Inside Intercom

I am always on the look out for interesting events to attend, so when the Intercom newsletter dropped into my mail box a month or so ago with an event about making better products, I signed up.

For those of you who do not know, Intercom is a customer platform with a suite of products for live chat, marketing, feedback and support. I can not remember when I got onto their mailing list but they normally have interesting articles so it suggested it would be an interesting event. It is actually a world tour, with London their first stop.

First up was Michelle Fitzpatrick who is one of their product managers. She spoke about how users understand new products. She used the example of how people think about making toast. Everyone has a mental model of how this works compared with the system model of how it actually works. When we make a new product if we match people's mental model of how it will work they will feel that it is intuitive, however if it does not they will find it hard to use.

"If we match people's mental model of how it will work they will feel that it is intuitive"

If that is the case you need to try and bridge the gap. You can either try and match your product better to people's mental model or educate them.

This is why knowing your customers is so important, and led well into the next talk.

Next was Jeff Gardner talking about 'who are you building for?' Jeff runs the support team at Intercom and spoke about how to keep everyone focused on the customer once your company starts getting bigger.

I think my favourite suggestion was something they call 'customer days'. This is when people across the company down tools for the day and instead work with the support team. Having worked on a help desk I know how easy it is for the rest of the team to disconnect from the customer as they work on that feature, so thought this was a great idea. But I also really agreed with his other comment, that the support team should not be hidden away in the basement, they need to know what is being built and fixed etc so they can pass this on to the customer. It is no good if the support team are still telling customers about an old thing.

photo of panel
The panel talk about setting up and running a start up

Next up they had a panel made up of start up founders. There was Bridget Harris from YouCanBook.Me, Will Suannell from Hirespace and James Blackwell from Buzzsumo. They talked about all sorts of things regarding getting a start up going from pricing your product, hiring staff, funding and keeping your accounts in order.

Key take aways:

  • Put your prices as high as you think you can then add a bit. It is easier to put them down than raise them.
  • Never 'sell' your product for free. It devalues it.
  • You don't have to use the newest tech out there, it takes time and money to learn.
  • Invest in good accounting software.

After a break for drinks Emmet Connolly then spoke, but I had to leave and missed it. I'm sure it was as interesting as the rest of the evening.