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Cultivating a culture of customer connection: A CX Moment with Slack’s Ali Rayl

Zendesk chats with Slack's VP of Customer Experience Ali Rayl on best practices for connecting with customers during a crisis.

By Sarah Reed, Senior director, content and event marketing

Published April 24, 2020
Last updated April 24, 2020

Businesses are going through an unprecedented and unpredictable time--almost overnight, whole industries shifted from being in offices to working from home. We’re all trying to work within this new reality as it happens, and that kind of change brings with it unknowns for our customers. During our most recent “CX Moment” chat, we talked with Slack’s VP of Customer Experience Ali Rayl about how to help customers and employees adapt. Here are some of the highlights.

Recognizing the new reality

Some people have never worked remotely and now they’re having to learn on the fly. But even if you’re a more sophisticated Slack user, there’s still a learning curve in working from home during a pandemic. It’s more important than ever to connect with customers and be empathetic. “It’s been interesting talking to our customers,” says Rayl. “I think the big difference now is that people aren’t curious about Slack–they’re in need. It’s now ‘I have to figure this out by this afternoon, please help me get set up.’ Slack is adaptable and flexible, so we’re helping them get the benefit they need out of the product.”

Helping teams connect during crisis

All of a sudden, new teams are popping up to collaborate. “People from all around the world are spinning up new Slack workspaces to work together,” says Rayl. People are coming together remotely to research the virus. Groups of 3D printer enthusiasts are working with manufacturers to find ways to make ventilators.

But even with the uptick in global communication, it’s important to recognize people may not be as productive as usual. Slack makes employee health a priority. “This isn’t proper remote work,” says Rayl. “It’s working from home during a crisis. First and foremost, we’re communicating to employees to take care of themselves and take care of their families. We’re making sure that people are taking time off. And then beyond that, once we have a healthy employee base, there are all these opportunities to tackle.”

Keeping up with questions

It’s a new way of working for a lot of people--you can’t just pop over to your coworker’s desk to ask a question. This holds true within organizations as well, where people are getting used to the idea of asynchronous communication. Rayl says you don’t have to be on Slack all the time, or keep up with every channel constantly, and she shares her own best practices for knowing what’s important.

“There are two things – one is my team. If somebody needs something from me urgently, then that’s my responsibility. Oftentimes, my response is ‘Do you need this now or can it wait until Monday?’ It’s a genuine question. I let my team know It’s ok for you to ask, it’s ok to DM. You really have to be explicit about what you need.”

Making communications count

It can be a challenge to manage communications to a remote workforce-and it’s equally challenging for employees. Rayl says one way to cut down on the noise is to have a dedicated announcements channel on Slack for company-wide communications, and to make sure employees know they’re expected to read that channel. “And another big thing is only say it once. Don’t announce it to managers, and then have managers tell their teams – say it once, say it in the same voice every time. That cuts down the feeling you’ve seen the same thing ten different times.”

Miss our chat? Watch “A CX Moment with Slack’s Ali Rayl” here.

Join us for more expert-led sessions on customer experience from the comfort of your couch. Check out our upcoming virtual events.