Sales

Slack on Slack: How we build customer relationships with shared channels

The Slack sales team opens their playbook for sharing updates, swarming questions and collecting feedback

Two birds sharing a common nest
Image Credit: Robert Samuel Hanson

As in most companies, Slack’s sales team spends as much time as they can working directly with customers. Once a deal is official, our professional services team will connect a shared channel to help the customer move their work into Slack. This is often the same channel where their dedicated customer success manager (CSM) continues to lend guidance and resources as the customer’s team and usage grow.

Shared channels allow teams in different organizations to use Slack together as easily and productively as they do internally, without anyone having to leave the tool they use most often. When you use shared channels to connect with customers, you can seamlessly relay updates, give easy access to support, and keep lines of feedback open. Here’s how we do it at Slack.

Work hand in hand, in real time

Using a shared channel together with customers can be asynchronous, where it might take a few hours to get a firm answer to a specific question, but it can also happen in real time when required. In either case, those conversations take place in a singular space rather than unconnected emails and phone calls.

Like any other channel in your Slack workspace, if a shared channel is public, anyone in the company can join or leave it. If it’s private, anyone can be invited in. Each side is able to select the setting (public or private) that works best for them.

Brian Merz, senior customer success manager, Slack

“With a shared channel, I can invite a teammate in before I’m headed out-of-office so the customer has continuity of coverage from a CSM who instantaneously has access to our full history.”

Brian Merz
Senior customer success manager, Slack

This ability to pull in others with a quick @mention means that when a customer wants to discuss a new integration or transition a business workflow into Slack, the account team can add someone from our technical team to walk them through it. Similarly, when large annual contracts are being negotiated, leadership can join in to help broker deals and then leave the channel once contracts are signed.

All along the way, the people coming and going are also seeing the entire history of the business relationship, by simply scrolling back through the shared channel’s previous discussions and decisions before they joined.

Shared channels vs. guest accounts

The experience of shared channels is similar to that of regular workspace channels. You can use apps and reminders in shared channels, as well as invite other members into a shared channel when they’re needed. Guest accounts have a few limitations: no direct use of apps or reminders and, most notably, every new guest added to a channel has to be approved by a Slack owner or admin.

Roll out the red carpet for new features

Our customer success team uses shared channels to give customers a heads-up whenever major new features in Slack are about to come out. CSMs will post about upcoming changes along with previews of the feature to make sure the customer’s IT team knows ahead of time any settings they’ll need to adjust. Anyone from the customer company can start a discussion thread to ask detailed questions and get advice on how to deploy new features in their workspace.

Meghan Haenn, senior customer success manager, Slack

“I’d have more meetings if we relied strictly on email. Every set of new features would also be a presentation I’d have to give each customer individually—instead, it all happens in a shared channel.”

Meghan Haenn
Senior customer success manager, Slack

Encourage, collect and distribute feedback

Many of the improvements we make to Slack come from customer feedback, and we use Workflow Builder, a tool for automating routine processes in Slack, to gather this valuable input from customers in shared channels. Customers can submit descriptions of their biggest pain points, and our sales team takes that intel back to our engineering team, who in turn use it to inform their future roadmaps.

 

We also use Workflow Builder to capture customer use cases, which detail how Slack made a process more efficient or is having another positive effect on their business. Once submitted, these are shared inside Slack’s sales organization.

Shared channels also support using other apps in Slack, even those that the other side doesn’t have installed. For example, if your customer relies on the Outlook app for Slack to import emails into a channel, and your employees tend to use Google Drive to share their documents, spreadsheets and presentations, neither side needs to change its workflow, and all those documents end up in the same shared channel.

Daryl O'Genski, customer success manager, Slack

“Workflow Builder lets us set up things similar to autoresponders in a shared channel. Whenever someone from either side joins the channel, they get an automatic message that mentions that Slack employees are in this channel and how to contact us.”

Daryl O’Genski
Customer success manager, Slack

Tips for getting started

When our sales team spins up a shared channel with a customer, the first message (which also gets pinned to the channel) sets expectations, including:

  • Who from Slack is in the channel
  • How best to contact them, e.g., in the channel or by direct message
  • The typical turnaround time for answering questions
  • Ways to escalate urgent matters

We keep a series of introductory message templates based on company size and details of the purchased plan, so that every representative can tailor them specifically to their customer accounts.

Slack’s own sales team genuinely can’t imagine doing their jobs without shared channels. Our customers have seen the benefits as well, so much so that they’re increasingly adopting them to work directly with their own agencies, contractors and firms.

Is your team using shared channels? We’d love to hear your story. Drop us a note at feedback@slack.com or tweet us @SlackHQ.

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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.