Industry • Perspective
Lessons From the Best in Tech: Why Slack's Human Approach to Comms Succeeds
By Boulevard Staff
The communication tool has become an integral part of offices around the world, but it never forgets who’s boss.
Customer communications can be tricky to get right. As a brand, you have information you have to share, like platform updates, as well as info you want to share, like opportunities to upgrade. Your audience, however, may not be interested in either one. With limited time in their day and an overwhelming amount of noise vying for their attention, customers increasingly need to be convinced that any brand’s communication is worth their while. Before you devise your own brand’s comms voice, you’d do well to take a page from communication giant Slack, which has mastered the art of speaking to customers in a way that makes them eager to listen.
Slack is an absolute behemoth with nearly 10 million daily active users. Part chat program, part video conferencing, part management software, part productivity enhancer, it was already deeply embedded into workplace productivity back in 2018, but once the pandemic further democratized remote work, Slack really exploded. It would make sense for a company that large and visible to keep a tight rein on its public-facing communications, but Slack goes a different route. The voice of the Slack brand isn’t buttoned up or corporate, but neither is it overly familiar. It’s not a suit or a hoodie, but rather somewhere in between, communicating professionalism with a human voice. As a result, Slack comms are as enjoyable to read as they are useful. More importantly, Slack understands that its customers’ attention is finite and consistently delivers comms that are clear in intent and understood at a glance.
In other words, Slack treats its customers like the busy professionals they are, never forgetting that in their relationship, the user is the real boss. Here’s how you can learn from their example.
Inform, but delight
Like any other software as a service, Slack is constantly tweaking, upgrading, and improving its core product. Slack often has to release patch notes, updates that inform customers of whatever modifications have recently been made. Much of the time, patch notes are nothing of great concern to the end user; bugs have been fixed, systems have been optimized, that sort of thing. Sometimes, however, the update solves a long-standing problem, or includes new features that customers have been asking for. The challenge facing Slack — and every other software company on the planet — is how to persuade customers to read patch notes whenever they’re released.
Slack’s solution is simple: Make it funny. Release notes are clear and to the point, broken down into headings like “What’s New,” “Bug Fixes,” and “Security Guidance” so that users can skip to the parts likely to impact them most and ignore the rest. That said, the way the notes are written with a healthy enough dose of humor that they’re a worthwhile read no matter what. Pick any entry on the Release Notes page and you’re sure to find yourself smiling. Take this example of a bug fix:
Those on MacOS 12 reported that notification sounds were still coming through despite Notification Sounds being set to “None.” We have updated the internal logic to the more explicit “None, not under any circumstances, not even if it’s very important, never, not once, nil, absolutely not.” We hope it takes the hint.
Slack doesn’t go overboard on injecting personality into its patch notes, but imbues them with enough fun to make customers want to read them. Your salon or spa likely won’t be reaching out to customers with software updates regularly, but think about the messaging you do send out. Is there a way you could give it more personality and elevate it from being merely informative to truly delightful?
Put the value front and center
Every time you communicate with your customer, you’re asking them to give up a small part of one of their most important and limited resources: time. Show them you recognize the value of their attention and they’ll be more likely to provide it. Slack’s social channels are a master class in making the most of the time each user is willing to give them. The topic of each post is clear from the very start, allowing users to decide with just a glance whether or not to keep reading.
Take this thread about Huddles as an example. If the customer has an interest in the Huddles feature — a tool for creating audio or video meetings on the fly from within the Slack app — they know immediately that the thread is worth pursuing.. The rest of the thread provides further details both in text and with eye-catching videos that don’t require sound to be understood, ensuring that even those who read each and every post have only devoted mere moments of their day to it.
Your customers shouldn’t have to decipher why you’re reaching out to them. More importantly, they should know in an instant the value of an individual piece of communication to them. All of your comms should provide some kind of benefit for your brand, but if they’re not also clearly of value to your customers, can you really expect anybody to read them? Respect customers’ time while also giving them something they want or need and you’re one step closer to achieving lifetime loyalty. Once you’ve got your strategy down, use a tool like Boulevard’s Marketing Suite to deliver your message with style and ease.
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