If you are in a Customer Service Manager role, congratulations on making it to this level! Anyone who works in the service industry knows that working in a manager role in the service industry is not easy. In many cases, an employee who excels in the service department is eventually promoted to a manager role. But they may not have the knowledge, business or leadership skills needed to successfully manage a team. Similarly, someone could be in a manager role in a different department – such as sales – but tasked with managing customer service as well. They may not have the knowledge or skill set needed to ensure service excellence across the department.
Anyone who aims to be successful in a customer-facing role should have a basic set of what we call “service skills”. These include a customer service mindset, outstanding communication skills, conflict-resolution skills, a creative problem-solving ability, and a high level of empathy. However, to be in a manager level role, another level of skills is required. Let’s delve into some of the skills needed to be an excellent Customer Service Manager.
- Industry Experience – An aspiring Customer Service Manager should have worked in the front lines for a couple of years, so they know and understand what their team’s workday is like. They should have experienced what it is like to delight a customer, address their concerns, be on the receiving end of customer feedback, and know how to resolve issues swiftly and completely. This not only makes them better versed in understanding their customers but more relatable to the team they are managing.
- Leadership Ability -To be able to manage a team or department requires not only industry experience but an exceptional leadership ability. Exceptional leaders understand how to not only motivate but also empower their employees. They set an example by creating an internal customer service culture and by continuously learning industry best practices. A good leader knows how to select and develop their team members, and to make themselves both approachable and relatable. They have figured out how to balance control with delegating responsibility so employees can make informed decisions and take autonomous action, when needed, to best serve the customer.
- Analytical Ability – The desire to know the customer, the customer journey, and the ability to understand every touchpoint in the customer experience is an essential part of the Customer Service Manager role. S/he must enjoy digging into data collected from the team, satisfaction surveys, and customer feedback and working with the information to create strategy and actions around this data.
- Customer Advocacy – It is the Customer Service Manager or Director that reports to upper management on the customer service experience and satisfaction trends. By carefully analyzing the data and creating reports, the Customer Service Manager can advocate any changes that are needed on their customer’s behalf. The ability to communicate effectively across all levels, both with their team as well as with C-level executives is an essential skill that anyone in this role will need to master.
- Business Acumen – What sets a manager apart from the rest of the team, is the added task of managing the department’s budget. With the company-wide profit and loss issues upper management must consider, it is not always easy to champion the customer service cause. The ability to work within a budget while achieving – if not exceeding – customer service goals requires a high level of business acumen and awareness. If a manager can help stakeholders connect the dots, by carefully presenting a direct correlation between service excellence and business profit, the likelihood of convincing management to increase their budget is a lot stronger.
In summary, working in the field of customer service is a wonderful adventure and provides many opportunities for career growth. But experience is not enough. An aspiring Customer Service Manager needs a strong set of management, leadership, and business skills to take their career to the next level.