Apple first announced Business Chat at last June's WWDC, a new way for customers to communicate with companies. While Business Chat did not arrive with the initial release of iOS 11, Apple promised it would roll out in beta for version 11.3. Now that iOS 11.3 is officially here, companies can start offering customer service in a whole new way.
Right now, companies that currently support Business Chat include Apple, Discover, Hilton, The Home Depot, Lowe's, Marriott International, Newegg, Ameritrade, Wells Fargo, and 1-800-Flowers.com. While it doesn't seem all of them have gone live with Business Chat just yet, some definitely have, such as The Home Depot (at least, in some locations, not all).
Business Chat aims to make it easy for users to instantly communicate with their favorites companies via Messages, and there are a few ways of initiating a chat.
If the company in question participates, you'll know so when you see a "Message" icon attached to the company's contact information on your iPhone. When you search for a company in Safari, Spotlight Search, Maps, or Siri, you will see this icon next to "Call," "Directions," "Share," or whichever options would otherwise appear. Simply tap this icon to launch into Business Chat with this company.
Another way to launch Business Chat with a company is to tap a link from online, either at the company's site or anywhere else they should choose to put it. Yet another way is to scan their QR code. Usually, this means the company has placed a code somewhere in their store, either online or in physical stores, on a product's packaging, or in advertisements, which customers can scan with their iPhone to conveniently open a chat.
While you could simply use the built-in QR code scanner in the Camera app, it has been known to send users to fraudulent websites. To protect yourself when trying to launch Business Chat, we'd recommend one of 13 excellent QR code scanners for your iPhone. Make sure to check out the guide below to learn more about the Camera app's vulnerability and which apps fill the gap for now.
Apple has made it clear to businesses and customers alike that customers must start each conversation in Business Chat. This means you won't receive unexpected messages from companies, and you can take as long as you need to send that first message.
You can start a chat however you'd like. If you know your query ahead of time, simply type and send it right away. For example, if interested in the availability of a product with Apple, you can ask "Do you have AirPods in stock?" and a response with an answer will be on its way. You don't have to start a conversation with a specific question, however. Simply say "Hello," or "Hi," and the chat will begin.
Apple claims all typical functions in Messages are fair game here. That means you can send attachments if need be, such as a picture of your product or a video of an issue. Companies can do the same.
You can always leave the conversation by tapping the back arrow in the top-right corner of the display or by swiping right from the left side of the display, just as you would any other conversation in Messages. You'll know which threads are Business Chat from the company's name, as well as the certification check on each.
Although users must be first to start a chat, businesses can send notifications as they see fit to your device. Luckily, you can stop receiving notifications for these alerts as you would any other message thread, or you can delete the thread entirely which will prevent future messages from coming in.
Just swipe left on the thread to reveal these two options. If you choose to hide alerts, you will still receive messages, you just won't get notifications for them. If you choose to delete the thread, you won't be able to retrieve those messages, and it sends a signal to the company that you closed the chat and that they should retire the conversation. You can also hide alerts from the "i" (info) button directly in the thread.