Snowflake, a cloud data platform company based in San Mateo, California, centres its business around streamlining so that its customers can thrive with data analytics, data warehousing, data tools and the cloud, all on one platform.
To be successful, the start-up needs to effectively collaborate internally and externally on everything from IT support to vendor relationships. To do this, Snowflake has turned to Slack Connect to exchange messages and files with its partners. By sharing 580 Slack channels with 360 separate organisations – and counting – Snowflake is widely sidestepping email.
‘Having the ability to message an external vendor via Slack provides next-level support. The run-around you usually have to go through via email does not exist when you use channels.’
Strengthening partner and vendor relationships
At first, Snowflake used multi-channel or single-channel guest access on Slack to work with external partners such as data analytics software companies Looker and Luma, regularly leveraging those data platforms and customer networks. But external partners’ guest access allowed limited access to Snowflake’s Slack workspace.
Over time, Snowflake found that it was collaborating so heavily with these partners that bringing them in on a case-by-case basis was overloading its IT department.
‘Those relationships are really the reason that we started (sharing channels with our partners),’ says Marisa Guarino, an IT systems engineer at Snowflake. ‘It became such a to-do for our IT team to have to individually guest-invite people. For example, there are like 250 people from Looker in our channel now. Slack allow us to talk to our partners on that scale.’
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Sharing channels also helps Snowflake maximise relationships with vendors it uses for internal services, such as incident response platform PagerDuty. By bringing communication into a single channel, Snowflake was able to go from one engineering team collaborating with PagerDuty to much wider internal use of the software.
‘With channels, we can talk with PagerDuty directly, asking everything from, “Can your product do this?” to “Do we need more licences?”’ says Guarino. ‘Having the ability to message an external vendor via Slack provides next-level support. The run-around you usually have to go through via email does not exist when you share channels.’
According to Guarino, sharing channels have become essential to the way that IT functions at Snowflake. ‘Every time I start working as an external vendor, I’m like, “We need to use Slack because I am so tired of sending emails,”’ says Guarino. ‘It lets us have collaborative conversations without having a million emails sent back and forth.’
Accelerating the sales cycle with Slack Connect
Cedric Dageville and Michael Westra are Snowflake corporate account executives, or AEs. From contacting prospective leads to helping new customers choose the right Snowflake plan for their organisation, Dageville and Westra work with customers throughout the full sales cycle.
Ever since they started communicating with prospective leads through Slack Connect channels, they’ve been sealing more deals with greater speed. In fact, Westra says Slack Connect has helped him increase his deal size threefold, year over year.
‘Having an external Slack channel with our prospects and customers really helps us stand out and communicate that our customers are our no. 1 priority.’
‘At Snowflake, we pride ourselves on dominating and providing top-tier support,’ Westra says.
Dageville and Westra gave us a peek into their process. After Snowflake AEs establish contact with a lead, they set up a shared Slack channel and invite critical team members from both the Snowflake and customer side to join. Snowflake AEs then use this channel as a landing point to answer questions about the Snowflake platform.
With Slack Connect, the Snowflake sales team provides customers and prospects with white-glove support. ‘If a lead has a question, we can get them an instant response from an engineer or other Snowflake team member, setting us apart from the competition,’ says Dageville. ‘Customers feel like we’re all working on the same team.’
Channels also make it easy to close deals without ever leaving the Slack workspace. When it’s time for new customers to negotiate contracts and sign up for Snowflake’s services, Dageville and Westra send a direct message in Slack to key decision-makers on the customer side to work out the details and share documents.
‘I think every single corporate sales team should be using Slack Connect 100% of the time,’ Dageville says.
‘I’d say 99% of my communication with leads and customers happens in channels with Slack Connect. We rarely ever communicate in email.’
Making IT support and knowledge bases accessible
Snowflake also created a custom Slack bot that helps employees engage with IT support and access a robust internal knowledge base. It acts like a chat-based concierge for technical assistance, personnel queries and more.
‘The custom Slack bot has become our little one-stop shop for any questions people might have,’ says Guarino. ‘Something as onerous as opening an IT ticket can be as simple as just talking to the bot and saying, “I need help.”’
A Snowflake employee can also ask the custom Slack bot to query one of the company’s various databases. For example, an employee can ask who someone is or where they sit, and the Slack bot will consult the company’s identity and access management platform Okta or its workplace operations platform SpaceIQ to bring back that information. Using MoveWorks’ machine-learning artificial intelligence, the Slack bot helps Snowflake’s teams navigate the company’s infrastructure, ticketing processes, help wikis and more.
‘Before, we didn’t really have a ticketing process,’ says Guarino. ‘Then we decided to start using [digital transformation platform] ServiceNow. But expecting people to go from nothing to ServiceNow is kind of like teaching a child about shapes and then expecting them to architect a 50-story skyscraper. The Slack bot really helped with that transition.’
Transforming internal feedback with Workflow Builder in Slack
Snowflake’s IT team also programmed a new automation in Slack using Workflow Builder that prompts employees at the end of their interaction with an IT support person to react with a 🏄♂️ emoji. When they do, they’re privately messaged a survey – called a ‘surfvey’ – through which they can rate their experience and offer feedback on their own time, without having to switch contexts. That information is then fed into a private customer satisfaction channel, allowing managers to easily view their direct reports’ progress over time.
‘You can move beyond just communication and productivity and towards creating internal programs and interdepartmental collaboration, all in Slack.’
‘The IT team doesn’t spend enough time shouting from the rooftops about how well we’re doing, and a lot of our innovations sort of just go unseen and unheard,’ says Guarino. ‘Slack makes things like surveys a fun, easy and personalised experience, without taxing the user. It’s really nice to be able to get that feedback instantaneously.’
Guarino also says it’s the success of workflows like the ‘surfvey’ that has made Slack a critical component of how Snowflake does business.
‘To me, the value of Slack really comes from the cultural buy-in,’ she says. ‘Once you take down that first barrier, you open the floodgates for companywide adoption. You can move beyond just communication and productivity and towards creating internal programs and interdepartmental collaboration, all in Slack.’