with Jeff Serlin, Senior Director & Head of Global Sales, Support Operations & Sales Development and Thomas Sunderland, Senior Sales System Manager
Tagged by Forbes as “a business chat unicorn,” Intercom is the world’s first customer platform helping internet businesses accelerate growth.
Intercom’s first foray into automated lead routing was the result of a classic “build or buy” decision. “Build” briefly won the day with Intercom initially deploying a custom- built, consultant-maintained, software solution.
“The build decision was made prior to me joining the company and was probably appropriate at that time, but by the time I joined, the custom solution had outlived its usefulness and was causing more problems than it was solving,” explained Jeff Serlin, Head of Global Sales Operations.
Tagged by Forbes as “a business chat unicorn,” Intercom is the world’s first customer platform helping internet businesses accelerate growth. Today more than 30,000 companies, including New Relic, Sotheby’s and Shopify connect with a billion unique people worldwide. “Ours is a highly transactional business, and we are always trying new and different things to ensure a smooth and rapid sales cycle,” said Jeff Serlin, Senior Director & Head of Global Sales, Support Operations & Sales Development at Intercom. “Many of these things are quite complex and hinge on flexible and robust sales lead routing.”
Intercom’s first foray into automated lead routing was the result of a classic “build or buy” decision. “Build” briefly won the day with Intercom initially deploying a custom-built, consultant maintained, software solution. “The build decision was made prior to me joining the company and was probably appropriate at that time, but by the time I joined, the custom solution had outlived its usefulness and was causing more problems than it was solving,” explained Serlin.
Specifically, with outside consultants at the wheel, changes to the system would take a couple of weeks and a couple of thousand dollars to implement. “We lacked agility, our momentum was eroding, and our ability to innovate was compromised,” described Serlin. “Consequently, we moved to reclaim control of this critical sales process by investing in a welldesigned packaged solution for routing.” That solution was LeanData.
The LeanData Solution
Intercom went live with LeanData in December 2017, and soon found it had gained everything that it had lacked in its legacy solution.
Speed and Agility
Said Thomas Sunderland, Senior Sales System Manager for Intercom, “Essentially, LeanData enables us to change what we want, when we want, which is something we could only dream of before.” For Sunderland, “before” meant meeting weekly with the outside consultants who maintained the custom-built solution, and taking an hour or more walking them through the “to do” document, which itself took three or four hours each week for inside staff to compile. Then it would take two or more weeks before the requested changes were implemented. With LeanData, that has now changed completely. “Time-to-delivery has been our biggest savings,” explained Sunderland. “Now, in less than an hour, we can use LeanData to create, test and deploy modifications to vacation settings and routing flows and pools and make other types of tweaks that we used to have to farm out to consultants. It’s been extremely liberating.”
Added Serlin, “The upshot is, now that we are in control, we can be much more agile in making day-to-day modifications, trying out new things that align with company business objectives, and grasping new opportunities. We can be proactive and spend more time innovating instead of waiting around for changes to be made for us.”
Control and Insights
In addition to gaining control over how fast things happen within its lead management environment, Intercom also has gained control over the way things happen.
LeanData provides Intercom with a visual environment for easily making changes to its lead handling routines to stay abreast with developing business needs. “We now set things up just as we want them, and troubleshoot any issues ourselves, without relying on consultants and without having to be programmers,” claimed Sunderland. “If you can create a process on Salesforce today, you’ll be right at home with LeanData where there’s no coding and thus none of coding’s associated problems to deal with.”
From a strategic standpoint, added Serlin, “This level of control over how our routing processes are designed, and over their troubleshooting, has given us greater insights into our lead management environment and how it can be continually optimized to help drive business growth.”
Lower Costs and Higher Sales Efficiency
Running parallel with the increase in control that Intercom has experienced has been a sizeable reduction in lead management costs. With consultants out of the picture, Intercom is saving half of what it previously spent each month, money that can be reallocated for other sales and marketing purposes.
“We’ve also experienced a reduction in the hours that our internal people need to put into the maintenance of lead routing processes,” said Sunderland. “We are now down to a couple of administrative hours a week due to the efficiencies provided by LeanData.”
Harder to quantify, but just as important, there has been a reduction in lost opportunity costs now that lead routing routines can be modified in a matter of minutes. Concluded Serlin, “Getting hot leads into the right hands as soon as possible and without any hiccups is priceless. If we don’t get it right all the time, we can easily lose dozens of potential customers a week. LeanData helps ensure we’re consistently getting it right.”
The Takeaway: “Build vs Buy”
“Build versus Buy” decisions are made all the time in business. Intercom has the perspective of having first tried a custom-built solution and then doing a 180 degree turn and buying a packaged solution for sales lead routing. Here’s the takeaway.
Focus on On-Going Maintenance: Both custom-built and packaged solutions will have maintenance requirements. Make sure you understand what it will cost to make even minor changes on a monthly basis. Custom solutions will typically cost a company considerably more to manage and maintain as modifications will usually have to be done by 3rd party consultants and developers. A packaged solution, where you can leverage a state-of-the-art interface to accomplish modifications internally without programming, eliminates the need for 3rd party resources and their hefty costs.
Watch the Clock: Can you live comfortably with lengthy delivery cycles for any changes to your routing solution? If not, a packaged solution is the way to go, where you (again) leverage state-of-the-art interface to accomplish modifications without expensive programming talent, enables you to implement changes on the spot.
Take Control: Do you want to take charge of your lead management processes – as in really “own” them? If so, gravitate away from custom-built. A packaged solution that is maintained internally means more than just lower ongoing costs and faster reaction times. It also provides you with visibility into your lead management universe. You can leverage the resulting insights to operate more efficiently, create your own institutional knowledge bank, and be more competitive.