This article was originally published on the FCR blog on February 16, 2018. Click here to read the original.
Slack has taken the world of communication by storm and seems to be doing a good job of slimming down the inboxes of many professionals. A quick internal poll finds that 60% of our programs at FCR use Slack to communicate internally and with clients in comparison to 9% that use Google Hangouts and 7% that use HipChat.
It’s the preferred method in support organizations for bubbling up important concerns from the front lines as well as quickly resolving customer escalations and questions. We consistently find that this method of communication with clients helps our agents to be more engaged in their work and feel more a part of the company they are providing support for. This is a win for the customers they’re serving.
One of our clients recently asked us if there’s anything better than Slack out there and I didn’t have a great answer. I’ll get into some of the reasons the client asked this question in a later post but first wanted to survey our leaders at FCR to understand what communication tools they use and how they use them. While I was hoping to hear about some of the alternatives, all fourteen of the leaders that responded use Slack.
What are the top ways your team uses Slack?
There are so many cool integrations for Slack. With a little bit of searching your mind will be blown by the variety of types of data and information you can feed into the platform. I was hoping to uncover some of these in my questioning but our usage at FCR tends to be fairly simple. Here are the top three functions all of our teams use Slack for:
- Broadcasting important information and updates to the team – Getting information to everyone in a timely manner is a critical challenge for all support teams and it impacts what’s being communicated to customers. In a contact center environment, this communication often needs to be as real time as possible. While I’m not sure this entirely replaces email, in person communication, web/LMS, and printed messages it certainly improves communication, especially when the team is distributed over multiple locations and shifts.
- Escalation and floor support – All support teams have an escalation process for handling questions from team members and escalating customers to a supervisor. There’s an added layer for outsourcers where some escalations might be handled internally and others might go from outsourcer to a contact at the client. It’s clear these tools do a better job at creating a distributed floor support model. Whereas in the past, agents might have to go to one supervisor at a time (a process I refer to as fishing for help) to getting the attention of whoever’s available.
- Group Collaboration – One thing that’s easy to lose as support teams scale is the ability to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening on the front lines. When issues occur, it’s not uncommon to hear about them from customers. Slack provides a way for agents to let their colleagues know when they see something abnormal or just need to share a better way of handling a particular scenario. Furthermore, having a forum for agents to interact and support one another takes some of the pressure off leadership. Polls are a great way to enhance group collaboration. Bobby Herrera, Site Director in our Veneta center recommends Polly as a way to quickly poll your team for their opinion on an issue.
To a slightly lesser extent, here are two additional uses we see among our teams:
- Social Conversation – Memes and animated GIFs are the lifeblood of support team communication. A little fun makes un-fun situations fun while also helping important updates catch the eye of the desired audience. Giphy is another great Slack integration according to Bobby Herrera.
- Direct Messaging – I recently listened to Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Slack talk about the platform as democratizing corporate communication and adding transparency, and while that’s certainly true, there are still times where it’s a better use of everyone’s time to direct message the right person.
A word of caution about direct messaging
I asked my colleagues to share some of the challenges they face when using Slack and by far the greatest was around direct messaging. While it’s great if used to accomplish work, it can also devolve into a time suck for team members and blur the lines between personal and professional if not properly monitored. Here are a few important pieces of advice from our team:
- Establish a clear code of conduct. Your agents should understand what direct messages are used for, and like any interaction with colleagues and clients, communication should be kept productive and professional. There should be no tolerance for unprofessional behavior regardless of the communication channel. And yes, it’s still OK to have fun and be friendly while focusing on getting things done.
- Monitoring productivity in other areas helps curb unproductive behavior in Slack. It’s nearly impossible to police direct messages in Slack. If agents are held accountable for a productivity standard in their other work, concerns over direct messages should dissipate a bit.
- Evaluate whether you need direct messaging at all. Remember, Slack has taken a hold on the market because it’s a more effective communication tool than email and instant messenger — tools often used for one to one communication. That being said, take an honest look at whether or not direct messaging enhances team communication and productivity. A few of our teams at FCR don’t allow direct messaging for that very reason and use other means within Slack for effective communication.
The consensus from my colleagues is that Slack has significantly improved the way they communicate and has helped facilitate better communication with our clients. My survey yielded significantly more information than I shared in this post. Stay tuned for my next article where I reveal advice for structuring Slack so as not to miss important information. In the meantime, how does your support team use Slack or similar communication platforms? Do you have anything to add to my list?