A Starter’s Guide to Your First Month as a Customer Support Manager

Mercer Smith-Looper Mercer Smith-Looper · 6 min read

You got the job for a reason, and now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Everything has shifted in 2020/2021, and if things are on your side, you may even have a new job. Starting a new job is never easy: there are so many people, things, and processes to get to know. That’s magnified if a company has hired you into a leadership position as a customer support manager.

Whether you’ve managed a team before or are stepping up from a team lead or individual contributor (IC) role, moving into a new position can be challenging. We’ve got your back.

Here are the four key steps to take within the first month of employment in a customer support manager role.

Get to know your people

No matter where you’re coming from, you have to spend some time getting to know your people. If you’ve already worked with your team members, you’ll have a bit of a head start, but there’s still so much to learn at a management level. It’s not just about knowing your team members personally anymore; it’s about understanding their motivations, strengths, what they care about, and where they want to go.

There are a few ways to go about learning this:

Create a “getting to know you” event

If you are just starting at a new company, you will have your work cut out for you. Get the ball rolling by scheduling an event strictly for your team to get to know you. Let your hair down, show some personality, and be vulnerable. The sooner they can feel like they know you, the sooner you will gain their trust. It’s essential to get to know them, but it’s even more critical that they get to know you.

Virtually, this can be a Zoom call with a “no work chat” mandate or a game of virtual taboo. In-person, this could be bowling or even just going out to lunch.

Focus on one-on-ones

Create a regular cadence for your one-on-ones with each of your direct reports, and stick to the schedule. When you always reschedule or cancel your meetings, you send the message to your team that their time is less critical or their opinions are less valuable than yours are.

In your one-on-ones, take the time to get to know your employees, rather than just reviewing metrics. Ask and learn about their personal lives, understand what they care about. Take time to ask questions and listen to what they are saying. It may feel like a waste of time at the moment to hear a 15-minute story about their new cat, but it helps to build rapport and your team will feel like they are essential to you.

Create at least one social group call a month

Many teams choose to do these more often, but if having something more frequent feels unproductive, start by having at least one social call for your team every month. Just like the “getting to know you meeting,” this one should help you continue to build personal relationships with your colleagues that run a bit deeper.

Have a group meeting weekly or biweekly

Group meetings help you uncover hidden dynamics amongst your team members, whether they be healthy or dysfunctional. One-on-ones help you get to know your team individually, and group meetings allow you to see how they work together. Both aspects are essential to building a great, dynamic team.

support questionsGet to know your company

Even if you’ve worked at the company for years, there will still be many nuances to understand at the managerial level. That said, this is an especially crucial step if you are new to the company: you need to know the company culture, communication style, and any internal processes.

You can glean a lot of this information from reading blogs and during the interview, but you’ll also want some more profound, more candid insights when you start at the company. There are a few specific things that you should keep your eyes out for:

  • Where could the company be doing better? Were there any gaps in onboarding? Have you received the answer, “that’s just the way we do it?” Call things out. Just because they’ve always done them that way historically doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it.
  • Who are the movers and shakers on other teams? If you need to work cross-functionally with product, for instance, who would you need to get buy-in from?
  • How does the company view support? Is it a cost-center? Do they already understand the value that support delivers?

As you’re going through onboarding, see if you can start to sniff out the answers to any of these things. Depending on the culture of the company, you may even be able to ask directly. These types of inquiries will give you a better picture of what your future will look like and where your challenges may be.

Get to know the product

It may be surprising that getting to know the product comes after learning about the company and more about your team. But, as a support manager, your role isn’t to be the master of the product anymore; it’s to know the inner workings of your team and company better than anyone else.

That said, some product insights are always valuable. Here are a few that we recommend focussing your energy on:

Know the history

How can you know what needs to change and how to do it if you don’t understand what came before? Get an in-depth history of the product, including any retrospectives that you can find. You will not only know the product itself, but you’ll also understand your product team’s history.

Knowing how the team works, what they value, and about the holes in their process can help you to be an even more effective manager and colleague moving forward. After all, if you notice that the team has a history of writing up new documentation for new features, that’s something that you can step in and plan.

Understand the roadmap

Just like you need to know the past, you also need to understand the future. Get as much of a handle on the product roadmap as you can. Not only will this help you know what you can and can’t talk to customers about, but it may affect things like staffing as well. If a whole new feature is releasing, someone will need to support it. Also, try to understand how a feature request makes its way through the system to get built into the product. Having a bird’s eye view over all of this will make you a more informed and effective manager to your team.

Figure out if support needs to be productized

Many companies, as they expand, choose to productize support. That means offering a tiered version of support and including it as part of their pricing package. Many customers are willing to pay more for expedited or phone support, for instance. Uncover if your company is already thinking about this or has something like it on the roadmap. Ultimately, as the manager, you should have some say in the decision. Listen to what their plan is, and be prepared to add insights as you have them.

Get to know your customers

As a customer support manager, your customers are one of the most important things for you to understand. That said, as someone who isn’t directly in the queue, they are no longer your most immense responsibility. That’s why they come last in terms of priority for learning. Your last step as a customer support manager in onboarding should be to spend time getting to know your customers.

Learn about the customer journey map

Does your company already have a customer journey map? If so, you should be reading it. If not, it’s time to make one.

Understand all of the points where customers reach out or come in contact with your team. Start to map it out so you can identify potential bottlenecks or problem areas. Mapping will make it easy to understand what your customers want or need and where the best place to give it to them during their lifecycle is.

Get into the queue

It’s essential to get your hands dirty with your team every once in a while. First, because it helps you understand what their experiences are like on the day-to-day. Second, because it enables you to see what customers’ experiences are like every day. Try to hop in as often as you can to keep yourself grounded in reality as you make plans for the future.

Dive into support personas

Just like marketers, support teams should know the personas of the people reaching out to them. Do a deep dive into your analytics and pull some information about what your typical support personas look like. What do they care about? What motivates them? How do they feel about the support that you provide?

There are tons of benchmarks about different demographics and what they care about within customer experience. After you have a handle on who your regular customers are, use some data to beef up your understanding. Pairing data and experience together can help you predict things like new channels, new strategies, and even areas of opportunity for your team moving forward.

You’re going to do great

Whether you follow these steps strictly or pick and choose the ones that work best for you, you’re going to do great. You got the job for a reason, and now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Spend time getting to know the critical aspects of any customer-facing role: your team, your company, the product, and the customers that you’re serving. With those things in mind, you can’t lose.

How did you like this blog?


Mercer Smith-Looper Mercer Smith-Looper

Mercer is the Head of Support at Appcues, a yoga fanatic, and strives to make the world a little bit happier one customer at a time. You can find her at mercenator.com and on Twitter at @mercenator.

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