The ultimate guide to Intercom for SAAS companies

Kyle’s Note: For a SaaS Business customer data is a key tool to guide critical decisions. In this post Chris Kilborn explains how to use Intercom not only to collect data on how your customers as using your app and how you can improve your customer’s experience.

For most of your life, everyone probably told you not to talk to invisible people. But when you run a SaaS business, your #1 priority is to connect with customers you can’t see and figure out what keeps them happy.

Unfortunately, many analytics tools like Google Analytics only give you data on page views for your website and don’t offer insight into the experience people have with your app. Additionally, tools that help to improve the customer’s experience, such as automated emails, CRMs, helpdesks, and live chat, aren’t connected together with your analytics to create a cohesive system.

If you don’t already have a centralized way to manage customer relationships, chances are you’re overtaxing your workforce to juggle communications with customers through multiple scattered channels. Don’t you wish you could push one button that lets you effortlessly analyze customer activity and automatically come up with winning communication that increases customer retention?

If you don’t have a centralized way to manage customer relationships, you’re overtaxing your workforce Click To Tweet

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Wishes aren’t a concept you can rely on in business. Fortunately, customer communication platforms (CCPs) do exist and take the hassle out of back-end operations, especially for small, growing companies. In a market saturated with marketing tools, Intercom.io has emerged as an innovative contender with a boundless stream of new ideas focused around one practical truth: invisible customers need love, too.

The tool @Intercom is focused around one practical truth: invisible customers need love too. Click To Tweet

Why Intercom gives SaaS companies a competitive advantage

Businesses aren’t just about transactions. They rely on human interactions, and the Intercom team understands the business of building relationships.
As an online company, you have to gather data about your users to try and mimic the same smiling, handshakes and polite pleasantries customers receive when they browse, ask for help, and purchase products in a physical store. You also have to provide product guidance throughout the entire lifecycle of your software in the form of onboarding, ongoing product use, renewal, and upgrading.

And that’s where Intercom stands out as an SaaS company’s secret weapon. Instead of just dumping a bundle of consumer analytics data in your lap, Intercom’s intuitive tools help you gain a cohesive narrative of each user’s journey through your platform, so you never forget that your invisible customers are real people.

Whether you’re a budding startup collecting data from early-stage users or an expanding SaaS company that needs to strengthen customer retention, this comprehensive guide tells you how to use Intercom to refine your retention strategy and keep customers coming back (without wishes).

Pricing and setup are painless
Intercom isn’t meant to be a one-size-fits-all solution, and the packaging reflects the company’s customization mentality. Just consider the company’s diverse slate of major clients, including Shopify, Yahoo! and Ancestry.com.

  • Intercom offers five main options for different types of needs.
  • Acquire enables outbound and inbound messages for sales and support teams.
  • Engage helps marketers emphasizes outreach based on customer behavior.
  • Learn empowers your product team to learn how to improve your product through user communication.
  • Support gives your customer service team the ability to respond to inbound messages through your app and emails.
  • Observe (free) lets you see who your customers are and what they do in your app.

With the exception of beta packages, Intercom typically offers basic and pro plans, and the starting cost of about $50 monthly is based on support for up to 250 end users. Expect to pay around $100 for 5,000 users or $200+ for 20,000 users.

At this point, you’re thinking: “ What about integration? No department works alone.” Intercom is all about scalability and accommodation, so you can choose a combination of packages to support the overlapping functions of your workforce. According to co-founder and CEO Eoghan McCabe, 93 percent of Intercom customers use more than one product.

Rest assured that you can sample the benefits of Intercom without making an immediate purchase. Observe is a “forever-free” package that offers live data and customer tracking for business owners who want in-depth information about how their services are being used. All packages are available for a free 14-day trial to give you a hands-on test run before you dive in.

Okay, enough about selling you on Intercom. Let’s dive in to actually utilizing the tool.

Optimize chat capabilities to convert site visitors

Convincing newcomers to stick around and explore your website features is the first major hurdle of marketing. After all, you can’t win over potential customers if there’s no one around to answer their preliminary questions.

You can’t win over potential customers if there’s no one around to answer their preliminary questions. Click To Tweet

When you communicate with your website visitors, don’t forget the most important thing. Customers aren’t stupid, and they don’t want to be patronized. They don’t want to hear scripts that don’t solve their problems, and they don’t want to get lost in a sea of automated messages that lead them in circles. Yet, how do you make a digital conversation between invisible entities more personable? You have to make every interaction with a customer feel like a cooperative alliance.

One of Intercom’s most viable features is the live chat messenger, which allows your team to work collaboratively to turn casual browsers into paying customers. In fact, Jamil Velji of Vantage Analytics reported a 20% increase in conversions from free to premium accounts using the Acquire chat features.

Set up a popup chat messenger on your website to encourage visitors to seek you out for more information. Making it available on every page offers customers a constant reminder that you are available and willing to help, so they have few reasons not to take advantage of it. Once you make contact, you can assign a customer question to the support staff members most equipped to provide accurate answers, or you can consult fellow staff members by inviting them into existing conversations. Depending on the situation, you are free to decide whether or not this tag-team interaction is visible to the client. Most importantly, you don’t send customers off to dig around for the answers themselves, making them more likely to leave your website.

Don’t send customers off to dig around for the answers themselves Click To Tweet

Don’t fret if you have a small staff. Just make sure you have a backup plan to manage clients when you don’t have customer support available right away. Create “away” messages to give visitors a precise time frame when staff will be available again. Great minds think alike, so when customers start asking similar questions, use the convenient “saved reply” feature to reuse common answers. You can easily edit answers to include additional information, especially if a customer asks multiple questions at once. If your designated chat staff are out of the office for the night, tailor your “away” message to let users know you’ll contact them by email when business hours resume.

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Once the chat is initiated, the Intercom interface tracks every second of the user’s activity on your website, letting you gain insight into the content each person values most. Customers are also prompted to provide an email address for further communication, so you can follow up at any time to make sure customers don’t abandon your software out of frustration or disinterest.

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Proactive onboarding and engagement breeds customer loyalty

The full implications of the chat feature may not be apparent at first, but when paired with Intercom’s messaging system, the overall impact is your ability to subtly motivate customers to delve further into your product line. How many customers sign up for your services, look over your site a few times and never actively use the product?

When John O’Nolan launched the open-source blogging platform Ghost, he was challenged to transform the initial free-trial signup wave into an active paying community. Through customer analytics, O’Nolan determined that users who customized their blogs were 10x more likely to upgrade to paying accounts, especially after uploading personalized themes and domain names.

To stimulate blog personalization, the Ghost team set up a series of targeted emails and in-app messages linked to specific activity, such as prompting users to explore custom themes after publishing their first blog posts. O’Nolan’s tactics encouraged users to stay engaged with the software, and the company followed up with video tutorials to make users comfortable with the interface. Analytics reports revealed that video tutorials made users 3x more likely to keep using the product.

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Remember those invisible people you’re always trying to match a face to? Using a well-designed CCP makes onboarding incredibly simple for your business. Since you know exactly when users are online, you can manually prompt highly active customers to try new features and check in on their progress, letting your clients know their experience is your top priority.

Obviously, you don’t have superpowers, and you can’t see everything at once. When used alongside customized communications, preset targeted messages let you expose users to new features at their own pace.

That means Client A is prompted to try out your cool group collaboration feature right after he explores the editing tools. At the same time, Client B doesn’t have to be bombarded with scheduled emails about recording a video message right after verifying her account. When all communications are linked to a signup date, you run the risk of spamming (and annoying) newcomers with more features before their interests are genuinely piqued.

Getting close and personal with customers

Don’t view behavior metrics as business chores you have to put up with for the sake of appearing productive. Use analytics to step into the minds of your customers, identify hiccups in your interface and define target profiles for your staff. Rather than dwelling on how to get customers to spend more, focus on creating more value to give consumers compelling reasons to keep coming back.

Use analytics to understand your customers and identify hiccups in your interface Click To Tweet

Virtual interior design platform, Laurel & Wolf, was challenged by a 9-step sales funnel that gave users multiple opportunities to back out without following through. Reviewing analytics helped the company determine the phases of creation where users were most likely to become inactive, such as the photo upload process. Laurel & Wolf used event-triggered emails to draw account holders back into the process and help them collaborate effectively with interior designers.

Beyond making you feel all-powerful, the convenience of an omnipotent behavioral schematic yields dual benefits. In the case of Laurel & Wolf, the company was also able to check in on designers to make sure they were delivering project components to customers in a timely fashion, improving the company’s entire pipeline.

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Resist the urge to think of customers as a collective group. They are all individuals with different needs (and tolerance levels). Intercom offers flexible filtering features for identifying and grouping different customer segments based on profile attributes and real-time activity. From the first moment a user engages with your site, the interface keeps track of data ranging from the number of login sessions to tutorial progress, making it easy to personalize your communications.

Key factors, such as response rate, help you pinpoint the users who remain inactive despite targeted outreach, so you can focus your resources on customers who value your products. Profiles also provide background information on customer applications of your product, helping you distinguish corporate companies from independent developers and recreational users. When it comes to customers, knowledge really is power. Understanding the interests of your customers lets you steer them towards other products suited for their specific applications.

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Maintaining a direct line to customers

As tempting as it may be to view your flourishing company as a flawless entity, no SaaS business can survive without welcoming input from users. All of Intercom’s elements work together to give you tools to address customer issues as soon as possible, rather than letting disappointments fester.

When you send out emails and surveys, busy consumers can easily brush your communications aside and forget about them. In-app communications are specifically designed to consult users immediately after they’ve tested new features and are more likely to stay engaged. You can then periodically follow up with further auto messages by email to find out if a customer’s experience has changed through familiarization with the interface or your own development efforts.

Design development company InVision uses a combination of behavior- and time-triggered messages as part of its customer nurturing program, which requests feedback and shares updates on implementation plans and software updates. To show customers your continued investment, VP of Customer Experience Ben Jordan reminds SaaS companies to always “close the loop” by letting know users know when their ideas will be put into action.

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Gathering feedback goes hand in hand with sustaining long-term customer satisfaction and reducing churn rate. Inviting users into the development process makes them feel more invested in the outcome.

Yet, don’t forget to make an effort to ask drifting users why the product wasn’t helpful, or offer to provide one-on-one assistance learning the interface. It only takes one poor experience to drive customers away forever; and likewise, one good experience can make users feel a stronger attraction to your company than your competitors.

What are your thoughts?

The versatile capabilities of the Intercom CCP offers you free reign to come up with new business applications. Is your company already using Intercom to boost your customer retention?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About

Chris is a growth marketing expert, who specializes in tech startups. In past lives, he was a professional rock star (seriously), and he built and sold 2 successful companies from the ground up. You can connect with him via email at chriskilbourn@gmail.com and view his case studies at www.chriskilbourn.com.

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