When we started BubbleIQ, we wanted to offer the best possible support experience for our customers. We also knew that all of our customers were using Slack, so it made a ton of sense to invite our customers into our Slack workspace.

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What we didn’t know is how ridiculously low it would take our churn rate.

For our very early customers, we invited them as single channel guests in our Slack. This allowed us to get lots of feedback as we iterated on the product and quickly fix bugs as they came up. Our early customers such as Breather and TrendKite have become huge advocates of our company thanks to this, and our product is much better off too.

Then, Slack launched Shared Channels last September, making it even easier to open up channels between Slack workspaces. We started opening up private channels for our VIP customers. These customers have an incredibly strong relationship with us — they are much more likely to report any issues that come up and any feature requests they have.

As a result, not a single one of our customers we share a Slack channel with has churned!

For a growing SaaS company, keeping customers around for the long term is crucial to success. A customer segment that isn’t churning is money in the bank. It’s not just us who’ve seen incredible benefits from supporting our customers over Slack. Here’s why I think more companies should embrace customers in their Slack workspaces, along with a few ideas on how to get started.

Why are SaaS companies inviting their customers to Slack?

As of Sept 2017, Slack had 6 million daily active users. Chances are — your customers already live in Slack.

Most companies rely on email or chat for support — but it turns out that’s a surprisingly high friction method of support for business customers today. Customers are used to messaging colleagues, friends, and family in Slack or Messenger. Moving to email seems surprisingly impersonal. Forcing customers through a formal contact form or into a long email thread creates a barrier between you, and makes it difficult to respond quickly to high priority issues.

That barrier prevents companies from hearing the full story of their customer’s experience.

It’s estimated that only 1 out of every 26 customers who run into a problem will contact your company.

Those other 96% of customers are silently unhappy. Drawing these silent unhappy customers into communicating with your team gives you another chance to fix the problem.

Inviting customers into Slack reduces the barrier between company and customer and returns better feedback. That insight is invaluable for creating a better product, building better relationships, and saving potentially unhappy customers. It’s also a life saver for staying on top of urgent issues for your most valuable customers.

Setting up your Slack Channels

If you’re ready to open the door and invite customers to get a little closer, you’ll need to decide how to organize your Slack. While Slack User Communities are becoming more and more popular, businesses also have the option to open private customer communication channels. Here’s three ways to set up your Slack workspace for working with customers:

1. Single Channel Guests

Slack allows teams to invite guests into just one or two channels in their workspace. This can be really helpful if you have a customer advisory board, or a customer feedback channel. The product team can ask customers how they use a specific feature, or work with beta users on a new release.

There’s a ton of benefits to inviting customers into a Slack channel:

  • Customers feel like part of the team and can influence product decisions with real-time insights.
  • We were able to iterate on our first version very quickly because Slack reduced the feedback loop between us and our early users.
  • It’s an ideal set-up for high value customers and power users who you want to get a little closer to.

The only potential downside is that the customer must create a new, separate account on your company’s Slack… which can create a little separation between them and your company.

2. Shared Channels

Shared channels are a relatively new feature of Slack. They allow stakeholders from multiple companies to collaborate in one channel, in the comfort of their own Slack workspace.

It’s a great tool for technical onboarding and VIP customers. Instead of scheduling check-in sessions, or responding to long email chains, onboarding specialists can keep a real-time pulse check on implementation.

Toru Takahashi, Support Engineering Manager at Treasure Data, created shared channels for each new customer in their Slack workspace, ands says

“Using Slack for the onboarding process makes it much easier to communicate with customers in real-time, compared to email. This helps us to power an awesome onboarding experience for our new customers and existing customers.”

Ongoing support in Slack helps VIP customers feel more like teammates than users. Cobi Druxerman, founder of Taplytics, found that sharing a Slack channel has helped them build much stronger relationships with their customers.

“Our hypothesis was that the people you’ve developed a relationship with and who have a real-time channel for communication don’t think twice about reaching out with the smallest of issues.”

3. Slack Community

Finally, companies can create public user groups on Slack. Every new customer gets invited to join a Slack workspace that includes employees and customers discussing the product.

Slack communities take advantage of a many-to-many support model. Power users can dive in and help new users get the most out of the product. Newer users feel like they are part of something bigger. This helps reduce support costs, while increasing customer loyalty.

ProdPad, like us, have never had a customer churn who is a part of their Slack community. They attribute this to the sense of engagement, transparency and ownership community members feel from contributing to the discussion. Andrea Saez, Head of Customer Success, found, “even lurkers in our community are still finding value in passive engagement.”

Making Slack Support Work for You

Being constantly available to customers can sound like a customer support manager’s worst nightmare. But there are ways to support customers in Slack on your own terms — and without causing chaos in your inbox.

You don’t want a free-for-all, because you’ll let things drop through the cracks. Cobi at Taplytics found that real-time support requires a greater dedication to process than asynchronous support channels.

“We use a combination of Slack, Zendesk, and Pivotal Tracker to ensure that all of the right people know what issues are outstanding, what the priorities are, who is responsible for what, and which customers require attention.”

Treasure Data also had to make adjustments to their workflow when setting up Slack support:

  1. The support team had to join each private channel to make sure they didn’t miss anything. Not only did this make a mess of their Slack channel list, it was really distracting to their workflow.
  2. They didn’t know how much time they were spending in Slack helping customers. This is because Slack itself isn’t designed for real-time support.

Right now a combination of Slack and help desk software is the best way to stay on top of the increased channels, BubbleIQ offers an integration that helps with this. But this space is evolving very quickly. I’m expecting to see a lot more competition for BubbleIQ over the next few months as more and more companies catch on to just how powerful it is to invite customers closer…you just can’t beat 0% churn ?

Several customers are typing… in your Slack

Eventually, one of our customers in our Slack workspace will churn, and we’ll have to deactivate their channel. It will be a sad day, and we aren’t in a rush to see our perfect record ruined.

But embracing customer relationships over Slack has reduced the number of times we’ve had to say goodbye to a customer. We know that we’re building a product that our customers want, because we talk to them, openly and earnestly, every day in our Slack.

Is it time to start inviting customers to get a little closer to your company?

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A 0% Chance of Churn: Why Supporting Customers on Slack is the Hottest Trend for SaaS Companies was originally published in ThinkGrowth.org on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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