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Side conversations

How side conversations work and how you can use them to collaborate with external partners.

Domingo Widen avatar
Written by Domingo Widen
Updated this week

When customer issues can't be resolved immediately and require the participation of a partner outside of Intercom, you can use side conversations to email external partners from within a ticket or conversation. This feature allows you to:

  • Eliminate tool switching - Teammates handling complex queries can seamlessly communicate with external partners and their customers from the same place.

  • Communicate with multiple partners - Teammates can initiate multiple side conversations with various partners from within one ticket or conversation.

  • Never miss an update - Teammates receive updates from side conversations directly in the customer conversation, ensuring they never miss any updates from external partners.

What are side conversations?

At Intercom we have multiple types of conversations:

  • Inbound conversations: Inbound conversations encompass all those initiated by end users through our messenger or email when they encounter problems and seek assistance.

  • Outbound conversations: These are conversations initiated by your teammates from the Help Desk by composing a new conversation via email or chat directly to end users. They are primarily used when you want to proactively reach out to an end user regarding an ongoing query.

  • Side conversations: Side conversations occur alongside our existing conversations or tickets. They are created by teammates when resolving an ongoing query for a user necessitates the involvement of an external partner who is not using Intercom. For instance, a delivery company might need to contact a delivery provider while assisting a user with a missing delivery.

Some clarifying points

  • Every conversation at Intercom can have 1 or more ongoing side conversations attached to it.

  • Every ticket at Intercom can have an ongoing side conversation attached to it.

  • Side conversations share assignments with their parent; if you reassign the main conversation to another teammate, the attached side conversation will also be assigned to that teammate.

Teammate experience

Starting a side conversation

In the Links section where you typically find tickets, there's also a section labeled "Side conversations", teammates can create side conversations directly from within a conversation or a ticket of any category when they realize it involves collaboration with an external partner.

Composing a side conversation

After initiating a side conversation, you'll notice that the inbox interface is divided into two sections. On the left, you can view the parent conversation thread or ticket and its details. On the right, you'll see the panel where you can compose the message intended for an external partner.

Side conversations are sent as emails, so it's crucial to include the recipient's email address and subject. Since this is an email message, you have the flexibility to format the message as needed and include elements such as attachments, images, and more.

You can’t start a side conversation to email an existing teammate with an Intercom account. Instead, mention the teammate in a note on the parent conversation thread.

Sending a message

Once your message is sent, a new event will be cross-posted to the parent conversation. This serves as a clear indication to anyone handling the conversation that a side conversation was initiated during a specific timeframe, helping to maintain a chronological record of events and communications.

Browsing conversation details while viewing or creating a side conversation

At any moment, while creating or viewing a side conversation, you'll have the option to switch between the thread and the details of the main parent conversation. This feature enables you to effortlessly cross-reference information that may be needed while communicating with an external partner.

Receiving updates from a side conversation

Whenever an inbound reply is added to the side conversation from an external user, that same message will be posted to the parent conversation. This ensures that teammates working on the main issue are always informed of any updates from external partners, preventing them from missing important information.

Using macros and composer actions in side conversations

Side conversations operate through email, offering you the flexibility to enrich your messages with attachments, images, emojis, or even GIFs when communicating with third-party providers. This adaptability also applies to macros, allowing you to utilize several macros for a more efficient message composition to external partners. However, it's worth noting that the available macros for side conversations are more limited, given that complex actions such as tagging, assignment, or parsing customer data aren't supported within Side conversations.

Sending a message in a side conversation from a custom email address

If you're interested in sending side conversations emails from a different email address, perhaps a shared one, it's possible by adding it as a custom email address. This can be handy when you want emails to look like they're coming from a team, especially when reaching out to third party providers through side conversations.

If you want to use custom email addresses for side conversations, make sure you follow these two steps:

  1. Initiating side conversations from a custom email address: First, ensure your custom email address is added and verified in Intercom.

  2. Getting replies in a side conversation when using a custom email address: Next, make sure your email client is set up to forward replies to Intercom, ensuring side conversation responses land right back in Intercom and in their side conversations.


Customer experience

How the emails that external partners receive look

An example of how the emails external users receive from side conversations can be seen below.

The signature included in the email is the same signature you configure via Settings > Channels > Email > Customization > Email signatures.

Important to note:

  • Side conversations are initiated only via email.

  • Side conversations inherit the assignment of their parent conversation. So if the parent is assigned to an agent, the side conversation follows suit.

  • The state of a side conversation mirrors its parent. If the parent is closed, the side conversation is too.

  • Replies to side conversations will wake up the parent conversation or ticket. For example, if a side conversation receives a reply and its parent is snoozed, the parent gets unsnoozed.

  • Reporting on side conversations is currently not available.

  • Every new email address introduced while starting a side conversation creates a lead within Intercom.

  • Complex macros like assignment, tagging, or dynamic attributes don't work with side conversations.

  • Mentions aren't supported inside side conversations.

  • The Help Desk search function does not display side conversations.

  • Side conversations do not appear under “Created by you” in Help Desk left sidebar.


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