Inside Intercom Review of the Year

2021 on Inside Intercom

Main illustration: Lily Wang

Another year draws to a close, and there won’t be many people sorry to leave this one behind us. From the ongoing pandemic to political turmoil around the globe, we can all agree that 2021 has been a lot to handle. It has often felt like a year we’d rather forget, even if it turns out to be a year we’ll long remember.

And yet, here at Intercom, we have been determined to make the most of these difficult times. Indeed, there has been a sense of increasing momentum despite the challenges we collectively face. It has become clear that the trends that were first evident as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world are here to stay.

“We have accelerated through many years of progress as if we’re living in a time-lapse”

Business is increasingly conducted online, and customer communications are undergoing a massive transformation as customer expectations change. We have accelerated through many years of progress as if we’re living in a time-lapse – and now more than ever before, forging strong, personal relationships with your customers online is the key to survival and growth.

Nothing stays the same, after all, and it’s how you react when everything changes that defines your future trajectory. In that spirit, we have been acting and reacting with speed and confidence to keep increasing the value we provide to our customers.

Some of our achievements and milestones over the past 12 months include:

Below, the editorial team here at Inside Intercom pick out a selection of our favourite pieces from the past year. As always, thanks for reading and listening to our stories – we wish you all the very best over the holidays, and look forward to keeping you entertained and informed as we embark on the next chapter of this great adventure.

Zara Burke, Lead Editor

You can’t always get what you quant: Bringing numbers to life through user research

Like many others on the team, I love a good pun. So I was immediately attracted to this post – “You can’t always get what you quant” is a great title. Even more than a good pun, though, I love how customer research is embedded into the very fabric of how we build, market, and sell Intercom. One of our core company values is that “we obsess over our customers’ success” and this post by Hayley Camille Morgan is a true reflection of that.

“Researchers acknowledge and invest in the ‘what’, but often forget to slow down and understand the ‘why’ – the people behind the numbers and emerging trends”

The post is packed full of “aha” moments, including how “researchers acknowledge and invest in the ‘what’, but often forget to slow down and understand the ‘why’ – the people behind the numbers and emerging trends.” If you’re at all interested in using customer research to drive key business decisions, this is a must-read.

The Ultimate Customer Support Tech Stack for 2022

It’s been another year of substantial change and mounting pressures for many support teams, with ever-rising inbound support queries, more businesses moving online, global supply chain issues, and pandemic-related budget cuts. I’m in awe of any support team that has been able to keep their heads above water, never mind support and delight thousands of customers at internet scale.

One thing has become clearer than ever: support teams need better, more connected tools to handle all of these increasing pressures and to prepare for the future of customer communications. The Ultimate Customer Support Tech Stack for 2022 outlines the strategy and tools that support teams can implement next year to future-proof their customer support tech stacks. Here’s to thriving, not just surviving!

Anna Murphy, Editor

Our key takeaways from Forrester research

This year, we commissioned Forrester Consulting to explore how conversational experiences are driving growth for major companies. The results highlighted what we’ve been suspecting for a while now: conversational support isn’t just a nice-to-have anymore – it’s business critical.

“What became clear above all is how crucial it is to provide a great customer experience – because if you don’t, a competitor surely will”

Diving into this research, it was striking just how much the business landscape has irreversibly changed since the pandemic. Support teams and leaders are facing challenges like never before, with heightened customer expectations bumping up against outdated tools and ways of working. What became clear above all is how crucial it is to provide a great customer experience – because if you don’t, a competitor surely will.

The support leader’s guide to personal, efficient human support

What can I say, I love a good series. In these extracts from our Ultimate Guide to Conversational Support (which is itself an excellent read!), we looked at how support leaders can set up their teams and workflows for success across every stage of the Conversational Support Funnel.

The proactive and self-serve guides are full of practical, actionable tips, but I especially loved this post on providing great human support. Often, people worry that automation and bots will take over customer support entirely, but this post is a good reminder that those elements are there to supercharge, not supersede, your human support team.

Niamh O’Connor, Brand Editor

Revealing our refreshed brand: How (and why) we’ve updated our look

The Intercom Brand Studio team never fails to amaze me with their creativity, so this post was an obvious highlight for me in 2021. It can be difficult for a brand to evolve at the same pace as a company, and Intercom has grown so fast over the past year that the challenge was especially intimidating. This post offered some fascinating insights into the many parts and people that made this project happen.

In the post, our Director of Brand Design Scott Smith reflects on the concepts and inspiration behind Intercom’s shiny new look, and the journey the team took to achieve a brand that can grow and develop alongside the rest of the company. It’s a must-read for designers, copywriters, illustrators – anyone interested in the inner workings of brand design.

Shipping fast and safe: Building a culture of low-risk learning

Here at Intercom, we believe in shipping to learn – something I’ve learned a lot about since joining last April. That doesn’t just apply to our Engineering team, it’s also the way we work on the Content team. The more content we release to the world, the more we learn about what our audience likes and dislikes. That’s why Kesha Mykhailov‘s post on “shipping fast and safe” resonated with me this year. He explores the balance between speed and risk, and how we can move as quickly as possible while keeping necessary protections in place.

As teams and processes grow and become more complex, it’s important to retain the speed and momentum that leads to great outcomes. Kesha focuses on the Intercom engineering team, but there’s invaluable insights for every team in here as he takes a close look at the factors you need to consider to maximize quality and security in your work.

Liam Geraghty, Audio Content Producer

How we approach remote employee onboarding at Intercom

Of all the things you might think would happen during a career path I don’t think starting a new job during a pandemic is one of them! But that’s exactly what happened to me.

“It was an experience that could have easily been impersonal, scary, and isolating but instead it was warm, welcoming and reassuring”

Earlier this year I joined and onboarded at Intercom during a lockdown. It was an experience that could have easily been impersonal, scary, and isolating but instead it was warm, welcoming and reassuring.

In this post from June (just a month before I joined!) our approach to remote employee onboarding was shared. It outlines how we want to give our employees the best possible start to their Intercom careers and offers practical advice on what you can do to give that to your new colleagues as well.

Little Otter’s Rebecca Egger on making mental health care accessible to all

From Inside Intercom to Scale to Intercom on Product, this year our podcasts have chatted to everyone from Wikimedia Foundation COO Janeen Uzzell to Productboard founder and CEO Hubert Palan. The discussions have yielded incredible insights and practical advice not to mention a few hilarious anecdotes.

One conversation I particularly enjoyed was with Rebecca Egger – the CEO and co-founder of Little Otter, a mental health service designed for children. Rebecca talks about her career path from astrophysics and computer science (gamma-ray bursts and supernovas, anyone?) to her move into product design and how she ended up working as a product lead at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, building their infectious disease program. I was fascinated hearing about how Rebecca and her mother — child psychiatrist and scientist Dr. Helen Egger — launched Little Otter in the midst of a pandemic and how tech is transforming the provision of healthcare. It’s a really interesting, and timely, listen.

Beth McEntee, Senior Marketing Enablement Editor

Thoughts on innovation

Innovation – that is, doing something new, different, and better – is something that’s inherently linked to technology. So it can be easy to get swept up in the idea that in order to be a successful technology company, you must be trying to innovate everywhere. In fact, it turns out that isn’t actually the case.

“It outlines how we think about and foster a culture of innovation here at Intercom, highlighting the importance of understanding different levels of innovation”

This post by our SVP of Product Paul Adams was a personal favorite this year. It outlines how we think about and foster a culture of innovation here at Intercom, highlighting the importance of understanding different levels of innovation and how critical a role product-market fit plays in deciding what features and products are the right thing to prioritize. Doing new things is great, but making existing things better can also be a game changer. If you’re thinking about innovation in your own company (or if you’re just generally interested in the topic), there are lots of amazing insights to be found in this piece.

Automation in action: Proven ways to boost the bottom line with self-serve support

We know that customer expectations are higher than they’ve ever been, and that having a customer communications platform that enables businesses to create experiences that strike the right balance between being personal and efficient is no longer a nice to have – it’s make or break. One of our goals here at Intercom is to enable companies to do just that. It’s something we talk about a lot in our content, and it’s something we’re truly passionate about as a company.

“Empowering our customers to create deeply personalized experiences and build lasting relationships with their own customers is at the core of everything that we do”

Empowering our customers to create deeply personalized experiences and build lasting relationships with their own customers is at the core of everything that we do, from our company mission to make internet business personal all the way to our value of obsessing about our customers’ success. We build product based on customer feedback, we foster a community of collaboration in our customer forum, Interconnected, and we bring the voices of our customers into so much of our everyday work. This post is just one example of that – it spotlights the successes our customers are seeing using Intercom and how leveraging self-serve support capabilities like bots and automation is helping them to drive bottom-line business impact in their companies.

Davin O’Dwyer, Managing Editor

A decade in the making: An oral history of Intercom’s first 10 years

In August we marked our 10th anniversary, an opportunity to reflect on the incredible journey from there to here. This special feature episode of our podcast by our Audio Content Producer Liam is a wonderfully evocative piece of storytelling, capturing how our four co-founders – Eoghan McCabe, Des Traynor, David Barrett, and Ciaran Lee — identified the need to make internet business personal, and from there created not just a great product, but a great company.

Listening to Des, Ciaran and others describe those early days, it’s impossible not to marvel at the determination, self-belief and sheer hard work required to get Intercom off the ground. What’s also clear is how much of our culture has stayed the same, and how much has evolved as we have grown.


Sharing Intercom’s Values

Speaking of our evolving company culture, this year we updated Intercom’s values – paring them back to six core values, all of them refined and polished to guide the way we work every day.

Here, our CEO Karen Peacock explores the values, and shares anecdotes from Intercomrades about how each value informs our work in practice.

“No longer can we assume these values can be passed on by office osmosis”

As so many of our new colleagues onboard remotely, these values have become ever more fundamental to our identity – no longer can we assume these values can be passed on by “office osmosis”. Instead, we have to articulate them on a regular basis and emphasize that they’re not just a list of platitudes, but are instead functional guidelines that make Intercom special and unique.

My favorite? “We go further together” – it reinforces the truth that our shared endeavor is what leads to success, and is also what makes the adventure worth doing.

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