Great article — Thanks for sharing your experience.
We use as well Intercom at Textografo for the customer service, onboarding emails and in-app messages, newsletter.
As you told the chat feature is just great. People like it and so we are able to provide a great support.
That said, for me, the most powerful features are:
1 — The ability to send a specific in-app message based on user actions. We do send events to Intercom using their API. Then these events trigger a message in the application. To give an example, Textografo allows to get your diagram (flowchart, mind maps and so on) animated by clicking on the play button. The first time that a user clicks on the PLAY button, we send the information this information to Intercom. Then we display the pop-up that gives some tips to the user about the PLAY feature (this part also configured in Intercom). Simple but powerful to onboard people.
2 — The ability to segment users: Based on the action done by the user (how many diagram and shape created and number of sessions mainly), we segment them in two segments: Activated (they have done some basic actions) and Engaged (they have done more actions and came back several times to use the service). All the “game” is then for us to drive the user through this funnel (New -> Activated -> Engaged -> Pro). Depending on where is the user, our in-app or email message is different.
Finally, Intercom allows experimenting. You can try different onboarding architecture, messages, and emails and measure get data like how many people open your message, click on it (if there are some links in the content) it or reply (if you ask for that). So you can measure their efficiency, iterate and improve.
As we are a young startup, the service is a bit expensive (they definitely have some magic formula to make you spend more) but this is right that considering all the key services provided, I believe that it worth it for Textografo. At least, I don’t see any way to do without it as it is closely integrated into our business.