Providing great customer service has always been a challenge. But it’s especially demanding in today’s digital-first world, with so many agents working remotely and customer needs evolving so rapidly.
That’s why great companies like Intuit and Influx are leveraging Slack to power their customer service operations. With Slack as their digital HQ, service agents can more easily share information, track issues and reduce time to resolution.
From quickly ramping up new agents to efficiently resolving customer issues, here’s how top companies are using Slack to create a better experience for customers and service teams alike.
Enabling easier onboarding and higher agent retention
Building a world-class service team starts with attracting and retaining the right people. But nurturing talented support agents is one of the most challenging aspects of customer service.
The Society of Workforce Planning Professionals found that call centres have historically high turnover rates of up to 45% per year – a statistic that only worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest Cresta Insights Report. And the average entry-level agent stays in their role for only a year, though attrition can occur much sooner than that.
Given this reality, it’s critical to bring new agents up to speed quickly and equip them with the resources that they need to thrive in their roles. And increasingly, companies are achieving this with Slack.
Boosting speed to competency for agents with custom apps
At Intuit QuickBooks, creators of the popular accounting software, onboarding new agents quickly becomes a significant challenge around the same time each year.
‘With a seasonal business around tax, we need to scale up and scale down our contact centres with the volume that comes in,’ says Gabrielle Dracopoulos, Head of Customer Success and Experience at Intuit. ‘We’re constantly getting new experts in and out all the time. And we don’t have several weeks available to us to get them to where they need to be, to be as effective as possible.’
To automate the work of onboarding, the company built a custom app within Slack that gives new agents easy access to self-learning modules, so they can get up to speed quickly.
‘We’ve been able to reduce our speed to competency and proficiency down to 14 days, which is really great for efficiency because it’s not at the expense of the employee experience,’ Dracopoulos says.
‘We’ve been able to reduce our speed to competency and proficiency down to 14 days, which is really great for efficiency because it’s not at the expense of the employee experience.’
Helping agents to succeed with real-time coaching
While the onboarding phase is important, agents also benefit from ongoing mentoring as they settle into their roles. With Slack, managers can create targeted learning paths for agents, customised to meet their unique needs. And in Slack channels – digital spaces for collaborating – agents and managers can break down silos with a dedicated forum for supportive, productive one-to-one conversations.
‘Slack creates an environment where you can understand what your employees are struggling with the most and provide the guidance they need to course correct, turning potential risks or issues into opportunities for coaching, for mentorship, for feedback and ultimately for improving agent efficacy,’ says Amanda Harris, Director of Customer Experience at Slack.
For example, managers and agents can bring relevant information about a case or customer into a channel or direct message, where they can discuss the issue together and align on a path to resolution. Service teams can also funnel tickets with keywords or activities into a Slack channel for direct attention and immediate action. Managers can also use a dedicated channel to provide feedback on tickets for an agent who might be struggling in a particular area.
‘We leverage Slack on a day-to-day basis, and its many integrations and features, to actually help us power our cultural value of “stronger together”,’ says Dracopoulos. ‘We really want to push that forward, and that’s where Slack really helps us.’
‘All of our clients want consistent high-quality customer service. You do that through great management. And a lot of great management for us is driven through Slack.’
Resolving issues faster with time-saving features
Once they’re onboarded, agents need to be able to find and share information, escalate cases and resolve issues quickly. Slack gives service teams a variety of tools to accomplish these critical daily tasks.
Triaging and team building in channels
Customer support agency Influx boasts a team of more than 1,100 service experts across 14 countries and 123 cities worldwide. Support specialists and agents work directly with Influx’s diverse portfolio of clients to manage their support operations end to end, which can vary and fluctuate over time. To ensure that its support team can perform their jobs effectively, Influx embraces flexibility by relying on Slack as its digital HQ.
‘We’ve been virtual from day one, before the rest of the world was going virtual,’ says Influx’s Chief Growth Officer Alex Holmes. ‘Everyone said you can’t do call centres and digital support virtually. [But] Slack’s an essential tool to make that all possible. In a lot of ways, it is the digital HQ that really fosters internal and external comms with our clients.’
Specifically, the company has dedicated Slack channels for functions such as onboarding and training, and individual channels for specific clients, to help its agents stay connected and informed.
‘Within each of those channels, people have a reason to communicate things,’ says Holmes. ‘They have a reason to give feedback to each other and ultimately help each other and enjoy each other’s company. And when people are feeling empowered, they’re a lot more motivated, they improve faster and everyone’s more successful.’
Moving work forwards with emoji
As issues wind their way through the customer support journey, teams can efficiently manage them with the help of Slack emoji and reactions. Service agents and other stakeholders can use familiar, friendly emoji reactions to quickly indicate an issue’s status or severity. At Influx, the team regularly uses emoji to convey information and take action.
‘We use emoji to communicate things that need to happen,’ says Holmes, ‘[from] changes with what a client is expecting [to] onboarding a new client [or] a new product launch. With an emoji, you can see that someone’s seen your message. Then people can respond to it, and people can actually act [on] it.’
Sourcing information in real time for agents
One key challenge for service agents is having the right information available in real time, so they can help customers mid-conversation and improve first-call resolution. To help, Intuit built a custom app in Slack named Quincy. Intuit’s service experts can submit a question to Quincy, and Quincy surfaces a relevant support article to help keep their customer conversation going. If an article isn’t available, another agent acts as a back-up and provides live support.
‘With Slack, we were able to immediately shift all of our contact centres from the office to home and still provide our experts and agents the help that they needed, so they didn’t feel like they were alone,’ says Dracopoulos. ‘So we’re empowering our experts, but also solving our customer problems.’
Fostering quick collaboration and connection with huddles
Feeling isolated can be a common issue for customer service professionals, particularly in the era of remote work. Combined with the stress of having to assist frustrated customers and resolve issues as quickly as possible, customer service work can take its toll.
That’s one reason why service teams at Intuit have been leveraging Slack huddles, an easy way to start audio conversations from within channels or DMs. Agents can drop into quick huddles to share tips, give each other support or just let off steam.
‘Those instant huddles are really powerful in this work-from-home environment,’ says Dracopoulos. ‘Our experts on the front line need an outlet to be able to debrief with someone who understands their role. And so when we’re all at home, using huddles is really key to looking after mental health.’
‘With Slack, we were able to immediately shift all of our contact centres from the office to home and still provide our experts and agents the help that they needed, so they didn’t feel like they were alone.’
Optimising team performance
Finally, once agents are fully onboarded and have the tools that they need to effectively do their jobs, customer service teams can once again turn to Slack to improve their overall operational efficiency. For example, by piping feedback from customers into Slack, companies can get a high-level view of common problems or trends that might merit new support articles, product improvements or additional customer education.
Creating a dedicated feedback hub in Slack
At Intuit, when customers fill out a survey, their feedback gets routed right into a dedicated channel via a Slack integration with a survey platform. The feedback can then be discussed, reacted to (with emoji, of course) and acted upon by the Intuit customer service team.
‘It really gives us insight into what our customers are thinking and saying and what they’re sharing with us,’ says Dracopoulos. ‘This is really important from a performance perspective because it helps our experts who have access and visibility to this in real time.’
The survey is even available to Intuit’s employees and experts, who might have their own feedback to share. Having their observations surfaced in-channel, where they can then be considered and responded to, is particularly empowering for non-agents, Dracopoulos says.
Scaling workflows to meet customer demand
Maximising the efficiency of customer service work is particularly critical when it comes to scaling, says Influx’s Holmes. ‘Pretty much all of our clients swing up and down by 2x each year for different reasons, either due to high growth or scaling up for the holidays.’
Amid such swings, the company depends on Slack to quickly scale its teams and keep its customers happy.
‘For us, efficiency primarily comes from great management,’ Holmes says. ‘That’s kind of been the crux of our business from day one. All of our clients want consistent high-quality customer service. You do that through great management across the whole life cycle of the agent and the client experience. And a lot of great management for us is driven through Slack.’
By replacing traditional call centres with Slack as their digital HQ, companies can more quickly set agents up for success and more easily scale their support operations to meet evolving demand. That way, they can continue to provide excellent service and transform the customer experience, growing brand loyalty in the process.