How To Create a Customer Messaging Platform Like Intercom

Well-managed customer communication is necessary for business success. If your company doesn’t establish a connection with clients, they simply won’t know about your brand and your services.

Today, companies are trying to be closer to their customers than ever before. Customer relationship management is a must-have for every business; without it, a business can’t stand the market competition.

To manage customer communication, companies use various online communication tools. Web chat is an effective tool for helping users receive online support from a product team in case they have some troubles or questions. But a chat service can’t provide full customer support, which is why businesses need customer messaging platforms.

One of the most well-known customer messaging platforms is Intercom. Many businesses choose it because of the number of features it provides. However, many Intercom users say that the platform is half-baked and charges too much. If Intercom isn’t such a perfect tool, why are there still no competitors on the market?

In this article, we discuss why you should create your own customer messaging platform to compete with Intercom.

What is Intercom?

Intercom is a full-featured platform that helps businesses communicate with their customers. Product owners use it as a customer messaging tool on websites, in mobile applications, and for emails.

Intercom was released in 2011 by Eoghan McCabe, Des Traynor, Ciaran Lee, and David Barrett. They developed Intercom as a solution for effectively managing customer communications. Intercom wasn’t the first live chat platform, but it’s a unique all-in-one tool for customer support, sales, and marketing.  

So what does Intercom offer?   

Messaging platform. Customers visiting a website or using an app see Intercom as a simple chat box where they can ask questions. Still, there’s much more functionality behind it that helps businesses in engaging with their audiences. 

For businesses, Intercom provides three main blocks each covering one specific activity.The first is a live chat block where company employees can communicate with customers in real time. The second block is focused on user onboarding. It includes automated email and pop-up systems to keep users interested and convert them into customers. The third block allows you to create useful articles and publish them to a public knowledge base that answers the most frequently asked questions. 

[Intercom business-facing application: Chat with a customer] 

Data analysis. Intercom is an effective tool for big companies that helps them meet marketing and sales goals. First of all, it’s a powerful platform for converting leads. It lets a product team see who’s visiting their company’s site at the moment and interact with visitors via live chat.

Intercom tracks and saves information on browsing history, time spent on the site, and conversations. This data allows you to prioritize and segment users into groups and define which visitors are most likely to be converted into leads. Knowing your users’ behavior patterns, it’s much easier to understand how you can enhance the customer experience.

Automated replies. Intercom enhances customer support by enabling you to communicate with customers in a more personalized way. An automated messaging system and handy answer templates help you keep in touch with users 24 hours a day no matter how complex their questions.

Is there a need for Intercom analogs?

Intercom provides services to more than 17,000 paying customers. Among their clients are market leaders including Microsoft. Many SaaS companies rely on Intercom services to manage communication with users and potential customers. 

On the other hand, small and medium-sized businesses can find Intercom too expensive and complicated since they have smaller audiences to manage. Some Intercom clients claim that the tool has a complicated interface because of its numerous features, so it takes time to figure out how it works. Intercom also costs a lot, so it may not be profitable for small companies.   

This is why it may be a good idea to create your own customer messaging platform similar to Intercom but oriented to small and medium-sized businesses. Let’s see how to develop an app like Intercom.

How to create a customer messaging platform like Intercom 

If you want to create a customer messaging platform similar to Intercom, you need to consider all of Intercom’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Intercom provides the widest range of features among customer messaging platforms. Of course, it’s convenient to have many features in a single tool, but with Intercom this seems to be a double-edged sword. First of all, Intercom charges extra for each pack of features, so some companies can’t afford all the features they need and look for cheaper alternatives. Second, some Intercom users claim that the abundance of features causes poor performance. 

If you want to create a competitor to Intercom, it would be a good idea to start with a minimum viable product, or MVP. This would mean creating a customer messaging platform with a basic set of features that would be useful and affordable for small and medium-sized businesses. Moreover, with an MVP you can receive feedback from users and see how valuable your product is. 

Let’s see what the key features of a customer messaging platform MVP are.

Live chat 

Live chat is a core feature of a customer messaging platform. Live chat provides fast and personalized communication. It helps to capture leads and convert them to real clients. Moreover, it’s the quickest way for a product team to provide customer support by answering users’ questions in real time.

[Intercom widget on a website]

User data tracking

One of the major differences between live chat software and Intercom is that Intercom allows companies to interact personally with their customers.

User data tracking helps to identify who’s visiting your website. Intercom shows where your users come from, the data they access on their first visit, and their activity on your site. This lets you get a deeper understanding of who your target audience is, where they come from, and what they’re viewing.

[Admin panel with a list of users] 

All tracked user data is saved so you can analyze it and identify preferences and patterns of user behavior. This analysis can show you what users like most on your site and what converts the most leads.  

Grouping users 

If your app collects user data, it needs to provide the possibility to filter users according to this data. This way your product team can categorize users and apply different approaches to communication. For example, newcomers can be offered onboarding and users actively interacting with your website can receive engaging messages.  

Automatic answers and emails

It would be perfect if your product team could provide customer support 24 hours a day, but to do so you would need to hire a night shift, which costs lots of money. An automated messaging system is a powerful solution as it doesn’t leave users waiting for an answer and decreases your chances of losing leads. It’s also a good idea to implement answer templates in your customer messaging app so your support team can easily reply to customer inquiries.  

Intercom also provides an automated email system. When users sign up on a company’s site, they automatically receive an onboarding email. This way companies can educate their potential clients.

[Intercom auto replies]

Email marketing

Emails play a significant role in customer support. Some time ago, businesses were forced to use several tools for live chats and email marketing. Intercom made communication easier by combining these feature in a single platform so there’s no need to spend time switching between tools.   
  
The emailing feature in a customer messaging platform is a good chance to create campaigns such as to present new features. This way companies can keep their customers informed and can see how much their subscribers are interested in their products. Moreover, by providing both user data tracking and emailing features, a platform enables your marketing team to create more personalized email campaigns.     

Integrations

Marketing and sales teams often use numerous services including analytical and collaboration tools to help them achieve their goals. Allowing businesses to integrate your customer messaging app with helpful services can enhance customer relationship management. For example, Intercom integrates with Slack so that product teams can get notifications about sign-ups or incoming messages right in Slack. 

[Intercom integrations]

Real-time notification system 

Notifications are an important part of any platform and application that involves communication. A notification system should work for both sides—for the product team and for customers. The product team needs notifications so they can respond to their customers as soon as possible.

How to compete with Intercom

If you want to create a product that competes with Intercom, you’ll need to learn from Intercom’s mistakes. Based on reviews from Intercom users, we’ve gathered a list of the most frequent complaints. Let’s see what solutions you can provide.    

Problem 1. Complicated interface

Many users find the Intercom interface complicated and say that it takes too much time to figure out how it works. Moreover, a complicated interface slows down work, which decreases the effectiveness of the tool.

Solution

When creating a customer messaging platform, it’s vital to make sure it provides compelling user onboarding. When people use a product for the first time, it’s important to help them learn how to interact with it. Moreover, by gathering and analyzing user feedback you can constantly improve the user experience of your customer messaging platform.     

Problem 2. Mobile-friendliness

Many users claim that they have trouble using the Intercom mobile app because it often delays messages and works slowly. This problem may be related to complicated functionality and the number of features that Intercom provides.

Solution

People use their smartphones in all sphere of their lives, including business. So it’s vital to create a mobile-friendly customer messaging platform. First of all, make sure that your live chat looks and works effectively on mobile devices since many users prefer surfing the internet with their smartphones. Moreover, your platform’s interface should be responsive so that your customers can answer their leads from anywhere. 

Problem 3. Poor performance

An all-in-one customer web messaging platform is a great idea, which is why thousands of companies use Intercom services. But once they sign up, they receive a tool with poor performance and bugs. The problem is obvious—Intercom focuses on quantity rather than quality of features. 

Solution

Reduce the number of features and create an effective tool with a few really useful features. This way users will be able to perform certain tasks much faster and more efficiently. 

How to make money on a platform like Intercom

Today, Intercom is one of the fastest-growing startups. It has increased its annual recurring revenue from $1 million to $50 million in just three years (between 2011 and 2014). After a year of their existence, Biz Stone, a Twitter co-founder, invested in Intercom, and that’s when their growth started. From 2015 to 2017, Intercon received funding from great leaders including David Sacks, Social Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, IBM, and Index Ventures.

Now, Intercom CEO Eoghan McCabe says that they’re a fully funded company that spends 85 percent of their revenue on product development.

The Intercom business model is quite simple: a paid subscription. The more features Intercom users want, the more money they pay. For example, messaging features start from $53 per month, and messaging with an inbox pack of features starts from $106. Moreover, the price depends on the number of users you add to the database. The more users you add, the higher the price. 

All in all, Intercom is an effective, full-featured customer messaging tool that can help you accomplish various marketing and sales tasks. However, small and medium-sized businesses may find it too complex and expensive. 

If you want to create a customer messaging platform like Intercom, you can start with less functionality and focus on what is truly helpful and affordable for small and medium-sized businesses. 
 
If you’re interested in web messaging app development or you want to know how to build real-time messaging app you can contact our team here hello@yalantis.com.

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