THIS is how you lead a Customer Support Team

Full leadership article

“What do you need to do your job better?”  

That was a question I could expect to hear monthly from Jess.  Jess was unlike any other supervisor I had ever had.  This was a manager who was concerned about making the team the best they could.  Ego was left at the door and we were encouraged to find our strengths.  Jess took the time to talk to each of us. Learning about family, hobbies. Basically, Jess made a point of connecting with every member of the team as a person.  We were not just numbers on a chart.  Every morning Jess would pop into our cubes and check in.  Make sure everything was working ok and see if anyone had questions.  After a quick hello, Jess would address any issues that had arisen that morning.  Jess had faith in us, gave us the space, and the structure that we needed to get our jobs done.  We had clear expectations, solid goals and the freedom to do our jobs.  We were treated as adults, who had valuable input into the company we all worked for. 

By putting the needs of your staff first, then they will have the energy and motivation to pass on that energy to the clients. 

Several years ago I read a book called The Servant Manager By Michael A. Gregory.  It was a very thought provoking book about the benefit of a leader who shares power. They put the needs of others first and help people develop and perform as highly as possible.  By putting the needs of your staff first, then they will have the energy and motivation to pass on that energy to the clients. 

Customer service can be a stressful job on a good day, and almost intolerable on a bad one.  Each level of management must have a balance between the company’s benefit and the benefit of the internal customer.  Failure to maintain that balance can tip the scale in either direction; and that can lead to decreased productivity.

There are three questions that a good manager will ask on a regular basis to ensure that the team is functioning. 

1.     Do you have everything you need to do your job? 
2.     What could you use to make your job easier or better?
3.     Do you have any ideas on how we could work better (smarter, more efficiently)?

Remember to listen to your employees. DO NOT ARGUE!  You have asked a question, give them the freedom to answer without recrimination.  The best answer after asking these questions is “Thank you, we will look into this.”  This is not the time to say no, or to make promises, especially if they will not be kept.  Sometimes the answer is as simple as the cushion on my headset is falling apart, to things a little more critical as “My monitor is starting to flicker, and my computer is slow.”  By taking this approach management can discover when an office is reaching critical mass issues early on.  In one case, a one of my clients discovered an issue with working chairs for the cubicles.  They were able to spend several months to shop around, test out several different chair styles, Find the best price and the most efficient design for the employee’s comfort.  They saved money, and ordered over 500 chairs at a bigger discount than they would have otherwise gotten. 

On a more serious matter, It was the “How are you doing, what do you need?” question uncovered a serious mold issue that was starting to develop in the building. An employee mentioned in passing that since moving her team to a newer location she and most of her team were having more colds, asthma, and allergy attacks.  The building environmental team brought in an air quality tester who found a serious, black mold issue developing in one of the newer conference rooms that had recently been remodeled.  Immediate steps were taken to ensure the safety and health of the employees with minimal impact to the overall team’s efficiency. 

When Employees feel as if Management has their back, then they are more willing and able to pass that caring and concern onto the customer, and that gives them the freedom to become successful. 

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This is the official blog of Helpy, the open source helpdesk platform.