Finding your comfort level in a new job can be arduous for you, and your colleagues as you absorb your responsibilities. For customer support managers there are many duties to get your head around. Your first 90 days as a new manager are scary, and more so if you are pioneering a role in the company.
How do you navigate the start of your journey with a company? What responsibilities does a customer support manager have? How can you be everything to everyone in a team of empathetic, customer-advocating super heroes?
We want to help! Here are four ways to get you up and running to be an excellent support manager within three months.
Your first meeting with staff
Your first focus as an addition to a company, should be your team, even if you are not the manager. Get to know every person on your immediate team and learn about their strengths. You can accomplish this by:
- Creating a “get to know you” event when you join.
- Conducting scheduled one-on-one meetings each week.
Taking your team out for a meal, or getting a video call going is a great way to experience your group’s dynamic in a relaxed way. By seeing how the team interacts outside of work, you will be able to observe potential stress-points. When creating the event ensure everyone is aware it’s for getting to know each other, not a formal meeting.
As you build understanding of the personalities and interpersonal dynamics of the team, start to conduct weekly one-on-one meetings. There you will uncover how your team visualizes their developmental growth path.
The one-on-one structure may already be in place, but if not, having a weekly meeting can help to enhance your relationships and understanding of your team members.
Maintaining a regular one-on-one schedule is a sign that you care about individuals beyond their team contributions. It also allows you to glean information about the demeanor and morale of the team. If you’ve never run a one-on-one before, there are some great resources out there, but this one on Rands in Repose is my favorite.
Get to know your new company
As well as learning about your team you will learn about the company. This is essential for a new customer service manager. Most of all this refers to the company culture and how it is formed. (Hopefully you already knew what services and products the company provides when you were hired!).
You can glean some of the culture by reading company blogs before joining the team. But most of it will come as you are onboarded and through day-to-day interactions with yours and other teams.
Here’s what to pay attention to:
- How does the company view customer support? Is it treated as a cost center or are they happy to invest in the department?
- Are questions being answered with “because it’s always been this way.”
- Who are the key players on other teams?
Examining how support is treated is a great indicator, because of its innate closeness to what you’ll be doing every day. How has support been treated by company culture until now? Is there anything you need to shift the needle on? For example, are support team members seen only as “code monkeys” by the rest of the company?
As a new manager, it falls to you to uncover and potentially expose areas where the company could be doing better. Are product features remaining the same because they have always been that way? Maintaining the status quo is not a good for innovation. Call your company out if you spot trends like this.
Identify the key players on other teams and build rapport. If your marketing and support teams are tightly intertwined because of your mutual use of social media: discover the people who drive that for the team. Who do you notice advocating for customer needs and desires?
Similarly, who makes the most impact in areas that need fixing? Create a mental mapping of who holds sway. If customer needs are answered, you will be able to advocate more effectively for the needs of your team.
Learn the ins and outs of your product
As a new manager it’s likely you won’t spend as much time in your inbox as the rest of your team. That doesn’t reduce your responsibility for product knowledge. You may have limited day-to-day knowledge of the functionality of your app. You need to have a good understanding of the functionality of the product, although some members of your team will have deeper knowledge of the detail. What is vital is to be the most knowledgeable on your team about where features have come from and where they are going.
Here are some good focuses for your energy:
- Understand what came before
- Know where the product is going, even if you aren’t an influence on it.
- Conceptualize where support lies in the product roadmap
When starting something new, it is tempting to be more engaged by shiny, new things, rather than understanding older products that have been repaired. You may think it’s unnecessary to build knowledge about historical features—especially if that’s not the way that they function any more. Let me let you in on a secret.
It’s more important to know where the product came from and the skeletons that may be hiding in the closet than glittering objects in the future that may not even come to pass. far-reaching future might bring you. Knowing what was broken, and how it was fixed helps you to identify the issues your team could run into. It also prepares you to help with the tough tickets that come in from customers still using an ancient, grandfathered feature.
Understand your customers
Sometimes looking after your team can distract you from the very people you’re in your job to help — the customer.
Getting to know your customers may seem second nature to someone in support. But the company-wide ecosystem sometimes take a front-row seat. It’s important for you to understand the personas and types of customers your team is looking to please.
Here are some ways to get to know your customers beyond what your team members are telling you:
- Put on your marketer hat
- Get into the queue
- Based on what you discover, implement new functionality. Measure its success.
“Personas” are a marketing buzzword: you get to know your Mary Marketers, Bob Bosses, and so on. However, the truth is they are equally important to you when working in support. Knowing who is emailing you and their motivations can help you decide things as small as the messaging you use in your autoresponder through the next huge push for your product team.
But how do you get to know them? The quickest way is to get into the inbox and talk to people. Take over a section of the queue each day and see what trends you notice in the responses. Do your customers use lots of GIFs? Lots of ALL CAPS!? Take everything into consideration as you make movements forward for your team.
These small observations will help you understand your customers’ journey to success. It helps you to preempt the documentation that is important and valuable for them. It’s far more powerful than writing up things up you’ve heard it a million times. Knowing who your customer is and what they want shifts you into giving proactive support, rather than chasing after customers who’ve left grumpy reviews in your NPS fields. Do you want your team to make someone’s the day, or the ones who clear it up after first messing it up?
Congrats, you’re hired! Now get to work
Starting a new role leading a team can be overwhelming. Take what you need from the tips listed here. As manager it’s your call. The “new hire checklist for managers” vary along with the different responsibilities at every company. Ultimately, you will know the best direction for you, your team and your customers.
This is the challenge and fun that makes managing a team so worthwhile. Good luck on your path.
No matter what you do, we’re sure you’ll be the best, but we hope the tips above help you on that path.