Main illustration: Jason Yim
This was a year when it felt like history was unfolding in real time – rather than the narrative of our time taking shape gradually over months and years, events were seemingly getting inscribed straight into the collective memory every day, or sometimes every hour.
Such turbulence is never pleasant to live through – we crave a steady, predictable pace of progress, and above all we crave a sense of control over that progress. The COVID-19 pandemic destroyed any sense of control we might once have had – the normal rules were overturned, to be replaced by uncertainty and doubt.
Subsequent events throughout the year played out in this new terrain – the eruption of the Black Lives Matter protests and the global reckoning with racial injustice was the most palpable and painful.
Against that backdrop, the Content team here at Intercom continued to write our story, but in the context of this overwhelming time, that story was inevitably different.
“We wish you a very peaceful and safe holiday season”
Alongside posts on product design and long-form guides on conversational support, we addressed the impact of COVID-19, and expressed our anger and solidarity amid the struggle for racial equality and justice.
Alongside posts on the thinking behind our latest products and features, we also published essays and podcasts about the challenges posed by the pandemic, how we made the transition to remote work, how we thought about diversity and allyship, and more.
It was a year of significant change here too – Karen Peacock became our CEO as co-founder Eoghan McCabe moved into a new role as Chairman. We adapted quickly to working from home, launching groundbreaking new features to supercharge our conversational support and customer engagement tools.
Here we present a selection of our standout posts and podcasts from the year – the ones that still resonate months later, the ones that made us think or smile, the ones that captured a sense of the moment, at a time when the moment felt so unknowable.
Thank you for reading throughout the year, we hope you’ve learned from and enjoyed our content. From all of us here on the Intercom Content team, we wish you a very peaceful and safe holiday season.
The art of marketing in a crisis
Given how unprecedented 2020 has been, with turbulence and tragedy on so many fronts, it’s hard to try and pick a post that sums up the year on Inside Intercom. Which is probably why my mind turned to a post that is practical in nature and reflects so much of how we approached this year on the Intercom marketing team. Everything just changed: How to keep your customers at the center during turbulent times is based on a talk that our SVP of Marketing Shane gave at SaaStr Summit and details how we thought about adapting our marketing and customer communications in light of the pandemic. A must-read for marketers dealing with change or crisis.
Proactive is the way of the future
We all know that customer expectations are higher than ever – increasing pressure on support teams to provide a great customer experience, while remaining efficient and not burning out. This was already a tough balancing act.
Enter the pandemic – the dramatic changes across multiple industries precipitated even more pressure on time-strapped support teams. Proactive support became more important than ever as support teams searched for solutions to stem the tide of growing support volumes, share important updates, and be considerate to customers who were experiencing financial and emotional difficulties.
This trend is only set to accelerate in 2021 – 78% of support leaders plan to move from reactive to proactive support. In this great post, Moving from reactive to proactive support, Ryan and Phil share their actionable tips for providing a great proactive experience – I think it’s one of the most applicable and important posts we published this year.
The subtle nuances of remote communication
If any post was most useful for me this year, it was Jack’s post on remote communication, Working across land and sea: Tips for remote communication. Tone and body language are nearly impossible to communicate over written text, and so we have to go above and beyond to A.C.E. (😉) remote conversations. Even though it’s so simple, the absolutely most transformational tip was banning the use of the 🙂 emoji because it can be accidentally misinterpreted in the wildest ways.
The sudden evolution of e-commerce
In a few short months, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the paradigm shifts we were witnessing in multiple industries, and perhaps this was most evident in the e-commerce sector – for instance, in the UK, the number of people doing a weekly grocery shop online doubled since the start of COVID-19. Changes in shopping habits that looked set to play out over years were crammed into a few seasons.
This was the context for the remarkable S.H.O.P. podcast series, in which Dee on the podcast and Anna on the blog explored what this rapid evolution was going to mean across a few different dimensions – from the increasingly redundant built infrastructure of the shopping mall to the new innovations and habits that such sudden change can give rise to. An excellent example of long-form storytelling in multiple formats.
Revising the words we use
With the Black Lives Matters protests sweeping the world during summer, we all became suddenly more aware about the insidious manifestations of racial inequality, often where we might least expect to find it. It was for that reason that I absolutely loved this piece from Sam and Ben, Words matter: Removing exclusionary terminology from our codebase, about how they went about removing exclusionary terminology from our codebase. Language is so important in how we think about ourselves and our world but it also evolves – so we should take the considered rather than passive approach to ensure it evolves in the right direction.
Solidarity amid a pandemic
Looking back on what has undoubtedly been a tough year for everyone, it’s been truly amazing to see the sense of community and camaraderie that has emerged. Alexa’s post looking at how our customers are helping to fight COVID-19 – Standing together: How Intercom customers are providing relief during COVID-19 – really highlighted the positivity to be found in the midst of all the chaos this year has brought with it.
We say it all the time, but our customers truly are incredible, and this year has shown that more than ever. From e-learning companies that facilitated virtual learning while schools were closed to healthcare platforms offering telehealth services for free, it’s been inspiring to see how our customers have stepped up to help in a time of great need.
Speaking our values
Being a part of a company that champions inclusion and diversity is important to me, and it had a major influence on my decision to join Intercom earlier this year. One example was Speaking out: Inside Intercom on allyship, an inspiring episode of the Inside Intercom podcast featuring Karen Peacock (our CEO), in conversation with Janeen Uzzell (COO at Wikimedia, and a “Black tech revolutionary”), and Anjuan Simmons (Engineering Coach at Help Scout and author of Minority Tech).
It explores how we must be actively anti-racist through real stories and examples, the importance of representation, and how lending privilege drives inclusion. I’m proud to be part of a company that listens to different perspectives and actively challenges bias to create a psychologically safe workplace for us all.
Minding our mental health
As a person with anxiety starting a new job in a new company, I really appreciated this post by Mathew, Overcoming impostor syndrome – tips for dealing with self-doubt. In it, he goes through some cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques you can use to challenge negative thoughts and reinforce positive ones.
Taking care of your mental health is so important, especially during such a challenging year, and CBT has been instrumental for that. Not only that, but as a newbie joining the Intercom Content team, I really loved seeing this kind of topic being discussed in such an open, honest, and supportive way.
Conversations on a journey
I also joined the Intercom Content team towards the end of the year, and amid all the usual material I read, watched, and listened to during onboarding, it was this podcast, Reflecting on the Intercom journey – Karen Peacock and Des Traynor in conversation, that I found most exciting. It is an engrossing discussion that captures the spirit and values of the company.
From focusing on customers to the critical importance of tried-and-tested principles, from our commitment to diversity to the value of conversational relationships, this discussion is an incredible window into the company’s culture – a must-listen for anyone interested in learning what makes Intercom, well, Intercom.
Contemplating the art of product management
Given everything that was going on this year, it sometimes felt hard to make space for a deep dive on a topic of perennial interest in the product space, but that’s exactly what Paul managed to do in Product Judgment: How some people can repeatedly create product success.
In this epic examination of the elusive skill that is central to the success of the industry’s best product managers, Paul teases out how to build product intuition, how to apply it, and why it matters. Above all, this post is an eloquent articulation of a core Intercom value – how an obsessive focus on the customer is the only surefire way to create products that succeed. The art of product management is famously hard to pin down, but few essays get to the heart of it as thoroughly as this one. A refuge from uncertainty in a year that needed it.