"I just don't know how we're going to keep doing this."
My friend was halfway sighing, halfway frowning. We had barely gotten 5 minutes into our 1-1, and she'd been pulled into another customer Slack channel for the seventh time that week. The follow-ups were becoming harder to track, and she had resorted to sprinkling her work-from-home desk with a wreath of Post-its. New customer Slack channels seemed to be popping up overnight, catching her off-guard and making it hard for her to prioritize.
Slack is where many of us increasingly spend our entire day, especially across Product & Engineering. Slack makes it faster to discuss, share updates, or jump on a call if anything needs to be reviewed on the fly. And those same benefits apply to working with external Product and Engineering teams – especially if they happen to be your customers – making it faster to move through implementation, receive feedback, and ensure individual users are getting value.
But, as we all know, the benefits of Slack come with bad habits and tradeoffs. Information in Slack can be hard to sort, organize, and track. To make matters worse, behaviors in Slack are often inconsistent across different organizations, making it especially difficult to set healthy expectations and scale success with external customers.
Part of the reason customer success is challenging in Slack is because it's not "just" another communication channel for support – it's a different way of working with customers entirely.
In this series, we break down what customer success in Slack is, why it matters, and how to scale it:
- Defining customer success in Slack
- Should you use Slack with customers or not?
- How to scale customer success in Slack (and keep your sanity)
Defining customer success in Slack
With many teams starting out in Slack from day 1, startups are quick to launch customer care in Slack without stopping to ask: Why?
Customer success in Slack is a big investment, and it’s a long-term commitment. It should not be taken lightly, and the first step in figuring out how you can make Slack work with customers is determining what it looks like and why it matters.
First, let's define what customer success in Slack isn't:
- Customer success in Slack is not another transactional support channel
- Customer success in Slack is not a way to bypass standardized, scalable customer resources like FAQs or self-serve guides
- Customer success in Slack is not an automatic way to provide white-glove service to "all customers, all the time"
To define customer success in Slack, consider where Slack creates a valuable and differentiated experience: customer relationships.
- Outside of Slack, customer relationships are initiated and driven by you and your team
- Inside Slack, customer relationships are initiated and driven by your customers' teams
This is a subtle but important difference. Traditionally, you've had to personally uncover each new stakeholder within customer organizations. But Slack creates a much lower barrier for your customers' stakeholders to loop in their peers, managers, and other teams.
A simplified way to visualize this is as a loop or network effect, where successful support creates more relationships with customers; more relationships lead to new use cases; and new use cases mature into ongoing need for support.
Where customer success in Slack is valuable
Given our definition above, we can now break down the loop into 3 main levers:
- Engage customer stakeholders in the channel (which leads to more identified use cases)
- Deliver relevant content for the identified use cases (which leads to more customer engagement)
- Provide support/responsiveness from high-value engaged customers (which leads to more customer trust, creating stronger retention for existing users and lowering the barrier for customers to invite additional teammates and stakeholders into the channel)
Where does this loop pay off? As with any strategy, it's important to determine where the efforts to implement Slack with customers will yield meaningful results.
Customer success in Slack becomes valuable when...
1️⃣ There an implementation or rollout component 👟
Slack helps you be available during the most critical part of your customer’s engagement with your product – their first impression – giving your team the strongest opportunity to shorten time-to-value by being hands-on and proactive.
2️⃣ There is customization or complexity in the setup process 🧰
The collaborative nature of Slack channels are particularly useful if there are areas of customization in the setup process – and even more so if your customer’s implementers (an IT, management, or engineering team, for instance) aren’t the direct day-to-day end users.
Why is Slack particularly helpful in these scenarios? Departments who are part of the setup process for other teams aren’t in the product regularly, minimizing the likelihood that they’ll use in-app product support. And because they’re often configuring for others, self-serve onboarding is less applicable for their needs.
3️⃣ Growth happens through expanded adoption internally👯
The key benefit of being in Slack (or Teams) with your customers is that it's much easier for your users to invite their stakeholders and peers into the channel and to introduce your solution to them. This can be incredibly valuable if you're looking to expand your internal footprint within a customer.
4️⃣ Your customers are almost exclusively on Slack at work 👀
Ultimately, the best tools and automations in the world don't work if they enable you to speak to your customers in their language directly. If Slack is where your users or key stakeholders show up and speak up, not reaching them in shared Slack channels is a missed opportunity for revenue and relationship growth.
- First and foremost, customer success in Slack is a way to scale relationships with customers, not a default helpdesk.
- Slack helps you achieve customer success in two ways: one, by creating a highly accessible place for building trust through thoughtful implementation and support; and two, by lowering the barrier for customers to evangelize your product to their peers as that trust expands.
- Doing this is increasingly important for B2B software teams seeking to grow adoption with their customers through bottom-up or land-and-expand motions, where their users or implementation stakeholders are technical (and therefore Slack-heavy).
Ready to implement Slack with customers?
Read this next: An operator's guide to scaling customer success in Slack.