Included in iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4 is a new way to communicate with companies called Business Chat. Available in the United States as a beta to start, Business Chat lets you conveniently use iMessage for customer service and even complete transactions with Apple Pay. Check out our hands-on to see how it works.

What’s Business Chat?

In the age of texting, the appeal of Business Chat for customers is receiving customer service from companies over iMessage without ever having to make a phone call, wait on hold, and sit through service menus.

For businesses, customer support staff can efficiently help more people at the same time using existing customer service platforms. Customers use a form of communication that they already know, and business support staff respond from their existing service platform.

Where does Business Chat work?

For users, Business Chat conversations happen in the Messages app on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch, and you can start a Business Chat from business listings in Maps, Spotlight search, Siri results, and on the web with Safari.

You’ll need iOS 11.3 or later and macOS 10.13.4 or later in the United States to use Business Chat, and companies supporting Business Chat appear to still be rolling out the feature in different places.

At launch, Business Chat works with Apple, Discover, Hilton, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Marriott International, Newegg, TD Ameritrade, Wells Fargo, and 1-800-Flowers.

More businesses will be added over time, and business owners who want to work with Business Chat can sign up at Business Chat requires using an approved customer service platform which currently includes LivePerson, SalesForce, Nuance, Genesys, ZenDesk, and InTheChat.

How does Business Chat work?

After updating to iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4, I tried Business Chat with both Apple and 1-800-Flowers.

1-800-Flowers has a link for Business Chat on the mobile version of their homepage. Tapping the ‘Chat with Messages’ button launches the Messages app and starts a Business Chat session with a 1-800-Flowers customer service agent.

From here you can send your message and begin chatting with customer service. I started with a simple “Hi” which quickly lead to buying flowers for delivery with Apple Pay.

1-800-Flowers takes advantage of the platform by giving you in-app options for customer service that open right in the Messages app, but the limitation here is that these feature rich menus only work on iOS and not the Mac.

By the end of the Business Chat conversation, I was able to order flowers and even choose my mom’s address for delivery from my contacts while using Apple Pay to checkout — all within the Messages app. No need to download a special app or fiddle with the web.

Business Chat for Apple can currently be discovered by searching for a nearby Apple Store in Apple Maps. Look for the Messages icon on the business listing, then tap the Messages button to start a session. Using Business Chat, I was able to ask if a nearby Apple Store had in-store inventory of the newly released iPad.

Business Chat can also be used to book appointments in addition to asking customer service questions and making purchases with Apple Pay.

The feature is also designed not to share your personal information without your permission. For example, the customer service agent can’t see your name or phone number without you sharing it, even though you’re using the Messages app.

When you close a Business Chat session (at least on iOS for now), Business Chat will ask if you want to be contacted again in the future or not as well. Selecting no will close the session and prevent future messages from reaching you.

Learn more about Business Chat with these resources:

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About the Author

Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news, hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour podcast, and created