So you are now a customer service manager? Congratulations! Now what?
Let’s look at the perks first: A bigger paycheck, probably a bigger, corner office with a nice view, and the power and authority to call the shots in certain situations.
But with all these perks and powers comes duties and responsibilities that will define you as a leader of a team of customer service agents.
The Manager as the Leader
It doesn’t matter if you lead a team of 5 or 50. As the leader it is your task to rally your team into a single objective. You define that objective, communicate it to your team and make sure that everyone is aware of their individual roles to achieve that objective. It is also your task to identify every team member’s strength and harness every single one of those strengths to achieve your objectives.
The Leader as the Coach
We often use the word coach in sports, to refer to the person who literally calls the shots from the courtside, shuffling players and getting uniquely skilled individuals to play as one cohesive team with the end goal of scoring more points at the buzzer.
Beyond the game, coaching goes much deeper than just orchestrating that all-important, game-winning play. Coaching also refers to providing feedback to team members: giving credit and praise when it is due, and providing correction, reprimand, and/or sanctions as appropriate.
Coaching may be the single most important role that you can play for your team. It validates employees’ job performance, and keeps them in tune to the goals that you have set. It is also a good way to keep your team motivated, with a focus on continuous improvement.
Two skills require your careful attention in coaching:
One unfortunate practice in employee feedback is when it is given only when the employee has done something wrong, as if the only feedback necessary is one that is negative. It’s hard to feel good about yourself and your job when all you hear are negative comments. To ensure your employees perform at optimal levels they will need to hear words of encouragement and praise from you. There are many effective ways to praise but we have found the below exercise most effective.
B = Behavior. Identify the preferred behavior so the employee can continue doing it.
E = Effect. Explain how the behavior contributed to the customer's positive experience, company bottom line, or anything else that details why the behavior is desired.
T = Thanks. Always thank the employee. This shows appreciation and reinforces that the employee performed well, and encourages him or her to continue doing it.
Correcting, reprimanding, and imposing sanctions are trickier aspects of coaching and require more thoughtful consideration from you as a manager. It is not easy to tell someone that they did something wrong or are not behaving as required and expected according to set company or team rules. But avoiding this role will affect your team's productivity and morale. Use this easy-to-remember exercise to effectively correct.
B = Behavior. Clearly point out the incorrect behavior.
E = Effect. Explain the effect the incorrect behavior had on the customer, the call, etc.
E = Expectation. Clearly state what you expect the employee to do differently next time.
S = Secure Commitment. Secure a commitment from the employee to do what you’ve asked.
The overriding principle in coaching that must always be kept in mind is fairness: what applies to one should apply to all, whether praising or correcting. You will have your biases since some of your team members will perform better than the others. But you will have to set those biases aside, as much as you can, in coaching.
The Leader as the Role Model
As the manager you will be accountable not only to your superiors and your customers, but to your team members as well. If you demand productivity, make sure you have something to show for the time you spend in that fancy chair of yours. If you demand punctuality you cannot show up late. And if you ask for 100% commitment to the task, you cannot show anything less than that.
That is how you earn respect, and a respected manager usually gets the job done.
(Photo Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net)