Slack CX director makes the case for closer alignment with product teams
Kevin Albers smiles like a detective who has finally solved a mystery when he talks about finding issues within the underlying technology that runs the popular messaging platform Slack.
“I get excited when I dive into logs and error messages and see what’s happening within the web application code when something goes wrong,” the director of customer experience at Slack said as part of a panel discussion during a virtual event hosted by Zendesk late last week. “When a customer has an issue, I can point the engineering team to exactly where it’s happening inside of our code base.”
If that makes Albers sound a little unlike the average person leading CX for a well-known brand, it’s because he is. Having studied network engineering and IT at Purdue University, Albers came to Slack after IT project management roles at employers that included GE Healthcare and Nielsen.
While many senior CX roles seem to go to those with stints in departments such as marketing and customer support, Albers said he the requirements of the job are already beginning to attract those with other expertise.
“The types of background that we’re seeing — we’re talking about economic backgrounds or education backgrounds,” he said. “I think the more that we can start to pull in these different areas across the spectrum, that just provides a better experience for our customer, because they’re exactly that. They’re all across the board.”
That said, Slack’s CX strategy is based on a need that is common across its user base, which is that they want a messaging platform provider that will be proactive about troubleshooting issues, instead of waiting for them to be brought forward.
Having close alignment between the CX team and the product team helps the company achieve that by better understanding potential road blocks and friction, Albers said.
“We have a belief that our customers are busier than we are,” he said. “If they need to reach out to us, we’re actually taking them away from what they need to do.”
This all ties back to Slack’s core mission, Albers added, which is to make working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive.
“We all know we’re building software for our customers, and we need to create that clear line of communications, in idea flow, in a way that isn’t restricted by organizational boundaries,” Albers said.
Besides staying ahead of bugs or problems that would tie up its service agents, Albers said his team does a lot to try and weave in the voice of Slack’s customer base into the evolution of its platform and services. Examples include features like encryption key management, which helps securely manage large numbers of users in an organization.
“We were a tool for the 200, 300 people companies,” he said. “Now w’ere serving customers in hundred of thousands. To be able to more easily maintain and manage our platforms is really important as we continue to move into the enterprise space.”
Zendesk vice-president of support Paxton Cooper noted that while Slack is among the its customers, the two firms have also partnered on an integration whereby Slack users can take advantage of a feature called “Side Conversions.”
“(It) allows you to bring in other members of your business teams or functions that may be required to solve a particular customer issue,” Cooper explained. “There may be someone outside of the customer service operation you need. You can even attach the ticket you’re working on.”
Even if they aren’t a “nerd” as he describes himself, Albers said setting the example that everyone should care deeply about the details of CX issues makes a big difference in overall results.
“Demonstrating this as a leader actually propagates throughout our organization, because our agents feed off of this behaviour,” he said. “I truly believe that the customer should not have to debug the software for us.”
The full panel discussion, which touched on several other subjects and featured execs from Apeel, CX Journey and author/trainer Jeff Toister, is available on-demand.
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.