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Why Slack search isn’t enough for customer success teams

Chances are, your customer success team spends a good amount (probably a majority) of their day in the modern work operating system, Slack. The reason so many teams rely on the Slack platform for this purpose is because it is a tool that enables customer issues to be resolved faster through direct communication and collaboration. But without extending its native functionality, Slack just isn’t enough to power the most streamlined customer support issue resolution process. There are number of key functions that flow through Slack for customer success teams. Here are the top five:

  • Sharing customer feedback
  • Marketing campaign support
  • Handling FAQs
  • Channels for “tricky question” discussion
  • Product updates

Sharing customer feedback

Arguably one of Slack’s most important roles for customer success agents is as a feedback loop to disseminate what they are hearing from customers, both good feedback and bad. Your team might have a dedicated #customer-feedback channel for this purpose, and it might resemble an ongoing list of updates, whether they are formal reviews or anecdotal commentary that helps customer success professionals keep up to date as to the current pulse of customer satisfaction. In many ways, this is a very good use of Slack as a source of “ambient” feedback, which keeps support agents in the loop. The challenge with this is when the volume of feedback becomes difficult to keep up with and maintain a high level of productivity.

Marketing campaign support

Marketing campaigns are a source of perpetually changing content and knowledge that is tied to factors related to seasonal influences, competitive pressures and product/service positioning. It can be difficult to for customer service agents to stay on top of the latest-and-greatest knowledge being asserted by the marketing team. Many support teams use a #marketing-campaigns Slack channel to continue the dialogue about these particular initiatives. The challenge with using Slack to understand marketing’s “flavor of the month” is that it is difficult to keep track of when one campaign ends and another begins in the middle of an ongoing Slack thread or conversation. Using Slack’s search function is hopelessly ill-equipped to track marketing campaign status understand if it is still relevant at the time of a support call. A better solution might be to use a different platform that is built to communicate status and links to the relevant information or collateral so that agents can convey the correct information quickly and efficiently.

Handling customer FAQs

Frequently asked questions recur in customer support calls… frequently. Even though they repeat, often in rapid succession, its sometimes difficult for a customer success agent to recall the exact response required to put the customer back on track. Sometimes they need to copy and paste a text-snippet of instructions. Other times you’ll need to verify that product information is current and up to date before replying with an accurate response. Either way, Slack’s search functionality is again not the optimal tool for storing this type of knowledge. Moreover, with the high volume of occurrences, Slack’s search is likely to return too many results since it won’t be able to filter out for the exact answer, and return an abundance of related by useless results. A better choice to be to store FAQ responses in a wiki or knowledge base, ideally with a dedicated FAQ format, so that a search query will return a small set of high quality results.

Tricky Question Channel

Your customer success team might have a channel dedicated to the trickiest of questions from customers where you might have to dig deep into the long-term expertise of your support teams. This channel is similar to the FAQ channel, but deserves a different type of attention from subject matter experts. This particular body of knowledge is slightly more suited for a conversational workflow because agents might be trading ideas or trying to work together and collaborate on a suitable response. Again though, team’s shouldn’t depend on documenting this knowledge solely within this channel. It should be migrated to a suitable knowledge base or wiki solution to establish the knowledge a definitive resource for future access. Like in the case of FAQs, the Slack search does not recognize or deliver this information efficiently, so one shouldn’t rely on it.

Product updates

Whether you are using an agile methodology for shipping new product all the time, or you have a seasonal aspect to your product line, keeping customer success agents on top of product updates is an ongoing challenge. They’ll need to have access to accurate documentation, help articles and snippets that contain responses for FAQs in order to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction. Again, Slack is a common medium for sharing and disseminating information on product changes, but it is an inefficient way to store and access the knowledge through search. There is no guarantee that a the right information will be mentioned in the #product-updates channel, and will therefore create more confusion and delay that prevents resolution. By storing this knowledge in a separate single source of truth for product information, you can be certain that your customer success agents are delivering the best information in the fastest way possible.

Slack search is not the answer

The recurring theme in each one of these use-cases is that while Slack is ideal for the communication and collaboration of customer success teams, relying on it as a searchable knowledge base, is unreliable. Slack is most helpful when agents have the time keep on top of the ongoing dialogue. Of course, if the volume becomes unmanageable, team members might begin to miss critical feedback, and should self-serve knowledge from a more optimal solution, such as a knowledge base or wiki. Without this in place, their first reaction might be to ask questions of their peers or managers that distract them from their work. Slack’s search functionality is only optimized for finding keywords in conversations but because the conversational content is not organized, validated or structured to return the most accurate knowledge, it will likely return unreliable results. And ultimately, unreliable results produce longer resolution times and consequently lower customer satisfaction ratings.

In conclusion, while Slack is clearly a tool that accelerates customer success team workflows, it cannot be relied on as a reliable source of knowledge. Support teams should rely on a dedicated knowledge base, ideally one that seamlessly integrates with Slack, to act as a source of current, verified and accurate knowledge.