I was very excited when I first heard about Intercom, and a bit surprised why it took so long for such a product to come out. It just made sense!
Although there were existing tools out there that allowed you to talk to your users, such as Qualaroo and Olark, Intercom did something different, it allowed you to have conversations AND see who was using what in your app AND connect with them. It mixed customer interaction + app metrics. This combination of capabilities is great since you didn’t have to build a similar tool yourself or use multiple tools to achieve the same outcomes.
It took me almost a year after hearing about Intercom before I could finally start using, and once I started using it, I was addicted to it. Here’s how it’s made my life easier:
As a Product Manager, at least 30% of the time is spent on user research aka talking to customers. Intercom helps me do user research in the following ways:
1. Future Feature Research
As Product Managers, we are constantly on the lookout to see how we can improve our products. Sometimes improving your product means adding new capabilities. Good Product Managers don’t just rush into adding a new capability; they first validate the problem/need with their users before building.
With Intercom, I can quickly find a list of users that meet the following criteria:
- The targeted user segment (i.e. a certain persona, live in a certain area, have a particular job to be done needing to be done, etc.)
- Uses or doesn’t use an existing, similar feature
- Was last online less than X days ago (if they haven’t been on the app in awhile, they probably don’t remember how a particular feature way work)
All these criterions are vital to my research since it ensures I’m talking to the right users leading to me to understand how different problems are related. And a result, at the end I can reasonably guess how we can solve these various problems.
2. Current Feature Adoption Research
If you work in a good software organization or, at least, one that calls themselves “data-driven,” then you are probably capturing which users are using a feature and how many times they use it. Instrumenting your features is great and a necessity because it can tell you how many users adopt your feature and whether that adoption grows, plateaus, or dies.
No matter what the feature does, you just have data on what has happened previously and what is happening now. But, you don’t know WHY the usage is what it is.
Since Intercom allows you to see what users did what on your app, you can quickly find out which users have used the feature in question and which users haven’t, and reach out to them, so you can understand the WHY.
Based on the situation, you can find out from your users what you need to improve on, can improve on, and if there are any other use cases you could support.
3. Active Usage + Inactive Usage Research
Another critical piece of knowledge a PM needs to have is to know what is the pulse of your app and why it’s that pulse. While the above talks about a single feature, you can also use Intercom to understand how people are using your product overall. Finding out the pulse is a bit harder, but since Intercom can tell you have many people are using and not using your app, you can quickly establish these two segments and talk to these users.
I usually set a filter in Intercom to show me a list of users who meet the following criteria:
- Have had X amount of sessions on the app
- Have last used the app less than Y days ago
- Have been contacted more than Z days ago
With such a filter, I have a fresh set of users I can reach out with just one objective: what are their thoughts on the app. Such a general goal allows me as a Product Manager to allow the user to guide the conversation, showing me what is important to them and at the top of their head.
Another nifty trick is to set up auto-messages with Intercom to message users on certain days after they’ve first signed up to deliver small size titbits on how to use the app. On Day 1, you could message them about some settings they should turn on, while on Day 6 you can message them about one power user trick, and so on.
Keep in mind that using Intercom to send onboarding tips should not replace your app’s onboarding/tutorial, especially if your product is not straightforward. But you should useIntercom to provide immediate value to your users when you think they need it.
There’s existing material out there on how to set up Intercom auto-messaging so take some time to check it out! Here and here are some articles I found useful.
All in all, Intercom in an excellent tool for Product Managers, and I will definitely continue to use it wherever I go until a better replacement comes about!
Note: all the above requires you to set up Intercom and send it various data so you can actually do this! You need to invest in the tool to get the most out of it!!