Our initial customer messaging platform
For any start-up, picking the most cost effective tool for the job is essential. That’s why we opted to use Intercom when we were starting out, as it charges per customer you support and we had very few at the time. It was not just the cost that led us to Intercom, though. Intercom allowed us to deliver the experience we wanted for our customers. We were able to embed live chat into our seller dashboard and this made it as effortless as possible for our customers to contact us when they needed help.
As we got to grips with Intercom we used more of its extended features, including their messenger function which formed a key part of our product onboarding. Intercom business rules allow you to target messages to customers based on the data you have collected about them which was a great help for when we wanted to send out messages to all applicable customers, for example when advising our customers participating in Black Friday.
So what went wrong?
Intercom was working for us initially, but after we reached three members of support staff and our number of customers had grown substantially we found that things started going wrong. The first major problem we encountered was losing visibility of how long it was taking us to respond to customers. We had an internal goal to respond to customers within four hours but the messages kept coming in faster than we could handle them so our queue went out of control. This lead to some customers having to wait days for an answer simply as we’d lost the conversation. It became like trying to catch pouring water using a sieve; more and more conversations were slipping through the gaps.
We tried different ways of reconfiguring Intercom and contacted their support staff, but the real problem was that Intercom did not support the use of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and we needed these to be the backbone of our queue. Intercom had also become pretty expensive from our initial start-up days. With more customers, we were spending extra on a budget option when we could have been using more advanced services for the same money.
As Paddle continued to grow, we brought more teams onto Intercom and this led to more problems. The message routing within Intercom was not sophisticated enough for our needs and we kept delivering messages to the wrong teams, which led to further delays for customers. We also had to disable our customer satisfaction surveys as we had no way to control how this was delivered.
Knowing we were dropping the ball for our customers and also being unable to ask them how we were doing, we knew we needed to change our support system before our customers decided to switch providers.
How do you find alternatives?
We detailed all the problems we were having with Intercom, no matter how big or small. We also asked our staff using Intercom about their experience and what they thought would deliver better support to our customers. After we’d documented all the problems and processes we use Intercom for, we created a checklist of essential features we needed. We used this as a guide and began looking at the customer support market to see what else was on offer.
We came up with three possible alternatives. The first thing we did was arrange a demonstration of each platform, as it was crucial that our staff would be happy using the platform. We made a testing team comprised of our support staff, their managers and a member of our operations team. This ensured that any platform we chose would meet the needs of staff and our business. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get buy in from all your team; the success of any new platform will be driven by how much everyone wants it to succeed.
Our features checklist became invaluable during our testing process. We provided each potential supplier with our checklist and asked them to detail what their platform would be able to achieve for each item. A key thing to note at this point is that we were not looking for a budget option; the most important factor for us was that our new platform would enable us to deliver the experience we wanted for our customers.
Once we had decided on a replacement, we began the process of switching platforms, which took around two months to complete.
Our customer satisfaction has increased by over 20% since we changed our customer messaging platform.
How do you switch support platforms with as little pain as possible?
The short answer is a lot of preparation and collaboration between teams. We set up an implementation team, which consisted of support staff, their manager, our operations team and our product and engineering team. From there, an implementation plan was created which detailed all the items we’d need to complete. We added timescales to each of these items and also listed any dependencies for each, enabling us to create a project timeline so that we all had a clear understanding of what was happening and who was responsible for each step.
Something we did which I’d highly recommend is to not set deadlines against physical dates. Our project timeline detailed how long each step would take and which steps followed on from it, but we measured progress against how many steps we’d completed and not against a line in the sand. This enabled our implementation team time to think through each step. When we flipped the switch and went live with our new platform, we saw immediate improvements in all the areas we were hoping for and had no downtime or major issues.
What did we move to?
Our platform of choice was Kustomer. Kustomer sees customer support very much like we do; that customers should be approached like people and not just tickets to attend to. The platform has unified conversations, meaning that no matter how the customer contacts us, whether it be via email, live chat, phone call or social media, these all feed into the same conversation. As a result, we now understand the full context of what is happening with a customer and can reply in good time without trying to find previous conversation threads. In fact, since moving to Kustomer, our average response time to sellers has gone from over 6 hours to under 2 hours.
Kustomer also has strong SLA capabilities which let us control the experience we deliver to customers. We set up response time expectations based on various factors, including information about our customers, what channels they use and if they are having several problems. This enabled us to start responding quickly to customers when they really needed help, which makes a huge difference to their experience with you.
The workflow engine behind Kustomer is nothing short of amazing. It’s incredibly powerful and flexible, enabling you to create rules which apply to specific events. For example, with a new inbound conversation you are able to check data and use real time actions to decide what should happen with the conversation. This has saved us an enormous amount of time and also ensured that we deliver each conversation to the right team.
Using the same workflows, we were also able to ensure our satisfaction survey was sent at the right time, so we received meaningful and actionable feedback from our customers. We’ve been using Kustomer now for approximately 3 months and in that short time we’ve seen significant improvement to our customer satisfaction, which is now over 90% having increased by over 20% since the change of platform, and our staff now have a strong sense of control and ownership over customer experience.
Since moving to Kustomer, our average response time to sellers has gone from over 6 hours to under 2 hours.
Did we go wrong by picking Intercom to start?
The short answer is not really. As a start-up you often have to compromise between what you want to do and what is reasonable given the funds and staff you have. In our case, Intercom was a cost effective platform and gave us many capabilities which were essential for us as we grew. Had we known about the issues we would encounter later on, we would likely have still picked Intercom, but would have made plans to replace it earlier in our growth cycle before we started dropping the ball for our customers.
We still have many improvements to make and we know that Kustomer has the ability to adapt with us. The biggest lesson we learned is that you should expect your platforms to change as you grow and it’s important to make sure you have ways to measure not only your staff’s performance but also the experience you’re delivering to your customers. Decide on some minimums for these and get ready to take proactive steps when your metrics tell you it’s time to change.
Lastly, remember that your staff are the key to delivering on the promises you’ve made to customers. Make sure they are at the heart of your change process and empower them to make the decisions to achieve the outcome you want.
Interested in working at Paddle? We’re hiring! Click here to see our available job openings.