Dish today announced it's becoming the first TV provider to offer customer support over Apple's Business Chat. Launched earlier this year, Business Chat allows companies to communicate with their customers over iMessage in order to answer questions, provide customer service, or even enable purchases. In Dish's case, the TV provider says its customers can use Business Chat to reach a live agent with their questions, make account changes, schedule an appointment, and more.
They can even use their credit card in Business Chat to order a pay-per-view movie or sporting event, then watch it within minutes of confirming the purchase, Dish says.
This feature takes advantage of Apple Pay, which lets you quickly make purchases using your stored payment information without having to leave the iMessage conversation.
Business Chat is as secure as placing a call, where customers would have had to provide information to identify themselves as the account holder. As Dish explains, Apple Business Chat doesn't display the customer's contact information to the agents, so customers can choose if they want to share that information themselves. They're also in control of authenticating their account, if they want to make changes or purchases.
“TV should be simple, so we’ve made reaching our live customer service representatives as easy as sending a text,” said John Swieringa, Dish's chief operating officer, in a statement about the launch. “Adding messaging with Apple Business Chat is a powerful way to connect with us, giving another choice so you can pick what fits with your life.”
Business Chat is a direct attack by Apple on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Today, businesses tend to set up Facebook Pages and often offer customers the ability to reach out over Facebook's Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp with questions. Twitter has also entered the customer service business, allowing businesses to respond to customers over tweets and DMs. Business Chat offers companies an alternative to social media, with the advantage of having access to Apple Pay built-in. (Facebook, meanwhile, hasn't established itself as a payments company nor does much of its user base keep their payment information on file with the company. The same goes for Twitter.)
In addition, operating over iMessage means businesses get even closer with their customers - their conversations are in the same Messages app as chats with friends and family, not in a third-party app. And Apple isn't interested in profiting from data collection. Its main goal is to sell more devices, which in turn allows it to sell more of its own services to users, like iCloud storage and Apple Music.
That said, it's not likely that businesses will abandon their social media presence for Business Chat, so it may end up being just one more place for them to check - albeit one with an install base of hundreds of millions.
Dish is one of the earlier adopters for Business Chat. Other companies on the platform include Aramark, Discover, Four Seasons, Harry & David, Hilton, The Home Depot, Lowe's, Marriott, NewEgg, T-Mobile, TD Ameritrade, Wells Fargo, 1-800-Flowers, and, of course, Apple.
To chat with Dish via Business Chat on iPhone or iPad (iOS 11.3 or higher), customers search for "Dish" then tap the Messages icon that appears next to the Dish search result. They can also open chat form the contact page of their MyDISH app, where they manage their Dish TV account.
- This article originally appeared on TechCrunch.