Apple Messages for Business
Reach more than a billion users on any Apple device to schedule appointments, provide product support, and more with a Messaging Service Provider that supports Apple Messages for Business.
A practical guide to Apple Messages for Business
Last updated January 22, 2024
Customers increasingly expect great service across all channels, and they want great conversational experiences in the channels they’re familiar with. The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2023 found that 70 percent of customers buy more from companies when they offer seamless experiences. With over 1 billion iPhone users worldwide, businesses stand to gain more customers if they serve people over this popular interface.
Fortunately, Apple rolled out Apple Business Chat to help businesses interact with their customers over iMessage. Understanding what this specialized service is and how it works is necessary to get the most out of Apple Business Chat. Find these answers, plus a whole lot more, below.
What is Apple Messages for Business?
According to Apple, Apple Business Chat allows customers and businesses to communicate using iMessage—Apple’s instant messaging service that works across iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and Apple Watch. Businesses must partner with a messaging service provider (MSP) to manage conversations.
Why is Apple Business Chat important?
Messaging is one of the fastest-growing channels businesses use to interact with their customers. Messaging helps companies level up on their customer experience, complete sales, and market their products. 70 percent of consumers chose to receive business text messages in 2022.
As the world’s leading smartphone seller, the default Apple messaging application is one of the most popular worldwide. This makes Apple business messaging a very important tool for customer service teams.
How does Apple Messages for Business work?
Apple business messaging works by connecting iMessage with your choice of an approved MSP. You’ll work with Apple to connect your iMessage channel to an MSP, but almost all of the channel and workflow configurations will be accomplished through the MSP. MSPs include popular software providers such as Zendesk.
Apple requires you to have your messaging integration reviewed by an Apple team twice: Once after you configure it and another time before you are ready for launch. After you’ve set up and configured Apple Business Chat with your MSP, your customers can message you to start conversations from within Search, Maps, and Safari. You can also enable iMessage Business Chat to accept customer messages on your website, from within your mobile app, and via email.
Apple Business Chat has a few conditions for using the service:
Only customers can start conversations with your business.
When the customer initiates a conversation, you won’t see personal information unless they provide it.
Once a customer deletes the message thread, you can’t contact that customer through the chat until they message you again.
Beyond those basic restrictions, Apple Messages for Business is as extensive as your MSP. You can set up chatbots, triage conversations by classifying and assigning tickets to agents, trigger workflow automations, and much more. Finally, since Apple requires all their registered MSPs to provide back-end systems integrations, you can fully integrate iMessage Business Chat within your marketing, sales, and support software.
Why use Apple Messages for Business?
With so many alternative means of communicating with customers, you might wonder why your business should add one more channel to its operations. Businesses adopt Apple Messages for Business because it brings unique benefits that serve iOS users.
What are the features of Apple Messages for Business?
Since Apple Messages for Business requires that you partner with an MSP, the provider you choose plays a significant role in its overall performance due to the features it offers. The right MSP can deliver these key Apple Messages for Business features.
Using Apple business messaging, customers can schedule appointments, meetings, and deliveries. Calendars are embedded within iOS, so customers can easily check for conflicts as they schedule their appointments. Also, businesses can send appointment reminders if the customer has granted them permission to do so.
Purchase and payment support
By integrating Apple Pay into your messaging system, Apple allows your customers to select and pay for products, track orders, and share payment information. You can also create detailed product lists, support order tracking, and share important order information.
All iMessage features
Apple Messages for Business supports all the reactions, GIFs, emojis, rich links, text effects, and file sharing you can use in iMessage. So, when your customers interact with you through Apple business messaging, they can message you just like they would a friend.
There are over 44 MSPs on the Apple business registry. According to the Apple website, all MSPs must support (at least) all of the following features:
Continuous conversations and intent-based routing
A customizable live agent console that supports Messages for Business features
Virtual chatbots to triage and hand off incoming conversations
Custom integrations with back-end systems such as customer relationship management (CRM), order management systems (OMS), and authentication systems
Conversational designers with easy-to-use graphical user interface tools
When you integrate your MSP, you’re opening your business up to all of the MSP’s possible integrations. Some MSPs might only support the bare minimum functionality, while platforms like Zendesk support over 1,000 applications.
How much does Apple Messages for Business cost?
According to the Apple website, the cost of Business Chat “depends on the scope of your Business Chat deployment and the messaging service provider used to implement your vision.”
For instance, if you plan to deploy Business Chat for multiple brands, your cost will increase relative to deploying it for only one brand. Depending on your internal resources and MSP, you may have to work with an external consultant to implement your solution, which comes with additional costs. Also, MSPs vary in terms of what and how they charge you for deploying Apple business messaging.
Best practices for using Apple Messages for Business
Apple has strict standards that all companies must abide by when using Business Chat, and you should also establish internal policies to ensure everything runs smoothly. Follow these best practices to create great customer experiences.
Automate what you can to reduce costs
The more routine, repetitive tasks you can automate, the more resources you can dedicate to higher-value issues. Fortunately, you can automate many actions, like collecting customer data, fulfilling orders, scheduling appointments, and answering FAQs with iMessage Business Chat. As a result, your customers will get answers quicker, and your agents won’t be overwhelmed with tickets.
Make it easy to collect key customer data
Apple Messages for Business has features that can help customers easily provide the data you need to help them and improve your service. To make the most of these tools, you have to ensure you’re leveraging them in a way that makes the most sense for your business.
The Apple list picker tool is great for providing info about your services and products, and the time picker tool is ideal for showing customers when they can schedule an appointment. You can also use list picker to sort customers by having them answer a list of yes or no questions. Your analytics software can track their responses so that you can continue to improve upon the customer experience.
Apple Messages for Business provides many ways to reduce the friction associated with collecting customer information. But it’s up to you to determine the methods that make the most sense for your business.
Unify the messaging experience
With the help of a developer and using an Apple API (application programming interface), you can integrate Apple Messages for Business with your marketing, sales, and customer service software. In some cases, your MSP may have native integrations, which can help you unify the messaging experience and make it easy for agents to access customer data to personalize the conversation.
However you do it, it’s key to ensure all your messaging channels are well-integrated with your sales CRM, marketing automation software, e-commerce system, and booking system.
A robust and unified tech stack enables your customers and agents to have an authentic conversation. Rather than asking customers to repeat information from previous interactions, agents can see conversation histories and customer profiles to tailor their service accordingly.
Finally, if you’re looking to work with Apple Messages for Business, it’s a good idea to look through Apple’s channel policies.
Prepare sufficient staffing for Apple Messages
If this is your first time offering messaging as a channel to your customers, you’ll need to prepare your staffing resources accordingly. Staffing your team for messaging differs from staffing real-time channels, like phone conversations or live chat.
Consider the following to determine the number of customer service agents you’ll need:
Number of visitors: How many visitors to your website or help center, for example, do you anticipate during agents’ working hours?
Agent availability period: How many hours in the day will agents be available to serve messaging requests?
Average conversation duration: How long do you expect agents to spend on a single conversation?
Concurrent conversations: How many conversations will an agent handle simultaneously?
Once you answer the questions above, you can better determine how many agents you need. Let’s break it down even more in the following example:
Number of visitors: 10,000
Agent availability period: 8 hours
Average conversation duration: 12 minutes
Concurrent conversations: 4
In this scenario, let’s assume that you’ll receive 1,000 support requests a day or 125 requests per hour.
Total conversation minutes / Available agent minutes / Agents per conversation = Number of agents
Total conversation minutes = 1,000 requests * 12 minutes/request = 12,000 minutes
Available agent minutes = 8 hours * 60 minutes/hour = 480 minutes
Agents per conversation = 4
12,000 minutes / 480 minutes / 4 = 6.25 Agents
25 agents can serve 125 requests per hour at 12 minutes per conversation. But since one agent can handle a maximum of four conversations at a time, you’d need to staff seven agents.
How to determine Apple Messages for Business staffing levels
Apple business messaging can be a great way to provide fast and convenient support, but many businesses are still figuring out how to implement it effectively. Before using Apple Business Chat, estimate your staffing needs using the Zendesk staffing calculator.
Staffing level calculator
Weekly utilized hours for a full-time agent:
Total utilized hours (weekly):
Estimated full-time agents needed:
Average handle time calculator
Solves per hour:
Average handle time:
Disclaimer: The above formula should be used as a guide and does not replace a typical workforce management staffing calculator. Teams will also need to consider factors such as breaks for agents, multiple shifts, and different customer requirements.
Integrating Zendesk with Apple Messages for Business
To start integrating Zendesk with Apple Business Chat, follow these steps:
Register your business with Apple. This process includes submitting brand information, which Apple will review and approve. While submitting your registration, Apple will prompt you to select an MSP. To integrate Zendesk, select the Sunshine platform.
You’ll receive a Messages for Business ID that you’ll need to test and then verify your MSP connection. If you already have a Sunshine account with Zendesk, you can add Business Chat from the list of integrations within the Sunshine platform.
To complete the setup, you’ll name your integration, paste your Messages for Business ID, and click “connect.”
At this point, your Zendesk account is integrated with Apple Business Chat. You’ll still need to design, configure, and test the messaging experience with help from Zendesk before Apple approves the integration. This will include adding the Messages for Business button to your app or website, styling the button, creating customer journeys, and more.
To get final approval from Apple, you’ll need to build a demo of your customer journey and then work with the Apple team to prepare for launch.
Apple Messages for Business FAQ
Read on to learn more about Apple Business Chat and its capabilities for your company.
Manage Apple Business Chat enquiries with Zendesk Sunshine Conversations
The Sunshine Conversations API gives you access to the richest features across the broadest set of messaging channels, including Apple Business Chat. Unlock the dynamic power of conversational experiences with the Sunshine Conversations platform from Zendesk. Experience a unified messaging solution that unifies the entire customer journey, ensuring consistent and personalized experiences. Learn more about using Sunshine Conversations to manage customer enquiries through Apple Business Chat.
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