If you’ve been hiding under a rock the last 24 hours, you may have missed the recent public outcry regarding the launch of Slack’s newest feature, an ever-present WYSIWIG toolbar for formatting messages.

slack WYSIWYG

You’re excused if – like me and the other grey-haired folks at Parlor – you don’t quite grasp the severity of the situation. After all, it is a fairly innocuous bit of functionality which Slack has been testing for some time (one of my Slack teams received the feature a few weeks ago). Regardless, to call this new feature controversial would be a bit of an understatement, at least if Slack’s Twitter account is representative of their customers’ sentiment.

In the short time since its release, there has been no shortage of critics, and nearly as many hot takes about how Slack could have better designed the experience, approached the launch, tested the idea, etc. Two questions seem to abound:

1) Why did Slack make the change, and

2) How could they have done it better?

While I certainly understand the curiosity (and personally enjoy the conspiracy-theory-like conjecture – “They’re clearly catering to enterprise customers since they’re losing the battle against Microsoft Teams!”), this isn’t what I find most compelling about the situation. Instead, the central question I keep asking myself is: Why are Slack users going to Twitter to discuss Slack?

Slack’s real mistake: Not providing users with a vehicle for communal conversation.

 

It feels odd to say about a company whose entire mission is to connect people via more efficient and effective asynchronous communication, but Slack’s real failure is in creating a customer culture where the customer feels the need to retreat to a separate platform to talk about the product for which they’re actually paying money.

Like essentially every good product today, Slack provides users with a few different mechanisms to engage with the Slack team, seek out help, or provide feedback. They have a feedback@slack.com email address, a standard feedback form field, and what appears to be a proprietary live chat tool. There’s also a Help Center with a broad collection of articles and FAQs. None of these tools actually exist within the Slack desktop app; they send users outside of the app. The one tool which they have baked into the actual in-app experience is an announcements feed of new product releases, but alas – it doesn’t allow for any feedback or commenting inside of the Slack app. 

Slack - how can we help?

Slack clearly understands the importance of providing users with a collection of secondary resources designed to enhance their experience. Unfortunately, in light of the controversy regarding their most recent feature launch, it’s clear that simply linking to a bunch of support resources isn’t all that valuable to their users – at least not when what users really want is to voice their perspectives in a way which feels genuinely heard.

What Slack can learn from their user’s Twitter outrage.

 

So what is Twitter providing Slack’s users that makes them feel like it’s a better outlet than Slack for expressing their opinions about Slack? For all the vitriol and negativity that plagues the platform, Twitter succeeds in one major way: It has effectively become a global town hall, a single place where anyone can come to voice their perspectives on the things that matter to them. And despite all of its support documentation, live chat help, FAQs, and release notes, Slack unfortunately hasn’t nurtured this deep sense of community with their actual users in their actual product. For such a great company with such an industry-changing product, that’s really a shame.

Inevitably, there will be changes made. Perhaps Slack will change the feature. Or, perhaps users will just change their expectations. Either way, it still seems that Slack will have to work to foster a culture of customer collaboration and provide users with mechanisms to appropriately express their perspectives. Perhaps they should take a page out of Twitter’s book and provide a sort of in-product town hall for their users. Companies like GoDaddy have done this well. By doing so, they have provided users with a place which breathes community, where users directly connect with other users to share knowledge and opinions, all while providing them with the resources they need to be successful. 

The result is a deeper sense of connection between the folks on both sides of the product: those building it and those using it. Not to mention a whole lot less public criticism from actual customers.

And hey — if Slack ever wants to add a town hall to their product, my team at Parlor would always be thrilled to provide them with one. 😉