Choosing Intercom

This week’s writing challenge encouraged us to write about our Support Stack.  The tools we use to do our jobs and why we use them.  In my previous role, I was tasked with creating a CS department from the ground up.  While I was researching tools I tried to find articles others had written about why they made the choices they did.  I had a hard time finding anything.  I found marketing materials and comparisons, but almost nothing about what works/didn’t for other companies.

So here’s my thoughts on what does and doesn’t work for me and a little bit about how I decided to use intercom.

How are my customers most likely to communicate with me?
I had the luxury of only having one product – a mobile app.

Phone calls were out – You can’t ask questions about something you can’t see very easily.

Emails were sporadic – It’s annoying to open up a separate application and submit a question.

In-app chat – This was most convenient and we saw most of our inquiries were sent in via chat.

Is there anything besides support related communications that my team needs?
Our team also needed something capable of drip email marketing campaigns.

Prioritize Features to create a baseline for evaluation.
This is like creating a game plan.  Just like when you buy anything, you want a reminder of what it is that you actually need vs what the salesperson wants you to think you need.  For us it looked like:

Must Haves:

  • Awesome in-app chat
  • Email support ticketing
  • Email marketing capabilities
  • Event tracking

Nice to Haves:

  • Knowledgebase / Help Center
  • Web chat
  • In-app notifications
  • Salesforce integration
  • Phone integration
  • Reporting

Get googling
I started researching by googling in-app chat, mobile chat, and help desk reviews.  The major results were


All of these solutions are great (so I read) for various organizations.  However armed with my goals of needing awesome in-app chat I was left with Zendesk and Intercom.

We were already using zendesk chat.  I was not a fan.  The mobile app for agents often lagged/had issues with being logged in/out.  Notifications were sporadic and it wasn’t as “pretty” as Olark, which I had used before.

Making a choice
Intercom was the front runner for us.  The only thing that it was really missing was a knowledgebase and reporting.

What we got with Intercom:

  • In-app chat – With an option to add web when we needed it
  • In app alerts & notifications – To make product feedback easier
  • Email Ticketing System
  • Event Tracking
  • Ability to do drip campaigns
  • Salesforce integration

What we missed with Intercom:

  • Knowledge Base
  • Reporting
  • Phone system integration

Now that we had chosen Intercom, we had to remove Zendesk and add Intercom to our app.

There were some struggles with this part of the project.  While the features of intercom are great, it does require engineering resources to get started.

Our engineers reviewed intercom’s docs before we agreed to move forward with the system.  However, when they got down to really having to integrate they hit a few snags.

  • While there is event tracking and metadata you can’t use that info in emails. So while we could send emails based on events, we couldn’t put any user specific data in the emails.   They did tell us they are working on updating this.
  • Adding the code was a pain. They had to remove our other systems and it wasn’t quite as easy as the engineers had hoped.  I don’t think that’s too unusual though.
  • There really isn’t much reporting.  That’s something they’re working on too.

Using Intercom!
The interface was easy and intuitive.  Having only used Zendesk before it wasn’ t too hard to make the switch.  I enjoyed using the app on my phone to respond to chats and tickets.


I’m currently at a different company and back to using Zendesk.  It’s a great reminder of how there is no one size fits all solution for creating a great CS team.





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