At a glance
Avg. ticket volume/mo.
Improvement in FRT
Median response time
Having the foresight to choose the right toolset from the get-go is not something scrappy startups are always known for, especially when they are running at full speed to reach the next milestone.
As important as maximizing productivity is—exactly what Slack is all about—a startup’s pace is fast and furious. Yet Slack was determined not to make the mistake of selecting tools they’d eventually shed, especially when it came to customer service.
Founded in 2009 in San Francisco, Slack was newly-launched and envisioned itself one day serving millions of customers who, like Slack itself, were looking for a more effective way to communicate. More than just another piece of software, Slack sought to be an experience. That meant every touchpoint a customer had with the product and company was important, and one-on-one interactions with customer service were crucial.
“When a person takes the time to contact us, they deserve everything we have in return,” said Ali Rayl, Director of Customer Experience at Slack.
Determined to build closer relationships with customers, Rayl equipped her team with Zendesk Support before Slack celebrated its first birthday. Slack’s philosophy is that when a person takes the time to contact them, they deserve a human conversation.
“We all have a limited amount of time, and if someone is taking some of that time to write us about something related to our product, it is incumbent on us to take the time as people to form that relationship with them and to do our best to get them to where they need to be,” said Rayl.
Above all, Rayl wanted a tool that would grow with Slack. Though the Slack service was still only available through private beta at the time, its use was expanding exponentially. “I knew that Zendesk Support would work if we reached the scale we were aiming for, and I also knew that whatever the user interface didn’t provide, we could write it ourselves with the Zendesk API,” Rayl said.
One of the first things Rayl did was to arrange for a custom interface. Slack users can contact support the traditional ways or they can interact using a feedback command built directly into Slack’s interface, which seamlessly generates a ticket in the background. “People don’t know that they are talking to a ticketing system,” Rayl said. “They feel they are just sending us a note.”
The Zendesk API also made it simpler to add support to Slack’s mobile app, so users are able to report bugs directly through Support. This is important because Slack has a tradition of funneling support tickets for beta products to engineers. Starting from the early private beta days of the company, Slack had always had a dedicated support team that was augmented by a team of Slack’s engineers, designers and product managers who continue to devote two hours each week talking to customers.
Rayl recognized Zendesk Support’s capability to grow with Slack—and the potential of the Zendesk API to allow for a custom, seamless in-app experience.
Rayl said creating views enable engineers to be effective when they serve their shift. “We set up a personal view for them that exposes them to the tickets that are most meaningful for them,” Rayl explained. This has led to some serendipitous moments for both the engineers and Slack’s customers. “There are times when four people write in about the same thing, and an engineer will come across the tickets and say, ‘I can just fix this,’” Rayl said. “They take 15 minutes, write a patch, test it, roll it out, and they resolve all four tickets at once. It’s amazing.”
Views also come in handy when onboarding new agents. Since Slack was officially released in February 2014, its service has grown more complex. Rayl is conscious of the fact that Slack’s community is so large, and the requests for support so diverse, that a new team member can quickly be overwhelmed. “The fact that we are able to tailor work to different people is really important in making each individual agent feel like they are doing work that matters and that they have a chance at succeeding,” she said.
Rayl has been able to use Support’s analytics to continually shrink the first response time. By categorizing tickets according to an “about” field, her team has identified which tickets have the longest turnaround time. “Basically, these tickets were suffering from the ‘bystander syndrome,’” Rayl said. “Everyone was looking at these tickets and saying, ‘I don’t know anything about that. I’m not going to touch it.’”
Rayl arranged for training programs that addressed the difficult ticket types. After the training, the response time picked up. In one area, it shrunk from 5 hours to 1.3 hours—a 74 percent improvement. Being able to use Support on mobile devices has further shortened response times. The median response time for all tickets is now approximately 1.9 hours.
“Our agents feel a deep responsibility towards customers, so if people are out or away from their desks, the mobile app is a great way for agents to check in or get an update on tickets,” Rayl said. The Support mobile app has become the best place to get real-time updates on the status of a ticket.
Two years since launching, Slack has grown to serve 2.7 million active daily users. Each week, their Help Center receives 100,000 hits. Rayl’s 60 agents field as many as 60,000 tickets, and respond to 20,000 tweets, per month.
“When I look around at other solutions, I don’t think they would have carried us through,” Rayl said. “The fact is, I still don’t know where we will be in six months, but I can trust that there’s enough flexibility in Zendesk Support to handle it when we get there.”
“I knew that Zendesk Support would work if we reached the scale we were aiming for.”