Customer success in Slack is defined by high-touch, personalized relationships. But that doesn't mean it has to be automated by bots – or eliminated altogether – for your team to scale.
Many teams (ourselves included) believe that Slack is a better experience for customers – speedier, more personalized, and collaborative. The challenge, of course, is that your internal team's experience might not feel quite as delightful: as your Slack channels grow, so do the notifications, mix-ups, and a long list of uncategorized tasks.
The ultimate goal of scaling is about enabling your team to do more with less. In this piece, we talk about scaling customer success in Slack without having to linearly increase your team's size or amount of manual work. Though using these tactics won’t solve every pain in the process, we believe it will make scaling customer Slack channels significantly more effective at almost any org.
One note: we believe it's most useful to focus on the scaling portions of customer success once you've exceeded about two dozen Slack channels across the team. Tips here might still be useful if you have fewer customers in Slack, but chances are – if that's you – you're still in the very early days of experimenting with processes and may not want to scale the earliest version of those right away.
Let's get into it 🥁
Slack channels with customers often spans several activities:
- Onboarding and implementation
- Responsive support for escalated or complex issues
- Personal 1-1 or 1-to-few relationship management
- Proactive announcements and updates
As we've shared, the reason why Slack is so powerful is because these activities work together to create stickier relationships with customers. As you scale, and when it is no longer viable for one person to handle all of these activities, it becomes even more important to proactively plan across different functions and stages.
1. Set customer expectations for implementation vs support
One of the first and most important thing you can do is to define the kind of engagement customers can expect in Slack, particularly during and after implementation phase.
Why this matters
- Because teams often start working with customers in the implementation phase, customers can easily assume that they'll have immediate responsiveness in perpetuity within Slack, and therefore use Slack in favor of other support channels.
- Slack might be the fastest place for your customers to ask questions, but at scale, it isn't actually the fastest place for those questions to be solved. And solving customer problems is what matters. In many cases, your team might already have ready-to-go resources and self-guides that can help customers out – or other support channels where your team is able to get to questions more quickly.
How to set healthy customer expectations for Slack
- Make the inclusion of Slack channels part of your sales pitch, and frame this around what the benefits of Slack channels are. For instance, framing the benefits of Slack as onboarding and product feedback focused will help the customer orient the purpose of Slack with collaborative, less transactional needs.
- While framing benefits of Slack, also provide support pathways and channels alongside Slack, so that customers know that they have many resources to help them (not just the Slack channel!) Customers will gravitate towards resources that can solve their problems most quickly, so the more prescriptive you can be around what channel to use for what kinds of questions, the better. For instance, you may have a developer community forum that is fastest as a front-line for technical questions – champion these offerings and pathways to your customer as part of the package alongside Slack.
- Provide access to the support channel or process within Slack. It's only natural that from time to time, your customers may forget what the support process looks like and default to asking support-type questions in Slack. In these scenarios, resolve the issue in Slack and give your customer a friendly reminder that there are additional support channels that can help them as well.
✨ If you have a helpdesk like Zendesk or Intercom, Channeled can help you instantly route flagged Slack support messages to your primary helpdesk while giving your customers a seamless experience in Slack – learn more about that here. ✨
- Finally, make sure your goals for the channel are aligned with your customer's goals. It's great that you want to make Slack a high-engagement channel for customers, but if your customer fundamentally ONLY wants a transactional support channel with little ongoing discussion or interaction, make sure Slack is really the right medium for supporting that customer (👋 we think Channeled can help you scale this), or tell them how alternative, non-Slack channels help them (not you!)
2. Standardize channel creation and management
We all remember the time you should have been added to a highly relevant Slack channel a long time ago, but alas – you didn't even know it existed! As your team grows, and as your customer Slack channels expand, shared visibility to which Slack channels have been created, what state they're in, and who's responsible for them will become increasingly important.
Why this matters
- Nothing signals chaos and disorganization more to external customers than clear proof of mixed or broken wires happening inside internal teams – so it's extra important that your team is aligned on what customer channels have been created and which channels are mapped to which owners. Without this step, it becomes much harder to scale coverage and engagement as individual team members move into new roles or go on PTO.
How to standardize channel creation and management
- If you haven't done so yet, standardize the criteria for Slack channel creation. Don't default to assuming that every customer gets a Slack channel; this may make sense for some teams, but go through the critical exercise of asking whether and when Slack makes the most sense for building relationships and maximizing success. We've found that for us, Slack channels make the most sense when 1) there is significant lift for customers in the implementation period and 2) there is long-term potential to expand the relationship in the organization. (We write more about that here, by the way!)
- Set a standard naming convention for shared Slack channels with customers. As your team grows, this will make finding – and engaging – the right channels easier and easier. We recommend a format like #c-[customer name] for active customers, #p-[customer name] for any pilots, and #v-[vendor name] for any vendors.
- Leverage tools to automate and track channel creation. There are many ways to automatically create Slack channels with your customers – Zapier might be the simplest method – but you can also build a nifty little app to do this using Slack's API if one of your developers is down for an afternoon project. In this automated flow, you can also build steps for logging the created channel back into your CRM – or even a basic spreadsheet. Doing this will save your sales reps time, and more importantly, it will give your team control and visibility in tracking which channels have and haven't been created.
3. Give Product & Marketing teams ownership over scaled product updates, vs. 1-1 relationship engagement
As teams and customers grow, Customer Success Managers (CSMs) carry the burden of staying on top of customer requests, nurturing individual relationships, and sharing relevant updates with the right customers and the right time. An important step in being able to scale the kind of high-quality engagement that CSMs want to focus on is shifting ownership of product-related updates and announcements to your Marketing or Product teams.
Why this matters
- Unifying ownership for product updates and announcements helps the team present information much more consistently and regularly. Doing this – instead of relying on individual CSMs to copy-post-wait in their individual channels – will also make it much easier for the same team to collectively track who has gotten key product updates, what follow-up questions there were, and who's responded.
- As an added benefit to doing this, when Product & Marketing teams are responsible for posting in customer Slack channels, they also gain a much closer understanding of what features excite and matter to stakeholders. This kind of ownership and understanding is often lost as companies grow, in large part because Product & Marketing teams lose proximity to what customers are engaged with.
How to standardize product and marketing announcements
- Create a shared channel or regular meeting to review content ideas to share with customer channels. Oftentimes, it can be helpful to collect these in a shared channel like #cs-draft-updates across CSMs, Product, and Marketing so that the team can provide input on what customers care about and what updates may not be relevant.
- Leverage in-house or external tools for scaling the delivery of content to channels. There are many Slack apps that can help you post customer engagement across 1-to-many channels (hint hint 👋), but you can also build in-house bots and apps that similarly deliver messages to customer channels.
✨ Channeled can help teams instantly broadcast 1-to-many personalized messages and track engagement in one place. Learn more about broadcast functionality by giving us a shout below! ✨
- Don't position Slack first and foremost as a support channel for customers to reach your team. Instead, set expectations for Slack as a collaborative channel for implementation and partnership, and provide your customer additional resources that will help them get faster day-to-day support.
- When you do get support questions in Slack channels, help the customer with their ask (don't divert them to another channel – you've just made their day a little harder!) but do remind them that there's a more helpful set of resources that can consistently provide faster support – whether that be your community, your helpdesk, etc. etc.
- Don't rely on individual team members to create their own process for making Slack channels for customers, leading to inconsistent expectations, tracking, and visibility in channels. Instead, create a team-wide criteria for when Slack channels do and don't make sense to be created, and centralize organization for tracking which Slack channels have and haven't been created.
- Unify and standardize product updates so that they come from Product & Marketing, and make the process a collaborative one where Customer Success has visibility and input on the updates that will be shared with customers. That way, you achieve the best of both worlds: insight on the right messaging for customers at the right time; consistent voice and branding for company-wide announcements; and processes to keep Product close to the voice of the customer on a regular basis.