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Our best practice guide for staying personal at scale
Our best practice guide for staying personal at scale

Personalize your messages for each recipient with variables, accurate targeting, and the right tone of voice.

Beth-Ann Sher avatar
Written by Beth-Ann Sher
Updated over a week ago

Impersonal messages are perfect if you want the recipient to do nothing. But what if you want your recipient to read more, click a button, watch a video, download a file, trust you, believe you, or have a relationship with you? You need to be friendly, natural, and timely. Put simply, you need to be personal. It's a powerful tactic to employ when engaging customers at scale. Customer engagement at scale leads to mass customer retention, which directly impacts the growth of your business, so it is critical you get this right.

The problem is that when you start messaging hundreds or thousands of your customers all at once, you run the risk of suddenly being not very personal at all. One-size-fits-all messages are the least personal kind of message you can send. And as soon as you send one, it will end up in the dreaded "promotions inbox" with the rest of the equally non-attention grabbing messages the person got that day. Chances are it will be archived or ignored entirely.

At Intercom, we’re fully aware of these issues. So we built features designed specifically to let you stay personal when communicating with your customers at scale. 

Customize each message

When your customers open your message and it begins with “Dear Sir/Madam”, they’re already losing interest. But why should they be interested? They can easily tell from the content of messages like this that it's not written specifically for them. You need to personalize each message so that it's customized to everyone who gets it.

It's easy to automatically include each customer’s first name, last name, company names and a whole ton of other info specific to their profile. Read more about personalizing message with variables here.

You can also include custom data values specific to each user. For example, you can tell customers the number of projects they’ve created, how much they owe you, when their last report was shared, what their most played songs were, or any other custom data value you can think of. Piquing your customers’ interest with information specific to them is a sure way to get them interested in your message. Check out this blog post on how we used customer data to proactively reach out to our customers and solve a real problem they were having.

Use a message style appropriate for personal communication

Over-designed mass marketing messages and generic, impersonal notifications don’t get our attention. It’s because as soon as we see a message that isn’t written specifically for us, we afford it less importance. Experience has taught us that generic content is rarely as important or relevant as a personal note from someone. With this in mind, we strongly recommend you cut back on the imagery, the full screen takeovers, the animated gifs and the beautifully styled content with headers, bullets and all the slick formatting and grammar.

You don’t spend hours designing and formatting your message for a friend when all you want to do is have a personal chat - so why do it when talking to your customers? Just use short-hand writing in your messages and use a message style appropriate for having a conversation. They will feel more like a one-to-one communication. You’ll see engagement rates go up as a result.

Stay relevant. Stay timely. 

Your message isn't personal if it isn’t relevant. It’s our old mantra from way back when we started Intercom in 2011: “The right message. The right way. At the right time”. It's simple to get this right:

  • Don't message your customers about your new pro features if they’re already on your pro plan.

  • Don’t ask new users for feedback about a feature if they’ve only just signed up today and haven’t even used it yet.

  • Dont message customers who have quit to ask them how things are going.

Rather, you should message your customers based on who they are, and what actions they do or don’t take in your product. You do this by triggering messages through a combination of user attributes (to send messages to the right people) and user events (to send messages at the right time). For example, if you wanted to target a specific group of users to ask them for feedback on your latest pro feature, you might set the filters on your message so that it only went to people who have access to the feature, who have only recently upgraded to your pro plan, who are paying you more than $50/mo, and who have just recently used the feature for the 5th time. You’ll get higher engagement rates and better quality responses because the message is relevant and personal to these users. It's entirely irrelevant to customers on your free plan who have never used it.

Use a real photo of your face

Make sure to upload a smiley happy avatar in your Intercom settings. Not your company logo. Not your team group photo. Not your dog’s profile shot. Use a smiling happy photograph of your face. It really does help. It lets your customers know there is a human at the other end of this conversation. Your customers will trust you more because of it.

Invite more conversation

Always end your messages by inviting your customers to ask questions and continue the conversation. By inviting more conversation you’re showing them that you’re available and open to a one-to-one interaction. Thats personal.

Be available and quick to reply

You can be as personal as you like in your initial message, and invite conversation from your customers, but if you’re not quick to follow up with any questions they have, you’ve blown it. Thats not personal. Intercom’s desktop and mobile notifications for admins let you know as soon as you receive replies so that you can jump in and continue the conversation with your customer there and then.

Manage expectations when you can’t reply

If your customer is expecting a reply, but they don’t get one, it's not a very nice experience for them. But obviously, you’re not always going to be available to reply - so we’ve worked hard to build features that manage your users’ expectations about when they will get a reply. If they’re not going to get one any time soon, let them know when they should expect one; it's a way better experience.

Automatically route messages to the right place

Triaging a busy inbox and assigning messages to the right people takes time and effort. And this means more time your customers are waiting for a reply. Intercom lets you automatically assign replies to particular messages to the correct people and team. You can also designate a particular person or team to receive all new inbound queries. This means that your customers are likely to get a quicker response, from the right person.

You can also set assignment rules so that all inbound messages go to a particular person or team. For example you could set a rule so that messages from different incoming email addresses go to the right team. This way your emails can go to the support team, and can go to the sales team. Or you can automatically assign messages based on what language they’re written in, or what keywords the message contain.

Do things that don’t scale

It's a cliché because it works. Do things that don’t scale. Things like sending personal video welcome messages, or one-off handwritten notes do not scale easily, unless you have a team of people dedicated to doing them, but they have great impact. Set some time aside each week and reach out to some customers on an individual, one-to-one basis. It's worth it.

Stay automated. Stay personal. 

We’re not in the business of disguising automated mass messages as one-off one-to-one messages. And you shouldn’t be either. But we are in the business of sending personal messages to customers at scale. There's a big difference. Follow the above advice and you can stay personal while staying automated.

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