Slack + Zendesk: A human approach to bringing people together, at scale
In 2013, when Slack was still in private beta, it had the foresight to choose a support solution capable of evolving with the company’s projected growth. Millions of additional users later, Slack continues to use Zendesk to connect with its community.
“I knew Zendesk Support would work if we reached the scale we were aiming for, and I also knew that the Zendesk API would allow us to build whatever we needed to meet our specific needs.”Ali Rayl Vice President of Customer Experience at Slack
“I’ve always loved how malleable and simple it is to set up Zendesk. We've done all kinds of things with triggers and automations to match the system to the way we organize our team, and to filter what agents see and work on. I so appreciate the flexibility of the system.”Lindsay Schauer Director of Customer Experience Operations at Slack
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Choosing the right tools from the get-go is not something startups are always known for. A startup’s pace is fast and furious and it takes true vision to build a backend support infrastructure that will serve a company 10 years into its future.
Yet Slack has this foresight. Founded as a company in 2009 and launched as a platform in 2014, it envisioned itself growing to serve millions of customers looking to maximize productivity in the workplace. Only four years since its launch, Slack now helps nine million weekly users communicate more effectively.
The flexibility of its platform—connecting workplace conversations with the internal tools a business needs to succeed—means that Slack provides a unique experience to each organization it serves. In turn, every customer touchpoint, from the product to the company, needs to be an equally seamless, personalized interaction.
“When a person takes the time to contact us, they deserve everything we have in return,” explained Vice President of Global Customer Experience Ali Rayl. “We all have a limited amount of time, and if someone is taking some of that time to write us about our product, it is incumbent on us to take the time to form that relationship and do our best to get them to where they need to be.”
The customer service team’s guiding philosophy is that all customers deserve a human conversation. That’s why Rayl chose Zendesk Support and Zendesk Guide from the start, back in 2013—she knew that the software would allow her team to build closer customer relationships while the company grew. Slack was only available through private beta at the time, but its use was already expanding exponentially.
Setting up with scale in mind
“I knew Zendesk Support would work if we reached the scale we were aiming for, and I also knew that the Zendesk API would allow us to build whatever we needed to meet our specific needs,” Rayl said.
Slack utilized the Zendesk API to let users contact support through a feedback command (/feedback) built into the Slack platform, which seamlessly generates a ticket in the background. A sophisticated tagging flow then routes these tickets directly to the right team for handling, significantly reducing response times.
The team also uses the API to automatically alert groups outside of customer service about relevant issues, and to add support to Slack’s mobile app. Users can also report bugs through the app, making it easier for engineers, designers, and product managers to collect feedback and expedite fixes.
Meeting customers where they are
Over time, Slack’s support team has grown to 175 agents located in Melbourne, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto, and Dublin—now offering a full omnichannel customer experience. In 2017, Slack expanded its Zendesk solution to include Chat and Talk, and joined the early access program for Zendesk Explore. Together, the team provides 24/7 email support in English and are expanding chat support to 24/5. Agents field up to 25,000 tickets each month, and respond to sometimes thousands of tweets a day.
“We saw our customer base expand and change in the last year or two,” explained Director of Customer Experience Operations Lindsay Schauer. “We’re reaching large, mainstream companies and some of those customers want to pick up the phone. We want to meet them where they are.”
Staying human, using Chat
Though the majority of inquiries still come through the website’s contact form—about 65 percent—chat is a growing channel, accounting for about 10 percent of volume. “We’re loving chat,” Schauer said. “More importantly, our customers are loving chat. The response we’re getting has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Agents respond to most email tickets in under an hour, and maintain a CSAT across the board of close to 100 percent. To its mission of delivering a human conversation, Slack never sends automated responses and works instead to anticipate customer issues to maintain its internal response time goals.
As volume climbs and Slack continues its move upmarket, the support team has committed to a unique structure. Rather than tiering agents and generalizing across the platform, Slack trains agents to be specialized in particular areas. Triage captains monitor the queues and route tickets. It’s been very effective, Schauer said. And although the company provides self-service through its help center, it doesn’t ask customers to self-diagnose.
“We just ask our customers to tell us what their problem is, and then we’ve learned to interpret that,” Schauer said.
Slack has also partnered with Zendesk’s Customer Success team over the years to help achieve its goals. Schauer said,
She added: “There’s all this talk about customer delight in the industry. We hopefully provide some of that with our personality and human presence, but we know that customers most want a fast and accurate response.”
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