When Paul Adams left Facebook to join customer communication startup Intercom, he told me the goal was to help businesses becoeme more personable and intimate when communicating with customers. With the recent launch of the new version of Intercom’s in-app messenger, it sounds like the company has taken a big step in that direction.
The launch comes after Intercom announced a $23 million Series B at the beginning of this year. To be honest, when I first got the details about the new product, none of the individual features struck me as all that unusual. However, Intercom team members argued (first via email and then in a remote demo) that it’s the complete product that’s unique.
Specifically, Adams (who’s now Intercom’s vice president of product) said the team focused on five key areas — the impersonal nature of customer messages, the poor targeting and timing of those messages, the lack of context, the fact that those messages aren’t very conversational, and the fact that many of those tools in this market treat the web and mobile as two separate things.
So for example, if a startup adds a new feature to their website, the main way they’d ask customers for feedback is by sending them a generic email asking them what they think — and most of those emails will be ignored.
“We don’t think these five things are well-served in the market at all by anybody,” Adams said. He added that the consumer apps that you probably use to message your friends are “so fast, so simple, and so natural,” while that’s not true on the business side.
To show off the new messenger, Adams demonstrated it on the Intercom site itself. Again, if Intercom added a new feature, it would want to ask users what they think. In this case, however, those users get the message within the application itself, right after they used the feature. The message would be formatted to look like a natural part of the app, and it wouldn’t appear as if came from the company, but from a specific team member. The person sending the message would have data about the person they’re messaging (whether they’re a long-time user, for example), and they could choose the format of the message, as well as add photos, videos, and emoticons (because “(grin)” just doesn’t have the same effect).
Behind the scenes, Intercom customers will be able to see aggregated data about the kinds of responses they’re getting. Over time, Adams said the messenger will start supporting more sophisticated workflows. And yes, businesses will be able to deliver these messages on both web and mobile.
After testing the messenger with a limited number of businesses, Intercom made it available to all customers last week.