3 Ways Slack Transformed our Customer Support Team

A great brand experience starts and ends with your customer service team. Agents are team members that embody the voice of your brand and have the potential to create a lasting impression with customers.

Our customer support team is a powerhouse, processing thousands of tickets annually and interacting with our customers on a daily basis. When we transitioned our organization to Slack, we brought our agents in as well, creating a #customercare channel. Within days, Slack enabled us to make major workflow changes that increased transparency and productivity, making work easier for everyone in our company.

When we adopted Slack, I saw three opportunities where we could use Slack to increase transparency and productivity for our internal workflows:

  1. Coupon codes
  2. New product AMAs
  3. Net Promoter Scores

Mystery Coupon Codes

When I began leading our customer service team, I discovered that we didn’t directly share all our coupon codes or their terms & conditions with our agents. I found out that our agents were collecting information about sales by sleuthing around the site and gathering clues from customer photos of promotional emails and compiling what they gathered into a shared spreadsheet.

Immediately, I saw that this process created unnecessary work and caused frustration, neither of which created a good experience for agents nor our customers. One of my primary values in leading the customer service team is transparency. My goal is to remove bottlenecks and proactively equip the team with as much relevant information as they need to autonomously take care of our customers with a high level of service.

“Transparency breeds trust, and trust is the foundation of great teamwork.” -Joel Gascoigne, Buffer

Balancing priorities

After talking with the agents, I heard that they needed three things:

  1. Knowledge of upcoming coupon codes
  2. Coupon terms & conditions
  3. Information delivered in a timely manner

In addition, I wanted to isolate the coupons used for email and on-site marketing compared to mass searching through the coupon database which can be tedious and slow down the process. On our side, we needed a solution that could quickly get the word out to agents about each of these promotions without adding admin time or changing our workflows significantly.

The spreadsheet they compiled over the years provided a good foundation for a potential solution, but I wanted to make it even easier (maybe even fun) for this information to transfer from one team to another.

Better information, Faster

I took the skeleton of their spreadsheet and pasted it into Airtable, a relational database (spoiler alert: with awesome forms!) to determine the column names. From those columns, I created a form with the click of a button and shared it with our Customer Acquisition lead who creates the coupon codes. A form is a great way to create a repeatable process and enable autonomy which to ensures consistency as your team scales.

Airtable has a direct integration with Slack, where all of our agents are a part of the #customercare channel that we created. To distribute the information to the agents, I simply enabled the Slack integration for the Coupon Code Airtable base.

Airtable to Slack integration

Now, every time our marketing team creates a new coupon code, our agents get a ping instantly announcing the coupon code and its details all powered by a modest form. Sharing coupon codes through this automation took us 3 additional minutes of admin time and saved our agents hours of gathering information or waiting on an answer from us via email. Check out how it works:

An automatic Slack message is generated whenever a team member submits the Airtable Coupon Code Form.

With this integration, we gave our agents real-time access to this information without significantly changing anyone’s workflow. This integration changes our information transfer from pull to push, eliminating a bottleneck between teams to enable everyone to work happier.

Agent AMA

Working at a lean startup, each member of our team has an area of expertise which helps us work efficiently. In the past, we would just tackle questions ad hoc, which occasionally involved going through a few layers of the organization, talking to the right expert, and reporting back which caused friction for agents as well as delays in getting back to the customer.

Delivering a product or brand experience to customers usually involves members from each area of expertise: product, marketing, engineering, brand, manufacturing, and design. Each team plays a role in the final experience delivered to a customer and it’s nearly impossible for one person alone to have the foresight to pull together all potential customer questions prior to a product launch.

Overall, I wanted to design a way to connect these subject matter experts with agents to surface all questions at one time, provide answers and subsequently capture that data in our knowledge base for our agents to reference in perpetuity. My objectives for this forum-style discussion had a crossover with the qualities of an Ask Me Anything discussion, otherwise known as an AMA.

>>If you’re new to AMAs, it features a (usually famous or notable) person that devotes an hour of their time to answer any and all of the questions that any user asks. An AMA is an interview-style discussion format that began on Reddit and grew to become one of the most popular subreddits, attracting Obama, Stephen Colbert, and J.Cole, and adopted by other forums like Growthhackers or ProductHunt.<<

Shortly before the launch of our new product line, we hosted our first AMA in our #customercare Slack channel at a time everyone could attend. A week prior to the AMA, I tasked the agents with bringing as many tough questions as they could to the AMA.

When the AMA began, agents began asking their questions — many of which helped us think through new use cases — and we spent the next hour on Slack answering each and every question that we predicted customers would ask. After the AMA, our agents formalized the information we exchanged into FAQs for our knowledge base in one fell swoop.

New Product AMA

With just one hour of our time, we came away with a solid dataset of information to add to our knowledge base and to equip our agents with all the information they needed to confidently deliver answers to customers and ultimately a cohesive brand experience. Using Slack, we were able to use AMA discussion format to increase transparency between teams and create a repeatable process that we can continue to use as our organization scales.

How are we doing?

One of my favorite app integrations for Slack is Delighted. Delighted is a beautifully designed product that tracks Net Promoter Score through triggered emails. For a Net Promoter Score, a customer selects an answer on a scale from one to ten for one simple question: would you recommend this brand to a friend? This score is a good measure for general health and perception of your brand over time and can be especially helpful as you make product changes.

Typically, customer feedback can take a negative angle, which can take its toll. I know this because I’ve worked in hospitality at a guest ranch, at restaurants and have spent time handling support tickets firsthand for our brand. It can be a grueling day-to-day, which is probably why I’m kind of obsessive about designing systems to make customer support a great experience for both our agents and customers.

After integrating Delighted with our e-commerce platform, I integrated it with Slack. I created a dedicated channel for this type of feedback to prevent clutter in our main channel and invited our agents to it. The integration pulls in these ratings and comments from customers real-time into Slack, allowing agents to see feedback on how we are doing as a brand.

Our NPS Slack channel

Overall, my favorite aspect of the integration is that it proactively shares positive brand sentiment and comments with our agents. It directly connects customer gratitude with our agents, which is incredibly important in balancing the sentiment of that day-to-day feedback that agents hear.

Take it for a spin

Slack has drastically increased the quality of communication between our teams, especially with customer service. I’ve found incredible value in being transparent and sharing the brand vision with agents because oftentimes, they are the first contact a customer has with your brand — an important opportunity to make that first connection and lasting impression with your customers.

Including our customer support team in our Slack organization has transformed how we share information across teams and has empowered them with information that allows them to be autonomous day-to-day. This new transparency gives our agents information at their fingertips, erases former friction, and enables our team to scale efficiently as the company grows.

I like to create and use products that make life better for people and then pass them on.

If you love customer service or fun tools for improving work life, please recommend or share the article with a friend. If you have tools that you love, share a comment below. If you want to share stories, reach out to me via leulmer4@gmail.com.