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Since the early days of dial-up internet, messenger services have been connecting people around the globe. What started as simple instant messenger text conversations have evolved into an entirely new language filled with emojis, gifs, and videos. Without question, the internet has forever changed the norms around how people communicate.

“I was at Facebook at the time, loving Facebook, and the Facebook [ I was at] was unrecognizable from Facebook today. This is back in 2013. The reason I joined when I was at Facebook, I was working on social products and at the time Facebook was seeing explosive growth as people were starting to use the messenger and go talking to their friends on the platform. So we’re seeing these new changes in how society communicates because of these new technologies, like Facebook, Twitter, et cetera.

That’s Paul Adams, the Senior Vice President of Product at Intercom, a company that took those same ideas and implemented them with the goal of making communication between customers and businesses a two-way street. Paul joined IT Visionaries to discuss why Intercom views its product as a relationship-based platform and what that means for businesses in today’s world. Plus he talks about recognizing the need to pivot when necessary, and the evolution of the chatbot.

Main Takeaways

  • More than a Bot: In order to engage with your customers in a way that is both effective and scalable, you have to deploy a strategy that is three things: proactive, automated, and human. Proactive in the sense that you are thinking about ways to reach customers, automated in that your system utilizes some form of a chatbot, and human so when the conversation needs more attention, someone is there to assist.
  • Competition Breeds Success: Never look at competition within your space as a negative. Instead, use your competitors as a source of validation that your product is on the right track. Then use that same inspiration to find ways to ideate your platform.
  • Building Relationships: A conversation platform must focus on building relationships — not just with clients, but also with customers. Messaging platforms should integrate ways that users can have a personal and intimate relationship with the end-user, which will ultimately help to drive their engagement.

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For a more in-depth look at this episode, check out the article below.


Since the early days of dial-up internet, messenger services have been connecting people around the globe. What started as simple instant messenger text conversations have evolved into an entirely new language filled with emojis, gifs, and videos. Without question, the internet has forever changed the norms around how people communicate.

“I was at Facebook at the time, loving Facebook, and the Facebook [ I was at] was unrecognizable from Facebook today. This is back in 2013. The reason I joined when I was at Facebook, I was working on social products and at the time Facebook was seeing explosive growth as people were starting to use the messenger and go talking to their friends on the platform. So we’re seeing these new changes in how society communicates because of these new technologies, like Facebook, Twitter, et cetera.

That’s Paul Adams, the Senior Vice President of Product at Intercom, a company that took those same ideas and implemented them with the goal of making communication between customers and businesses a two-way street. Paul joined IT Visionaries to discuss why Intercom views its product as a relationship-based platform and what that means for businesses in today’s world. Plus he talks about recognizing the need to pivot when necessary, and the evolution of the chatbot.

When Adams joined Intercom, the company was modest in scale and boasted just 14 employees, which was fine with Adams after stints working with Dyson, Facebook and Google. Now, years later, Intercom is no longer a small start-up, but rather one of the leading messenger companies that integrates with more than 30,000 companies. 

“When I was at Facebook, I was working on social products and at the time, Facebook was seeing explosive growth as people started to use messenger and were talking to their friends on the platform,” Adams said about his journey from Facebook to Intercom. “So we were seeing these new changes in how society communicates because of these new technologies, like Facebook, Twitter, et cetera.”

Those societal changes, along with outstanding relationships with the founders of Intercom, served as fuel for Adams’ career pivot. After initially serving in a consulting capacity, Adams quickly realized that Intercom was having the same kind of success with businesses as Facebook was having with its personal users.

Adams mentioned that Intercom’s initial success was because as companies began adapting to messengers as an alternative to more traditional emails, those relationships companies began having with their consumers through chat functions also became more personal.

“SaaS companies, their success is predicated on returning customers and ongoing subscription and loyalty,” he said. “So they’re the companies that cared about building a relationship with the customers. That’s why we call it a conversational relationship platform. It’s the relationship that’s at the core of it.”

As the company began to scale, so did its vision. And with rapid scale also came issues. One of the biggest challenges that Intercom faced during its initial rise was the product simply did not fit with the overall vision for what the platform needed to be. So, Adams and his team went back to the drawing board, and overhauled the program so the code supported what they were trying to achieve.

“The company has grown so fast, it’s scaled incredibly fast and as a result, the things that we were learning were where we were making mistakes left, right and center,” Adams said. “This is why we’re very big into principles. And one of the reasons is we’re trying to encode these mistakes and so that people can follow and not make the same mistakes when new people join.”

But while Intercom has seen rapid success within the industry, that same success has come with a rise in competition. A crowded market place, though, is something Adams said is a relief because it validates that they were on the right path all those years ago, but also because it forces them to continue to innovate and push the product forward.

“We worry way more about the competitors who do things better than us,” Adams said. “Who’s a better version of the thing we first came up with and then [how do we] need to adapt and learn and react?”

While live chat support is integral for engaging customers and creating an active feedback system, Adams said one of the biggest innovations in the industry has been the evolution of chatbots and knowing when their use is appropriate and when the conversation needs to be elevated to an actual person. While chatbots are handy for surface-level issues and to help companies address rudimentary issues in a more timely and efficient manner, Adams said they shouldn’t serve every purpose.

Adams said Intercom operates on three main functions: being proactive, automation, and human 

“We think about all three of these; proactive, automated, and human, and we think about them together and that this is where I think the future’s going for the support industry,” Adams said. “The support industry undergoes a huge shift every 10 years or so. From phone systems in the eighties to email in the nineties or two-thousands, and it hasn’t really changed much. The next wave is going to be a support funnel.”

Adams said there used to be an idea that humans couldn’t scale at the rate they need to. But that notion was put to the test — and ultimately disproved — when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the industry to begin shifting their strategies rapidly. As internet usage exploded over the last few months, so did the need for companies to take a more proactive approach to their messaging.

“[Companies have] had to move online and the growth is huge,” he said. “There’s more pressure on support teams to deliver answers, but [they] just don’t have the people and economically it doesn’t work out. And so they’re talking to the marketing team asking, ‘Hey, how do we get messages out ahead of time?’ Anything that can be automated will be over some period of time because it’s faster and predictable and not prone to human error and so on.”

So what is the future of messaging? Adams acknowledged that chatbots perform an important function within the entire system, and, in fact, those same bots have reached a maturation phase where they serve more than a single-use. 

“What we’ve learned is that chatbots are great for lots of things, but they’re not better for everything,” he said. “Forums and dropdowns are still sometimes just a more efficient workflow. But I do think we’ll start to see a lot of things move into messengers…The transition from a bot to a person is a big deal, and having a graceful transition [is more important].”

To hear more about how businesses are utilizing the intercom platform and the future of messaging platforms in the private sector, check out the full episode of IT Visionaries.

To hear the entire discussion, tune into IT Visionaries here

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