Oftentimes, startups experience a single, cataclysmic event which catapults their number of new signups. For Put.io, a cloud-based BitTorent client based in Turkey, it was an unexpected article in TechCrunch.
The team behind Put.io formed at the turn of the millenium, but the size of its community held slow and steady at around 150 users – all in its home country of Turkey – for years. As a result, the team’s support solution was a scrappy online forum where users could submit their own questions and answer others. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it was the easiest way to manage lots of user queries, as well as announce new features. Co-founder Hasan Yalcinkaya was also wary of spamming his users.
Then in 2010, Put.io was covered unexpectedly in TechCrunch. Overnight, Put.io had 3,000 new signups. It was exciting and intimidating at the same time.
“To four introverted engineers whose first language isn’t English, this overnight spike was very overwhelming from a communications perspective,” Hasan recalls. “None of us had any marketing or customer-facing experience. Who were all these people? Where did they come from? What were they doing in our app? Should we say something to them?”
Put.io installed a free version of Intercom, which allowed it to immediately extract live data, such as a user’s last login, signup date, number of sessions, city and country, and much more.
“Being able to filter users by geography and behavior is great, but my biggest revelation was sorting users by the number of Twitter followers — we had some high rollers, by Internet standards!”
After getting a clear picture of users in their application, Put.io began using Intercom’s messaging features. Put.io installed Intercom’s in-app support widget so users could launch an in-app conversation without exiting the application. From Put.io’s perspective, it was easier to respond to customers thoughtfully and efficiently thanks to the additional context of live user data alongside each incoming message.
After doing this for a few weeks, things got more interesting. Put.io began proactively solving problems or warning customers of potential issues.
First, it grouped common support grievances that might be improved with the right information. Hasan’s team composed automessages targeting users before a problem arose. For example, one common issue customers faced was slow Internet speed, so Hasan sends this in-app message to active users.
The thumbs up/thumbs down reply gives recipients a lightweight way to let Hasan know if the information was useful.
Another best practice Put.io began was to proactively warn users about issues. For instance, when one of its engineers accidentally reset some users’ activities, Hasan pushed the following in-app to affected users:
A few responses were frustrated, but most people responded with something along the lines of “no problem – good luck!”
“It’s nice being able to announce problems through a private two-way conversation, rather than as a one-off message posted in a forum or through Twitter. Email-based confessions come too late or too early,” Hasan says.
More recently, Put.io has begun to use Intercom’s targeting capabilities to experiment with growth. One successful experiment it implemented recently was to offer a discount after six months. This in-app message is sent to users on their lowest-tier plan:
This message prompted 20% of the recipients to upgrade immediately.
Put.io has been using Intercom for about a year to listen and talk to its users, and according to Hasan, the dynamic has completely changed. Best of all, it’s led to a 14% reduction in churn. After replacing its support forum with Intercom,
Suddenly, the tone of our customer conversations went from negative to productive.
“No matter what your company does — even if your audience is behind a computer screen 24/7 — personalized communications is the key to keeping users loyal,” says Hasan.