SaaS Support is moving to a “Texting” Model

Traditionally, there have been 3 main models for doing customer support for a SaaS-based business; Email, Phone, and Chat.

When I get asked how Engagio supports customers, I have always struggled to put it in one of those buckets.

At Engagio, we, like many SaaS-based startups turned to tools like Intercom to offer our customers an easy way to get in touch with us, ask questions, and get support.

The premise of Intercom (and other similar tools) is pretty simple, customers click the chat bubble, they open it up, and type their question. We get back to them, and everyone is happy.

Intercom in Action

So it seems like we have a chat experience going on, heck, we can even add emojis.

One issue. There’s a little line below the friendly faces.

Clearly, we’re not about to have a full chat agent experience, and I probably shouldn’t be expecting a reply in seconds.

So it’s not Chat

I think it’s fair to say, using support tools like Intercom is not typically a full blown chat experience with wait times measured in the seconds. At the very least, it does not have to be that model of support.

Many SaaS support teams, including Engagio’s, simply don’t have the bandwidth to fully support a “chat” experience all day every day, but we want customers to have a seamless experience with us and we want to be able to communicate quickly back and forth when we are able to.

When I reply late at night, you’re not in the app, and you get an email copy of my response that you reply to the next day; we’re now very much emailing about your question more than anything else.

While some customers may have a few hour wait period throughout the week, if you send a question over to us at 2pm on Friday when it’s more quiet, it’s very possible we’ll reply 18 seconds later with an answer and can help you in real-time get things figured out.

So it’s not Email either

Going back and forth in a matter of seconds with a user experience modeled after iMessage to the point where you have the “___ is currently typing …” appear alongside buttons for GIFs doesn’t really feel like email either.

From both an agent and a customer perspective, it can very much operate like you’re chatting with a friend. Something tells me that this experience has been a consistent part of Intercom’s Success.

So if it’s not Chat, and it’s not Email, what is it?

It took me a long time to see it, longer than I’d like to admit, but it’s like texting or messaging.

It’s mutually understood that you’ll both do your best to get back to each other as quickly as you can, and the conversation can go on in an ad-hoc way as you both get more context and get things figured out.

After using Intercom for over two years as we grew our support team with the coincidental “messaging” approach, I’ve been reasonably satisfied with it’s scalability.

As you can imagine, handling 50 different text conversations with friends in a given day would be error-prone and hard to stay on top of, things would get lost, there’s a lot of cherry picking the easy stuff. Setting up workflows, teams, and multiple inboxes to handle the increased load is critical, and this is where I feel the tools to start differentiate themselves quite a bit.

Is the “Messaging” Support Model here to stay?

I honestly think so, especially in the software and startup space. I think it strikes a good balance between timeliness, experience and accessibility, and scalability.

As society becomes more text and messenger driven, I feel we are already accustomed to the experience and willing to take it into our work-life as well.

What are your thoughts, do you have a better name for this support model? Does it deserve it’s own channel?

Leave a comment or get in touch!

Field Engineering Manager at Scale AI | At the intersection between Customers and Code

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