Over the past three months, we've spoken with more than 100 companies using shared Slack channels with their customers, as well as those who want to use Slack as a support channel but are unsure of how to get started.
We've put together everything we learned about how to use shared Slack channels with customers into this one comprehensive guide, which contains the 10 steps your company can follow to effectively use Slack with your customers.
We're always on the lookout for additional tips companies have for using Slack with their customers. If you have another suggestion, please send us an email at email@example.com.
1. Decide which customers you want to invite to shared channels
Support in Slack certainly isn't for all of your customers. It's a high-touch channel that should be reserved for your highest value customers.
Most large companies offering Slack support will bundle it into their highest tier premium or enterprise plans, or even charge extra for dedicated Slack support. Smaller startups may offer dedicated Slack channels to all of their customers early on to tighten feedback loops with their early customers.
For example, Fastly, a heavy user of shared Slack channels with customers, creates dedicated Slack channels with a 15 minute escalation response SLA for all of their Enterprise support customers.
2. Create a separate section and naming convention for your shared channels
It's important to organize your channels so they're not mixed up with internal channels. We recommend using a standard naming convention for all your external customer channels, for example <your_company_name>_<customer_company_name>.
With the new Slack UI, you can also group all your customer channels into the same section. This prevents your team from accidentally posting into a customer channel when they don't intend to.
3. Ensure every channel is assigned one point of contact from your company
When you create channels, the last thing you want is for your customer facing employees to miss customer messages. Most companies we've spoken with assign one dedicated customer success manager or support rep to each channel, who then monitor the channel and triage customer requests across the rest of the team.
Depending on the level of support needed and the size of customers, we generally see one CSM or support rep responsible for as few as 10 and as many as 50 customer channels.
4. Level set expectations with customers, pin a greeting to the top of the channel, and set automated out of hours reminders
It's important to set expectations with customers early on, including when you'll be monitoring the channel. We pin a message to our customers that we will be monitoring their channels between 8:00am and 7:00pm PST, and that if they need urgent assistance outside of these hours, they should email us at our support email address.
Outside of these hours, Across can also reply to customers informing them that we will respond during working hours, or that they can email our support email address for urgent issues.
5. Integrate Slack with your support or ticketing system
If you have existing support tools, we recommend integrating them with Slack so that your reps can create tickets within Slack and reply directly to customers from their support tools back into Slack. It's important that your integration can sync multiple Slack threads with the same support ticket, and sync identities (emails, usernames, etc.) between Slack and your support system.
Unfortunately, most support systems' native integrations with Slack only allow you to create or edit tickets from Slack, or reply to tickets from Slack, and are therefore not suited for managing Slack interactions with customers. This is true of Zendesk, Help Scout, Intercom, and other common support systems.
Across has native two-way integrations with Zendesk, Jira, Help Scout, and more. Reps can respond directly from Zendesk or other support tools into Slack.
For teams that use other task management tools like Airtable or Asana, Across can create tasks and send messages (as well as custom fields) to those tools as well.
6. Limit the number of support reps and engineers in the shared Slack channels, and don't let customers DM your employees directly
If your support reps start to engage with customers in shared channels directly, your customers may start to direct message or at-mention them when they have an issue. This is an issue because it prevents issues from being visible across your team, and creates a single point of failure if that support rep isn't available to resolve the issue. You also don't want your reps bogged down with low priority customer requests.
If you don't integrate Slack with an external ticketing system, we recommend using Across to posting all customer tickets into one central channel in Slack. You can discuss, update, and resolve tickets in this channel, giving visibility across the entire team. You can also respond to tickets directly from this channel, so they don't have to search for specific threads in customer channels to respond. This central channel protects the team and ensures they can prioritize all issues across customers from one place, rather than handling specific issues within channels.
Across also gives you a dashboard in Slack directly to triage, update, and resolve tasks directly in Slack, so you never have to go to another system to manage your teams tickets.
7. Create a shared inbox directly in Slack
Once you have dozens of customers with dedicated Slack channels sending messages to your team, it's difficult to ensure you don't miss a message unless you have the right tools and processes in place for monitoring the channels.
Slack channels are meant to be ephemeral. Once you click into a channel and dismiss unread message notifications, it's difficult to remember what customers you need to follow up with, especially if their issue takes hours, days, or even weeks to resolve.
At Across, we've created a "customer inbox" on top of Slack, where we centralize all messages across customer channels. The inbox prevents you from having to wade through Slack channels and drop action items. Instead you can create tasks to track, snooze messages, and acknowledge every customer message that comes in - all in Slack.
8. Track metrics about how you're supporting customers in your shared channels
Unlike ticketing systems, Slack does not have metrics out of the box to tell you how responsive you are with customers, how long your reps take to resolve tickets, and how effective your reps are. Without these metrics, it's impossible to resource your team appropriately to support customers in Slack.
At Across, we built out a reporting system to track your average response time, average time to resolve tickets, and ticket volumes across all your customer Slack channels. We also track your most active customers in each channel to identify champions and customers who may need additional training.
9. Automatically create and invite users to shared channels
In order to save time and ensure you remember to set up channels with your customers, we recommend creating shared Slack channels and inviting your customers as an automated step in your onboarding process.
At Across, we automatically invite our highest value customers to shared channels with us. Across includes an API so you can add this step to your own onboarding process. Below is example text that we include in our onboarding emails from Mailchimp to automatically invite customers to a shared Slack channel with us.
10. Automatically identify and respond to questions to deflect ticket volume
If you have high volume channels, you'll want to automate responses to common questions to deflect support volume.
Across detects when a customer has a request and automatically suggests creating a task. We also allow you to store templated responses, answers to common support questions, and links to FAQs to save your team time.
If your company follows these 10 steps, you'll be well on your way to scaling support in Slack. Have another tip? We'd love to hear about it. Please shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.