You recently heard from a valuable builder customer who has become frustrated because your staff members just don’t seem organized. He said that if he wastes any more time with your team getting prices mixed up or deliveries wrong, he’s going to start looking elsewhere for his building supplies. You admit to him that he’s right. With business picking up in recent months, it’s all you can do to keep everyone on the same page. With inside sales reps and estimators in the store and outside sales staff and delivery drivers on job sites, you need a way to connect everyone who is working together on the same project.A new sales rep has been encouraging you to get everyone to download a free app called Slack on their smartphones. She claims it can keep your staff on the same page and allow frequent, focused communication between team members.
To get your team organized and communicating on essential customer account info just as fast as your builder requested it, you decide to take up the new sales person’s idea. You visit slack.com to learn more and soon request that everyone on your team install Slack on their company-provided smartphones, tablets and computers.
Launched in 2014, Slack calls itself “Team communication for the 21st Century.” At Simonson Lumber and Simonson Design Studios in Fargo, N.D., Executive Vice President Kimberly Simonson said her company has been using it for the past year and she doesn’t know what her team would do without it.
“It’s the most phenomenal tool that we have used,” she said. “I absolutely love it and recommend it to anyone.”
Simonson said it didn’t take much to get everyone to download the app and start implementing it into their workflow. She has a staff member that is particularly enthusiastic and knowledgeable about Slack, and he makes sure everyone knows how it works.
Set Up Channels
Once your team members have Slack installed, set up channels: Slack allows users to create “channels,” specific messaging groups in which only invited members can participate. For Simonson, this means that she has a number of different teams set up within her company.
“We have Simonson General (channel),” she said. “And we have a Simonson Sales Team channel, and project channels that have a project manager, drafter and estimator involved.”
Simonson also invites builder customers and their subs to participate in some Slack channels. This, she said, has cleared up confusion in instances when someone involved with a project is looking for materials delivery or at any time when someone wants to send a message to the entire team.
“A builder can get on and type, ‘are the windows there, or when can I expect them?’” Simonson said this prevents the builder from having to call the store, get transferred to the correct department, and so on.
With Slack, the customer now has a direct line with the project manager, and anyone else involved in the sale or project can weigh in as well.
Simonson said that she and company president Pete Simonson are included on every Slack group within the company and can monitor conversations and offer input when necessary.
Make Use of Notifications
The whole point of Slack is that it allows users to receive notifications when there are new messages in their channels. The notifications can be set to Away, or Do Not Disturb as well.
At Simonson Lumber and Design Studio, some staff members and contractors are in different time zones that don’t always coincide with traditional business hours. Members of a channel can set their notification settings to Away if they don’t want to receive notifications during certain hours.
While email is still a valuable form of communication, it can be cumbersome and sometimes files can get lost among the bulk of messages received daily.
Kimberly Simonson uses Slack to send files back and forth between team members. As an example, she said, at a recent conference, she messaged a team member on Slack that she wanted to demonstrate a particular design file to someone at the conference. Within seconds, Simonson had the file that the team member uploaded to Slack for her.
When a project is complete, a channel can be archived in Slack. It is then stored in your Slack account, but is only visible if you specifically search for it. The same can be done with accounts for Slack users who are no longer using the app.
Install Where You Need It
Slack can be installed on smartphones, laptops, tablets and desktop computers. Simonson said she has the app installed on every device she can.
“Really, Slack has been the ultimate tool for us,” Simonson said. “It has been a game changer.”