Today we’re launching a brand new product called Intercom—a tool to help web app owners build and manage relationships with their users.
It’s all about relationships
Some time in early 2010 I wandered into a little Dublin coffee shop that seemed to sprout up out of nowhere. It was run by first-time business owner Colin Harmon. Through Colin’s friendly, open approach, he turned a random punter into a loyal customer. As a loyal customer I walk past many cafés to get to 3fe, I buy more coffee when I’m there (and happily pay more than I would elsewhere), I recommend friends to try the business and I forgive them for any small mistakes they make. And all because Colin cared to build a relationship with his customer. On top of this, the relationships he’s built means he knows well what people want: for example, he now sells cakes and sandwiches and the business is booming.
Now let’s compare 3fe, or any “bricks and mortar” business, to Exceptional, or any web app business. For the most part, we web app owners see this when we look at our customers—this is from the Exceptional admin panel.
We know so little about our users and their preferences. And we don’t have an easy way to ask them to find out. E-mails have a terrible conversion rate—people ignore them, especially if they contain surveys! This is because e-mail is out of context (you receive it on your phone, while asleep, in a bar, or just busy with something else) and it’s rarely targeted (if a web app owner decides he wants to reach out to 25% of his customers, one week after they tried a certain feature, it could literally take days or weeks for the engineers he works with to develop a mechanism for mailing the right people at the right moment, by which time the business owner is working on another problem).
Intercom solves this
You can even watch them log in to your app around the world in real time!
You can view their social profiles (on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook…) to discover who they actually are.
And then reach out to the ones who interest you—for example, you could welcome new people, check in with an active user you know, wish everyone in Canada a Happy Canada Day, announce planned downtime or ask for feedback when someone sees a certain feature for the first time. (And these are just some examples that I can come up with—we expect people to use it in much more interesting ways!)
The user gets nice in-app messages which pop up or appear in an inbox. And the users can reply directly to the messages right there and then.
The message boxes are customisable so they fit right in to your UI.
The app owner sees a nice list of open messages which he needs to respond to. And we’ve got some neat features for making this workflow efficient, like configurable message macros.
And finally, the product comes full circle by tracking the relationship you have with every user, helping you see who you most need to give some attention (or who you know well and can rely on for help).
And this is all available today.
Our MVP is bigger than your MVP
We’ve built a lot of software! And this scares the hell out of me. Because we could be plain wrong about this whole approach. But sometimes really solving a problem requires more than a few weeks worth of hacking. And sometimes real innovation requires a risk that your instinct is wrong. But we’re not complete fools—we’ve collected feedback from countless incredible people, smart folks too numerous to name that have helped us shape the product and improve the pitch. (Thank you so much. You know who you are.) I started talking to people about Intercom in March and we nearly launched it in April before being convinced that we needed to change our approach.
What reassures me is that we believe strongly in the problem: web app owners need to build relationships with their customers but it’s really, really hard. Sign up for the Private Beta and let us know if we’ve eased that pain. We’ll be bring a handful of people on each day as we scale the system up slowly.