Ready to launch your own Slack community but need some guidance? We’ve got the answers!
With the help of our Marketing Manager Fleur, we sat down and talked about my experience launching and managing a community on Slack.
Why (and how) we launched our Slack community
How we reduced churn to under 2%
How we manage feedback, support, and community moderation
How you can launch your very own Slack community
During the webinar we asked the attendees why they are looking to start a Slack community. Let’s check out the results:What people meant when they clicked “other”:
Connecting customers doing similar work at the same scale. I guess another form of User Engagement.
Offload some of the support costs. Expert users can intervene and help more novice users without requiring us to be involved and field 100% of questions
Looking for clients to self-service and reduce “incidents” logged, but also get more feedback
Sound familiar? There might be specifics for why you want to start a community but you’ll find we’re all in the same boat, trying to create engagement, loyalty and have a core user base that gives you regular product feedback.
We had so many great questions, we decided to put them all together here for you. If you have any other questions, just ask!
Let’s jump in:
Q: Which forum tool were you using that was eventually shut down?
We used Zendesk’s community forums, as we already use the Help Center and the ticketing system.
Q; How often do employees get tagged by customers in questions? (Does it take too much employee time to monitor so that customers aren’t feeling ignored?)
It’s mostly me getting tagged, so others aren’t necessarily interrupted. The rest of the team jumps in when they feel they can pitch in and if they’re free, but it doesn’t really break up their work.
Q: What if your target user base may not necessarily be native Slack users?
Use the format that works best for your target audience. Forums didn’t work for us, but it might work for you! The majority of our user base is on Slack anyway, so it worked out great. There is a small percentage of people who can’t use Slack (either because of company restrictions or because their company just doesn’t use it, for example) – but it’s generally a small set of users.
Q:Does the welcome bot function required a paid version?
Not at all. We’re on a Heroku free plan for now, but the more users you have the more dyno hours you will have to get, so it depends on the size of your community and how long you want the bot to be running.
Q: What happens to the feedback when proddy captures it?
All feedback that is captured go straight into our Customer Feedback section in our own ProdPad account (because of course we use ProdPad for ProdPad!) From there I tag it and triage it accordingly, making sure that they’re taken care of by the team and if needed also linked to ideas in our backlog. When that happens, it allows our CPO to view the product backlog in relation to the amount of feedback it has, so he can prioritize issues better.
Q: Have you noticed a negative of the community of users asking questions being offline and not being available for potential customers of how the software is being used?
We cover most hours (from 6am-9 or 10pm UK time) so we cover most of the timezones with direct team support. We also have a Help Center, so most answers can be found there!
Q: Is someone monitoring the slack channel 24/7?
No, but we do cover most UK hours (6am-10pm UK time.) Our customers are happy to jump in and help any way they can when we’re offline, so for now it’s working quite well.
Q: What would you say was the most important reason why this was successful when the original approach failed? Was it the tool itself because most client/users already use Slack?
I think so, yes. The forum required the user to find it, log in, navigate through it – it was too much. With most people using Slack, it’s just another group they have running in the background, and if they need us they can just pop it open and there we are!
Q: How specifically are you using Slack for user testing/user interviews?
For User Testing, our UX designer Kav will share his calendar whenever he’s running a user test and ask people to join (we use Calendly for that – it’s great!) For beta tests it’s a similar concept, we’ll send out an email as well as post in the community and ask who wants to join.
Q: How do you handle who can join the Slack community? Can you restrict access? How complex is user management?
Right now we invite all new admins and editors as soon as their account becomes active. The email is automated as part of our onboarding flow, and it sends them a link that’s hosted on Heroku from which they can request their invite.
Q: Are you still using your traditional channels to receive product feedback and support requests? Do you believe you will eventually replace them or will they stay in place regardless?
Absolutely! We don’t plan on cutting any of those off. We try to make it as easy as possible for all of our customers to get in touch with us, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Zendesk, email, or just a good old face to face chat. If we start making restrictions, they’re more likely to not want to send feedback.
Q: Do you clean up old unused Slack channels over time?
Yes, of course. We haven’t had to do much so far, but when necessary we’ll archive a channel.
Q: What are the benefits/drawbacks of having a public community during an failure or outage?
You’re there to talk to your customers right away. There’s no point in trying to hide! They already know something is wrong, and nothing is more reassuring than speaking to the CEO sometimes and have her tell you that the team is on it!
Q: How do your customers who aren’t existing Slack users react to having to join and learn this new tool?
Some download Slack just to be able to talk to us, and sometimes don’t join – and that’s ok! The majority of our user base is on Slack, for anyone else we have other channels through which they can reach us.
Q: Does your support work on Zendesk conflict or cannibalise your Slack group or vice versa? How do you get them to work together?
Not at all. We have a support bot setup with BubbleIQ that allows users to create issues directly into our Zendesk instance, so they work together quite well.
Q: How do I enforce the data retention on slack? Inspired by GDPR!
I’m sure Slack will have something ready by May 28, but at this time we’re still waiting on them and working to get that ironed out.
Q: Are you able to easily obtain statistics/data on response time, resolution time, etc. through this approach?
The simple answer is no – because Slack isn’t a support channel. Slack is a way for us to casually speak to our customers, answer questions, and build engagement. All of our users know that if they need to submit a request they can do so through Zendesk, either directly or using the bot, so we’ll look at response/resolutions times on there.
Q: Is it the same workspace for your staff and customers?
Two separate instances – our team has one group and our customers another. The whole team is part of both.
Q: What % of your new zendesk support tickets originate from slack?
The honest question is… I don’t know. It isn’t particularly significant, as most users will just email in or go directly to our Help Center. We’ve made it a point to ensure the Help Center is easily accessible from the app, so they’re more likely to click on it directly than click on Slack and raise an issue through there just to get to Zendesk!
Q: How do you ensure that you have one voice when you reply (ensure that everyone is aligned on the topic). do you set rules internally how to reply? Especially if you need to discuss solution before hand?
One of our core values at ProdPad is that we’re always transparent about everything that we do, and we take care of every request like that. We’re fun, casual, but also honest. Everyone knows to be respectful (of course!) but everyone is free to jump in and help, and we always encourage that.
Q: Is there a way to collect insights from slack communication with customers? Do you use this to gain insights about your users’ preferences at all, and if you don’t, what tool do you use?
Q: By the way – have you encountered any issues with the free Slack plan not archiving old messages/threads? (This was a problem I have encountered at a client)?
Not so far!
Q: How do you use it internally?
Some of our team is remote, so it helps with communication!
Q: Follow up to non-slack customers: will Facebook group work as a customer community tool?
I did consider Facebook, but was worried about privacy issues.
Q: Have you noticed a negative of the community of users asking questions being in an app – not a website. ie not being available for potential customers of how the software is being used?
Not at all. We have a Help Center, videos, in-app help – plenty of resources for our users to find relevant information outside the community. It’s important to remember that while the community is a great way to engage and talk to users, it shouldn’t be your only form of communication.
Q: Did you put together a community standards doc that users are required to read/acknowledge when they join? How do you communicate and/or enforce the community as a safe and friendly place for everyone?
That’s definitely something I may have to consider eventually, but the bot covers that for now. Luckily our clients are super so we haven’t had any problems.
Q: As Community Manager – how much of your time is in the Slack Community working it? Do you get other employees to cover the channel at different times or is your culture embracing employees to directly answer questions – like your UX designer who jumped in? How did you get that going?
Everyone in the team has access, no one here is shy! We all love talking to our users so it has never been difficult to get our team talking to them within the community!
Q: How would you recommend encouraging interaction between users in a new channel? We started a power user channel but haven’t had much luck with users talking to each other despite introducing the channel purpose and posing one initial discussion question.
Start talking yourself! Ask them what they’re achieving this week, what they’re up to, get them involved in user testing and constantly ask for feedback. Sometimes people are just shy about being the first one to talk.
Q: How do you avoid it becoming a sounding board for complaints?
That’s a tough one! A customer will complain about things if they’re having issues, regardless of the channel. If it is raised on Slack, it allows us to get to the issue and answer is publicly, and also ensure that anyone else having the issue sees our reply in the community. I don’t see this as a negative thing at all, but rather a positive thing. If one person is having an issue, the likelihood is others are too, and it’s better to address those issues quickly and with as much transparency as possible. I can’t imagine anything worst than trying to hide issues under the rug – that would be incredibly frustrating for our users!
Q: Did you say you use Zapier to help remove users from Slack? How does that work, and do you know the name of the Slack integration for that?
Do you think this would be successful with high status end users such as physicians, executives, etc.?
You won’t know until you try, give it a go!
Q: Why did you decide to use Slack on top of Intercom?
Intercom is installed in our marketing site, and it allows us to jump the user to contact us right away without any restrictions. Slack is to build and maintain ongoing relationships, and allows the user to stay engaged with us after they’ve subscribed.
Andrea is a Product Support and Management expert, technical writer, and social network monkey. An undercover geek with a passion for music, animals, and avid unicorn rights activist, she's always up for a challenge.