How to Get the Most Out of Slack for Customer Support

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How to Get the Most Out of Slack for Customer Support

ClearFeed Team
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How businesses communicate with their customers has transformed. Over the last few years, Slack has become the de facto platform for internal communication for many companies and departments and is now finding a niche as a popular customer service tool.

Whether you're using it to complement your email service, as part of a comprehensive customer support strategy, or stay in touch with key stakeholders, Slack has much to offer for customer-facing teams. Learning to get the most out of Slack means understanding and taking full advantage of the platform's numerous features. This article will explain the why and how of using Slack for Customer Support and Success!

Is Slack Good for Client Communication?

Yes, Slack is an excellent tool for client communication due to its real-time messaging, collaboration features, company-wide access, and ease of use. It enables internal teams and clients to work together efficiently. Here are a few reasons why businesses are embracing Slack to support their internal and external employees and customers:

  1. Real-time Communication: Slack facilitates instant messaging, promoting faster communication and response and unblocking roadblocks in projects much faster. Slack has a great mobile client and notification system that allows customers and vendors to collaborate instantly, no matter when and where.
  2. Collaboration Features: Beyond chat, Slack comes built with many cool features like Huddles (for live audio calls), Canvas (for sharing Notes and Task Lists), and Save Later (for bookmarking important conversations) that make collaboration efficient and seamless. It also provides an easily searchable history of past conversations and documents shared within each customer channel.
  3. Integration with Other Tools: Slack offers thousands of integrations with various software and tools, effectively creating a central hub for collaboration and communication and streamlining the entire process. Popular integrations include Calendar (e.g., Google Calendar) & Task Management (e.g., Atlassian Jira & Asana).
  4. Company-wide Collaboration: Within companies that use Slack - all employees have access to it. So it becomes easy to add anyone as and when required to shared customer channels. There are no extra costs, licenses, or other barriers to doing so. One can create private channels for different customers to keep conversations organized and multiple channels for a single client (e.g., devoted to specific projects).
  5. Ease of Use: Compared to email, Slack offers a more user-friendly and significantly faster interface - making client communications more efficient and fun.
  6. Automation and Workflows: Customizable workflows and automatic alerts can be set up to notify you of specific events or send instant replies or appropriate resources to your customers.

    “‘It used to take us two days to resolve a case. With the help of Quincy bot in Slack, we’re now 36% faster. If you put that annually, we saved our agents 9,000 hours.’”
    - Omer Khan, Former Digital Lead for Customer Success, Intuit QuickBooks (
    Src)

From Vendors to Partners

In our extensive experience using Slack with customers and helping many other companies do so, the most significant transformation we have found is that Slack changes the relationship between customers and their vendors. Vendors become Partners - always available to help, unblock customers, and collaborate in real-time. Using the same tool (Slack) to communicate within and outside the company makes customers and vendors feel like an extended part of your team. Kami Richey at Fastly could not have said it better:

“‘We hear back from our customers that we’re like an extension of their team, and part of that feeling definitely comes from the fact that we use Slack.”
- Kami Richey, Director of Customer Experience, Fastly (
Src)

Challenges in Scaling Slack for Support

So, Slack is great - but when customers start getting on board, it may not handle everything you throw its way.

Let's start with the basics: how big a customer base can Slack support? And how will you make sure everyone has a high-quality experience with your Slack setup? Here are some of the challenges we have seen using Slack with many customers at once:

  1. Difficulty in Tracking Requests: As the volume of conversations increases, keeping track of all the open requests becomes challenging. Managing numerous clients on chat can be incredibly overwhelming and result in important messages getting lost in the mix.
  2. Overlap Between Slack and Customer Support Platforms: Customer support teams may experience confusion regarding the individual roles of Slack and Ticketing platforms (like Zendesk). The lack of seamless integration between these tools can lead to inefficiencies in support operations.
  3. Managing Customer Expectations: Customers using Slack may expect immediate responses, unlike when they submit requests through email or support tickets. This expectation could overwhelm support teams, and the result may not meet customer expectations.
  4. Large Volume of Queries: Due to Slack's accessibility and ease of use, customers may submit more queries than they do via other support channels. Handling these increased demands can be cumbersome for customer support teams.
  5. Limited Analytics Capabilities: Lacking appropriate customer service metrics in Slack makes it challenging to assess performance and plan capacity, hindering the ability to optimize support operations and elevate the customer experience.
  6. Challenges managing a large number of Channels: As the number of channels increases - certain operations like adding some members to all customer channels or sending an announcement to all customer channels - become very difficult to perform consistently.

How to Use Slack Effectively for Customer Support?

With Slack taking over internal and external communication, here are some ways for your customer support team to get the most out of it.

1. Establish Ownership

One of the primary problems that most companies face when using these platforms is the expectation of instant gratification. Customers expect immediate responses and resolutions to their problems or questions. This can be a huge challenge for support teams because they must respond to customers quickly yet still provide the best possible service. To ensure timely responses, here are some best practices we suggest:

  1. Appoint an owner: Every customer channel should have an owner, who is often the first responder. This is often the customer success manager responsible for the specific customer (or during onboarding, the solutions engineer is primarily responsible for onboarding the customer).
  2. On-Call Support: On-call support can be set up to respond to queries on customer Slack channels. This is useful because CSMs are often busy and multi-tasking multiple responsibilities. Thus, having a small number of personnel dedicated to responding to customer requests on chat provides more reliable coverage.
  3. 24/7 coverage: When dealing with customers spread across diverse geographies, it's recommended to set up rotating shifts across different time zones to ensure round-the-clock query resolution. In situations where 24/7 coverage isn't feasible, it's critical to communicate your working hours clearly to the customer. 

An excellent method of conveying this information is by pinning specific details to a designated Slack channel. Pertinent information, like business hours, the first point of contact, typical response times, an escalation process, and specific protocols, can be shared this way.

Implementing a solution like ClearFeed in your Slack customer channels can help enhance the efficiency of your support process. It allows you to:

  1. Centrally manage customer requests: Monitor the status of each customer inquiry, mark them resolved upon completion, and easily locate unresolved requests.
  2. Establish Service Level Agreements (SLAs): Set alerts for new or unanswered customer queries and ensure they are routed to the appropriate agents.
  1. Configure business hours and automatic responses: Define operational hours and create automated messages to inform customers when support staff is unavailable, ensuring requests are acknowledged even during non-business hours.

2. Reduce Noise on Customer Slack Channels

As Slack becomes more common for customer support, setting rules for proper use can be difficult. Customers might accidentally fill the channel with small questions, causing continuous interruptions and making it hard to focus. In the long run, focusing on less important issues isn't practical.

So, how can we make sure Slack channels are used only for important communication?

The answer is to create clear guidelines for using customer chat channels correctly. Although the details of these rules depend on each situation, we've listed some simple suggestions below that can help:

  1. Establish Usage Rules: Arrive at a common understanding with customers to reserve Slack for high-priority communication. Examples can be issues around onboarding and integrations, important product and service issues or requirements, or coordination around important events like downtimes.
  2. File Tickets: If you have a dedicated ticketing system (like Zendesk, Salesforce, Freshdesk, etc.), direct your customers first to submit support tickets wherever possible—pin links to the ticketing portal on the customer chat room.
  3. KBs and Documentation Come First: Encourage customers to refer to knowledge bases and documentation before contacting the team on Slack to find immediate answers to common or straightforward technical questions.
  4. Implement a Triage Process: Encourage admins to evaluate and triage customer requests so the support and product teams can better focus on their core responsibilities - resolving customer issues and evolving the product - rather than dealing with a high volume of direct customer communication, which can disrupt workflow.
  5. Keep Channel Membership Fluid but Limited: Limit the number of users who are permanent members of the Slack Connect channels. The large volume of end-user support requests and queries will make limiting communication to important topics even harder.

Using ClearFeed, customer requests in Slack channels can easily be transformed into support tickets with just a single click when needed.

Additionally, it features an integrated automatic answering module that can be set up to respond to customer requests. This module searches existing knowledge bases and documentation to provide relevant suggestions, effectively reducing the workload for customer-facing teams.

3. Keep Track of Customer Deliverables

Remembering important tasks from chat rooms can be tricky; we often forget them quickly! Because of this, one of the top tips is to write down these important tasks somewhere safe. This way, you can return and handle them when you have time. Doing this helps you remember things better and keeps your work organized. Here are a few Slack features that can help you do that:

‍3.1. Use Slack Reminders and Save Later functions

With Slack, you can automatically track important tasks and deliverables for your support team. Slack's reminders and Later functionality help you keep track of critical tasks so you can focus on getting things done. You can:

  1. Send reminders for upcoming events, such as meetings and deadlines
  2. Recurring tasks — like sending a weekly report or checking in with a customer — that you want to keep on track
  3. Get notified when a task is due or overdue
  4. Follow-up reminders for customer interactions and get a heads-up before things slip through the cracks

ClearFeed has advanced features that automatically detect customer requests and can remind agents about their commitments. It can interpret the customer's tone, automatically determining the request's priority level. This eliminates the need for users to manually track and set reminders for each request.

3.2. Integrations

Slack integrates with various tools, including customer relationship management (CRM) systems, engineering escalation tools, and ticketing systems. These integrations can greatly assist teams in tracking customer deliverables and enhancing overall customer experience:

CRM Integrations

  1. Salesforce: Salesforce for Slack integrates CRM data into your workflows. In Slack, you can search Salesforce records or receive automatic notifications about opportunities, leads, and more changes.
  2. HubSpot: With this integration, your team can create and view HubSpot tickets to track customer emails and tasks within Slack.

Engineering Escalation Tools

  1. PagerDuty: This escalation platform integrates with Slack to provide real-time alerts about high-priority incidents. It ensures that critical issues are addressed promptly, improving customer experience.
  2. Jira Cloud: This is a popular tool for handling software development tasks, including bug tracking. Slack's Jira Cloud integration allows teams to create, link, and move Jira issues directly from Slack.

Ticketing System Integrations

  1. Zendesk: Zendesk and Slack integration lets you create, view, and update Zendesk tickets directly from Slack, keeping track of customer deliverables.
  2. Freshdesk: Freshdesk's integration with Slack enables the team to receive instant ticket updates, keeping customer deliverables on point.

ClearFeed offers extensive integration with various CRM platforms, engineering escalation tools, and ticketing systems, including Zendesk, Salesforce, and Jira.

Within Slack, customers know their issue has been converted into a ticket and is being addressed. Transparently keeping customers informed of ticket updates within Slack allows them to stay in the loop and manage their support requests, such as closing, reopening, or escalating tickets, directly from the platform itself. 

4. Prioritize Premium Customers

Here's how to implement these strategies and leverage Slack for premium and phase-specific customer support:

  1. Slack for Premium Support: As part of your premium customer support strategy, Slack-based support gives customers direct access to instant help. This might include personalized attention, faster response times, and proactive outreach. To implement this, you can create a private Slack channel for each premium client where they can post their queries or issues and get instant support.
  1. Slack During the Onboarding Phase: By providing Slack support during onboarding, you can help resolve initial setup or usage queries and build a strong relationship with the clients. This might include:
  1. Providing step-by-step onboarding assistance
  2. Offering quick bug fixes or workaround solutions
  3. Conducting real-time onboarding webinars or Slack-based tutorials.

You can create temporary Slack channels that are active during the onboarding phase.

  1. Multiple Slack Channels for Different Users: If you wish to support all customers via Slack, create separate channels for different user groups. This might include a channel for end-users to resolve general issues or for key stakeholders to discuss high-level project matters or strategic concerns.

With systems like ClearFeed, managing customer Slack rooms can become easier and more efficient. It adds scalability to your customer channels by prioritizing premium customers. For example, you can:

  1. Categorize customer channels into collections based on priority, deal stage, or geography.
  2. Direct requests from different Slack channels into separate queues, or 'triage channels.'

5. Keep Channel Membership Fluid

Customers often appreciate the direct interaction with developers and product managers, as it gives them unique insights into the product and often allows for quicker problem resolution. It allows them to cut through different communication layers and speak directly to those with the highest knowledge about a product or service.

We recommend encouraging your customers to adopt similar practices in their Slack channels to take full advantage of this. This is particularly useful in cases where product integrations are complex. By facilitating direct communication between all stakeholders, complicated issues can be efficiently dealt with.

Triage channels provided by ClearFeed effectively address customer support challenges by offering a private view of threads on customer channels, allowing for easy, private comments. Additionally, it eliminates the need for employees to join and constantly leave a growing number of customer channels. Instead, they can focus on working within a more manageable set of triage channels, enhancing productivity and organization.

6. Measure What Matters

Slack, while convenient, can present challenges when it comes to customer service metrics and performance measurement. Tracking request volume, monitoring open requests, and evaluating individual support team members' performance can become difficult within Slack.

ClearFeed assists your team in managing numerous incoming requests and keeping track of vital service metrics. This ultimately enables you to gather valuable insights into your support team's overall performance and identify areas for improvement in addressing customer concerns. You can measure:

  1. Number of requests and messages,
  2. Time to first response and closure time,
  3. Percentage of SLA breached, and more

7. Proactive Communication 

The interactive nature of Slack makes it an exceptional tool for immediate customer feedback and clarification inquiries in response to announcements. Here are a few examples of using the tool:

  1. Release Notifications: Sharing updates about the launch of new features and bug fixes can keep your customers informed and excited about the evolution of your service or product.
  2. Maintenance Notifications: Informing customers about scheduled maintenance can help them plan their work accordingly and manage their expectations.
  3. Event Invitations: Chat rooms on Slack are also a perfect place to share invitations to company and industry events, encouraging participation and fostering a sense of community.

These communication strategies ensure customers are always up to date and promote transparency and trust between your company and your customer base. However, Slack lacks built-in tools for bulk announcements. This is where solutions like ClearFeed come into play. It allows users to:

Wrapping Up

You can use Slack to manage every step of your customer support process. From sending automated or manual messages to prioritizing your workload and creating efficient processes with seamless integrations, Slack can help you handle incoming tickets faster and more smoothly. That said, you'll reap the benefits down the line with increased productivity with ClearFeed. Book a demo here to learn more about us.

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