How to use shared Slack channels with customers

Shared Slack channels are a great way to quickly exchange information and create an open forum with your customers. Unlike email where recipients are usually on a “need to know basis”, Slack encourages free-form communication in a shared space to benefit anyone who stumbles upon the message. This is a great way to share product knowledge and collaborate with your customers. But Slack can become unwieldy and overwhelming to manage as your customers grow, resulting in you getting lost and customers becoming frustrated.

We’ve written out recommendations from our team to yours on how to manage shared channels to sustainably collaborate with customers in Slack.

📝 Side note: We built Abbot to help teams who use shared channels with their customers so you’ll see some Abbot magic throughout the post.

Prerequisites for working with customers (and everyone) in Slack.

It’s important to have good Slack etiquette and there are many opinions of what that means. But what’s clear is that there are people who enjoy working in Slack and those who do not. When your Slack workspace is organized and there are clear communication standards across it, you will enjoy Slack a lot more. Here are a few things we’d recommend doing to find peace of mind in Slack and stay organized with channels:

Group channels.
We've created sections for trial users and customers to stay organized.
  • To keep everything organized, create a section in your Slack that is dedicated for shared channels with prospects and customers. We call ours “Trial/Proof of Concept” and “Customers”.
Create standardized emoji reactions (Slack calls these “reacji”). Here are a few we use (and Abbot listens for).
  • 👀 = I’m looking into this
  • ✅ = this is done
Come up with a naming convention for your customers channels
  • During the proof of concept/pilot/trial, you can call the channel, poc-businessname, pilot-businessname, or trial-businessname
  • Once the company becomes a customer, we recommend changing the name to something like cs-businessname for (customer success) or cc-businessname (customer channel).
Only get notifications when you need them.
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed with notifications, we’d recommend setting it up so you only get notifications for DMs, mentions, and keywords. You can also set your notifications to only come during certain hours of the day.
  • Personally, the Slack “knock-brush” sounds gives us anxiety. We’ve updated our notifications sound to “plink” or disabled sounds all together.

1. Invite customers to a shared Slack channel before they are customers.

When in your pre-sales process, suggest setting up a shared channel with your prospect as part of the proof of concept, pilot program, or as a resource during the trial period. This is a great time to teach your customers how to work with you in Slack and set the standard for responsiveness.

You can invite you customer contact(s) to a shared Slack channel with their work email.

Create a shared channel with your prospect during the evaluation period (make sure you initiate the invitation). It is important to set up the channel properly at this stage as the channel may remain open for the duration of the customer relationship…so hopefully forever.

Invite Abbot to the channel if you want help staying on top of any conversations and to begin automating manual work.

Invite Abbot to a channel just by mentioning @abbot or using the /invite @abbot command.
  • 🤫 Customers see that Abbot has been added to the channel (like any person you add) but will not see the settings or anything else at this point.

Abbot has features like response time settings, first responders, and notifications to make sure we are notified of customer messages.

  • You can assign the people who are involved in managing the trial to receive conversation notifications when a customer sends a message in the channel.

Now throughout the trial, the configured first responders will be notified in Slack of any conversations from your future customer as they approach the ‘reply by’ time settings. The result of the trial is up to you and your customer but, with Abbot you can set the tone for prompt replies and great customer support for when they sign up!

Abbot will send an individual or group DM when conversations pass the target or deadline response time settings for a given channel.

2.  Make sure the conversation gets to the right person.

During the sales cycle, your sales rep should be responsible for the customer channel often we pre-sales engineers involved as well.

When there are multiple first responders, Abbot will group DM to remind you of conversations. This DM is a great place to backchannel before responding.

If you invite Abbot to the shared channel, you can self assign yourself and anyone else on your team as first responders. During the trial or proof of concept, Abbot will notify you of customer conversations and create a space to backchannel with your fellow first responders to respond accordingly.

The implementation phase moves faster when you have an open line of communication. In some instances, this means staying on the phone or zoom until the implementation is complete, but it can also be managed through shared channels asynchronously.

Once the implementation has started, the implementation lead or point person can be added as a first responder and sales people can be removed. This is a good time to invite the long-term owner of the account (usually the customer success manager) to the channel so they can get acquainted with the project and people involved.

With Abbot's Zendesk integration, you can loop in support without needing them in the customer channel.

If topics come up during implementation that require looping in support, you can create Zendesk tickets from the conversation and Abbot will facilitate a 2-way conversation between your customer in Slack and support team in Zendesk. This can be helpful at any point of the customer journey but especially during projects where a tight troubleshooting loop with support is necessary.

For ongoing customer success and support, we recommend adjusting the configurations made to Abbot for longterm success. This means reassigning the first responder role to the customer success manager and resetting the ‘reply by’ settings to align with any contractual response time commitments (SLAs, etc..) as well as setting up automations across customer channels (see automations in step 3 👇).

3. Automate manual work across channels and delight your customers.

It doesn’t have to be the wild west in customer Slack channels. We’ve created a process for our team that fosters open communication with our customers without burning ourselves out. Here are a few things we automate to help our customers (and ourselves) in Slack:

Notify your customers of new feature ships, upcoming out-of-office plans, and other updates in multiple Slack channels all at the same time with 📣 Announcements in Abbot

Send an Announcement to multiple channels and collect all the emoji reactions and replies from one central location in Abbot.

Set up an automated first reply message to meet first response time expectations and gather the right information from your customers.

Welcome new users with an automated message illustrating how you and the customer collaborate in the channel.

Create your own conversation flows for your customers to self-serve when they're looking for help with a format that works best for your team.

Getting started

Shared Slack channels can get out of hand very quickly, especially when you are growing fast and opening new channels with customers every day. Some questions to ask yourself when getting started with shared Slack channels include:

  • How long should a customer expect to wait for a response to their question? Is there an SLA?
  • How do you need to staff your team to ensure customer service objectives are met? Do you need someone available 24/7 to respond or is within business hours sufficient?
  • Which of your teams are respond to customer conversations? How can you route conversations to the right people when you need to loop in support, product, and engineering?
  • What duplicate work are you doing in each customer channel, can you automate that?

We talk to customer success teams every day, and we building what we learn into Abbot so every customer team can benefit. We’ve built Abbot to help customer-facing teams stay on top of conversations in shared Slack channels and automate where they can. If you are starting to use shared channels with customers and are looking for help, please reach out to us!

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