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I stopped using Intercom (gingerlime.com)
150 points by gingerlime on Feb 8, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 62 comments

We actually had to stop using Intercom because of their pricing. We had a custom plan for years that accommodated our needs greatly. We were very happy and sang their praises all the time. A couple of months back they announced that they would be changing their pricing, so our $300/month price would become $2000/month. We started a long discussion with a sales person back and forth and they just wouldn't help us. We got copy and pasted responses that were not at all answers to our concerns.

It ended with them charging us $1800 even though we explicitly said we just wanted the "Chat" option for $100 per month a couple of times. After a stressful evening they refunded us. It really did leave a bitter taste in our mouth.

I agree completely with the article. Intercom was a crutch for us to deal with the failings of our own product.

Is this with their current pricing? We had huge bills for a while but their last pricing change ended up saving us a ton. Our bill went from about $2k/mo to about $300/mo. Before that we had implemented a custom job that kept our user count down, but we don't need to run that anymore.

Really curious, what is/was your active user count? Our problem is that we are a freemium product with 150k+ registered users, and maybe 60k active (and a fraction of that paying), of which we only have ~5k in an active campaign pipeline at a given time. So to be able to use Intercom we’d have to create a job to continuously archive a large portion every day to not have our bills skyrocket to bankrupt land (we’re not VC funded).

Similar situation here – large increase in price for offering the same thing. In the past they’d jacked up the price saying ‘they’ve built new stuff so should charge more’ but have no option to remain using only the old stuff. IMO they completely abuse their customers, and at the same time I don’t blame them one but as customers like us are so locked in that it’s too much hassle to move.

We could have written this exact paragraph. Terrible experience, terrible service.

I have used one of the smaller and cheaper competitor products just for chat support, Tawk. We do try to review the incoming messages once in a while. If more than 2 customers asked the same question, then we should probably fix that on the website.

More often than not though, some customers just don't like digging through FAQ and KBs. They just prefer to get personal help.

Could they be as bad as NewRelic sales people?

Heh, I tried getting started with New Relic. I didn’t want to give up my name (over chat mind you, not a signup form) and phone number so I never got that account.

Do tell.

Completely agree. Basically what we use is only drip marketing and chat, however I have seen their price go up x3.5 in our case, without any significant increase in our user base, and no change in features.

We recently saw our price got from $375/mo to over $1000/mo for no new benefits. We are looking to consolidate users or find alternatives. We mainly just use it for support.

I realize this article is one data point but I'd offer that I have a completely opposite data point.

1. We accidentally turned off our main Intercom in-trial campaign for a segment of users during an AB test and were surprised how much lower the conversion was. We re-ran the test ensuring both sides had our Intercom in-trial campaign on. It increased in-trial conversion by 25%.

2. We do pay a lot for Intercom (10 person support team, tens of thousands of users, hundreds of thousands of leads) but we also use it a god damn ton for new customer campaigns, activation, churn prevention, reactivation, etc and by in-app, email, and mobile notifications. Replacing all of this would not be cheap.

3. Intercom can definitely be a crutch for bad UX. But you'll only know of those problems if you're actually getting this feedback. It's then on you to have the internal process for addressing common questions or requests in order to reduce the volume of help requests for specific topics.

I hate these things, in the same way I dislike a sales person rushing up to me immediately I set foot in a store. It's much worse on a web page, simultaneously creepy like I'm being watched checking out the site and useless knowing it's not actually a real person.

You're being watched. Some of these tools (in the merchant's UI) have a list of users browsing the website with an option to show in real-time what you're doing, what page you're viewing, typing, and how you're moving your mouse cursor.

They'd probably show your webcam and mic feed, if they could without being obvious, too.

message pops up

"Hey, can I help? You look confused."

And then when you actually respond with a question, there isn't really anyone there to answer you.

My company used to use Olark, which actually was connected to a person. It was a great way to offer technical support. Unfortunately as our traffic grew, it was hard to keep up with incoming chats, so we eventually turned it off. (This was 7-5 years ago, before these on-page chat widgets saturated the web.)

He last used Intercom 3 years ago but is just writing about it now. A LOT has changed in 3 years.

I’ve used the product on multiple projects over the years and it’s matured a lot over time. We use it as a support tool and a way to identify qualified leads. It’s also handles our targeted email campaigns. Their support staff is incredibly on point as well. I personally think it’s a fantastic way to engage customers. Seeing that little bubble in the corner of every site kinda drives me crazy, but I know where to go if I have a question.

They specifically say that it's not about the product itself but the concept of these on-page assistants.

> It’s mostly about intercom as a concept, rather than a specific implementation.

At my current startup, we sell a rather pricy physical product and have been using Intercom to nurture leads. It's been very useful, as we have lots of leads that have specific questions that they want a human to answer.

We found that conversational engagement works the best for these leads, but Drift does a far better job than Intercom at this. Currently planning on migrating.

We are in the medical / research field - also selling a physical product. We are using chatbot to answer sometimes really narrow questions about customer-specific cases (they just would not fit the Help/FAQ page). LiveChat is where most of our leads come from.

Does Intercom still do that really annoying bleep when it automatically pings you with some guff? I stopped using Intercom myself (as a user)

Every damn site seemed to have it installed, ended up adblocking all of its domains.

Anyone have a recommendation for the simplest, easiest solution to solve for "As a user, I'd like to express some concern, frustration, feedback, or questions about your product". Intercom seems like the most well known, but there's a lot in that tool that we just may not need or use and I'm not sure we're looking for something so "robust"... Then again, just slapping a support email alias throughout the product and expecting users to find it and use it doesn't quite solve the problem and it's not scalable. I intend to check out Crisp, Intercom, Drift, hubspot, smooch, pipedrive, and Tawk judging by responses below, but wondering if anyone can help cut through the noise with some personal anecdotes. Just want to make sure users have a way of reaching out and feeling that their voices are being heard

For a Web app where I wanted as much feedback as possible, I embedded a 2-line expandable text input box (and submit button) in the footer of every page.

At different times, the surrounding copy was something like “Question? Suggestion? We’re at your service.” or “How can we improve this page? We’d love to know.”

It worked great and I’d do it again for any new app. People brought up issues large and small. The goal wasn’t to “engage” or “nurture” or whatever. We just wanted to respect visitors’ time, which meant being as easy to reach as possible.

We use Olark for years and it's free and it also has an JS interface where your website code can interface with it (populate user info if logged-in, etc.). It is far from perfect but it gets the job done when you want the customer to quickly contact you.

I see now they put some more "unlock to get" things on their website but still their free offering is good enough. The only limit is after 20 live chats you get emails instead.

For us we use it mostly for getting the initial question (in offline mode) and then we take it further via email.

What about a "Feedback" link, in the header or footer, which leads to a page with a text box, and a "Submit" button? That's what we had back in the 1990's, and it worked perfectly well. It can be anonymous, or you can ask them to leave an email address so you can respond to them individually.

Also: how about a feedback@ or support@ email address, and link to it on your webpage? (The form mentioned above can work by sending email to this address, even, so everything goes to the same place.)

RFC 2142 defines "webmaster@" (alias: "www@") as the standard email contact. I think it was a good idea, but I don't know how common it is any more.

I like to report bugs whenever I find them, but it's surprisingly difficult to find any sort of feedback mechanism for most webpages. Half the time, "tweet sarcastically in frustration" is actually the best option.

I’ve personally rolled out a Freshworks implementation, and am quite happy with their products.

They offer Freshdesk for a customer support portal/ticketing system, and Freshchat for live chat. Total cost is a fraction of what you’d pay for Intercom, and the products are continuously adding new features.

If it's just feedback you want then you might consider creating a slideout sidebar survey using kwiksurveys (disclaimer: my company). The survey code partially preloads the form so it appears quickly when the button you attach it to is clicked.

Price went up 3x for me. Shifted to Freshchat from Freshworks and really happy I made the move.

I've been using Crisp for a while on my own project where users can click ito start a chat (it doesn't pop-up with a message initially). I don't have any hard data but I've found it really valuable in terms of being a solo developer:

- For support problems, resolving over chat is much quicker and personable. I think this leads to happier customers. Composing well thought out and well written emails back and forth eats up a huge amount of time in comparison.

- It's way easier to get to know your customers more with chat. You can quickly ask them a series of related questions and get an answer, whereas with email it's much more effort on both sides e.g. a series of question/answers like "What kind of website are you checking with the tool? Oh, so how many websites do you have? Would you find it more helpful if...?" is painful over email and they'd probably stop replying.

I looked at the free chat offerings from Crisp, Intercom, Drift and Tawk recently. I think until you're getting large numbers of chat users per day there's not a lot to decide between them. I mostly prefer Crisp because the admin interface responds quickly and settings are easy to find. It's pretty crazy how many features and settings they all have.

+1 for Crisp. It’s the bit of Intercom most people want, and nothing else. Highly recommend it.

> The short, simple, and most crucial reason: it didn’t work. How do I know? We A/B tested it. Over a fairly long time and a large number of people.

I'd love to see the actual numbers. The screenshot OP posted suggests they've been running A/B tests with 115 + 108 users, which is just not a big enough sample to derive any conclusions.

IMO Intercom's plans are too pricey once you've more than a few users, and its specialized competitors are usually better. But methinks it's a sane choice regardless for most early stage startups: you get a good enough version of just about every tool you need.

As to the other complaint (popup is too familiar) they might have been doing it wrong -- as in like a sales in a retail store showing up asking "can I help you?". Only show the popup when something interesting that you're digging into happens. And man the fort, to make sure there's someone answering at the other end when an actual user replies; else it's pointless.

OP here.

> I'd love to see the actual numbers. The screenshot OP posted suggests they've been running A/B tests with 115 + 108 users, which is just not a big enough sample to derive any conclusions.

The screenshot is from the intercom.com website. Not related to our own experiment, which was run outside intercom.

I'm having trouble finding the actual raw experiment results, but I would imagine it covered 10s of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of participants, running for a month.

Regarding the other comments: yes, maybe we were doing it wrong. But we've given it way more attention and though than "hey, can I help you?" and really tried to target specific events etc. And also, we're a B2C so volumes are high but customer lifetime value is relatively low, which increases the acquisition costs.

This is a list of minor complaints from three years ago. Intercom has had several big updates and pricing changes since then. I don’t think it’s fair to post this (you have the right, of course) without seeing what’s changed since then.

I’m not a huge fan either, and I helped two startups move OFF Intercom just recently. But my issues with it today probably won’t be relevant three years from now.

OP here. Yes, there are some minor complaints, and I do imagine some things have changed (happy to hear about pricing, because it was truly horrible in my opinion).

But I think the fundamentals aren't minor. The end-user experience isn't drastically different now than 2 years ago. And our A/B test back then is likely to produce similar results today (although we're unlikely to test it again). I still feel that it's a crutch. And I think intercom is a victim of its own success, even more so today than a couple of years ago.

Pricing has definitely gotten much worse since you left

If you take out the complaint about pricing, then what remains is a general take on live-chat solutions. It's a valid complaint--and, from my experience, correct for most cases--but shouldn't be aimed solely at Intercom. I've tested live chats from Intercom, Drift, HubSpot, Smooch, and others, and they're all equally underwhelming.

I think I also addressed that on my post. My personal experience was with intercom though.

> Of course, intercom.io isn’t the only one now, and there are a few competitors in this space. The principle is pretty similar though. I think intercom was the most successful company doing this, or the first, or both. But it’s not really important. It’s mostly about intercom as a concept, rather than a specific implementation.

Fair enough. I must’ve skimmed past that in my first reading.

Curious both as to why you moved them off and to what?

One of them was from Intercom to Customer.io for onboarding and marketing emails. Very simple reason: Intercom has (had?) very weak email segmentation options. Not nearly granular enough for a company with hundreds of thousands of contacts/users.

Intercom is a good tool for support, but we have run into a lot of bugs using deeper features.

Their support is great, they allways get back to you.

We started using intercom for all outgoing communications especially email campaigns and ran into reporting bugs, built in templates not showing on outlook, events being not usable in mails ect.

You can only create a company via the API, which by the way loves to duplicate your contacts from time to time.

As a support tool, it is great our users are used to using the bubble to chat to us but we have moved the our mailing and crm elsewhere.

I think about intercom being very useful if you sell a low value product to a lot of clients, so large user base at $5 each.

"The friendly bubble is just everywhere… So from a novelty thing, it becomes “oh. that bubble again”.

This. Exactly this. It's just like banner ad blindness. Sure, it'll work in the first year or so, but after that, people will start to turn blind to it.

The pricing of these services is outrageous. GitHub, for example, gives a lot more value, does a lot more, and charges a lot less per user. When you add all those different services a startup or small nonprofit needs, it ends up being a lump sum.

We tried using Intercom as a “all in one” tool for support, leads, CRM, and it just wasn’t good enough.

We ended up getting Pipedrive for the CRM. Then we hooked up the new Pipedrive integration which is one click to generate a new user, and deal after they show interest with our bot or with us.

For support, we love it and so do our customers. I know there are a lot of chat solutions but it feels the best to me. The bonus is it is integrated with our Help Center (also Intercom) so it is very easy to send embedded articles right in the chat. Our customers love this :)

We are a small team and we were able to reduce the amount of support phone calls (they wanted a phone call to ask the simplist things) by answering quickly on live chat. This allowed us to be able to serve multiple customers at once in a async fashion.

We use Intercom for support and push SQL's into Pipedrive. It works great. It keeps Pipedrive clean and our Sales people focused on real opportunities. We use Intercom a lot for its "segments", and do a lot of personal mail from there. For example, we hosted a drink-up in Copenhagen one day and was able to quickly shoot an email to all customers living there in about 2 minutes. I used a filter to identify who hasn't used the app in a while, remembered their names, and inquired when I met them. I dig it for that.

We started with Intercom for all also.

Ended up with Pipedrive for sales, and zendesk for support. We still intercom for sales, but it's not impressing me that much.

Wanted everything in one place, but intercom was not the right tool.

Intercom is a shadow CRM that tries to do everything but ultimately fails to do anything well.

IMHO, Intercom has excellent fit for early stage go-to-markets, but gets ripped out by specialized tools, purpose built and sold to line function (marketing, sales, support, etc)

We used to use Intercom and were frustrated that they charged us a random amount every month.

They also don't have tools for lead gen or making calls to customers. It was a big pain having our calls go through skype. We'd have to take manual notes on the call and there was no good way to schedule follow ups so we ended up using a mish-mash of systems to do this.

Shameless plug: In the end, we started a competing product, MomentCRM, which has simple, predictable pricing, and spans the entire lifecycle of your user. No more data silos or "integration engineers"! I'm one of the founders, and I will move mountains to make sure you're happy if you decide to try it :)

The problem with most of the cool toys like intercom is that they don't scale for freemium SAAS companies unless you've got a ton of investor cash to burn through.

We trialed freshchat/desk for few months but their app was very buggy and in one instance actually broke our (kwiksurveys) angular backend when their site went down due to some dodgy event hijack code if I recall.

We then found helpscout which I highly recommend as a low cost intercom alternative. The helpscout UI is great and the support team was faultless. It doesn't have any of the automation of intercom so we pair it with activecampaign until I can find something better.

On a related note we're about to sign up with chargebee as chargify / recurly want to bill 6x as much for a near identical if not worse product. If it's two things I hate it's a turnover tax, and having to have a 30 minute chat with a sales consultant.

I'm missing a nice open-source self-hosted alternative to Intercom and alikes. For early startups and small projects it's not realistic to pay such a monthly amount when you have few users and no funding. In my case I don't need all that sales and CRM stuff. A good support solution would be a great start.

It's way too expensive for what it delivers.

I mostly stopped using it because it's so expensive and we didn't get a lot of benefit out of it. Just people asking questions that can be answered by reading the first line of the page they're on.

I wonder if 'Intercom makes no difference in conversion' is the rule or the exception. I wish there was a meta study. Also, it's worthwhile to mention that there are 100% free really good Intercom alternatives, like https://www.bitrix24.com/tools/contact_center/ and https://www.tawk.to/features/

While a meta study might be helpful directionally, it's really something that every product should consider testing. Different customers/users want different things and it's probably worth doing your own test if you're curious.

> Also, it's worthwhile to mention that there are 100% free really good Intercom alternatives

When I was looking into this, I think live chat really is something where you want them to have a paid business model because of its importance.

I add this to my /etc/hosts file. Could not be happier nexus-websocket-b.intercom.io

any open source solutions for intercom? (chat piece)

Spot on. Great for support, played for lead gen.

If you can’t use a high touch interaction to increase conversion, then you’ve got something very wrong going on that’s bigger than intercom.

Disagree. I’ve tried other live chat solutions and they don’t help. The issue is that in order for the overhead to be worthwhile (ie, the time and attention of operating the chats), the conversion improvement has to be massive. It never has been, for me.

Intercom solution can increase your customer acquisition cost with more onboarding support costs so you need a higher lifetime value of the customer to compensate.

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