Can I try Fogbender with just a couple of customers?

Yes—you can use feature flags or a similar approach to determine which customers should see your existing contact form or live chat, and which ones should see the new Fogbender widget. You can also load the Fogbender widget for all new accounts.

Are you saying we have to get rid of LiveChat / Front / Intercom / Drift / MessageBird?

No—you may still need those to handle inbound questions from unauthenticated users—this includes capturing sales leads, addressing questions on Twitter and Facebook Messenger, and so on.

So, you’re adding another tool to our customer support stack?

Not necessarily—if you use Slack Connect for support, we’d replace (or integrate with) those shared channels.

If you’re using Zendesk for supporting authenticated users, we’d replace that.

What’s the difference between B2B and B2C in terms of customer support?

In B2C, the customer is a single individual who ages with the service (e.g., Netflix). In B2B, the customer is a group of people that changes its composition over time (e.g., AWS).

In B2C, there are many accounts with low Annual Contract Value (ACV), requiring many dedicated support agents able to resolve most common problems, but usually unable to conduct in-depth troubleshooting (e.g., CA EDD). In B2B, there are few accounts with high ACV, with support provided by a highly-skilled, relatively small team (which may include R&D staff and sales engineers).

B2B products tend to be complex, requiring some degree of integration work on the customer’s end (e.g., Twilio, Segment, AWS). This complicates support, because the vendor is not necessarily aware of all the details pertaining to a specific implementation.

What’s the difference between Fogbender and using Slack’s Shared Channels?

In Slack, if an agent reads a message from a customer and doesn’t respond, it’s difficult for other agents to discover such “potentially dropped” conversations. Fogbender visually marks all such conversations as “unresolved”, enabling other agents to save the day.

Fogbender comes with an embeddable widget that lives on your customer dashboard and uses your existing user authentication for access. Slack is a separate application with multiple levels of access you can’t control (account, workspace, channel).

In Fogbender, you create an equivalent of a shared channel per issue, while in Slack you’d usually have a single channel with many unnamed threads.

In Slack the “unit of work” is one message—if you use an integration with a ticketing system, you can create a ticket from a single message only. Fogbender supports the selection of contiguous message blocks, which makes it possible to file issues with all the necessary context (including images).

A shared channel between teams A and B introduces the possibility of private 1-1 and group DMs between all members of A and B, which exposes the vendor to untraceable, customer-initiated out-of-band communication. Fogbender only allows vendor-initiated DMs.

What’s the difference between Fogbender and Intercom?

Intercom’s communication model is many-to-one, where “many” is the vendor’s agents and “one” is the customer end user. This works amazingly well for B2C customer support, where an account consists of a single individual, or as a way of capturing sales leads— speaking to an unauthenticated user exploring the vendor’s website. Fogbender’s communication model is many-to-many, where a customer account also consists of a team —designed purely for account-based support and is not suitable for capturing leads. That said, it could work very well for discovering upsell opportunities.

What’s the difference between Fogbender and Front?

Front’s communication model for its live chat product is the same as Intercom’s— many vendor agents to one customer end user.

However, Front’s roots are in email—it’s arguably the most evolved shared inbox product out there—and email supports many-to-many communication just fine, simply because the To: or Cc: lines can list the email addresses of several end user colleagues working at the same company. However, this workflow assumes the end user knows whom to include on a support question; Fogbender lets the end user discover the colleague that knows the answer or would like to be in on the conversation.

What’s the difference between Fogbender and Zendesk?

Zendesk Live chat’s model is the same as Intercom’s and Front’s: works great for anonymous visitors or single-user accounts (e.g., Etsy), but there is no way to place several colleagues in a conversation with a vendor.

Zendesk’s email-based support product, where the customer initiates a conversation with the vendor by sending an email or filling out a contact form, does have some B2B support with Zendesk’s Organizations feature. Organizations allow the vendor to reveal all historical support data to anyone—or a subset of privileged users— belonging to an organization (i.e. a B2B customer). The two main issues with this approach concern privacy—users generally assume their communication with the vendor is not visible to colleagues, and the fact that there is no obvious mechanism for a colleague to be notified of a new question in order to have an opportunity to provide an answer in time.

Are you saying that all currently-available customer support products are designed for B2C?

Yes, and for a good reason: the most successful consumer brands have hundreds of millions of users, while the most successful B2B companies may have hundreds or thousands of customer accounts. It makes sense that customer support software vendors focus on the needs of their biggest revenue drivers first, leaving the requirements of B2B vendors as perennial product roadmap nice-to-haves.

For more context, see our blog post Why are all customer support tools designed for B2C?.

Why would colleagues help each other out with a vendor’s product?

Colleagues already help each other out with products their companies have licensed— partially because it’s human nature, partially because it’s their job. These conversations are almost always internal—not visible to the vendor—not because they have to be, but because vendors don’t generally furnish customers with platforms that facilitate product discussions.

The most obvious counter-argument here is the growing prevalence of Slack Connect and Shared Channels in vendor-customer relationships.

Why isn’t this a just a Slack app?

Team-to-team (B2B) support should be the default support method, meaning it must be available on the vendor’s support page—this is hard to do with Slack.

There is no easy way to select a group of messages in Slack to formalize a description of a problem or a solution to one—this makes it difficult to segment conversations and causes integrations with third-party ticketing systems lose context.

Slack enables all participants of a shared channel to participate in out-of-band private conversations, which defeats the purpose of team-to-team customer support.

Some vendors and customers don’t use Slack.

However, note that Fogbender does come with two Slack integrations:

- The Fogbender (Agent) Slack integration allows the vendor’s team to respond to messages arriving to Fogbender from Slack, and to associate existing shared channels with customers in Fogbender. - The Fogbender (Customer) Slack integration allows a customer’s team to receive support in a dedicated Slack channel, in addition to the web widget.

Why doesn’t Fogbender have threads?

Threads are either named or anonymous sub-rooms that contain a flat (non-threaded) list of replies to a single message in a named room (channel, group, etc—depending on the platform). Threads are helpful in busy spaces, where a conversation that spans more than a few moments has a high likelihood of getting trampled by another, making it very difficult to both maintain context in real time and follow the train of thought while catching up later. Threads also help minimize noise in channels with many members: while top level messages always trigger notifications, one must explicilty opt in to receive notifications from each thread.

This context-saving convenience comes at a price, however. For one, the simplicity of an IRC/ICQ/SMS-style messaging experience—where a room is just a stream of time-sorted messages—is sacrificed in favor of a fairly complex structure where, in the extreme, the reader is required to expand every top-level message to follow the conversation. Additionally, threads pose quite a challenge with respect to notifications: being mentioned in multiple (unnamed) threads across several channels may set up the recipient for a bit of an archeological dig.

Since Fogbender is not intended to have individual rooms that are continuously used by large groups of people, the likelihood of conversations constantly overlapping one another is low, and notifications are handled by agent assignments. That said, Fogbender does come with two features that should serve as a sufficient alternative to threads:

• Replies to messages in the same room—very similar to WhatsApp and Telegram, but with the added ability to reply to several messages at once;

• Forwarding a contiguous block of messages to an existing or a new room. (The latter form can be thought of as "named thread support", but the intention is to make it easier to categorize a group of messages as something important post-writing, as opposed to helping with noise overload when responding.)

I still have questions

Book a demo with us and we’ll answer all your questions, walk you through the solution, and if you’d like, help you get started over a video call.