The end of “just checking in” with customers

When it comes to engaging with customers, modern messaging tools can be a blessing and a curse to relationship management teams.

On the one hand, it’s now really easy to send out a message to 50 of your customers to say “Hey Eric, just checking in to see how you’re getting on. Let me know if I can help with something!” On the other hand, it’s now really easy to spam 50 people.

Untargeted outreach like this is the business equivalent of getting a “‘sup?” text from an acquaintance you barely know and haven’t seen in ages. It feels lazy, looks spammy, and it more than likely isn’t going to elicit a response because – guess what – everyone else is doing it too. As sales trainer John Barrows recently told us, “We have to stop spamming people, both on the sales and the marketing side.”

Buyer/seller dynamics have shifted in many ways thanks to messaging, and especially in SaaS. Buyers are more informed than ever, and face-to-face engagement forms only a tiny part of the buyer-seller relationship. For sales teams, it’s now more important than ever to find a way to connect with customers personally and cut through the endless noise of transactional messages. This isn’t just important before a sale closes, either – increasing customer lifetime value involves building and maintaining customer trust once the deal is done and they’re signed up to use your product.

This is the business equivalent of getting a ‘sup? text from an acquaintance you barely know and haven’t seen in ages

For the account management team at Intercom, this meant moving away from “just checking in” messages and going deep into our data, understanding how our customers use our product and spotting ways they can use it better – be it through trying new features or adding a new product.

As we scaled out the team, we set out guiding principles around how we’d communicate with our existing customers. We always aim to add value to every interaction rather than simply look to close a deal. To accomplish this we leverage material like our docs, blog posts, webinars and books, which can help our customers see success quickly.

Having live data about our customers in Intercom has helped us build scalable processes to do this. With Intercom installed inside Intercom (“Inception”, anyone?), we’re able to track who our users are and what they do with our products, in real time. We don’t need to run complex SQL queries or ask developers every time we want to learn more about which customers to reach out to first and what to say to them.

Here are three behaviors that have been particularly effective signals for us to send a personalized, behavior-based message:

1. When a customer is using a feature a lot

Messages like these are designed to “level up” customers who’ve become power users by sharing tips to help them optimize their usage of that feature and keep their usage consistent.

In this example, our analytics team had pulled together some statistics on the best time to send messages, which we shared with a group of our larger message senders. For this type of outreach, we’ll also share content our marketing team has put together, like our Starter Kits – but with added context on why it’s relevant to this particular group of customers.

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Sending this message in-app meant we’d be able to target customers when they were primed to check or send messages, and put these tips into practice or start a conversation with us. On average, about 40% of recipients did start a conversation (and even more than that responded to messages with a GIF included ? )

2. When a customer might be ready to upgrade

New product and feature launches are generally a great opportunity for your marketing team to reach out to all your customers with broader messaging, but account management teams can add value at times like this, too. By analyzing specific customer health signals – like how many support conversations their team handles and whether they’ve published any help content – it’s easy to identify customers who might benefit most from these new features, reach them with a contextual run-down of what benefits they can expect, and invite them to start a conversation with you:


3. When they show signs of churn

Live data also highlights customers who might be starting to slip away – maybe they’ve not logged in in a while, or their conversation volume has started to drop off. This is a good point to reach out with a personalized email to steer them back on the right path.

In this example, we set out to reach customers using Respond, our support product, whose conversation volume had dropped off and who hadn’t been active for a certain period of time.

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Sending this type of message through Intercom (rather than from our own email accounts) means we can effectively track follow-up actions users take after receiving the message. In this example, as well as engaging with replies from recipients, we were able to measure any new web sessions logged.

There are no shortcuts

While these messages may get you up and running with behavior-based customer messaging, it’s important to emphasize that building solid, sustainable customer partnerships takes time. We’re continuously working with our product analytics team to identify what metrics matter most – these have changed for us over time as our products have grown and matured. We’re also working on measuring the impact of each of these interactions. We track all activities via our Salesforce integration, and over time we’ll build up a more detailed picture of how and where we’re having the most impact as a team.

Focusing on personalized, contextualized communication with your customers is a cornerstone of this process, and will help you reach that goal – and your customers achieve theirs – more effectively than any generic “check in” message will.

customer engagement