Is Our Slack Customer Community Actually Pulling Our Churn Rate Down?

Slack has quietly become our strongest retention channel at ProdPad— here’s how we did it.

Nandini Jammi
Apr 11, 2017 · 6 min read

Our ProdPad community on Slack started out as a “Hey what if…?” What if we opened up a product community for our customers? If we build it, would they come?

There are a few reasons we were wary about jumping into this: Starting a community is hard. It’s hard to get people interested, it’s hard to create momentum and it’s hard to manage people in real-time.

It’s a major time investment no matter how you look at it.

But even as a tiny team of five at the time, our Head of Customer Success, Andrea Saez insisted she was onto something.

Well, we went ahead and fired up a new Slack chat. What we found very quickly that Andrea’s argument was correct: Slack did help us establish closer relationships with our customers.

Then as time passed, we started seeing a pattern we really liked: Customers who join our Slack community were not cancelling their ProdPad plans at all.

In fact, 99% of our cancellations were (and still are) coming from customers who weren’t part of our community.

Amazing news for us, obviously. But why was Slack becoming our strongest channel for customer retention?

Not because Slack is magical (sorry guys, we still love you!).

This is all us. We’ve applied the same values that have made us an effective product team to our product community — and it’s worked!

So we’re going to go ahead and take a little credit for this one. These are the 5 reasons why we’ve been able to reduce our customer churn rate through our Slack community.

Imagine if we had a Slack product community and said stuff like: “We’re not at liberty to say…” or “That’s under wraps at the moment.” How frustrating that would be and a waste of time for our customers too.

But that’s not how we talk to our customers anywhere. Our Slack community is an extension of product-focused values that we follow across all our channels:

  • We value all customer feedback: We log all conversations as customer feedback whether it’s good or bad.
  • We don’t believe in saying “no”: We work with our customers to get to the heart of the problem instead of rejecting their feedback and opinions.
  • We believe in transparency: We’re honest about what we can and can’t do, and what customers can expect from us.

We can have that open dialogue with our customers because we have a public roadmap to help us talk about our plans.

We can handle all kinds of feedback because we engage with it and actively work to find our solutions for our customers.

Live chat forums where customers can potentially yell at you, complain and put you into a corner is a scary prospect. But we have none of that. Our customers know our doors are open and that we’re listening. And they appreciate it!

Sure, we do plenty of customer support in our Slack channels. Our customers get quick access to us and our co-founders in Slack.

But we’ve found out that our customers are getting along just fine without us. The percentage of DMs being sent in our community hover somewhere between 47–75%.

What are they up to? We’ve asked!

Some of our users have told us they’ve connected with each other to discuss similar challenges, give each other advice, hitting each other up for help. (Or maybe they’re talking about us behind our backs? We’ll never know.)

In any case, this is great.

Members of our community are connecting with each other on the other side of the world even when snoozing ;). Check and check.

When we’re thinking about trying something new, we turn to our Slack community first. Our customers are more than happy to tell us if we’re about to build something awful. And we’re more than happy to receive this feedback before we’ve gone ahead and built it.

There’s a mutual benefit here: We get valuable early customer feedback and in turn, our customers get to influence our product decisions.

Our UX team has REALLY enjoyed taking advantage of this:

  • They share mockups and sketches for ideas they’re working on
  • They find user testers to participate in research and interviews
  • They talk to customers quite openly about what would/would not be helpful to them

When we need a second opinion, we turn to our Slack community.

When we need a second opinion, we turn to our Slack community.

This all but ensures that we don’t walk blindly into a big, useless project. We don’t end up wasting design time. We don’t wasting dev time. We don’t kill team morale by investing in a product idea that later goes bust.

We just go with common sense first and ask our customers what they think. In return, they volunteer valuable information back to us.

Hey, we keep it lean and mean. Our customers are our pulse check. We have their back and they have ours.

Andrea started sending out email roundups because there were interesting discussions happening in there that she didn’t want people to miss out on.

Pretty soon, we spotted another welcome trend: the open rates on these emails are much higher than active users on Slack.

People just seem to love getting these in their inbox. Since we started, the average open rates on these have been consistently in the neighborhood of around 50%. Not bad!

There could be any number of reasons that our customers aren’t actually participating in our chat. Maybe they’re not allowed to use Slack at work. Maybe they don’t have the time to contribute. Maybe they don’t really have anything to say yet.

This tells us that the lurkers in our community are still finding value in passive engagement.

That’s great news for us. They like keeping tabs on discussions, they like seeing our product updates and they like seeing the progress we’re making. These emails remind them that we’re here when they do finally want to reach out.

They can join the party whenever they want, they know that.

Our “brand” is all about being personal, authentic and honest with our customers. But then again, that’s just who we are as a team.

The faces behind the machine.

We like to take our Slack community offline sometimes. We grab drinks with our customers when they’re in town. And sometimes, our customers come down to Brighton to see us!

The faces behind the machine.

We grab coffee with them, show them around our office, hang out and talk shop. As our community grows, so does the frequency of customers pinging us to see if they can drop by.

But we travel quite a bit too, so we always ping the community to let them know that we’re coming to a city near them.

Hi Courtney!

All I’m saying is that Slack has helped, but we’re going to take a little credit for this one.

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