With her Australian accent and wavy brown hair, the trivago woman should be familiar to anyone who’s watched TV in recent years. But trivago is synonymous with much more than its strategic advertising play: the search site is a gateway to more than 2.5 million hotels and places to stay in over 190 countries, and its service is offered in 33 languages for travellers around the globe.
At its four European company outposts, trivago thrives on an authentic, trust-based, entrepreneurial culture that it’s determined to maintain. To ensure that its 1,500 employees are productive and engaged, trivago has what it calls an Organisational Solutions team dedicated to custom development and implementation of productivity software.
“The goal for us is customer satisfaction,” says Organisational Solutions lead Max Shpirka.
In this case, the customer is the trivago employee, and Slack has become one of the company’s favourite tools – transforming the way employees work, communicate and innovate in enjoyable and unexpected ways.
“Slack is the easiest tool to use and preferred communication tool within the organisation.”
A more accessible, consistent and insightful way to communicate
Before Slack, trivago struggled to use a range of internal communications tools effectively. Finding information was not only challenging, but often impossible, with answers buried in email threads and private conversations.
“There were seven to eight communication tools in the company and each team used what they preferred,” explains Tomas Schwaighofer Perez, the strategic project lead of the Organisational Solutions department. “Now everyone uses Slack. It has everyone there and it’s consistent for everyone.”
After going so long with differing systems that didn’t scale as the trivago workforce doubled in size between 2014 and 2016, Slack was a welcome change when adopted during the latter year. Shpirka was drawn to the precision of Slack. He explains that with email, “You cannot just join a thread, but you can get dragged into one that you might not necessarily be interested in.” Fortunately, “Slack is a way around this. Communication happens, and if somebody needs to find something, you can just join the channel.”
While email is static, isolated and limited, Slack is dynamic, collaborative and open. “It’s (the difference between) pushing information out versus finding it yourself,” Shpirka says.
Slack also simplifies the process of locating both people and information – especially important at a fast-growing company. “One of our biggest issues was that people didn’t know where to go to find information,” says Adina Begu, who works in internal communications. “Now, it’s as simple as finding their name on Slack and then hitting enter.”
The search function is also frequently used for analysing archived conversations. “It’s not about having less emails; it’s just way more convenient and effective to communicate this way,” says Perez.
“Being able to talk with an entire team without having to send an email to 20 people or to a specific email address is a game changer.”
A custom bot to keep close track of employee sentiment
Leo is a customisable Slackbot that allows trivago to check the pulse of all 1,500 employees. Just as early starters get credit for shaping trivago’s strong company culture, Leo gets credit for helping to maintain it.
No ordinary integration, the bot asks a series of five questions on a weekly basis right in Slack. These could relate to things such as a recent organisational change, the quality of managerial feedback or the overall culture. Prompts include:
- “I understand how my work contributes to the goals of my organisation.”
- “What could trivago do to increase the alignment of values, mission, vision and ethics?”
- “I am happy with how frequently I am recognised.”
- “I am satisfied with the frequency of feedback from my direct manager.”
- “My direct manager has a good level of transparency to the team.”
Depending on the prompt, employees are given multiple-choice answers or can write in their response. The HR and organisational development teams review the answers quarterly and share reports with the whole organisation. This data, which includes employee net promoter scores, informs where they’ll focus in the upcoming months.
Not only does Leo give everyone a voice – anonymous if they prefer – it allows management and senior leadership to proactively respond to small concerns before they become bigger issues.
“Pushing the weekly Officevibe surveys through Leo Bot in Slack enables vital feedback to be given on a weekly basis. It takes employees only a matter of minutes, promoting a frequent feedback cycle throughout the organisation.”
Lending a helping hand to employees, one channel at a time
Trivago employees have taken to Slack as a sometimes unexpected source of innovation – particularly when it comes to improving employee experience. For those working in the Düsseldorf headquarters, a memorable example of using Slack creatively occurred in October 2017, during Storm Ophelia. A large number of employees in that office had commuted from Cologne, but they were stranded when most trains were cancelled due to the storm. The #duss-news channel quickly transitioned into a lift-finding network. “It turned into a carpooling channel where people offered rides to people who couldn’t get home that day,” says Shpirka. “Coworkers offered which direction they were going and how many spots they had in the car, then filled them in-thread. Close to 100 people got home.”
Slack also plays a key role in rolling out new software at trivago. When trivago adopted Dropbox Paper in 2018, Begu and the internal comms team worked with remote Dropbox teammates via Slack to coordinate the launch – from exchanging feedback on an employee help guide to hashing out last-minute changes to an on-site presentation.
Because its Dropbox Paper partners were single-channel guests in Slack, “the whole preparation for the event took about two weeks,” Begu says. “Otherwise, I think that would have been increased to a month.” When it came time to introduce the latest collaboration tool to the company as a whole, there was no need for a mass email. They simply shared it on Slack in a company-wide #general channel.
Employees are now building better experiences on Slack themselves too. Shortly after trivago moved into a larger office in Düsseldorf, Timmo Schulte, an engineer on the hotel search team, built a custom integration that turned into a valuable asset for everyone.
“It’s called Camero, a bot that helps you find anything on the new campus,” says Shpirka. “You just type ‘/where is’, and then you can either add the person or the meeting room, and it’ll show you a map of the campus, of a specific floor and where the person sits or where the room is located.”
In addition, Camero knows what equipment is in each room, its size and which rooms are nearby. If a colleague’s not in the Camero database, the bot sends a message directly to the person; if the employee wants to share his or her location, Camero seamlessly carries out the task. “This was a cool side project and (is) now one of the most used integrations that we have,” says Shpirka.
Whether for collaboration, navigation or simply connecting employees, Slack has shortened the distance between trivago’s four offices in Düsseldorf, Palma de Mallorca, Leipzig and Amsterdam. “Four years ago we had less than half the people we have today,” says Perez. “Slack’s actually helped us improve communication, especially between offices. It’s stayed consistent during all of our growth.”