How ServerCentral Turing Group Uses Slack to Collaborate with Colleagues and Customers
ServerCentral Turing Group (SCTG) offers managed colocation, cloud and disaster recovery services, including AWS cloud consulting and cloud-native software development. They’re proud to be an eight-time Inc. 5000 Honoree.
As a technology company, SCTG is always looking for creative ways to use technology internally with employees and externally with customers. We sat down with some SCTG team members – including Director of Sales, Erin Hallett, Account Management Team Lead, Lauren Hood, and Director of DevOps/Slack Power User, Phil Doroff – to learn how they use Slack to streamline communication with customers and employees.
Sales Assembly: For those who may not be familiar with the technology, what is Slack?
Phil Doroff, Director of DevOps/Slack Power User: Slack is probably best thought of as a modern chat client. Those familiar with AIM, BBM, IRC, etc. will feel right at home. They’ve solved many of the user experience problems that earlier solutions ignored.
Sales Assembly: How does SCTG use Slack internally?
Erin Hallett, Director of Sales: How don’t we use Slack!
Slack is our primary messaging platform. It is how we ask each other questions and share updates without having to set up a phone call or meeting.
My favorite feature is setting up groups called channels. If we have a team that’s working on the same project or signing a new client, we can set up a private channel to keep everyone on the same page. Topic-based channels keep discussions focused, too.
Within each channel, it’s easy to find anything – just scroll back and see what document was shared or what we agreed to months ago.
For our remote employees, Slack makes it easy for me to check in to see how they’re doing and how I can help.
Lauren Hood, Account Management Team Lead: One of the huge benefits of Slack is that it enables me to communicate with coworkers faster than email and in a much more humanized way. The ability to use emojis as part of a message supports a more realistic and engaging platform. Another great benefit is the ability to set reminders and include notes just for yourself. For items that I need to revisit, I can set an automatic reminder in Slack by typing a simple command. The task stays front-of-mind, whereas in email it could get buried.
Sales Assembly: How does SCTG use Slack externally with customers?
Lauren: Collaboration can happen on the fly with any client while using the Slack platform. A huge value-add for us is the ability to quickly get to the heart of what a customer needs in order to deliver on it.
So often, we rely on calendar meetings to communicate with customers. Slack reduces the need for long calls when a quick question-and-answer session does the trick. We value our customers’ time, and Slack helps us show it.
Erin: Slack is especially beneficial when it comes to new customers. Often, a new customer requires a migration or professional service engagement that tends to get super involved. Slack allows us to instantly communicate with customers during these critical phases. Creating a channel between a customer and us allows all the folks who may be involved (project management, sales, engineering, etc.) to be on the same page.
Roughly 30% of our customers use Slack with SCTG today. Customers want to use Slack, because it provides them with real-time access to their most trusted partners including SCTG. Immediate availability to bounce ideas around, discuss potential strategies and get ahead of potential issues is invaluable. It wasn’t really possible before, because “chat” was predominantly one-to-one. Now, it is many-to-many, and the entire organization can put itself forward to support customers when, where and how they need it.
Phil: Slack fits nicely in between email and phone calls as a communication medium with customers.
I find anything that requires a large amount of back-and-forth communication in real time (such as troubleshooting) to be far more efficient on Slack vs. phone or email.
Pasting screenshots or command outputs is fast and easy with Slack, in many cases drastically reducing Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) on complex issues.
Slack is also asynchronous enough for people to complete small debugging tasks without being interrupted, whereas phone calls are highly synchronous and can lead to a lot of “dead air” in comparison.
Sales Assembly: What are some unique ways that SCTG is utilizing Slack?
Erin: Slack has become vital in maintaining our culture at SCTG. Outside of our channels for work, we have channels for fun activities (like our boardgame club) and sharing news across the company (like when someone has a baby). There’s even a channel to announce when food is up for grabs.
Lauren: One of my favorite channels is #LunchTrains, where a big group of us coordinate where we’re going for lunch. Someone can start a train by picking a restaurant and time. Folks who want to join can “board the train.” There are even dueling trains, if people have different restaurant picks. It’s a lot of fun!
Erin: We also have a #Praise channel that integrates with our HR platform. If someone, including customers, offers positive feedback about an employee, it automatically gets posted for the whole company to see. It’s great to have an opportunity to show your appreciation for colleagues in a public forum.
Sales Assembly: As sales leaders, how are you using Slack with your teams?
Erin: We’re lucky to work at a company with so many great developers. They created a Slackbot that notifies me whenever someone closes a deal. I can then share the salesperson’s win in our company-wide Slack channel, which boosts morale for both the person who made the deal and for the company overall.
Lauren: We have a private Slack channel for the sales team, which helps foster a team culture. It’s a private space just for the sales team to make announcements, seek input from management, get feedback, ask questions, share competition results, and of course, post ridiculous memes.
Sales Assembly: Is there anything that you don’t like about Slack?
Lauren: With an always-on messaging tool, setting expectations on your availability can be challenging. As long and you have an agreed upon way of engaging (from both sides), then it’s an issue that is easily overcome.
Erin: I have to admit, it has taken me some time to get used to emojis in a professional setting. As Lauren mentioned, you have to be good about snoozing notifications as appropriate, or you run the risk of being too available. Like anything, you have to use the tool properly.