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Top 3 Slack Challenges for Customer Support Teams

It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of Slack as a customer support tool. In fact, we think organizations who are willing to Slack with their customers directly will gain a serious competitive advantage when it comes to providing a seamless experience. Many teams who share this perspective are now leveraging Slack Connect — which enables messaging between external organizations — to create designated channels for every customers. Different agents can then shuffle between channels and step in to respond to new help requests.

We think this is a brilliant approach — in theory. The issue is that Slack wasn’t specifically built for customer support teams, and there are some pesky technical challenges that can sneak in and cause unnecessary friction if you’re not careful. Fortunately, this is solvable. Slack currently boasts more than 2,000 apps and integrations, enabling teams to customize their platform for vast combinations of use cases.

To effectively fill in the gaps, however, you need to know what they are. In this post, we’re taking a look at the three biggest challenges we’ve seen customer success and support teams struggle with on Slack:

1. Slack is noisy

Let’s start with the most obvious: Slack can be noisy. Like, really noisy. More than 18 million daily users send over 1.5 billion messages on the platform each week. Additionally, the average user is connected to Slack for 9 hours per day. That adds up to a lot of potential distractions — from general announcements and team huddles to the latest steps challenge.

Slack channels show no signs of quieting down either. For many organizations, Slack has shifted from an internal communications platform to a full-fledged virtual headquarters. Remote work en masse may have started as a pandemic-era experiment, but it’s now a  permanent reality for millions: Between 2018-2021, the number of fully remote workers in the U.S. grew by 4X, and experts predict there will be 36.2 million Americans working remotely by 2025.

At the same time, Slack has also become a widespread replacement for watercooler chat — employee recognition, fun quizzes and trivia, and auto-conversation prompts may be great for remote team building, but isn’t exactly an ideal environment for agents to be fielding customer requests in. There’s just too great a risk that something could slip through the cracks.

Another challenge isn’t just the volume of Slack messages, but the limited ability to manage them. Sure, you can mute channels to help cut down on the noise, but what if you miss an important message? There’s also no way to prioritize a single conversation or request, aside from “starring” entire threads or channels. If everything is important, then nothing is important.

2. Slack wasn’t intentionally built for customer support teams

Slack’s core messaging features are solid and robust, no matter the team or industry. However, its versatility comes at a cost: the platform lacks some critical functionality customer support and success teams need to work effectively.

Since Slack treats all unread messages as equals, there’s no way to automatically differentiate between an urgent, high-priority customer request  from an auto-reminder from HR to complete the latest pulse survey. It’s also impossible for agents to categorize and sort customer conversations. Although paid accounts grant users  access a full archive of Slack messages, there’s no way to group these conversations by issue or topic, let alone customer sentiment or nature of prior interactions. This can put support teams in a serious bind — asking a customer to repeat information because their original message got lost in the void will re-introduce the friction you originally removed by communicating with them on Slack in the first place.

Slack’s lackluster organization capabilities can also lead to redundant handling or agents spending more time on messages from their favorite customers, rather than high-priority requests. Since there’s no way to prioritize, assign, track, or update conversations, teams may also need to hop back and forth between Slack and an external ticketing system for even the smallest requests.

Slack Connect is also limited. Although you can easily message users at external organizations, what if you want to communicate with several customers at once? Agents can only deploy group notifications about outages or new releases if every external user is in at least one Slack channel together.

3. Slack is a black box when it comes to critical performance insights

Another big issue is that Slack doesn’t gather critical data you need to effectively monitor team performance and customer experience, like first response time, time to resolution, account health, or CSAT scores. You’re essentially operating in a black box. The only way to identify areas for improvement is to use an external system to manually create a new ticket for every Slack request, and attempt to track these metrics from there.

How to boost Slack with customer support capabilities

Slack is a phenomenal customer support tool — so long as you can overcome its challenges. We’ve identified two primary solutions:

1. Manage all tickets in an external system

One potential workaround is for agents to continually monitor customer channels and then create new tickets using an external help desk system. This works best as a quick fix to help manage customer Slack messages. The reason it isn’t ideal as a long-term solution is because integrations are often limited. Although many customer support platforms offer Slack integrations, these are typically restricted to internal communications — i.e. enabling agents to update tickets in Slack — rather than customer interactions.

The actual conversations are still happening outside of your designated ticketing system, which limits its ability,precision, and accuracy in tracking key metrics like first response time or time to resolution. Switching back-and-forth between tools also makes it infinitely more difficult for agents to stay organized. At the same time, they don’t gain any ability to prioritize and categorize conversations as they’re taking place, nor filter out general noise on Slack.

2. Incorporate a Slack-native solution specifically designed for customer support teams

Instead of manually hauling out customer Slack message to an external ticketing system,  a Slack-native solution enables you to bring additional capabilities in — like a unified inbox where your team can assign, prioritize, track, and respond to customer messages just like tickets, or real-time performance and experience insights. Additionally, if you choose a tool with bi-directional syncing capabilities, you can push customer Slack messages into a supplementary ticketing system on occasions when you do require additional resources — like if your customer support team needs to take over from customer success to resolve a technical issue.

This approach essentially combines the best of Slack and third-party customer support platforms, making it better suited for a sustainable, long-term tech stack. In significantly reducing the back-and-forth between tools, this also equips teams with more bandwidth to focus on actually helping customers.

Worknet streamlines incoming customer messages with a unified team inbox — directly in Slack. Agents can ensure speedy response rates and practically eliminate missed messages with notifications, auto-prioritization, and integrations with ticketing solutions like Zendesk and Salesforce Service Cloud. You can also tap rich engagement data with visual dashboards, so you’ll always have a pulse on team performance and productivity.

Click here to learn how Worknet works to improve customer support with AI.

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