secondly, with Business Chat, consumers now have a friendly option to use the channel they love -- messaging -- to engage with businesses. Thirdly, and perhaps the biggest driver of all, is the ability to engage using the mode they love most -- mobility.
  • No other brand can bring all these pieces together at a time when contact centers need them the most, and consumers won't have much difficulty figuring that out. Time will tell if Apple still has it, but with Business Chat, it looks that way to me.


    October 24, 2018

    With disparate workplaces and ever-expanding volumes of information to manage, the challenges for collaborating effectively are only intensifying. Many critical applications are not integrated, and

    October 10, 2018

    Businesses are growing across international borders quicker than ever, but scaling operations to follow suit can be a harder, longer process.

    This webinar focuses on scaling your next-generat

    September 26, 2018

    Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

    March 12, 2018
    An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
    March 9, 2018
    IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
    March 7, 2018
    In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
    February 28, 2018
    Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
    February 16, 2018
    What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
    February 9, 2018
    Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
    February 2, 2018
    UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
    January 26, 2018
    Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
    December 20, 2017
    Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
    December 20, 2017
    Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
    December 20, 2017
    Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
    November 30, 2017
    With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
    October 23, 2017
    Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
    September 22, 2017
    In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
    September 8, 2017
    Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
    August 25, 2017
    Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
    August 16, 2017
    World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
    August 11, 2017
    Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
    August 4, 2017
    Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
    July 27, 2017
    Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
    July 14, 2017
    Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
    June 28, 2017
    Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
    June 9, 2017
    If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
    June 2, 2017
    Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
    May 24, 2017
    Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
    May 18, 2017
    Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
    April 28, 2017
    Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
    April 20, 2017
    Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
    March 23, 2017
    Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
    March 15, 2017
    Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
    March 9, 2017
    Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
    March 3, 2017
    From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
    February 24, 2017
    UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
    February 17, 2017
    From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
    February 7, 2017
    UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
    February 1, 2017
    Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
    January 26, 2017
    Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
    January 23, 2017
    Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.