Episode No:96

Revolutionizing Workplace Communication: How Slack Empowers Businesses

Junan Pang

Head of CS (CMT)@Slack

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Ep#96: Revolutionizing Workplace Communication: How
Slack Empowers Businesses ft. Junan Pang (CS Leader, Slack)
Ep#96: Revolutionizing Workplace Communication: How Slack Empowers Businesses ft. Junan Pang (CS Leader, Slack)
  • Ep#96: Revolutionizing Workplace Communication: How Slack Empowers Businesses ft. Junan Pang (CS Leader, Slack)

Episode Summary

In the latest episode of the Hyperengage Podcast, Junan Pang, Head of Customer Success at Slack, discusses the role of customer success at the company and how their product is transforming workplace communication. Pang shares his own journey in the field, as well as the unique customer success model at Slack that focuses on collaboration with sales and leveraging emerging technologies like AI. The podcast also explores the expanding possibilities within the Slack platform, such as innovative companies developing solutions on top of Slack Connect. Peng also highlights the Portfolio Excellence team at Slack, which caters to the specific needs of mature, long-term customers. Finally, Pang talks about the strategies used by Slack, including data analysis and predictive models, as well as their use of Salesforce products and homegrown systems for a comprehensive customer success model.
Key Takeaways Time
Junan enjoyed being client-facing and had technical experience. 2:20
Junan was excited to join Slack due to its transformative impact. 5:48
Junan focuses on industry goals and use cases. 7:26
Slack built an internal Slack Connect tool to help scale customer success interactions. 15:22
Slack created the Portfolio Excellence team to efficiently engage enterprise customers using Slack. 19:01
Slack broke down silos between customer success teams to increase innovation. 23:07
  • Salesforce
  • Accenture
  • Optimizely
  • Athena

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[00:00:00] Adil Saleh: You. Hey. Greetings everybody. This is Adil from the Hyperengage podcast and we spoke about platforms that have been pioneered into the customer success after Salesforce early two thousand s and we talk about product led growth. We are going to speak today one of the pioneers of product led growth, it company that we all know, the product that we all deal with every single day and we prefer to communicate there. It's for instant communication. It's flat. So we've got Junan. It was long awaited. We put in this request a long time ago and I'm so thankful that he found some time for us. Finally, we have today Junan, head of customer success of commercial Technology and media units here with us. Thank you very much, Junan, for taking the time. [00:00:53] Junan Pang: Adil, thank you so much for having me. [00:00:56] Adil Saleh: Love that. So just talking slightly about your academic background and then how you work with the Catalyst team, I'm sure you're not amongst a lot of people that mark them as a coach of Catalyst and all, but you really worked with the team for good four years. So could you tell us a little bit about your origin into the customer success pertaining to what you got to learn as a coach at Catalyst, which is also one of the contributors in the customer success categories for a very long time? [00:01:28] Junan Pang: Yeah, absolutely. I'll actually start way back from the beginning. So I was a computer science major coming out of school, but I knew I was not going to be the best engineer, just my heart wasn't in it. And so I ended up actually going into consulting, which was a good blend of technology and business. And so I went to Accenture, aligned to financial services, did a lot of kind of M A type work and system integration. And eventually I just got a lot of consultants. I just got burnt out from the travel and I had a roommate at the time who had started at this company that had just raised their Series B and actually was the fastest growing SaaS company at the time. And that company was optimizely. And he just never shut up about how amazing this company was and the change and the transformation they were having and the impact they were having on their customers. And I was like, okay, I don't know what SaaS is, I don't know what customer success is. And this was at the time when I think a lot of companies had very creative job titles, if you remember. So they were calling people ninjas and just like crazy names. And so I was like, oh wow, this must be just a made up title that they're trying to kind of trick people into doing. Random jobs at the company. But the more I learned about the role, the more I was like, okay, I've been customer facing, client facing in consulting, and I have got some technical chops. I can learn the SaaS thing, I can learn that whole business model. So I jumped in and really just started to love it. And I can kind of get into that a little bit later and just spent six years at Optimizely, had a number of different roles. And actually during that time, Kevin Chu was introduced to me by somebody I was running the customer success meetup with at the time, Emily, and she made an introduction. Kevin was like, hey, we want to build this customer success platform, and we want to build it different than what exists out there today. Can we pick your brain and get some thoughts in terms of what you care about as a customer success leader? And so that's actually how I got introduced to Catalyst, and the rest is history. It's been an amazing kind of partnership and just amazing to see their growth over time and all the different programs in terms of how they've helped support kind of the customer success community. [00:03:59] Adil Saleh: Very interesting, very interesting. It's just not about having somebody with a customer success eye or having a dedicated experience in the customer success. It's just about a personality. Just like you realize early on when you were doing a very technical sort of a degree and you think, I'm not for this. I'm a different comes because we get to meet with a lot of VPS, CCOs. It resonates in their personality. It's not just that they chose to do it, it's just something that they stumbled upon, just like you did. You met Kevin and you started asking them questions. They asking them questions, and you helped them understand what are the real problems the customer success leader, customer success manager encounters on daily basis. And that's how they're able to better build this technology or software solution and all that. [00:04:52] Adil Saleh: So now, after that, how did it all come to Slack? I'm sure at that point, Slack was just getting into the market. They were one of the first talking about PLGs, they're talking about self serve models. They're thinking of having customer success managers serving like 20 or 25, 30, 40 accounts. So how did your journey try to take some pivot into working with the company, such as Slack at that time? [00:05:22] Junan Pang: There's a couple of different things. I think, just from a personal career aspect, when I think about my overall kind of career journey, I have this matrix. It's written down. I can't show you here, but where across the X axis there's a number of different domains that you need to go and learn. And so that's like CSM, professional services, support, customer education, and even expands beyond that, like marketing and sales and things like that. And then across the Y axis, there's a number of different skill sets, like people, you know, customer engagement, like scaling, things like that. And at optimizely, I actually got to do a lot of different things. I ran our professional services team. I ran our CSM team and optimized. Just the nature of the business was very much, it just naturally wasn't a sticky product, it was a B testing. You ran an experiment, you were done with that and you kind of just turned it off and you're good. And so we got really good at the risk mitigation and renewal motion, and I built up that skill. And so in my career, I'm always looking for new experiences that complement my prior experiences to make me a more well rounded leader. And a number of actually optimizely people went over to Slack, and eventually Slack called. And Slack has always been, I mean, we used it every single day at optimizely. The game changer in my mind was when actually we started using Slack with our customers during implementation, and that just completely changed the dynamic. So I knew that this was something different. It was always on my list. And when Slack called and kind of told me about kind of how customer success is run there and customer success is very hand in hand with sales there. And I can go into a little bit more about that in a second. But just the way that customer success was being run, it was very growth oriented and it checked off a number of other boxes that I was looking to fill out as I think about kind of my overall experience. So that's kind of what ultimately took me there. [00:07:28] Junan Pang: The other thing I think is you have to really love the product. And I talked about how kind of Slack we use, slack at optimizing. And I kind of understood that transformation. And what I've always really loved is being at a company where the product is transformative in the sense that you actually have to change the way that somebody is working in order for them to maximize kind of the value that they're getting versus like, oh, it's just, I'm going to rip out some software and just replace with something else at a lower cost. And so at optimizely, we did that because you were changing the way that people used data and made decisions and took action on that data through experimentation. And then at Slack. We're changing the way that people worked in terms of moving people out of this antiquated email back and forth and moving into something that's a little bit more transparent and reducing silos and automation through kind of all the workflows that we have in Slack. So that was just really interesting to me, and that's what drew me to Slack. [00:08:27] Adil Saleh: Yes. For a technology to make this big of impact, it all takes transformation, as you mentioned, that they are trying to transform the way people communicate. And that has been so exceptional. I today have ten different workspaces in Slack. We have ten different teams, different clients, have consulting work. I have some product work as well. So I try to segregate every workspace and I try to make sure that we instantly communicate, effectively communicate within those standalone workspaces, which is quite powerful even looking at this product, seven years back, six years back. So now somebody serving as the head of customer success in a very niche town unit, which is more on the media and more on the communication side. What kind of initiatives have you taken getting into this role and just tell us a little bit about your team. [00:09:23] Junan Pang: Yeah, I'll actually take one step back. And so when people think of Slack, they think of chat, they think of instant messaging. And I think that's where a lot of people get their start with Slack. And that is like, okay, I can send direct messages to my colleagues and talk to them, maybe in some channels, but ultimately what we're driving people towards, and I think where the majority of the value comes from in Slack is when you're starting to integrate in the workflows, the different applications, the integrations using other features like huddles and canvases. And when you do those all in conjunction and hit that level of maturity of usage, that's where all this value comes from. So that's the context, and that's what ultimately customer success is driving towards, is we're trying to drive outcomes for our customers and that you can increase your productivity, increase your efficiency. And the way you do that is by using Slack even better. Right? And I think that's pretty bread and butter, customer. So when I think about the telecom, the media, and the high tech industry, each one of those industries is different in terms of the goals that these customers care about, the business that they're in, and the different use cases that they have. And so what we've been trying to do over the past, I would say 18 months, is actually bring these customers together and host these events where we want to inspire them to think bigger and hear from their peers in terms of these amazing use cases, because the beauty about Slack is everybody can use it slightly differently. If you're in marketing, you're going to have a different use case than somebody in sales or engineering. And so the more that you have the conversation, not necessarily to copy the exact same use case, but to get inspired to say, hey, there is something that I'm doing that's very inefficient, maybe I can do that more efficiently in Slack. And that little spark that you get from having those conversations, those interactions, that is the magic that we want to kind of facilitate in our organization, and. [00:11:29] Adil Saleh: Only on this podcast, like, we've met more than almost seven companies that have built Slack. First applications just for the notification they're trying the first integration, and the only integration that they have done is with Slack, thereby CPAT. It's that big of a use case because it's so much broadly used for professional teams, and it integrates with all sorts of technologies, all sorts of the way, like we use it. I use it for triggers for my technology team, like product team use triggers, like bots using Slack. So every developer gets what problem we have a customer has right there in Slack. So that's how, like you mentioned, there are multiple use cases depending on the nature of the business, nature of the product or whatever, to make sure that Slack serves them all as a product, which is quite exceptional. Very exceptional. [00:12:22] Adil Saleh: So tell us a little bit about your team and what is your current focus right now with the commercial units? Like talking about these media? [00:12:31] Junan Pang: Yeah, I mean, from an industry's perspective, our job is to go deep with every single, within each independent unit or industry, and to really understand kind of what makes them tick. And so with media, everything that's going on in media, how do we help them kind of continue to drive productivity and efficiency within their businesses so that they can continue to innovate and be successful as businesses. On the technology front, it's actually very similar in that there's this lens towards productivity, towards margin, with everything that's happened over the last twelve months. And so we are there as advisors helping them to think through how do they transform their organizations, take advantage of amazing emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, so that way they can kind of lead their organizations into the future. And so we actually kind of work with two groups with our customers, so we work with our IT stakeholders that's kind of like the central owners of Slack, and their role is essentially to facilitate and govern Slack across the broader organization. And so they think about how do they roll out new features so that everybody in the entire company can kind of take advantage of this base case. But then the other thing we do is we actually go line of business by line of business. And so we'll work with a sales leader, or we'll work with a support or service leader, and we'll think through their KPIs and advise them in terms of what are they trying to accomplish, what are they trying to do? Whether it's time to resolution driving that down, or managing a BPO kind of outsourced support provider, how are we helping them work more efficiently and achieve their goals even faster and more effectively? [00:14:25] Junan Pang: You talked about kind of Slack and a number of companies building on top of Slack. Actually, I would love to respond to that in a second. Like you, I've seen so many kind of really cool, emerging, kind of innovative companies come out in the last, I would say twelve months building on top of Slack, and we have a really robust kind of app ecosystem. But I've seen this new layer that's building on top of Slack Connect, which know the way that you can connect two Slack organizations together. And we do that internally at Slack by working with our customers directly in Slack. So we connect the two Slack instances and we've seen companies start where they build on top of thaT. I think I saw you spoke to Mike, Athena, and that to me is just so cool because it's a new evolution for how customer success is actually done through Slack. And we actually have a version of that. We've built it homegrown kind of years ago that we've been using on a team called portfolio Excellence that I'm super excited about. I'm happy to go into more, but it's a way for us to kind of scale our customer interactions. [00:15:38] Adil Saleh: Please go a little more on that because that's something that's going to further create this evolution besides what Slack has done in the recent years. [00:15:47] Adil Saleh: Could you talk us through more on this portfolio that you mentioned? [00:15:52] Junan Pang: Yeah, so we created this team about two years ago called Portfolio excellence, and this started as an idea of, hey, there is a cohort of customers that have been with us for a long time. They're super mature and what they need from us, what they need from a customer success manager is different than a customer that maybe has just started with us in the last year. And we wanted to think of a way to meet them where they were in terms of what they were looking to get out of the partnership. And what they actually needed was they were already kind of near the top of the maturity curve in terms of their usage of Slack. And so what they're looking for is like, how do they just continue to push the boundaries? How do they get more integrated with our product teams? And so they didn't really need kind of the base level, kind of launch type engagement activities. They didn't need a lot of us going into each line of business because they've already done that. And so we created this portfolio excellence team, and the idea was these customers, these were large enterprise customers. They're too large to put into our kind of scale motion that's a little bit more pooled engagement. But they didn't need the same level of engagement that we have with our traditional kind of high touch CSMs. And so we created this new team, and with an intentional focus on creating constraint. And so creating Constraint from a capacity perspective in that each CSM manages, I want to say maybe like five to six X the amount of revenue that our traditional high touch CSM does. But we do that because we work exclusively in Slack with them. We use bots and automations and workflows, and we leverage digital and scale. And we've integrated our entire customer success kind of stack and offerings into this program. So that way every interaction is so efficient, and it's exactly what the customers love and want and need. So one example that we've created is an automated executive one pager. So it's a one sheeter where a lot of the information that you would get from an EBR, we've automated that, put that into a one sheeter, so that way you can provide that to a customer in the Slack channel. They can pass that around to their executives and use that throughout their organization to understand the value that they're getting from then. And we still meet with them, we still have regular touch points with them, but every one of those touch points is so much more intentional, it's so much more focused because we've scaled out the rest. And so this team has effectively become an innovation arm within our customer success organization, where these ideas that they try out, because they are naturally constrained, they can't just go and spend an extra 5 hours with a customer. They have to come up with these creative ideas to say, actually, if I need to build exec sponsorship, how do I do that at scale? So they'll create these ideas and then we'll take them, and then we'll actually scale them out to the rest of the business. [00:18:58] Adil Saleh: Wow, amazing. This was one thing I was yet to hear that Slack is doing. Slack is about to do and portfolio. Look it up more to learn more about this. And I'm sure the audience mostly we have like from Seed to Series A, companies that are always getting bigger year to year, and they're already using Slack. So I'm sure they'll definitely learn more on this. I'm sure you have this documented, publicly documented as yet. [00:19:33] Junan Pang: You know what, we don't. So this is actually probably one of the first times that I've talked about portfolio excellence in public. So I'll take that as an action item. I'll have to write that down, talk to some of the leaders that lead that team to see if we can put that out in the public more because I'm super proud of this. It is an amazing, because one can. [00:19:52] Adil Saleh: Only imagine doing it at an enterprise segment. It's something that only Slack would have done it. But I'll definitely love to know more about this on the public and the audience. As soon as this episode is live, they'll go search on the internet anyway. So by that time, you'll have it publicized and I'm sure you'll work on it. Thank you very much for sharing this. The only platform that you have shared this to now, last thing regarding your role in terms of customer success, in terms of these initiatives, you're trying to thinking of doing it at scale for these enterprises. What kind of small to mid sized initiatives that you're thinking of taking going forward that are going to take it further for a broader audience? Because I'm just thinking about Slack. Slack is not just a platform like any other platform, that is only niche down to one industry. Every technology uses Slack. So how you're kind of trying to make sure you're being very smart, smartly allocating resources, allocating as the team, as head of customer success and also delivering value across these small to mid sized segments. So what is that one thing that you're thinking of taking initiative that you think, oh, this is something that was long due. We got to do it to serve the customers better. If there is anything. [00:21:16] Junan Pang: Yeah, I think this is something that we've actually already implemented. It's a little bit of a reflection. Over the last four years, we've actually had an amazing digital success and scaled success team kind of in our business for a long time now. And about a year and a half ago to two years ago, we realized a huge mistake that we made in terms of all of the different kind of success motions that we had, which was digital success, owned a segment of customers, scaled owned a segment of customers, and our high touch success owned a segment of customers, but why did we keep them all so separated? Why wasn't digital being applied to our high touch customers? Why didn't we have scale CSMs engaging with high touch customers when it made sense? Because there was a high priority initiative and from a business perspective, it made sense to double down in a certain area versus just saying, hey, this is the part of the business that I own. I'm only going to stay in this lane. And when we started to break down those walls, we really started to see so much more kind of one just cross sharing across the teams the ideas that were coming up. You would see high touch CSMs starting to connect with the digital CS team, thinking, hey, we actually need this. This would be so helpful for us to scale. When we are deploying across hundreds of thousands of users at a customer, you think about the scale there, you could deploy an entire digital campaign to one customer because of how many users are out there. And so it just unlocked so much more innovation, but just also efficiency for all of the teams because then now you're creating this feedback loop back into digital, back into scale. And so that is probably one thing that, as I reflect back a couple of years, something that I wish we would have done sooner in terms of how we could serve our small to medium sized businesses and our mid market businesses even better is getting scale and digital into the hands of all those customers much sooner, much sooner by just. [00:23:29] Adil Saleh: Making sure it's a cross-functional information sharing. [00:23:33] Junan Pang: Yeah, absolutely. [00:23:35] Adil Saleh: Wonderful. So are you using any kind of technology like there are so many companies, they're using dedicated source of truth for customer success team. There are loads on the internet. You get consumed a lot of their content daily as well. So you guys use any kind of tool for customer success purposes to make sure data is centralized, it's unified. [00:23:55] Junan Pang: It's a great question. Obviously we're a Salesforce company so we use a lot of Salesforce products. So we've actually built in house kind of our own, almost like central kind of command center for customer success. And so that pulls in product data, pulls know commercial and customer data from Salesforce and all of these different signals all into one know. And then we kind of run a lot of models on top of it to create kind of a maturity model, an engagement score as well as like risk signals for us to kind of predict risk. So all of that is kind of centralized. I guess maybe short answer is it's homegrown. We have an incredible analytics and data science team that we are blessed to be supported by. [00:24:43] Adil Saleh: Absolutely. And now I realize I got to be bigger as a company to use some of the features that you mentioned. A lot of my friends they do, but they work for those companies that's not their company. So we'll definitely be bigger in years to be on the paid plan on Slack. So as a lot of these startups listening, but I'm sure this is such an educational episode for me to learn sometimes with guests like you, like people that had loads of experience in One nation, they've done it at scale for many companies. I get to be some child like people I used to be when I was pretty young, I used to call my uncle and say, okay, tell me some stories. So sometimes it feels like, got to make sure you make this person speak so everybody listens. So thank you very much for your time, Junan. It was like I said, long awaited and I really appreciate all the insights so concrete that you've been throughout this conversation and it's going to be some. [00:25:40] Junan Pang: Episode long remember Adil. Thank you so much for having me. This was super fun. [00:25:45] Adil Saleh: Absolutely. Have a good rest of the day, my friend. [00:25:47] Junan Pang: Thanks. [00:25:47] Adil Saleh: Bye.

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