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slack on slack

How channels bring our product and support teams closer together

Learn how tight partnerships and processes between Slack’s CE and product teams make for more satisfied customers

Author: Hairol MaDecember 21st, 2020Illustration by Pete Ryan

At Slack, our customer experience (CE) team believes that customers are an integral part of the development process, which is why CE is strategically situated within the product organization.

The tight partnership creates a loop of continuous improvement. CE teams ensure that the customer voice is heard and valued during the development process. And when product teams ship improvements, CE is better positioned to help customers learn and adopt new features and, in turn, collect more invaluable feedback.

Slack is the collaborative space where this cycle thrives. Working in channels alongside integrations with ticketing tools like Zendesk empowers our team to pinpoint a piece of customer feedback and roll out a new feature. And the best news—your team can do the same.

Elevating our customer voice

The product specialists at Slack have an important responsibility: to be the voice of the customer. What exactly does that entail? As members of the CE team, they act as mediators between support and product, sending customer feedback directly to product teams and relaying high-impact bugs to the engineering teams. Of course, there’s a lot of nuance to each of these tasks. Which bugs, for example, are the product specialists capable of troubleshooting themselves, and which do they escalate to engineering? How do product specialists spot customer feedback that could lead to the improvement of an existing feature?

Determine what needs attention by filtering data

Each product specialist monitors activity in a designated channel corresponding to their product area of expertise, like #messaging-prioritization or #enterprise-prioritization. These channels are collaborative spaces that often include CE agents, engineers, product managers, program managers and more. That means increased visibility of any issues that should be escalated to engineering.

As with most companies, our team relies on data warehouses to store and surface backend data. That information is filtered and automatically piped into the prioritization channels, which helps product specialists find the signal in the noise.

Slack analytics message bug report

The data in these dashboards is pulled from Zendesk, Jira and Idiomatic, a sentiment-tracking tool. This gives the specialist a targeted view of trending bugs, as well as updates on which bugs are currently being tackled by the product team. For example, if an irregular spike of negative bias toward messaging formatting is observed, the specialist can send a direct ping in the channel. The appropriate responders, such as engineers and product managers, can start hashing out ideas for improvements right there in a neatly organized message thread.

A message about a bug shared from CE

“The data warehouse alerts get people to start really paying attention to the trends that we see from our customers,” says Ruth Baril, the product specialist on messaging at Slack. “It’s this very healthy cycle. Our product teams ask for help, we give it to them. We ask for help, they give it to us, and we trust each other.”

Getting agents up to speed on the latest and greatest product changes

Pulling off a fast-paced product launch schedule while maintaining customer satisfaction requires a lot of coordination, and not simply from the product teams. Our product change enablement (PCE) initiative builds a bridge between our CE and product teams by gathering frontline customer experience agents to track and collaborate with engineering partners on product releases and schedules.

“It was coming to the point where anyone at CE could be handling a launch any day,” says Brian Richards, a CE agent at Slack. “Product change enablement has allowed us to handle launches at scale.”

Even smaller launches—like the aforementioned drafts—go through rigorous internal testing, customer focus groups and additional feedback cycles to ensure that we’re releasing the best possible product for our customers. Each of these phases only grows in importance as our customer base scales. To that end, here are three ways our product and CE teams lean on Slack to stay in lockstep.

1. Consolidate conversations with product partners using Workflow Builder

An automated message about an upcoming product change

Before a launch or experiment, a product manager can head over to #ce-product-change-enablement, where they can fill out a form with Workflow Builder, a no-code tool for automating routine tasks in Slack. This will include all key information for their launch, such as the product area, a brief description, project channels, and the points of contact. Any subsequent updates or conversations can happen in the thread, so any changes are clearly documented and easily searchable in Slack. As tasks are completed, agents check things off directly in each thread.

“This gives us the lead time that we need to prepare everything for a smooth launch,” says Richards. “The product managers will also let us know where we should be looking for additional updates.”

If a customer is wondering when a specific feature will be available, another agent can easily find all the relevant information by searching in Slack.

2. Prioritize behind the scenes with Asana and channels

One of the main goals of PCE is to communicate with product partners in a single, unified voice. That means our CE teams need their own spaces to plan and align before bringing any conversations into public project channels.

Asana and its handy integration with Slack helps our CE teams prioritize, manage and track all launch-related tasks, whether getting details about the timeline or specific macros on Zendesk.

In the private team channel, core members of the PCE team draft and collaborate on announcements, supporting documentation and customer-facing language. They also post updates and flag any possible issues that might require escalation.

“Seeing how the sausage is made doesn’t necessarily benefit our product development partners,” says Richards. “We prefer to do most of our work in Asana and private channels before reaching out to them with any questions or updates.” That way, the threads in #ce-product-change-enablement are kept clean and focused.

3. Organize post-launch information in threads

When a product or feature is officially out in the world, it’s celebrated with a post in a broad announcement channel like #released or #released-minor. A CE agent will follow up in a thread with a supporting document that lives in Guru, an internal knowledge base that can be searched in Slack using a quick /guru command.

This resource covers all the post-launch bases, from how tickets should be triaged, additional contacts and relevant project channels, frequently asked questions from customers, and more. When any updates from product partners are posted to the original thread in #released, like how a launch performed or an adjusted rollout date, the CE agent will be notified and can update the Guru card accordingly.

The CE team also creates a custom emoji for every launch, so doing a search in Slack for messages containing the designated emoji will pull up any pertinent information.

While these companywide channels are great for visibility, they’re too crowded a forum for questions and feedback from CE. In team channels like #ce-core-product-experiments-and-launches, CE agents can call attention to post-launch details like potential friction points, known issues, ticket volume trends, and more.

Go ahead, our DMs are open

Our customers make our product better, and we don’t take that lightly. The tight processes and partnerships between our product and CE teams are ultimately in pursuit of one thing: giving our customers the best Slack experience possible.

So send us a ticket or a Tweet about something you’d like to see—we’re listening.

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