Last updated on November 29th, 2023

Lessons learned answering 10,000 live chat queries on Intercom

Pardeep Kullar
Pardeep Kullar
Lessons learned answering 10,000 live chat queries on Intercom

One part of my job has always been customer support. If you're a co-founder of
a customer support software company then you should do customer support right?
Having done every other job in the company, I think customer support is the
hardest and after answering more than 10,000 live chat queries for over 6
years using Intercom I've learned a few things that I've summarised below.

What makes customer support a tough job?

There's a video of a CEO who comes to work in the contact centre for a day and
it only takes two callers to send him into a state of anxiety. The
accompanying support agent tells the CEO that the caller was actually
relatively calm

Customer support is tough because each day you'll get someone who is either
confused, angry, worried or has a difficult question to ask.

There are plenty of other perfectly normal queries but there will generally be
one that feels like having a primed mousetrap hidden in a box of gifts. It
makes you scared to put your hand in.

In my role across 2 SaaS companies I've done some element of coding,
marketing, sales, administration and hiring. Customer support is the only one
I don't look forward to each day, even when people are nice.

I don't even like it when they say something nice. It makes me worry that
they'll run into a problem later and I suddenly have to reply back under the
previous nice comment. It feels like it cancels it out.

I have not found any magical trick to change the above, I simply dive in and
use some of the methods below to reply as quickly as possible while remaining

Why we know fast and accurate replies matter

It's not always possible but a fast reply has more impact than I imagined.

There was a point, early on in my startup journey, where I had my alarm set to
go off if there was a customer query. If it went off at 4am, I'd answer them
back at 4am. That helped get to the first $1,500 in MRR back then. Fast
effective replies matter way more to sales than we may give them credit for.

We've had people accidentally cc us on emails where we can see them discussing
our company. Twice we've seen them say 'they get back to us quickly' and we've
won those deals.

The main advantage some newer companies have over their larger competitors is
getting back to customers quickly and going over and above in seeing their
needs met.

Why start with saved replies early and use them heavily?

Intercom let's you create multiple saved answers which you can insert into a
chat as a standard response to a query.

It's best to start creating those very early on and refining them. I found
that it takes weeks or months to refine those saved replies before they can be
consistently used across chats.

The dumbest thing I did (and still do sometimes) was not creating a saved
reply for 'occasional queries' and I found myself typing out a full reply once
a month. Even creating saved replies for occasional queries saves minutes of
typing it out, and over years that adds up.

Insert articles when saved replies won't do but be careful

Intercom also lets you insert help articles into chats when there are many
steps to follow and you'd expect the customer to click the article and follow
the instructions inside.

The danger is when you get lazy and start writing a one line response like
"Hey, please see this article...." and the customer then has to read through
800 words. There's something rude about that. I've done it in the past and it
doesn't feel right.

It's better to create a saved reply for this, which you edit and customise for
that customer, and which has the article attached for reference.

People always know when you've been lazy in replying.

How many times have you asked customer support 2 questions and they've
answered the first and somehow ignored the second?

How many times have they given a standard generic answer which is not quite
the question you asked?

Both of these things are more often due to laziness than anything else and
customers recognise that.

Whenever I've given a lazy reply it felt off and whenever I've given a
thorough reply to their questions they've replied back and genuinely
appreciated it. They always know. We always know.

It's uncommon for people to be thorough with replies including consideration
of steps to take that the customer had not considered but needed to.

That's why the saved replies need editing at times. It's also why it's rude to
dump an article on someone without some extra thought.

Give them a date you'll get back to them on

Over time, consistently, I've noticed people don't mind waiting as long as you
tell them how long they'll be waiting.

If the developers don't know when they'll have a bug fixed by, then tell the
customer you'll get back to them by the end of the day and make sure you do.

I don't like it when someone says "I'll get back to you when it's fixed". I
prefer "I'll update you by the end of the day today" and then, if it's not
done by the end of the day, they say "I'll follow up with them tomorrow
morning and message you by 1pm UK GMT" or whatever.

I've seen chats where they're expecting a solution and the chats left open for
8 days and I'm wondering why no-one has given them a deadline on getting back
to them. I'd be damn annoyed if I was the customer.

**How to work with the angry people? Stick to facts. Don't answer when

pissed off.**

When I contact customer support I need to be very careful if the issue is
about food delivery. For some reason the hangry hits me hard and I think
customer support people in the food delivery industry must work in hell. I
hear the same is true for money related matters.

When someone is angry, specifically when it's seemingly out of proportion or
unfair, it does set me on edge. I find that answering logically and with facts
helps. If I don't feel like I'm going to do that then it's best to wait until
I've cooled off.

Angry or passive aggressive replies are the worst. I think out of the 10,000+
live chats I've done, there has been one incredibly bad response to someone
and dozens of the passive aggressive responses. I regret the one very bad one
on a regular basis. The passive aggressive ones? I have no real solution to
that yet. Sometimes that's how I am.

Why seeing screenshots within Intercom helped a lot

Ever had a conversation like this?

*Customer: "It's not working"

Support agent: "Hi, can you please give us a few more details. What part
of the app is not working for you?"

Customer: "It's not working. When fix?"*

Over time I realised a lot of live chats didn't need to take that long if I
could just see why they started a live chat.

We ended up building Upscope Screenshots for Intercom where we could see
screenshots of the pages someone was on before they opened up Intercom live

It means we didn't need to ask them 'what do you see' or 'what were you doing
before' or 'what error was on the page'. We can see it in the screenshots of
their journey and reply back to their "It's not working" with "ok, I
understand, I can see there's a problem with the file upload. You need

It saves them time and energy and makes us look like we're on our game.

If you're using Zendesk, LiveChat, Intercom or Front, then you have the option
to enable those screenshots in your settings (you need to be the account owner
or have permissions, to enable them).

Pardeep Kullar
Pardeep Kullar

Pardeep overlooks growth at Upscope and loves writing about SaaS companies, customer success and customer experience.