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A Review of Intercom. What are the Key Benefits and Features of the Intercom Live Chat App?

What difference did it make to our sales? Which existing tools and processes did it replace? We review the key benefits and features of Intercom based on our experience of using it for several years on 2 different applications.

Related: See an overview of Intercom which explains what it is, the key features and how to use it and we cover how to use Intercom for sales and marketing

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We run 2 SaaS companies and have several years experience in using Intercom. The companies are:

  1. Upscope which is cobrowsing aka instant screen sharing for sales and support where you can click to see their browser and click to take control.
  2. Anymail Finder is email discovery for marketing teams

Key point summary

  1. We now get 100 times the previous amount of feedback and fix bugs and improve the site 10 times faster because people prefer to engage in an informal conversation with a chat box rather than forms or formal email.
  2. Intercom chats have helped generate 60%+ of all sales as people are more likely to use it and ask questions, for which answers help build trust.
  3. Intercom sends sequences of automated emails to users that help onboard them and convert them from user to buyer. Previously we needed a separate tool for that.
  4. See details about the customer as soon as they sign up including their browser, operating system and even their Twitter handle. You don’t have to ask questions to fix problems and you can follow them on social networks.
  5. All conversations with the customer, including emails and chats with all team members, are in one feed so we don’t have to spend time looking for what someone else said to them. Can’t imagine working without this now.
  6. Intercom allows us to add links into the chat panel so that we can chat about their request and in one click go to our own admin panel and change their settings. It’s an essential feature used many times a day.
  7. When a user asks a question we can insert an educational article from the Intercom articles module built to answer that exact question. It means we don’t re-type answers and they can learn by themselves.
  8. Intercom has a number of integrations including our own Upscope for instant screen sharing which enables us to guide even the most confused non-tech customers in seconds rather than taking 30 minutes or an hour.

Below is a list of what we did before using intercom live chat and what we did after.

1. Users now find it easy to contact us and that grew sales 60%

The change from a contact us form to a live chat box is the number game changer for the company. People prefer chat boxes. It’s natural now.

Before

We had a typical contact us link at the top that would lead to them emailing us.

After

They click the chat box and straight away write exactly what they want without the formality.

Benefit

100 times the number of conversations with live chat giving us feedback that helps us move faster.

We estimate that it is responsible for around 60% of sales because we’re able to answer the key questions people have that might have stopped them buying.

It just looks like the site is more active too and people don’t want to turn up to something they think is dead and unsupported.

Any Problems with it? Some people say hi and expect an instant response though over time they understand we’ll get back to them the same day. Benefits outweigh costs 100 to 1 though it takes months to appreciate this.

2. We can automatically convert users through Intercom drip emails

This is one key feature that currently separates Intercom from many other live chat tools. Most don’t have built in automated emails.

See every single one of Upscope’s Intercom emails you can use as a template

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Before

Used Campaign monitor and tested out a couple of other tools like Aweber and Mailchimp.

After

Used Intercom ‘Engage’ (aka messages) module to create and send automated email campaigns to customers and leads.

Benefit

Once someone sign ups, they’re sent the sequence of emails over several weeks to automatically educate them and encourage them to buy.

If they do reply to an automatic emails, all conversations (emails and chats) are in one Intercom user chat feed for that user. There’s no flicking around between apps to find all the bits of each team member’s communication with them.

Previously, having a separate tool for sending emails means, when they turn up to the site, we need to put more effort into understanding where they came from and why they are now interested in resuming a subscription.

Now we have the confidence to communicate more knowing we would not repeat messages.

Any problems? No, this is actually the most brilliant time saving part of it. The statistics for the email campaigns are pretty good but it would be nice if they did more.

3. Our whole team can work together to quickly fix a problem

When all customer conversations are in one feed, it saves hours per day not having to guess who said what. A year later, you can still see the whole conversation with any single customer.

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Before

Someone emailed us.

We’d email to each other or message on slack saying ‘Did you speak to this guy before?’ or ‘Do you have the first email he sent you?’

We’d forward the email or copy and paste.

Then, after concluding the discussion, one of us would reply to the user’s email. If they originally sent it to me then a team member would send the response and have to after tell me about what they wrote or we’d discuss the response in slack first. What a damn pain!

After

Within the client communication feed, we can send internal messages.

Everything is in one long feed.

We can see the communication with the client and see our own internal messages.

The internal messages below are in yellow. The client communication in blue. We get a rapid idea of our current status with that client.

Benefit

Having to copy and paste and work across multiple applications is a pain.

Also, all the previous communication with that client is buried in an email thread.

Having both external and internal communication in flowing list is just sense.

Any Problems? DON’T accidentally send internal communication to the client. Even though it’s clearly marked and in different colours, this does happen because of the speed at which we send communications. I don’t know how they’d improve this but maybe a simple way of rapidly deleting something but intercom doesn’t allow that yet. Be careful.

4. We can see details about each customer without having to ask

The intercom admin panel contains lots of attributes about the user including their browser, location and even their social profiles on Twitter etc.

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Before

We’d get an email saying something is not working. We’d reply with “Hi, can you please tell me what browser you’re using”. Then go through a conversation to discover their system and likely problems.

After

We check the chat side panel which lists the browser, browser version, OS, when they signed up, how many sessions they’ve had on the site, which features they’ve installed and more.

We can also choose to follow them on Twitter there and then to learn more about them as Intercom uses Clearbit to get user details.

Benefit

Cuts the communication down significantly for them and us.

5. We’ve added our admin links directly into Intercom for fast response

You can add links to your backend database into the chat panel so if someone asks you to make a change, you can go directly to your backend and change it.

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Before

We’d get an email asking for a change. We’d search for the user’s name or email in our admin system and then edit their settings.

After

The email appears in the Intercom user chat feed as normal and having integrated the link to our admin directly into intercom’s side panel, we’d click directly from that users conversation and instantly edit their settings directly.

Benefit

Some of the seemingly small things like this make a big difference. Having to do this 20 times a day manually takes up energy so doing it in one click is something we don’t want to do without.

6. We can instantly create pop-up internal adverts for new users

You normally have to code up your own pop-ups or use another third party but Intercom has that feature built in and directly integrated into chat.

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Before

We had to code a pop up to appear. This meant writing the html, css, javascript and then fetching data about the user to figure out if they should receive that pop-up. In other words, hours of work the first time round.

After

Click on the engage module and set up a new in-app message. We typed it up, filtered out users, like existing customers, who should not receive it and set it to go.

This is what the user sees when they come to the pricing page. It looks like a regular chat message but it’s automatic and asks ‘Do you have enough information to make your purchase?’ to prompt the user into communicating.

Benefit

Create, edit and test in-app marketing very quickly to learn what works.
Conversions and sales increase thanks to well timed messages.
Easy to create separate marketing messages for each page to deal with different user stages.

The messages look like chats and so encourage the user to respond.
Stats are available for each message.

We learned from user feedback that almost all buyers were fully aware of our competitors and our relative pricing. We created a pop-up on our home page linking directly to a comparison page. This drove sales.

We also created pop-ups on the pricing page with prompts to ask questions. These little changes make a disproportionate positive impact over time.

7. Customers can help themselves using the Intercom articles module

The SEO friendly Educate (aka Articles) module lets you create articles with either brief or in-depth answers that the user can search through or you can insert directly and instantly into a chat when they ask a question.

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Before

Create an FAQ and blog posts. When someone asks a question we’d either write a response from scratch or email them a link to an article. That would involve opening up our blog, finding the relevant article and copying the link to paste it back into the email.

After

Create an article for each regular question we get within Intercom ‘Educate’ module. This not only automatically builds our searchable help section but lets us insert those articles directly into chat.

When someone asks a question, we click the article button, search for the title and click ‘insert’. Done!

We’ve created articles for questions ranging from the simple ‘Why am I asked to enter in my credit card?’ to ‘Give me an overview of how your service works’.

imgWe can insert the articles directly into a chat.

Benefit

Since the educate module was released we’ve regularly inserted articles into chats. Intercom previously had ‘saved chats’ but for some odd reason we did not use that. There is something a lot more intuitive about inserting short articles — also, they help introduct someone to the help section. This cuts response time back to seconds and minutes on average. A 5 to 10 minute written response can be 30 seconds. Previously we’d find ourselves writing the same things again and again in different ways.

Any problems? One key lesson learned. Don’t build the help articles until you start understanding what people need help on and how they ask questions. I’ve had to strip down pre-built help articles to match a user’s actual questions. They don’t want a 3 page full document on a feature, they just want to go straight to the answer to the question.

Third party integrations mean you can do instant screen sharing

Upscope.io is a modern instant screen sharing tool to onboard new confused users and fix problems for even the most difficult non-tech customers without asking them to install software.

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Before

We spent 10 minutes or 30 minutes or 1 hour or parts of an entire day trying to figure out how to direct people who really struggle with sometimes even simple interfaces.

If they really did not get it through email or on the phone, we asked them to try and install screen sharing but that became it’s own nightmare because they don’t understand that tech either. Asking for a screenshot and sending it over itself was complicated enough.

After

We use the upgraded version of a tool we built that integrates with Intercom to see their screen instantly. When they ask to be directed, we don’t ask them to install anything, we click a link within the Intercom interface and go directly to see them moving about on our own website. We then highlight where they should go next and if they struggle with that, we’ll actually scroll and click for them remotely.

Benefit

This technology, known as co-browsing is growing rapidly and is the difference between a 1 hour or a 1 minute conversation. It’s also used for general purpose on-boarding and education but really comes into its own when guiding some of the toughest customers from sign up to purchase.

Don’t need all that functionality and just need a simpler chat system?

We use Intercom but we get clients who ask us whether our tools integrate into Olark.

This is because Olark is a viable alternative live chat system that’s cheaper and does the core chat functionality they need very well.

It does not have the onboarding and other modules but it does have third party integrations. It’s cheaper and the pricing is straight forward.

See a set of Intercom use cases that go into more depth

https://blog.upscope.io/intercom-case-studies/home

The case studies include an overview of Intercom which explains what it is, the key features and how to use it and how to use Intercom for sales and marketing

A Review of Intercom. What are the Key Benefits and Features of the Intercom Live Chat App?
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