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Seth David’s top tips on using Slack with your clients

When I first started talking about using Slack with my clients, some of my colleagues thought I was crazy.

“You can’t give your clients that kind of access to you! You’ll never get any work done.”

Here’s how (and why) accountants can (and should) use Slack for their clients.

Any time we innovate, the usual fears kick up. That’s all it is – fear of the unknown. The truth is, at first, I only offered it to higher paying clients, but then I realized it is making MY life easier. So, I started putting every client on Slack.

One of these clients is a 70-year-old artist. Not the sort who is very tech savvy. Not long ago, as he stood in line at his bank, he messaged me in Slack (using the mobile app) for a list of checks we needed copies of. I dragged and dropped the report in Slack for him. The bank worked through the list, which I imagine he showed them on his mobile, and got us the checks we needed.

One of his employees thanked me for introducing him to Slack. He started using it with his wedding planner to coordinate his wedding plans with his now wife.

As I serve real estate clients, I stumbled on an article about an innovation award that was given to a brokerage firm in the UK for how they were using Slack with their clients. It’s been a few years now that we’ve been using Slack for every single client of Nerd Enterprises, Inc.

I’m still here. I haven’t lost my home yet, and I’m not getting overwhelmed or inundated with messages or inquiries from clients.

Slack has made us more efficient than ever. We simply do not email with clients. There is no need. Email has become incredibly inefficient. Slack has made a huge difference for us.

Assuming you’re convinced, now you’re wondering how it works, and how can you start using Slack with your own clients.

Slack is a communications workspace. You can create channels which are like subjects.

When I set up a new Slack workspace for a client, I model the channels after the balance sheet. The items on a client’s balance sheet are the main drivers for what we are managing for our clients. So, it follows that these are the “subjects” we will want to have dedicated discussions about:

  • Banking
  • Accounts Receivable
  • Inventory
  • Accounts Payable
  • Sales Tax (as in payable)
  • Payroll (as in PR Taxes payable)

You can make channels private. When I have clients who want to invite their employees in, we may not want them all seeing the discussions in “Banking,” so we make that one private.

You’ll add others as you go. I also like to add an “about” channel. I will use this to ask the client questions about their company, such as what they do and what their workflows look like. For one thing, this shows that you’re actually interested in, and care about, their business. For another, it gives you good insights into areas where you can offer more services and help improve their business.

Make sure you tell your clients to install the apps. The version you access in your browser is not the ideal experience.

Navigating Slack

Need to jump from one client to another, or from one channel to another? CTRL+K does the trick. You’ll get a dialogue box. Just type the name of the channel, individual or workspace you’re looking for.

You can join and leave channels so that your channel list isn’t cluttered and overwhelming. There is a setting that only shows you channels with unread messages. If you don’t choose that, the channels with unread messages light up to let you know there are unread messages in them. If you are mentioned specifically, you will see a red icon letting you know that your attention is needed.

Adding files in Slack is as easy as dragging and dropping them onto the app. I highly recommend using Google Docs. This way, you are not adding, downloading, updating, uploading and so on. You put one link one time to a document that lives in the cloud. Then, everyone is viewing, editing and commenting on the same document.

Pinning comments in Slack is a way of bookmarking something for everyone in the channel to see and easily reference later on. Long after the comment itself is buried in the feed, you can access pinned comments in a click.

Starred comments are for you only. Think of it like bookmarking things you need to follow up on. They are also global. So, when you click to see your starred comments, you will see everything you’ve starred across all channels. It is also very easy to see and click over to the channel or comment itself from the starred items.

DMs, or Direct Messages, are available between you and any individual or group of individuals. You’ll find them below the channels. You can start a private conversation with two or more individuals by simply adding them in the DM’s. If there is a specific and continuing purpose for the conversation among the group, consider setting up a private channel.

Since using Slack, my communication and my overall relationship with clients has been dramatically improved. We do not lose clients. It isn’t because we do a perfect job all of the time. I firmly believe it’s because of good communication with our clients.

One of the tricks to getting Slack to work for you is to get your clients to use it.

First, we don’t ask them to use it, but rather, we tell them, “Slack is what we use to communicate with you once you get started with us.”

Second, we train them, where needed. Most clients get it. Some are already using it. In other cases, we schedule a Zoom call with the client, so we can help them, where needed, and get them started. It’s worth spending the time upfront for the efficiency this creates down the road.

Redirecting messages to the appropriate channels will be important, especially in the beginning. There will be a tendency to post in the “General” channel because that’s the default channel.

You can link to any channel by placing a ‘#’ in front of the channel name. Slack will auto-fill it for you. When you post that message, it will be linked. Use this. If someone posts something banking-related, ask them to post it in the #banking channel.

You can also re-share any message to any other channel or conversation. When you hover your mouse, or tap and hold (mobile) over any message, you will see options. Play with them. Learn them. They will help you to direct traffic, edit messages and generally make Slack work for you.

Slack is a tool. Like any tool, to get the most out of Slack, you have to learn how to use it. Learn everything it does.

There are also some really nice integrations with other cloud applications. For example, when someone joins my 97 & Up programZapier picks up the new subscriber and, among other things, emails them the link to join our private Slack workspace.

There is so much you can do, but most importantly keep this in mind: you don’t have to do it all at once. Set aside some time to get started. Then, set aside some time each week to play with Slack and learn more about what it does. Search the web for videos on Slack just to get ideas.

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