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How We Work
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7 min read

How We Work - Intercom

Interview with Geoffrey Keating, Content Marketing Manager

“The way businesses talk to people online is broken. Intercom is fixing it.” Intercom's tagline says it all!

The problem with businesses communicating to people has always been a comedy of errors. Clunky messaging platforms, long-awaited response times, messages that fall through the cracks and businesses emailing stiff messages that go straight to spam.

Intercom helps businesses communicate differently. Designed to feel like the messaging apps we already love communicating with, Intercom is breaking the communication barriers and letting you chat with customers anywhere - your app, website, social, email - you name it.

What makes Intercom so fascinating isn’t just that they so boldly have called everyone out on their dysfunctional communication but they’ve also figured out how to help their clients onboard. They've also mastered customer retention.

Geoffrey Keating, Intercom’s Content Marketing Manager, sat down with us and gave us the 411 on how Intercom is that good at communicating, how he starts a new project that gets the message across and why the future of product needs to keep up with the future of pizza.

Q - How did you get into this industry?

Geoffrey - I was pretty set on academia when I finished university but I thought a year off between my masters and my PHD wouldn’t hurt. I started working as an archivist in a film production company, and then onto editing film and TV. I quickly decided I was never going back to academia. 😉

I spent about 3 years in editing jobs before moving on to consulting, which is when a career in tech started to make sense. Consulting was the ideal preparation I think, as much of my job was trying to distill enormous technological problem to stakeholders, who depending on the project were government officials, librarians or executives. In my current job as an editor, my job is largely the same - communicating complex problems to a diverse range of people in as simple way as possible

It was through consulting that I was lucky enough to meet many people who would go on to work at Intercom. We all stayed in touch, and when Intercom was looking to hire another editor for their team I jumped right on it.

Q - When you start a new project, what process do you follow?

Geoffrey - One of the best things about working at Intercom is the autonomy. We have shared goals across our teams, but much of our work is self-directed. It means that we can come up with new ideas about how to achieve the goals we set.

Every project kicks off with an “Intermission”, our quirky name for a project brief. It’s a simple, one page brief that outlines the problem we’re solving, how we will measure success, and the scope of our project. The goal of the Intermission that everyone on the team has a shared understanding of what we are building and why.

Q - What does the future of product look like?

Geoffrey - For all the advances in technology over the past few years, it’s hard not to be disappointed by the state of products around us. I can order a pizza through a bot, yet I still can’t get in touch with an airline via email or phone. A lot of innovation I see is in all the wrong places, designed to look good in a press release.

Quite often, it’s the wrong types of companies doing it too. It’s FMCG companies that don’t have anything to say. That’s why we have VR apps for breakfast cereals. We have toilet paper brands becoming publishers. Yet there are many, very real problems out there that need solving. The TV industry is making better shows than ever before, but is suffering because they have little understanding of modern consumer behavior and choice architecture. We’ve got airlines that use incredible technology to keep planes in the sky, but who fail in basic customer service functions. It’s the companies who solve these kinds of everyday problems that will succeed.

Q - What are the workflows at Intercom where you see teams using CloudApp?

Geoffrey - We use CloudApp primarily for handling feedback. Our teams are based in San Francisco and Dublin, so having annotated screenshots is so much clearer than writing out “Can we increase the padding on the left corner of p 47 and fix the typo in the image?”. We’re big advocates of the “show, don’t tell” principle at Intercom, and CloudApp helps us achieve that.

Q - What's the tech used at Intercom?

Geoffrey - Sketch (great for banging out quick wireframes) Slack for messaging and video calls (so much better than Google Hangouts), Gmail for email (I’ve tried every mail client under the sun but like the simplicity of Gmail), CloudApp for screenshots and annotations and Intercom (obviously 😀) for talking to customers.

Q - What are the top 5 songs in your Spotify/music queue right now?

Geoffrey - I’ve recently switched from Spotify to Google Play and I have to say their recommendation engine is incredible. I usually just hit play on the radio feature and I’m rarely disappointed.

Wax Stag - Summit

Fear of Men - Luna

Woods - Hand it Out

Clams Casino - Natural

Blanck Mass - Please

Q - What’s your favorite book? And your favorite film?

Geoffrey - It’s not a book per se, but my favorite piece of fiction is Chicxulub by T. C. Boyle. I’m a huge fan of short stories, and this is one of the best. Lionel Shriver did a fantastic reading of it for the New Yorker Fiction podcast which is equally good.

I’m more of a TV than a movie person, and I have to confess to watching a lot of trash! I love dumb-but-entertaining things like The Flash, but I’m also obsessed with The Americans. I’ve always loved reading about the Cold War and I think they capture the era perfectly.

Q - What hangs on your living room wall right now?

Geoffrey - I’ve started collecting lots of paintings recently, mainly Irish artists from the mid-20th century. It’s where I spend most of my disposable income, but I’ll have them forever so it’s a worthwhile investment.

Below is my favorite, Serein by John Cronin, which is a type of light rain that falls around dusk. Pretty apt if you live in Ireland!

 

Q - Links to a favorite project you’ve worked on that most people may not know about?

Geoffrey - Without a doubt it would be our latest book, Intercom on Starting Up. It’s an opinionated perspective on how to build a startup from the ground up. As the book’s editor, it was such a pleasure to sit with the founders and collect their war stories from the early days.

Read more from the CloudApp blog — Inside The Workflow.
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