Jul 7, 2023
5 Must-Have Customer Service Manager Skills
Support Experienceagent managementsupport operations
Titanic is one of the most compelling movies of all time. It tells the story of a meticulously built ship that sank after an iceberg ripped a hole in its side. All the hopes and dreams of its maker and over 1,500 passengers were lost because of a flaw in the ship’s bodywork.
Like the Titanic, many businesses sink when one flaw—poor customer service—ruins all their hard work and dedication.
Core skills like leadership, communication, innovation, and more help customer service managers thrive (and avoid being the weak link in the company’s growth engine!)
Passion for service and support expertise is good, but an effective manager requires a unique blend of willingness and a capacity to lead. Some key indicators that someone is (or will make) an excellent customer service leader include the ability to emphasize team strengths, empower support agents, and prioritize personal learning.
How customer service managers apply leadership skills
- They understand and leverage the strengths of support agents: A good customer service manager sets up a workload allocation framework that routes tickets to the best-suited agent for quick resolutions.
- They are not micromanagers: Effective managers create an escalation management plan. This plan gives the support team the autonomy to handle tasks while guiding them on when/how to transfer complex tickets to a higher-up or a more knowledgeable colleague.
- They look for ways to be a better manager: A customer service team leader’s responsibilities are beyond just managing support tickets—they also develop strategies for team-building, hiring, and employee retention. So regardless of their experience as a customer service representative, this new role will require some training. LinkedIn’s “Become a Customer Service Manager” course is a good starting point.
The role of a customer service manager involves three main communication lines: customers, support agents, and coworkers from other departments. To manage these relationships and collaborate optimally, support leaders need the right communication skills, like active listening, documentation, and meeting management.
How customer service managers express communication skills
- They actively listen to customer needs: Support agents sometimes escalate tickets to managers, meaning they’ll need to whip out problem-solving skills and discuss with customers. During these conversations, active listening will help get the relevant context to respond well and resolve customer complaints promptly. Active listening in this scenario entails paying attention to non-verbal cues, not interrupting while the customer is speaking, and asking clarifying questions.
- They’re empathic when interacting with support agents: There are many instances, from onboarding to training and scheduled one-on-one sessions, where managers support team members. In these meetings, empathy—acknowledging different perspectives, sharing knowledge, and encouraging critical thinking—is the defining mark of a supportive and approachable manager.
- They articulate thoughts clearly and keep accurate records: The best customer service managers know to draft and follow meeting agendas, prepare reports and talking points, and create reusable document templates. This quality is essential because it ensures everyone involved in a conversation knows what will be discussed and gets notes to refer back to in the future.
One of the most relevant marks of a visionary customer service leader is the ability to innovate quickly and consistently. This innovation entails researching and identifying ways to adopt new technology like natural language processing (NLP) or artificial intelligence (AI) to upgrade team operations and differentiate from the competition.
How customer service managers show innovation skills
- They identify the team’s existing challenges and explore new tools and strategies to combat them: Say the team cannot flag escalations or clients at risk of churning early. A proactive manager will see that as a sign to add an AI-powered support experience (SX) management platform to the team’s tool stack. Or, if the team is finding Google Groups inefficient for customer support, the right manager will know to consider a custom-built tool, like a help desk or ticket management software.
- They go beyond new technologies: A customer service manager stays on top of tech trends and decides whether they’re relevant to the organization’s needs. Say the customer service department has been using a regular chatbot to support customers. Innovation in this scenario could mean adding a modern twist to mainstream technology—adopting a new chatbot (mainstream tech) with AI features (new trend).
- They encourage creativity and suggestions from the team: Good managers are accessible via chat or regular office hours and prompt support agents to share ideas and solutions to difficult situations. Beyond building a culture of innovation, this approach keeps agents engaged and teaches them to apply themselves.
Measuring performance is the best way to determine whether support team workflows are optimal or identify areas that need improvement. Hence, a successful customer service manager must be able to track (and improve) productivity metrics like average response and resolution times, agent utilization, customer satisfaction, and more.
How customer service managers improve their performance management skills
- They track individual agent and overall team performance separately: This approach enables effective issue diagnosis and troubleshooting. For instance, if an agent performs poorly due to burnout, a manager can step in to balance their workload. But, if team-wide customer satisfaction rates are low, they’ll probe the numbers further. This analysis typically includes collecting feedback from agents and customers via surveys, calls, or meetings. Exemplary customer service managers streamline and automate performance management by combining a customer service platform with AI-powered SX software.
- They prioritize agent training and mentorship: Often, the challenge that support reps face with doing their work is a need for more expertise and product knowledge. In other cases, the agents simply lack guidance on improving their performance and advancing their careers. The manager’s job is to organize customer service training and mentorship so agents can upskill. Another best practice is to adopt an automated quality assurance (QA) and agent coaching tool.
- They take turns with agents to manage the customer support email or line: By handling some support messages and calls occasionally, managers better understand customer sentiment and can update strategies accordingly.
Customer service managers have their fingers in many pies, from hiring and onboarding to training and performance reviews. The only way to have a well-oiled support team operations engine is to be good at managing their time.
How customer service managers use time management skills
- They prioritize tasks and tackle them one at a time: Good managers create chronological to-do lists to outline tasks, get a visual “progress bar,” and tick them off on completion. Say a manager has to review some new knowledge base articles, test out a new piece of software, and review applications for a new customer support associate. By putting these tasks into a checklist in order of importance, the manager can handle them accordingly.
- They split big projects into smaller tasks: Instead of adding projects with a broad scope as individual tasks in your to-do list, an efficient manager breaks them into bite-size tasks. This technique will help them stay organized and avoid getting overwhelmed. Reviewing job applications, for instance, can be one input in a to-do list, but “hiring a customer support associate” is a whole project that should be split into smaller bits.
- They use tools to automate time management: A calendar, time-tracking app, and project management software are great tools for scheduling and tracking tasks. These apps will send reminders and help limit distractions, so managers can meet deadlines and plan breaks as needed.
Customer service skills FAQs
Becoming great at customer service requires learning, practice, and dedication. Let’s explore some FAQs to learn more about customer service skill sets (and how managers leverage them!).
What are the three most important things in customer service?
The three most important things in customer service are people, tools, and processes.
- People, customer support agents, managers, and non-support staff contribute to customer interactions and are responsible for their satisfaction.
- Tools like customer relationship management (CRM) software, help desks, and SX platforms help automate customer service operations.
- Processes for ticket assignment, escalation, and resolution are key to delivering seamless customer service experiences.
What are some common responsibilities of a customer service manager?
Some common responsibilities of a customer service manager include:
- Team building
- People management
- Escalation management
- Problem-solving and critical-thinking
- Hiring, onboarding, and training customer service staff
- Customer relationship management
- Customer retention
What is the best skill for customer service?
The best skill for customer service is communication. With good verbal and written skills, managers can collaborate with support agents and non-support coworkers to deliver excellent customer experiences.
How can I become a customer service manager?
There’s no one-size-fits-all process for landing a customer service manager role, but these steps show a basic idea of what it entails:
- Get an education—a bachelor’s degree or customer service management certificate.
- Gain experience as a customer service agent.
- Take ownership of your performance and consistently look for ways to improve.
- Ask a senior colleague for guidance.
- Go after opportunities to lead projects and practice all you’ve learned.
- Update your customer service manager resume with all relevant work experience and achievements.
- Start applying to jobs externally and internally.
Don’t be the weak link – sink-proof your business
Remember, being a customer service manager is far from simply being a support agent. If you let your customer service delivery suffer, it will sink your business. Instead, find a healthy balance between resolving customer issues and maintaining seamless team operations. Here’s a strategy to try: master the required customer service skills and responsibilities. Next, create a process for tracking your performance.
And finally, read about How Customer Support Can Help Your Business Thrive in 2023!