Customer Support

4 ways shared channels keep customers and partners connected

As businesses work remotely amid Covid-19, top-notch customer support remains critical

shared channels customer support hero two people communicating
Image Credit: Abbey Lossing

In a competitive business environment, it’s not enough to build and ship exceptional software. Customers—from individuals to enterprises—expect to see next-level customer support included in the package.

And amid the Covid-19 pandemic, chief information officers need to “engage customers and partners via digital channels to maintain relations,” according to a new report by Gartner*, a research and advisory firm. That engagement includes utilizing digital collaboration tools to stay connected with external parties while working remotely.

“This [outbreak] is a wake-up call for organizations that focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience,” write the report’s authors. “Organizations that can rebalance business priorities and technology investment are in a much better position to capture future growth.”

Innovative software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, from cloud edge technology to financial services, have already been paving the way in this regard using tools like Slack shared channels—a feature that connects two independent organizations in the same Slack workspace so they can share messages, tools and files in a single Slack channel. Here’s how four different SaaS companies are already using Slack shared channels to provide speedy customer support.

“Shared channels allow our customers to collaborate with the people they need, whether or not they work for the same organization.”

Darren Chait
Hugo’s co-founder and chief operating officer

Hugo

Helping distributed teams build stronger customer relationships

Hugo aims to redefine “meeting culture” by offering sharable, actionable meeting note software that connects teams. For an organization that builds products for more collaborative teamwork and communication, adopting Slack was an obvious choice, according to Darren Chait, Hugo’s co-founder and chief operating officer.

“If you use Slack, it shows that you value transparency and sharing information as well as an open, collaborative way of working,” Chait says.

Slack’s shared channels feature allows people at Hugo to work with partners, contractors and agencies in the same way they do with in-house colleagues, broadening the definition of teamwork at the company.

“Typically you’d say, ‘A team is comprised of people I work with that have the same W-9 employer.’ But that’s no longer the case,” says Chait. “Now you might work with agencies, contractors, consultants, other companies, partners, partner relationships. You’re all on one team, even though we don’t work for the same company.”

Communicating in shared channels has also sped up collaboration between Hugo’s distributed team members and their core team, which in turn frees up time for building stronger relationships with their customers. Through Hugo’s Slack integration, the Hugo team shares notes from customer meetings with contractors and agency partners in shared channels, enabling partners to understand the customer in the same way in-house employees can.

Iress

Reducing the customer support ticket backlog

Based in Melbourne, Australia, Iress is a financial services platform that serves half a million global users and 9,000 businesses. It provides customized advice on navigating mortgage processes, trading on global markets and optimizing retirement savings.

Before shared channels, Iress used email and phone calls for resolving customer support issues. Vlad Lutschenkow, a product specialist team lead, says he received about 500 emails a day. Messages inevitably slipped through the cracks, and less-urgent tasks were overlooked.

Then Iress connected its platform team and customer support team in an internal shared channel called #client_priority. This channel includes more than 100 team members who are able to respond and resolve critical client issues. Since adopting shared channels, Lutschenkow’s team has cut the average response time for complex customer issues from eight days to two, creating a 64% drop in their backlog of customer support tickets.

“We reduced the support ticket backlog by hundreds, and Slack played a role in that,” says Kelly Fisk, Iress’s head of communications.

Iress also uses shared channels to communicate directly with clients, answer software-related queries, and proactively post information about new products and alerts.

Fastly

Boosting rapid customer service and response times

Fastly is responsible for keeping its customers’ applications, data and content online 24/7. The platform also reduces lag times between servers so that content loads quickly for visitors, an important service for customers such as BuzzFeed, the New York Times and Vimeo.

As part of its premium support package for enterprise customers, Fastly includes a Slack shared channel to speed up communication between customers and the support team. With shared channels, the team can flag and address potential problems quickly before they become serious issues.

kim ogletree fastly slack shared channels

“With Slack, we can see activity almost instantly, triage events if needed, determine the severity, then pull other people in. All in real time.”

Kim Ogletree
Fastly’s vice president of customer success

For example, if customers experience an unexpected wave of traffic, they can @mention their Fastly point of contact or type @support in their shared Slack channel.

“You actually see people come into the channel and start participating,” says Kami Richey, Fastly’s director of customer experience. “Whereas in an email thread, a lot of that’s done out of sight of the customer.”

It’s not enough to simply fix problems, though. Fastly knows it’s important to debrief and assess processes, protocols and customer feedback to identify areas of improvement for future issues. After incidents, Ogletree personally reaches out to customers in Slack shared channels to ensure that the product team understands the full issue scope and has a plan of attack in case it occurs again.

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Zendesk

Connecting customers with partners for next-level collaboration

Serving up exceptional customer support is the name of the game for Zendesk. As a customer relationship management (CRM) software platform, the company cultivates relationships between organizations and the customers they serve.

Zendesk’s offerings include its Partner Program, which provides businesses with tools and support to create new revenue opportunities with existing clients, acquire new customers, build apps, and more. Mike Yakovlev, Zendesk’s manager of technology alliances, uses shared channels to connect with the more than 50 partnerships he facilitates at a time. He compares relying primarily on email, before Slack, to communicating via “carrier pigeons.”

“I live in Slack all day, every day. It’s my source of truth for all communication, internal and external,” Yakovlev says.

Kelly Ryan, a strategic account executive at Zendesk, describes how the company uses Slack’s shared channels to match partners with customers. When a customer asked her team about training software, Ryan knew just the partner: Lessonly. She used shared channels to bring together the two organizations.

“I’m building credibility by recommending the best partner to our customer and giving the partner a business opportunity,” Ryan says.

Striving for the best customer service has benefits for every SaaS organization: better communication between businesses and customers, as well as better internal communication between teams. By connecting organizations and customers in the same Slack workspace, shared channels remove information silos, increase efficiency and nurture the sense that everyone’s part of one team.

*Gartner, Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak: Short- and Long-Term Actions for CIOs, 4 March 2020, Sandy Shen, Owen Chen, Julian Sun, Lily Mok, Arnold Gao, Deacon D.K Wan

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