How Nordstrom and Zendesk use Slack to wow their customers

Catch the highlights from Slack’s 2019 Frontiers session on delivering a top-notch customer experience with connected teams

Ali Rayl of Slack, China Scroggins of Nordstrom and Jonathan Brummel of Zendesk talk customer service at Slack’s Frontiers conference.
Image Credit: Claudine Gossett

A survey by research firm Gartner found that 89% of U.S. companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience. That number surely came as no surprise to our customer service panel at Slack’s recent Frontiers conference.

Panelists for the Unlocking Better Customer Service with Faster, Connected Teams session included China Scroggins, an operations manager for customer care at Nordstrom, and Jonathan Brummel, Zendesk’s senior manager of premier support. Anyone familiar with the two companies will recognize them as exemplars of customer service. Nordstrom, a 118-year-old clothing retailer, has become synonymous with excellence in customer care. And Zendesk, a customer service software company, is quite literally in the business of providing timely support.

Together with Ali Rayl, Slack’s VP of Customer Experience, Scroggins and Brummel discussed how Slack helps them spot problems, identify solutions and delight their customers.

Aligning distributed teams at Nordstrom

Alongside its flagship stores, Nordstrom owns a handful of other brands, including HauteLook and Trunk Club, which are available both online and in store. Meanwhile, the company’s customer service workforce is distributed across several countries, so keeping everyone on message and up to date is key. That’s where Slack comes in.

When policy changes occur at Nordstrom, headquarters relies on core communication channels in Slack to disseminate that news to all their agents at once. Slack also helps the company train its staff—team channels let agents connect quickly and share best practices with new employees. And for distributed teams, Slack’s great at making people feel like they belong. According to Scroggins:

“Imagine having 70% of your team, as a supervisor, working from home—the one thing they may feel is excluded: ‘Where is my supervisor? How do I get that face-to-face interaction?’ And so what we did is make sure that every supervisor develops into their daily routine a one-on-one Slack Call to get themselves in front of that agent to make sure that they can role play, that they can have great conversations about how to serve that customer, and that they still feel included in the workforce.”

Proactively solving problems at Zendesk

At Zendesk, customer service teams face the challenge of supporting multiple products across a wide range of customers. The company was previously using several collaboration tools, each with its own steep learning curve. Zendesk later opted to use Slack to bring everything into one easy-to-use space, shared by all.

For its largest customers, Zendesk has a dedicated premier support team that uses automated monitors and alerts to report problems—often before customers are aware of them. And when support requests do come in, they’re posted in a Slack channel with details about the issue. The support team uses reactions to communicate that someone is looking at an issue, working on it or has completed the work.

Zendesk has even built its own bot called Sharebert, which helps the company spot knowledge gaps in its documentation. Whenever discussions cover topics that aren’t documented anywhere, team members can flag messages with a reaction. Those messages are picked up by a script. Later, Zendesk’s knowledge management team can sift through submissions and figure out which items are worth adding to the knowledge base.

For Brummel, streamlining communication in Slack has freed up agents to do what they do best: connect with the customer. As he puts it:

“I want to take the load off my agents. I really believe that a brain is for solving problems and a warm heart is for having a conversation and helping people. Filing a report at the end of the week and doing all this other stuff is tedious, and none of us want that. The beauty of Slack has really been in the little interactions. It’s allowed me to take an asynchronous and multicontinental experience and put the warm human interaction back into it.”

Improving the customer experience with Slack

At Nordstrom and Zendesk, the benefits of Slack are clear. The longer their teams use Slack, the more they build up a searchable archive that employees, including new hires, can refer to and learn from. And real-time communication means teams can adapt to any situation that might spring up and act swiftly to resolve issues.

Slack also enables cross-team communication, so that customer support agents can talk directly to colleagues in sales or engineering to meet their customers’ needs. And finally, they can close the feedback loop: Bringing tickets, live chats and resolutions into Slack means everyone can follow issues from start to finish—and pinpoint areas to improve the customer experience.

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Slack is the collaboration hub, where the right people are always in the loop and key information is always at their fingertips. Teamwork in Slack happens in channels — searchable conversations that keep work organized and teams better connected.