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How to Successfully Manage a Customer Support Team

A guide to definitions, tips, and tools to help improve customer service management for your organization and team.

11 min read

Every company knows how important great customer service is for customer experience. But getting it right means more than just that understanding. It means careful planning and consideration, as well as putting in place the right tools and approaches across every stage of the customer journey. And that’s where customer service management comes in. 

Read on for definitions, tips, and advice to help you better understand exactly what customer service management is and why it’s important, as well as how to improve it in your organization. 

What is customer service management?

Customer service management is all about how a company runs and coordinates its customer service efforts. That includes a whole host of factors — everything from onboarding and training customer service teams, all the way through to measuring and improving customer service operations — and it requires the effort of multiple teams and tools. Through customer service management, companies are able to take control of their customer relationships. 

Why is customer service management important?

Customer service management is important because it ensures a consistently high standard of customer service across the entire customer journey. Modern customers expect a seamless experience, and they want their issues dealt with efficiently and effectively. 
Customer service management makes this possible by controlling all relevant factors together into one strategy. That way, with everyone on the same page, problems are more easily identified and better solutions implemented. This in turn helps deliver quicker and more complete responses to customer inquiries across multiple channels, driving customer retention and reducing churn. 

What does a customer manager do?

A core part of the customer service management strategy is centered on the people that implement it. While everyone at a business contributes in some way to customer service, there are particular roles that inevitably have more impact — the customer service manager, along with the reps on the team they manage, being a case in point. 

Customer service manager objectives involve running, training, and tracking the performance of a support team, as well as coming up with ideas on how to improve customer service. 

They are responsible for everything that goes on within the customer service team, and will need the necessary skills and knowledge to make sure that the team functions at its very best to deliver a high-quality customer experience.

Specifically, a customer service manager will need to: 

  • Help customers to use products or services effectively
  • Deal with customer requests and solve issues (potentially complex or long-standing ones that have been escalated by other customer service reps) refunding or compensating customers where appropriate
  • Handle customer complaints or major incidents
  • Analyse data and provide internal reports to assess the level of customer service provided and suggest how and where to improve customer service operations
  • Develop feedback or complaints procedures for customers to use
  • Meet with other managers to discuss how and where to improve customer service
  • Lead or supervise a team of customer service staff, train them to deliver a high standard of customer service, and manage or be involved with staff recruitment and appraisals
  • Know about all developments and new releases regarding products or services 
  • Keep on top of developments in customer service generally by reading relevant content, joining communities, and attending training courses

What skills do customer service managers need?

In order to do the job well, customer service managers require certain skills. Some of the most important are: 

  • Communication skills to deal with customers as well as other employees and team members
  • Listening skills to take on board exactly what customers need
  • Empathy skills to understand the customer’s point of view and how they are feeling 
  • Problem-solving skills to tackle issues as they arise
  • Patience, tact, and diplomacy, to deal with difficult situations
  • Motivational skills and the ability to lead
  • Creative thinking, to generate ideas that will improve customer service efforts
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Organizational and planning skills to develop customer service policies
  • Commitment to improvement both as an individual and for the organization

Tips on how to improve customer support management

With such a broad range of factors falling under the remit of customer service management, there are many different ways you can go about improving it. Some of the most effective improvement strategies for successful customer service management are:

1. Put a great team together

We’ve talked about the importance of people. The reality is, your customer service is only ever going to be as good as the team behind it. And that means there’s one crucial aspect you have to get right — who you hire. 

It pays to be clear up front what it is that you are looking for in potential hires and to make sure you put the right process in place to make that happen. Start with a good job spec and make sure that the skills that are paired with this are relevant to the role. 

Bear in mind, too, that there are some skills that can be fairly easily taught, such as typing speed and how to use the relevant technology. What’s much harder to train for are core skills such as: 

  • Empathy
  • Active listening
  • Conscientiousness
  • Attention to detail 
  • Conflict resolution
  • Patience
  • Proactivity

These are the skills it pays to focus on during the hiring process. 

Two particularly useful approaches are situational tests that replicate how a scenario would play out in real life and show how a potential employee might deal with it, and psychometric testing to unveil whether candidates possess the kinds of traits and skills you want and need on your team. 

2. Provide clear boundaries, roles and responsibilities 

There’s no more demoralizing feeling than starting a job without a good sense of exactly what it is you’re supposed to be doing. And given that customer service tasks can vary widely — involving anything from providing live chat support to a customer with a faulty product to activities that cross-over with customer success efforts such as proactively reaching out to a customer regarding an upcoming warranty expiration — it pays to clearly lay out early doors which teams and specific employees have which responsibilities. Without this clarity in place, chaos will reign supreme.

Most of the time, these tasks will center around handling incoming requests from customers. But that could happen across any number of channels including live chat, telephone, video call, email, or even social media. So, you may want certain employees to work on certain channels that their skills are better suited to. That also needs to be taken into account when defining individual roles and responsibilities. 

It’s important to remember, though, that autonomy is an important aspect of job satisfaction. Providing clear boundaries doesn’t have to mean depriving customer service reps of the opportunity to exercise their own judgement and show their personality when dealing with customers. That could involve something as simple as giving them the freedom to decide how to recompense customers.          

3. Get onboarding and training right

All-too-often companies simply onboard their staff, give them some basic training and then leave it at that. But, in an environment as fast-changing as customer service, you just can’t afford to take that approach. The never-ending stream of new technologies and strategies (as well as training techniques), must be fully embraced and integrated as they arise. 

To maximize the impact of onboarding and training within your team, it’s important to make sure that it’s structured correctly. That means:

  • Prepare. Establish the need for training as a first step. What skills gaps exist? It helps to compare against the job description at this stage to understand the skills and knowledge required. It’s also important to set objectives which can be used to measure success later on.
  • Create. Produce appropriate training materials. As this training is concerned with the customer service management process, the focus will likely be on areas such as customer interaction, familiarization with communication tools, and getting to know the company products or services in detail.
  • Engage. Use multiple methodologies to make sure training is engaging, mixing up e-learning with role-playing and classroom activities. It’s a good idea to motivate trainees with mini quizzes and knowledge checks, too. 
  • Assess. Measure impact against set goals to understand effectiveness. That could involve checking to see if the needle has moved on metrics like resolution times, or even NPS and customer satisfaction scores. 

To take things to the next level, though, you need to create a learning culture. Get customer support representatives to spend time in other teams, such as sales and marketing, so they get a better understanding of the overall customer journey.  And don’t forget about all the great resources available out there either. Whether that’s information from slack communities and blogs, or talks and networking opportunities at conferences, these all provide opportunities to become better informed and better connected.

4. Make proper use of technology

There’s no getting away from it: we live in a highly connected online world. Customers can pick up a device and be in touch with you at the simple click of a button. And that means the role technology plays in the world of customer service management is more important than ever.

Here are four key areas in which technology helps in the customer service management process:

  • Structure. Technology makes it easier to manage customer data more effectively. CRM software for example can help segment customers to increase relevance of communication. 
  • Speed. Technology powers more effective interactions with both customers and potential customers alike by enabling you to connect with them quickly, whenever, wherever.
  • Resources. Technology requires an upfront investment, but on the flipside it more than makes up for this by freeing up your employees’ time to focus on areas that require a more human approach.
  • Workflow. Technology provides a way to automate much of your customer service effort, creating a faster more efficient approach that can reach a greater number of customers.

5. Collaborate across the business

The customer service team may be superheroes in the eyes of some, but they can’t be expected to know and do everything. It’s the job of the whole company to get customer service right. On a basic level, that means other teams mucking in and being psychically involved in customer queries if they are better placed to deal with them. But, there’s a whole lot more to customer service management collaboration than just that. 

For example, self-service customer service software now forms a key part of a customer service arsenal and collaborating to break down silos when setting up this technology helps ensure it is implemented more effectively and brings a greater benefit to the customer. While engineers look after the technical side, customer service teams can act as the voice for the user and ensure the real world application stacks up. After all, they are the ones who are on the front line every day.  

For example, a knowledge base article relies on subject and product experts, but it’s the customer service team that brings an understanding of the kinds of questions and queries customers are concerned with. Similarly, when it comes to designing chatbots, collaboration between engineers, script designers, and the customer service team means a better representation of the company in terms of the personality and style of interactions. 

Of course, cross-company collaboration doesn’t just happen. It’s something that needs to be properly facilitated. Part of that is about using the right technology — software such as slack can help connect disparate and even remote teams, for example.  

But, ultimately, the buck still stops with the customer service manager. It’s their responsibility to act as the driving force that brings different company departments together. This means creating the chance for different teams to interact and learn from each other — whether through meetings or a more informal structure. That in turn opens up new perspectives which help to improve customer service in ways that would have otherwise been missed and contributes towards reinforcing a company culture that puts customer service at its heart.

6. Measure and improve

It’s an old adage, but it’s true: you can’t improve what you can’t measure. So, once you’ve got the people you need in place, clearly laid out their roles and responsibilities, and furnished them with the technology they need to deliver great customer service, it’s time to keep an eye on performance and see when and where you can make tweaks to improve things. And that’s where KPIs (key performance indicators) prove invaluable. Without this insight, you’d be making decisions based on guesswork.

Here are some of the most common customer service KPIs that you might want to track at your company:

  • Customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction reflects the level at which a customer is satisfied with a product, service, or experience. A customer satisfaction score comes from a CSAT survey containing an average of 5 to 10 questions relating to customer experience and service delivery.
  • Average first response time. First response times refer to the amount of time that elapses between a customer lodging a request to them getting a response. 
  • Average issue resolution time. Average issue resolution tracks the time it takes to solve customer issues, taking into account the handling from the moment a query comes in, to the time it gets resolved. 

Make sure to regularly review these KPIs in a formalized structure so you can understand how they change over time and the factors affecting them. And remember, KPIs are only useful if the insight they provide is acted upon. So, always make sure you implement changes that will benefit the company and involve other departments in this, too.

7. Embed customer service in the culture

At the end of the day, the fortunes of a company can rise and fall on the customer experience it delivers. So, putting customer service at the very heart of everything you do makes complete business sense. 

As with so many things when it comes to business, buy-in from the top is absolutely essential. It’s this commitment that allows an ethos to filter down throughout the business. In their lofty position, it’s all-too-easy for leaders to lose sight of the customer experience. One idea that might work: have them do a shift working as a customer service rep for an afternoon. They’ll soon realize the value that team brings. 

Building customer feedback and customer-related KPIs into performance and meeting structures also helps to ensure that people are ultimately accountable to the customer. 

7 Technologies to use in customer service management

There are many different customer service solutions out there that can help you with your customer service efforts. Choosing the right providers for you will depend on your company’s specific needs around functionality and pricing. 

Make sure you fully understand exactly what it is you need and why before implementing any new customer service software in your business. Bear in mind also that you may be able to add on to your existing tech stack with integrations rather than starting from scratch.

Here are some of the main tools to look out for:

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software

Managing customer information is a key function provided by technology. Something that’s especially important as company sizes grow bigger. With properly organized customer service management software  in the form of a CRM system at your fingertips, it’s much easier to keep track of communications, subscriptions, purchases, and all that other information that will prove vital for interacting with your customers in the most relevant way possible. 

Chatbots

Chatbots replace the work done by customer service agents, allowing customers to have real-time conversations with computer software. That could be either through either a text or a voice interface. They can provide answers to customer queries and help solve simple queries, freeing up customer service reps to work on more complicated issues. Chatbots have no need for rest, so are available 24/7 to make sure your customers’ needs are always met. 

They can also provide a triaging service for incoming requests, gathering important information and asking relevant questions before routing customers through to the team that is best placed to help them. Chatbots even provide an opportunity to generate leads by encouraging visitors to sign up for further content and information.

Automation

Automation is a no-brainer if you are looking to streamline your customer communications and create more efficient ways of engaging customers. This could take the form of automated communications through email, providing customers with a host of useful information and links to things such as a knowledge base that will allow them to have a better customer experience. These types of tools often allow for A/B testing through analytics and reporting functionality, making sure you deliver the most relevant interactions possible with your customers.

Omnichannel Workflow Management

Customers these days don’t expect to have to repeat themselves. They want the customer service rep at the other end to have the relevant context to understand their specific situation in detail to hand. The best way to ensure that this happens is by using an omnichannel tool to connect customer conversations across a number of different channels. With that in place, even if a customer gets in touch through two different channels on separate occasions about the same issue, your team will have the customer’s whole interaction history available to them.

Social Media

Social media is nigh-on ubiquitous in the modern world, so it’s an excellent opportunity to add another string to the customer service management bow at a relatively low cost. 

It pays to produce guidelines on how to use this channel. That way, you can make sure that both the messaging and tone come across properly when dealing with customer issues that come up. 

The reach and nature of social media makes it a good place to extend your customer service by including how-to videos and other educational content for customers to get more out of your product or services.

Don’t feel that you need to have a constant presence over all social media channels, though. You’ll just end up stretching yourself too thinly. The best thing to do is remember that five star customer service is about meeting your customers where they are. So, when you think about engaging with customers through social media, bear in mind your audience (LinkedIn is the go-to platform for B2B businesses for example) and the functionality provided by the platforms you are looking at. 

Video

Video has exploded in popularity since COVID hit and has proved its worth as a way of bridging physical distances while creating a more personal connection between companies and customers. 

There are a number of ways you can use video to help improve customer service efforts. Providing video calling as a customer support tool is a good place to start. Not only does this help provide a human touch, it’s a much more effective way to get issues solved as reps and customers can communicate more effectively by demonstrating where issues such as product defects are occurring. Recorded videos can also be used to educate customers on how best to use your products as well as troubleshoot any frequent issues that come up. Virtual tours are even an option to help showcase products.

Cobrowsing

One of the main aims of customer service management is to create efficiency and there’s no better tool than cobrowsing for doing that. Cobrowsing is a visual engagement technology that allows multiple users to browse and control the same web page or app simultaneously. One of the main benefits when compared to more traditional screen-share technology is that cobrowsing sessions can be started directly from a browser. That’s very useful because it means users have no need to download any third-party customer service software.

Cobrowsing helps improve remote customer support efforts by allowing your customer service agents to collaborate far more effectively with customers. It can prove particularly effective with issues to do with form filling and shopping carts as it allows customer service reps to see and understand exactly what a customer is facing.

Conclusion

The importance of customer service management can never be underestimated. Meeting your customers needs and expectations is the route to success, after all. There’s no doubt technology is a massive help in making that happen. And, of course, having the right strategies, too. 

But, at the end of the day, if you really want to create customer loyalty, customer service has to be something that you live and breathe as a company. That way, even as people come and go, the ethos remains the same.