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How Hubstaff got 119 new paying customers without growing traffic

Co-founder, Hubstaff

Dave Nevogt


For companies offering a free trial of their software the quality of support provided to potential customers during that period can make or break the relationship.

Hubstaff, a provider of time-tracking software for dispersed teams, has increased its conversion rate by over 58% by providing a very personal support experience during its two week free trial. Focusing on an individualized support experience kick-started growth at the startup.

What follows is a guest post from Dave Nevogt, a co-founder of Hubstaff and a happy Intercom customer.

At Hubstaff, we ditched the traditional version of helpdesk software about six months ago in favor of using Intercom to answer all our customer queries. The old system would spit a response back to users that contained a series of meaningless numbers and letters known as a “ticket”.

This really didn’t match the vision of transparency that we aim for at Hubstaff and looking back on it, I wonder why we ever gave this decision more than a few thought cycles. The previous system had way too many clicks to answer each question. It was clunky, slow, and it really didn’t do a good job of presenting our support team as real people behind our product.

When we first made the switch to Intercom for our helpdesk, the goal was to move to a more modern and friendly-feeling experience for our customers. The additional and (somewhat) unexpected result has been top line revenue growth and an increase in trial to paid conversions.

Transparency isn’t just a nice buzz word for us at Hubstaff, it’s a core value of the company. We share our company financials and key metrics using a Baremetrics dashboard. As you can see below, in Q3 we gained 205 new customers and closed with 487 total customers. This was before we were using Intercom for the onboarding process.

We started using Intercom for support at the beginning of Q4 and here’s what happened:

In Q4 (post-intercom) we added 324 customers. What makes this interesting is that the number of new users to our site actually went down slightly in Q4 vs Q3. Here’s a graph showing all of our new users in Q3 versus Q4:

While we cannot 100% attribute the increase we experienced in Q4 to Intercom, we believe it was the primary contributor because new visits were virtually flat. There’s no doubt it’s helped us make a positive impact on the customer onboarding experience which impacts our growth in a huge way. We’ve made some other small tweaks to how we get new users onto our system, but Intercom was by far the most significant.

Start by Clearly Stating the Problem

Hubstaff is a time tracking platform that helps managers and business owners better manage their remote teams. Currently we have around 19,000 users (note: organizations are our customers), and customer support is a significant pain point because we have three desktop time tracking apps to support (Windows, Mac, and Linux). During the on-boarding stage we also need to optimize support for both the owner/manager and their staff (typically there are around six team members per manager).

These issues have proven to be the main bottlenecks to Hubstaff growth. Through user feedback we’ve discovered that there are all kinds of reasons why a team never got fully on-boarded, but we also found the more personal our communications with the users up front, the more they converted.

The system we were using in Q3 was an old-school ticketing system and lacked any sort of personality. We identified this as one of the main problems we needed to fix in Q4, but the solution wasn’t obvious.

Adding Some Serious Flare

We were already using Intercom for in-app messages and sending mass emails to segments of our user base so we decided to try it out as our complete help desk for customer support. Intercom did everything we really needed and allowed each of our reps to display a ton of personality. There was actually a real person that was willing to help new users and not just a ticket disappearing into a faceless system.

The difference was virtually immediate, and I have to say the transition was easier than we expected. We still maintain a support desk (built in WordPress) with FAQs, walkthroughs etc., but when someone submits a ticket now, we just send that to Intercom through a forwarded email address. This simple system has worked out very well for us and proven to be extremely flexible.

Since we made the switch here’s what has changed:

On-boarding has become a personal experience

Every interaction with our customers is more personal which makes a massive difference. Intercom really gets that at the base level everything boils down to engaging with your customer. We have conversations like this very frequently:

Many of our customers see the conversations they have through Intercom almost as a chat service, which is actually really cool. It’s more real-time. It’s more personal.

It’s also very nice for users to simply hit the question mark inside the app where they are having an issue instead of having to find a support page and submit a “ticket”. It feels like we simply care more just by using Intercom. It’s almost like your personal concierge.

We see a more complete customer profile

Intercom has done a great job of making the experience about the customer and not the “ticket”. When talking with a customer, we can see a full history of each interaction we’ve had with the person.

With just a glance at the above screen I can see that Katya has invited three employees into our system, that she’s asked a few questions, she’s an Asana user, she signed up around five months ago, and more.

When you are trying to provide top-notch service to a customer these extra details are a minimum requirement. They allow you to respond in a very personal way and connect much more naturally. The extra details make it easy to show the customer that you are a company who pays attention.

Faster communication with the customer

Since the customer can ask a question directly from inside our application and then gets a notification when the question is answered it speeds up the whole communication process. If the customer is no longer in our application then they receive an email like with a regular support ticket, but it appears more personal. If they are still in the application they are alerted that they have a new message and it’s a super fast process.

It’s also much faster for our team. The team member’s inbox is extremely fast to scan, close and reply to individual conversations. There are very few clicks to navigate or process which leads to higher productivity for everyone on the team.

We provide more intelligent answers

Many times in customer support you need to get someone else’s take on a problem or work collectively on a solution. With Intercom’s recent introduction of @mentions, which alert teammates to a conversation without assigning it to them. our team can collaborate very easily and quickly. The old way was to assign a ticket to someone and then maybe send an email reference or make a note and remember to check in with them. Intercom’s take on this seems like the simpler, more modern approach to support.

We can route users that need a very technical answer to our lead developers very quickly, but our lead developers only see what they absolutely need to see.

Smoother beta releases

As a growing software company we release a lot of features into beta. We usually do this by linking to a Google form in our UI and asking for some details from the user. This lets us limit access and keep numbers down as we test the new feature.

Our previous system didn’t have tags built in. So we needed to copy and paste the email address and send an email which seemed unreliable, limiting, and slow.

Our new process is to tag the customer in Intercom which allows us to get very specific and always maintain a clean list of customers that still need to get access.

Personal Communication is what Customers Really Need

Happy customers are the key to a growing company, but at the end of the day, it’s not support but communication that they are looking for. We are big believers in transparency at Hubstaff, and nothing has helped us become more “real” to our customers than the tools that Intercom provides.

Hubstaff makes managing a remote team simple and it integrates with over 20 project management systems. They have a special offer for Intercom customers: 10% off for the first 30 signups. Sign up here and use the promotional code Intercom10