2020 has required a great deal of change for all of us, no matter our industry, trade or time zone. And it’s not just the changes themselves that have been difficult; the pace of those changes has been equally unparalleled.
Amid those changes, however, lasting improvements have emerged around worker productivity and satisfaction. This was a key theme at Frontiers, our annual conference (held virtually this year, of course), where leaders from Netflix, Intuit, Stripe and more shared how they’re rising to the challenge and leaning on Slack in a big way. Together, their insights form four lessons on how we can keep our customers supported, our employees connected and our teams productive in these ever-changing, distributed times.
1. Build lasting customer relationships through Slack Connect
When Stripe went remote in March 2020, its sales teams canceled business travel and in-office visits with customers. In its place, teams turned to Slack Connect, the most secure way to work directly with people outside of your company—customers included. For the sales teams at Stripe, this has:
- Replaced many in-person sales meetings with asynchronous communication
- Helped cultivate stronger relationships with customers
- Increased how quickly deals progress from initial calls all the way through signed contracts
“We were launching a new payment method in Japan with (a partner), and we were working out a couple of kinks right before we went live that started on email. After two back-and-forths, we flipped to Slack and within five minutes, we’d actually figured out the issue.”
Sales cycles have shortened thanks to real-time collaboration between customers and account managers in Slack. Contracts are uploaded to Slack and then both sides can hash out details directly in a channel, rather than wrangling schedules and hashing out details in endless emails, calls and meetings.
Stripe’s biggest win with Slack Connect? According to Grosser, it’s onboarding new customers. Integrating Stripe’s API into a customer’s own system often involves writing new code. Today, engineers from either company can solve problems together, in Slack channels, as they make progress in those vital first few weeks.
2. Resolve incidents faster in channels
When a software company provides a service to millions of customers, any downtime can be catastrophic, and customer impacts must be minimized. In fact, a report from IHS, a global information company, estimates that IT downtime costs North American businesses $700 billion a year.
Managing incidents in Slack typically entails creating a new public channel for each incident, inviting people immediately while allowing anyone to join later. As folks enter, Slack can send a default message to newcomers pointing out where things stand and what problems are still left to be addressed. It also means anyone joining the channel can scroll through prior discussions to see what progress has been made and figure out where they can jump in without having to interrupt responders. Incident channels can also act as an interface between incident-tracking tools like Grafana and PagerDuty.
“We’re essentially making Slack a third interface for PagerDuty. So we have our desktop and mobile experience and now Slack. This is huge for teams that basically live in Slack because you can drive PagerDuty actions directly through the Slack UI without wasting time toggling between apps.”
At Netflix, the story is much the same, but it has built its own tool, called Dispatch, to handle it all. This custom bot creates incident channels and tracks them via tickets, and automates updates through slash commands. It’s even open sourced and available to other teams.
3. Connect internal teams to improve customer care
Customer experience is as important as ever in the current climate, and giants of technology, retail, and health care are empowering their customer-facing teams to share knowledge and quickly connect with internal experts through Slack.
At Accent Group Limited, head of customer experience Michelle Yanez-Olivares found that using Slack helped reduce customer wait times and time to resolution, thanks to support staff being able to quickly search Slack for previous similar questions. They also use Slack to communicate between company headquarters and their hundreds of retail outlets around the world, which has cut average response times from five days down to less than 24 hours. In turn, Accent Group’s customer satisfaction score has risen from 58% to over 90%.
Oscar Health has a similar story. There, support agents interact and quickly address thorny problems across three different tiers of support, each in a different channel filled with experts ready to help. As a result, the team has seen big improvements to its resolution times.
“Through Slack, we’ve been able to create a win-win, providing better agility to create better member experiences, at lower costs, at much greater scale.”
For many customer support teams, using Slack means taking what used to be a one-to-one relationship between a customer and an agent on a phone call, and making it one-to-many, as others can pitch in to help in Slack channels.
Many customer support teams, like at Intuit QuickBooks, are building custom apps for Slack to further upskill their agents. One novel example is Quincy, a conversational bot. Through the use of AI and a growing knowledge base, Quincy can answer more than 60% of support agents’ questions, and when stumped, it knows which product champions within the company to direct message for the answer. The app has increased confidence and efficiency in agents and in turn, raised their Net Promoter Score by 12 points.
“What I love about Slack is its flexibility to be integrated with whatever tools we’re using. And basically, Quincy becomes an agent’s assistant. So any question an agent has, they can ask Quincy at any given time, right in Slack.”
4. Stay agile, wherever work happens
While many knowledge workers were forced to quickly pivot to remote work this year, it’s clearly here to stay. Future Forum’s Remote Employee Experience Index survey found that 72% of knowledge workers prefer to work in a mix of home and office locations, and office leads from Comcast, Stanford University and Booz Allen Hamilton project that this will be the case for their own teams in 2021.
Watch the full video above to learn how each of these organizations has historically supported remote work, and how they’re grappling with the rapid shift to mostly/only remote workers. (Hint: Channels are key to keeping everyone on the same page.) Looking forward to 2021, these organizations address the challenge of keeping a level playing field between permanent remote workers and those returning to an office.
“There’s a lot of interest right now in improving our incoming pipeline and trying to diversify that pipeline—getting more candidates from different backgrounds coming into the company. Being able to consider a remote-optional culture is something that will definitely be advantageous in that.”
Keeping customers and employees alike connected with Slack
Keeping customers happy with top-notch service, while keeping employees teams informed, engaged and equipped to do their best work is an ongoing challenge. And Slack can help your company get there. To learn more about how, check out more highlights from Frontiers below: