Reputation Management via In-App Customer Communication

From a product perspective, it’s vital that you continually test your assumptions about what the market needs. StatusCast was created to address the need to communicate to end users about SaaS application availability, whether for scheduled maintenance or an unplanned disruption. This need emerges from an underlying objective: to manage your brand’s reputation with end users.

Although our founders have more than 20 years each of experience, we’d be fools if we kept iterating based on the limits of our own experiences. We searched for a tool that would let us quickly collect, organize, and incorporate feedback from early adopters. Additionally, it was important to us that this tool would advance our own values of transparent communication and attentiveness to user experience (and its direct impact on company reputation). So we started using Intercom’s in-app messenger to communicate with this group of people.

In the interest of transparency, we’ve put this article together to share how we go about customer acquisition and retention using Intercom. If you were to purchase StatusCast today, or even just sign up for a free trial, you’d enter the workflow described below and receive some of the same messages (depending on your activity level).

Segment your users

The first step to setting up in-app feedback is to decide what “buckets” you want to break your prospective customers into, and when those buckets or segments are going to be relevant.

At StatusCast, we have a free version of our application, an SMB version, and an Enterprise version. We don’t distinguish between SMB and Enterprise in our Intercom messages yet, but we do distinguish between paying customers and non-paying customers. We also have a free trial, which grants access to any tier of the software for 30 days – these users are a separate audience entirely.

The way your communications provide value is going to be different depending on your audience. Trial customers aren’t going to be excited by notifications about product updates, for instance – they’re still working through the basic features. Your paying SaaS customers, however, should absolutely be reminded that you continue to improve the product on a regular basis. Finally, there’s the non-paying customers. We are deliberate about including upsell messages to this segment, which will be similar but not identical to the messages sent to trial customers to encourage them to sign up for the full version.

Find an example of an automated upsell message we’d send to a non-paying, non-trial user below. This message is actually the second you’d receive after attempting to add more components than the free version allows:

Sending downtime communication messages based on relevant component is a key value of StatusCast.


Reputation management through requested feedback

The messages we send are designed to initiate a conversation with our users about where and how they find value in our product. We want to know 1) what about StatusCast is clearly valuable (this is helpful for marketing purposes as well as product development purposes) and 2) what features need to be modified, and how, to make the product’s value even clearer to users.

Here’s an example of an automated message sent to a free trial user 14 days in, if they seem to be very active in StatusCast:

Even savvy application status page users get outreach.

And here’s an example of an automated message that would go out to a free trial user 14 days in if they were NOT very active in StatusCast (note the difference in subject line as well):

Though StatusCast makes it easy to set up a hosted status page, we offer to help for new users.

The most basic message that goes out to paid customers is the anniversary message, you’ll notice we send it in-app rather than via email:

While it’s easy to send out generic messages to your user-base, you’re likely to get the same degree of result that you get from the extent of your effort. Intercom makes it easy to customize your automated messages, increasing the likelihood of successful engagement (see report screenshot further below).

The four stats we pay the most attention are: number of sessions, Reply rates, Unsubscribe rates and Open rates. Number of sessions obviously reflects interest in using the tool, which is great – ultimately that’s what we care the most about. Our second priority is increasing the Reply rate, as that is tantamount to increasing engagement—because you can’t get feedback from your users if they are not engaged. Not surprisingly, our more active users are also more engaged.

Delight (and retain) customers

Finally, we have customer delight messages that we send out to all paying customers, regardless of tier. Examples include scheduled anniversary messages (see above) as well as check-in messages when users have not logged in to the software for an extended period of time (for StatusCast, that’s 30 days and then again at 60 days, but a different duration may make more sense for your product).

Once you’ve decided how you want to segment your audience, you can build out the cycle of messages for each audience. Here’s a rough example from what we’re presently doing at StatusCast:

For the free trial crowd (lasts 30 days), we’ve built an intro message, a message 7 days in and then from that point we segment further, sending a weekly message to users you have been very active (for StatusCast, that’s 6 sessions) and sending a different weekly message to users who have not been very active.

In the report screenshot below we can see a good response to our upsell message (87.5% open, 25% reply), as well as a noticeable difference between Version A and Version B of our free trial “7 day no response” message. We’ll want to keep an eye on these two and if the trend continues, tweak Version B to make it more effective!

Intercom Data_081115

Trust and communication: the foundations of any long-lasting relationship

Our experience in the software industry has taught us that it is nearly as important that our customers find it convenient to engage us in conversation as it is that they consider our tool convenient to use. StatusCast was built to help SaaS companies and other application providers offer a better experience for their end users through timely communication. Moreover, we’ve built StatusCast to be as user-friendly as possible—it’s easy to use and quick to set-up. It was very important to us that our customer engagement tool didn’t hamstring the ease and convenience of our product itself.

Intercom aligned with our goals: creating a positive customer experience by being convenient, user-friendly, and by facilitating communication. Just as StatusCast helps other companies safeguard their reputation when downtime occurs by facilitating communication, so does Intercom help us manage our reputation by making it as easy as possible for customers to communicate with us, too.

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