We all know what to look for when hiring a customer service rep. There is a recruiting, screening, interviewing, and hiring process for all of that. You may have in mind exactly the kind of person you are looking for to serve your customers. But are your customer service reps really the key to good customer service? You may have some fantastic, capable, personable and responsible agents on your team, but if you really want to see your customer service exceed your customers’ expectations, they key lies in the quality of your management.
When hiring customer support managers, keep in mind that you are hiring the heart of your customer service. Your managers must be able to not just lead, but to serve, both your customers and your employees. They have a great deal of stress to manage and must do so with a positive attitude.
Below is a list of support manager skills which will ultimately make the difference in creating a positive service experience for you customers.
1. Lead, Don’t Manage
Creating an environment for your employees where they are made to feel like they are under constant scrutiny and their every move is being picked apart by management is no way to lead your team. Support managers must be team leaders, encouraging employees, routing for them, praising them for good performance, and giving practical, constructive feedback on how they can improve when performance is struggling. Your heavy hand in management not only affects employee morale, but will affect the quality of service your customers receive as your employees focus more on your expectations than your customers’ needs.
2. Know Your Team’s Goals
Your managers must be very familiar with your team’s hourly, daily, monthly, quarterly goals. If there are incentives or competitions in play, they understand all the requirements, keep track of results, and are the ones to keep the momentum going. Managers cannot wait until the end of the month or the end of an evaluation period to see whether or not goals were met. Being involved in every step of goal setting, planning, and executing will keep employees motivated to do their best.
3. Understand the Flexibility vs Non-Negotiable Balance
A manager must be able to listen carefully to customer concerns, empathize, make amends when merited, but not give away the farm. It is a tricky balance, but managers must be solid on what things or circumstances fall under the non-negotiable category. When customer support agents receive proper training on when to be flexible and when they must adhere to protocols, customers can receive both empathetic, understanding service while understanding company policies.
4. Keep Calm and Lead On
A manager has to be one tough cookie, with a calm, centered demeanor. Leading employees and customers will undoubtedly involve high stress situations, even some involving taking the brunt of frustration and blame in the name of the company. It is a responsibility that requires calm and composure, even in the face of intense criticism. Being able to handle people and relationships might be of greater worth than the level of a manager’s technical abilities. A manager’s ability to remain cool and diplomatic will trickle down to affect customer service agents’ abilities to do the same.
The whole idea of giving a man a fish and feeding him for a day, or teaching him how to fish and feeding him for a lifetime is very much applicable to managing a service team. Yes, your managers are in a position of great responsibility, but understanding how to delegate, share that responsibility, and trust those around you is key in creating an empowered team.
The solution to every hiccup cannot be turning the issue over to someone higher up. As a manager you must teach your employees how to handle problems on their own. Give them the authority to make decisions while serving your customers that will allow customers to feel their concerns were resolved, without having to discuss the matter with you every time. Of course there will be exceptions, but generally trust your employees to handle issues within their scope of responsibility, and you’ll have taught them how to consistently and effectively serve your customers.
Utilizing these skills will allow managers to prioritize, lead with confidence, and focus on the big picture while serving your customers with the care they deserve.