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Being in a relationship with Slack.

Joe Castelli
Web Engineer

Slack, the wildly popular team communication tool, experienced a significant outage yesterday. It was all-aboard the struggle bus for a good chunk of the day as its users (including us here at IDM) had to roll back to the old fashioned ways of communicating, if only for a few hours. (What’d we do before Slack? Ah, email. That’s right.)

At some point I took a moment to see how things were going for them on Twitter. I can’t say I was terribly surprised by what I saw.

Users poured in by the dozens not necessarily to cry out, but almost to offer information and encouragement as Slack worked to put things back together. Even the less forgiving tweets I spotted weren’t all that bad.

What’s interesting to me is simply the relationship Slack has with its users. Nobody was calling 911. There was no semblance of rioting in the streets. And you can click any one of those tweets and see how they responded. No customer was left untouched. And this is a company that offers a rather generous free tier – many who spoke up have probably never paid a dime to use the service.

In my mind, the big takeaway here for other software shops and products is that, whether you choose to identify it or not, a customer using your product is engaged in a very real relationship with you. I think most of us know that, but don’t quite think of it in those exact terms.

Your users are your customers are your friends are your family. It’s not only OK to treat them as such, and have human conversations with them, it’s expected.

Having fallen in love with Slack’s product in its earlier days, I gave ‘em a little shout out early last year. Just a word of encouragement to a young company whose product made life a bit easier for me and the teams I was working with.

Their reply back was entirely unexpected. But whoever replied on their end not only wanted to say something back, they took a second to drop by my profile and see that I’m a drummer.

It may not always seem like much, but having the good people on your team staying in touch with the good people using your product really does have a substantial impact on how you’re perceived as a company and the community you’re building, even in those dark times when your product is temporarily struggling.

So when your product’s broken, do you put up a generic, humanless notification somewhere on your website? Or do you take the time to respond to every single tweet that comes over the wire?

Kudos, Slack, for reminding us how a touch of genuine humanity in the B2C relationship can be such an effective trait in a modern brand personality.

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