Research is critical for understanding what's working in your product, what's broken, what your users want, what they need, and what they do or don't understand. If you're not asking these questions, you're not informed.

With Intercom you have a powerful product research tool that will yield you an endless supply of priceless data about your product, and how your users are experiencing it. Here are 5 ways you can use intercom for product research.

Investigating a particular feature or functionality.

Whether you've just launched a feature, or it's a year old, you can always learn more about it. You should be messaging your users directly, in-app, to get feedback from them. You need to set up a filter so that all users who use the feature, say, for the 3rd time, are presented with a simple message, asking them to describe their experience. They'll get that message directly after they use it for the 3rd time. You'll then be drip-fed a constant stream of qualitative data back into your inbox for as long as you leave that message live. We do it here at Intercom, and we know it works. It's how we inform our feature iterations. It works so well because the best time and place to ask for feedback is inside your app, right after your customer uses the feature. It's not OK to send them an email a week since they last used the feature. It'll get archived on site. Some things to remember when taking an approach like this:

  • You should monitor the results as they come in. Turn off the message once you feel that you've received sufficient data. More data equals more time spent analysing it - so don't elicit more than you can handle, or need.
  • Pick some customers who give interesting answers (both good and bad), and probe to keep the conversation going, or follow up with a Skype call. These customers are willing to give you honest feedback. How cool is that? Don't pass up that opportunity.

Conduct surveys using lightweight replies.

Lightweight replies let you elicit a manageable data set. It's not wise to ask your 100,000 users to describe their opinion in an open text field, if for example all you want to know is if they'd value a new calendar feature. A lot of the time, a simple survey with 2 or 3 answers is all you will need. So instead of only asking for written feedback, Intercom gives you a range of lightweight options to choose from. You can choose one of the following reply types for each in-app message you're sending:

  1. a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down
  2. a happy, neutral or sad smiley
  3. a regular text field

Now, when you send this out to a large group of users, your data set will be immediately interpretable, and actionable, and you can get straight on to improving your product - instead of spending hours figuring out what it all means.
Find out more about lightweight replies here.

Investigate your customer's behavior

In order to design the best possible product, you need to first understand how users do the jobs they employ your product for. This means fully understanding your users' workflows from start to finish, including all the steps they do outside your app. Using Intercom, its easy to ask your users about their workflow, so that you can design to satisfy their jobs-to-be-done.

Here's an example

A customer of ours who owns a photo sharing app suspected that they understood how their customers were interacting with their product. That is, they figured their customers were dragging and dropping an image file from their computer onto their app icon, for quick upload, as the design intended. But they weren't 100% sure this was the case. So, they investigated.

They sent a simple message in Intercom requesting a quick summary of how their users were working. What they got back was really interesting; there were all these extra steps that their customers had been taking before uploading a file to their app. First, they were using a separate screengrab tool, because it had a cropping option. Then they were bringing the screengrab into a drawing tool to overlay some basic callouts. Then they were screen grabbing it, again! Finally, they were dragging and dropping the file into their app. This helped our customer fully understand what they needed to build. It informed their product roadmap for the following months, and you can bet it included screengrab and annotation features.

As you can see, Intercom is great for figuring out user behaviour, and letting that inform your product's evolution.

Organise your data using tags

It's likely that you'll get lots of unsolicited feedback and feature requests via Intercom - which is great. But it's useless unless you monitor it, manage it, and then act on it. Tags make it easy.

Here at Intercom we have a set of tags that we use for 'the voice of our customer' i.e., you guys. Depending on what you're telling us, we'll tag it as a “ new feature request", a “bug report", or feedback around specific features like “feedback on A/B testing", or “feedback on events" and so on. Or, a lot of the time we'll even get more specific with our tag names for known issues such as "request for multi-language support".
 When it's time to review this after a few weeks, we just search for the tag, and all the feedback is there in one place. It's so helpful, and saves so much time.

If you and your team are tagging consistently over time, you'll acquire valuable data that will directly inform how your product evolves. As a quick example, in Intercom, we get asked for a "reporting" feature and a "bulk exports" feature all the time. By tagging each over time, we were able to easily see which was being asked for most often. This helped to inform which we would build first.
Here's more about how Tags work

Intercom for recruiting research candidates

Intercom is the perfect tool for finding candidates to test your product on. Using filters, you can quickly drill down into your userbase to identify subsets of people who exactly match your requirements.

 Here's an example
 A customer of ours set about creating a list of people in Intercom they would contact to participate in their user tests.

  • Firstly, they were going to user test with these people in person, so they needed to make sure they were close by, so the first filter was 'city is San Francisco'.
  • They wanted to avoid anyone who was new, or still onboarding, so they filtered to 'sessions is greater than 100'.
  • They wanted to make sure the users had used the feature recently, so they filtered on 'Last occurred less than 10 days ago'.
  • They wanted active users, so they filtered on 'last seen &&&<30 days ago'.

So, now they had a list of users who they could contact and ask to participate in the research. They sent a message to about 15 of these customers, incentivized each customer with a month's free use of their product, and they got their 5 users scheduled in that same day.
Here's more about how filters work.

Want to learn more?

Learn more about how to use Intercom to get quality customer feedback.

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