Slacklash: Control Over the Machines and Proof That 1:1 Trumps 1:Many
No one can deny that Slack swept at-work collaboration off its feet. Not even three years old, the app is valued at $2.8 billion, has 2.3 million active users (675,000 have paid accounts), and its popularity continues to grow.
TIME predicted Slack would “change the future of work,” and the New York Times boldly claimed it might “finally sink email.” But as more users gravitated toward the app, early signs of a #Slacklash began to manifest.
Since then, more and more users have joined the discussion around the dark side of Slack. You might have first heard about Slacklash from Medium’s “Slack, I’m Breaking Up with You,” which largely ignited the conversation around the app’s drawbacks in February of this year. And fueling the fire, Uber dropped Slack in early April when thousands of employee communications reportedly overwhelmed the platform.
It’s hard to get a word in edgewise and impossible to stay on task when notifications continuously buzz one after another. Not to mention the stress of keeping up with every message. Slack is no exception — it can quickly devolve into messaging madness.
All signs point to one conclusion: One-on-one communication is often more productive, compelling, and enjoyable than one-to-many. Luckily, brands can use the Slacklash lessons learned to perfect their own brand-to-employee and brand-to-consumer communications. Here’s how.
“Always on” isn’t always right.
Slack straddles the fence between real time and asynchronous. A colleague might respond immediately or five hours later when it’s more convenient. It might sound advantageous, but what we’re really left with is diminished patience, replies that are often too late, and a thread of unread messages. Some use Slack to log their stream of consciousness while others require direct, in-time feedback. How do you distinguish between them? How can you mark certain threads urgent?
Cue the anxiety. Like group messaging, we’re left wondering whether we missed a critical conversation — always feeling this “return anxiety” if we’re away too long. The expectations don’t align with the reality of platforms like Slack.
Jason Fried, CEO and cofounder of BaseCamp, explains: “Group chat feels like you’re chasing something all day long. What’s worse, group chat often causes ‘return anxiety’ — a feeling of dread when you’re away for a while and you come back to dozens (hundreds?) of unread lines.”
Hence, the Slacklash.
Consider audience and format when allocating your always-on resources. Make it okay (really!) for employees to expect asynchronous communications on platforms like Slack. If something’s truly important, they should document it via email or chat — or simply walk over to your desk.
Consumers messaging your brand, on the other hand, want real-time responses. Set response time goals with your customer care team, especially on mobile (vs. a social network or moderated discussion group) as well as expectations, so the consumer knows when they’ll hear back. Something as simple as “I’ll look into that and get back to you in an hour” can save a lot of headache.
Why we need one-on-one communication.
Evidently, one-to-many communication isn’t ideal. It’s great for social, PR, and broadcast, but, when it comes to messaging, the more intimate the better. We see this in the rise of Snapchat and in one-to-many social giants doubling down on messaging (à la Facebook and Twitter).
For the consumer, group chats can muddle the message and remove the personal touch from the experience. They want to feel like their questions and problems are a brand’s top priority, addressed in real time.
On the flip side, brands can’t own the conversation or read between the lines. Customer care professionals responding via social media run into this problem frequently. With so many conversations happening at once and out in the open, it’s difficult to make each customer feel important.
Yet, if a customer takes the time to message your brand, you want to respond to this opportunity for a real-time conversation.
One-on-one messaging brings back the human element — making it possible for consumers to connect with brands and capture their undivided attention. Likewise, this kind of communication makes is easier for brands to create a more meaningful, memorable connection. After all, meaningful relationships are personal, right?
Tech must be human led. It’s time to take control.
The Slacklash episode reminds us: We’ve got to own tech and our expectations around it. If we create a solution that reduces inbox buzz and anxiety, we can’t expect other humans to monitor another platform 24/7. That defeats the purpose.
Everyone has different expectations and needs when it comes to technology and chat services. When we need to check the weather or our daily calendar, chatbots are a perfect choice. They’re around to give us quick and straightforward answers when that’s all we need.
But sometimes we need an actual human being. With one-on-one messaging, brands can drive personalized, helpful conversations with consumers and set expectations to manage a true asynchronous conversation.
Don’t let tech lead your brand; let tech empower it! Use technology as a vehicle to automate what you can and free up human resources for creating those meaningful connections and lasting impressions. Take back the experience and be there for consumers when they need you most.
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