Offering Support via iMessage

In this article I am discussing the benefits and downsides of offering support for your apps via iMessage, which we started doing for our most recent app for OS X.

Our most recent application DockPhone is a very simple app. It lets you make calls from your Mac using a technology that is provided by OS X. Since sometimes linking two devices, your Mac and your iPhone, can be error-prone, things can go wrong, and DockPhone might stop working.

Or even worse, DockPhone won’t work at all.

In such kind of a situation, your app might receive a few bad ratings on the Mac App Store, which is already enough to destroy the months of work you put into it: Not all happy users submit their rankings, but the unhappy users almost certainly do. I think there is a fundamental flaw in the ranking and rating system of the Mac App Store. And to work against this flaw, one strategy can be to offer outstanding support to your customers.

Offering Support via iMessage

So a few days after releasing DockPhone publicly, we realized that we could offer the way we support our customers not only via email, but via iMessage as well. Thus, we decided to not only display a large “Get Support via Email”, but also a “Get Support via iMessage” button on our promotion and our help site. DockPhone users are iPhone users, so they are certainly iMessage users as well. Perfect fit!

To offer the support for DockPhone via iMessage, we have created a new Apple ID and have added an additional email address, which we advertise on our site(s) as the entry point for a support conversation. We then configured Messages.app on some of our Macs accordingly. And so far it is working really well.

Customers Appreciate the Quick Support

We already could help lots of our users to set up their devices so that DockPhone started working. This not only saved us from receiving several poor ratings on the Mac App Store, but also gave us the opportunity to talk directy to our customers. The Mac App Store is quite an anonymous selling platform. Apps are not sold from producer to customer, but sold by Apple. Most of the seller-buyer relation is gone.

Once you start chatting with your customers, you learn about their use cases, their configurations, and their motivation to buy your app. It is not only beneficial for the customer to get the support, but also quite funny and informative for you. And by the way, you also get the chance to kindly ask for a nice rating on the App Store, once the problems have been sorted out.

But does it scale?

Certainly not. Support conversations via iMessage may last several minutes in total and stretch across multiple days, requiring re-reading the previous messages to get to know the customer’s problem again. But note that this is the case for email conversations as well.

Offering support via iMessage also involves the danger, that the customer is at the end even more dissatisfied then before. Since we all hate the feeling of not receiving an answer, even we saw our conversation partner has read our message, you probably want to switch off Read receipts in the iMessage settings. Or you force yourself to read an incoming message only if you have time to process and answer it immediately.

Conclusion

For us, offering support via iMessage will definitely be an option for each of our future projects we will consider, since the benefits are golden. Bad ratings have the potential to destroy your revenues, so developers should think about every possible opportunity to fight against them.