7 Tips on Making the Jump From Being a Great Agent to a Better New Manager

5 min read

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti

Congrats on your promotion! It’s incredibly exciting to move from agent to manager, but you might be feeling a little like Eminem in 8 mile on your first day. Nervous about changing up your role? You’re not alone.

Internal promotions provide career growth opportunities and they reward loyalty to a company. But an internal promotion can often mean the new manager hasn’t been in the position of, well, managing anyone. Moving from an individual contributor role to a people manager role comes with a lot of change and questions. Without proper support, agents pushed into a management can be in a position to fail – or at least burn themselves out quickly.

Here’s our 7 tips on making the jump from agent to manager so you can set yourself up for success during your exciting transition!

Change from Hands on to Hands off work

It can feel really weird to go from 8 hours of queue crushing to a more hands-off role. You get your paycheck for thinking, talking, strategizing and overseeing instead of the actual talking to customers. You might feel like you aren’t doing as much or feel guilty about having “nothing” to show for your day. It’s a symptom of changing the type of work you’re doing.

  • Does mentoring a new team mate over coffee show up in the numbers?
  • Does reading about a new type of live chat technology directly impact your team’s KPIs?
  • If you review 10 resumes and none of them move forward, can you cross anything off your to-do list?

Not right away.

As a manager, you’ll only see the impact of most of your work over time. When you start, you’ll have days that you look back over and wonder where your time went. That’s okay. To combat those feelings, keep a list of the things you did accomplish or spend time on. Time tracking apps like Toggl or Harvest are great for seeing where your time goes.

A word of warning. Don’t bury yourself back in the queue just to get those “productive” happy feelings. Depending on the size of your team, you might be spending 30-50% of your day working in the front line as needed. But if you start spending too much time crunching tickets because it feels safe and productive, you’ll be neglecting your new responsibilities. Speaking of which…

Think big picture, not day to day

If you’ve been promoted, you’ve likely already shown that you can think long term to improve the customer support experience. As a new manager, your responsibility is to make sure your team continues to improve month over month. You can’t do that if you’re head down in the queue or micromanaging your team.

Read more: Empower Your Customer Service Team

I like to imagine what would happen to my team if I disappeared. If everything falls apart in a day, I’m not doing a great job of empowering my team to run the daily tasks. If everything would stay running smoothly for a few weeks without breaking down, that’s a good thing. It means your focus is on growing and improving the team for the future – not daily fire fighting.

To start thinking about the long term, create cycles of improvement. Working with your supervisor, look at goals for the next 3 months, then the next quarter, then the next year. Goals and strategies will be more specific closer to today, and more vague further into the future. Each month, or quarter, review your progress and modify your customer support goals based on team needs. Getting this rhythm started early will make sure you’ll always heading in the right direction and that you don’t waste any time bogged down in the day to day fires.

Focus on your new customers

When you’re working on the front line, you’ll do anything to make your customers happy. When you’re a manager, your team is your customers. Shift your focus to making your team members successful, productive and happy. While your customers are obviously still important, your new job is to advocate for your team first.

Any time you spend with your employees helps them be successful. One on ones are a great investment in your team. Andy Grove, co-founder of Intel, is a huge advocate for dedicating time to one on ones, because they have a huge return on investment. “Ninety minutes of your time can enhance the quality of your subordinate’s work for two weeks, or for some eighty-plus hours.”

If your team accomplishes their goals, you accomplish yours.

Don’t assume you must know everything

Remember your first day as an agent? You weren’t hired because you already knew everything about the product and customer service. No one is expecting you to be perfect from your first day as a manager.

Abby Armada has been the Customer Support Lead at Code Climate for 7 months now. She suggests new managers to “not to be afraid to ask for help. Just because you’re a manager now doesn’t mean you know everything about leading a team.” She’s completely right. There’s no need to put all that pressure on yourself.

“Help can come from anywhere,” says Abby. “It can come from your own manager, Support Driven, etc. Consistently talking through problems I was having helped me solve them better.” Ask senior managers in your company out to coffee. Bounce ideas off of your manager. Sometimes it helps just to have a sounding board as you get used to a whole new world of decision making.

Treat yo self with some self-care

Becoming a team lead means that you aren’t only responsible for your wellbeing, but also the wellbeing of everyone on your team. This can be overwhelming, especially if you’re an introvert. Team members will have questions for you, all the time. They will ask for things they shouldn’t, you’ll have to say no. You’ll have to have difficult conversations

Read more: Measure your team’s wellbeing with employee Net Promoter Score

To prevent burnout, set boundaries and make sure to keep up your self care regime. If you need to close your door (perhaps figuratively) block out time on your calendar to do so. Take mental health days. Check in with yourself to make sure you’re eating, taking breaks, drinking enough water. Treat yo’ self. You deserve it!

take care of yourself first

Set time to check-in

Time can go by really quickly in a new role, and when your first review comes up, it’s easy to forget what you’ve accomplished. Keep a Trello board full of projects you’re working on, and those you’ve finished. Add to it weekly, even if it’s something small like updating a trigger that was causing problems with workflows.

Review your progress with your manager in your 1 on 1s. This time becomes even more important in your new role. You can bounce ideas off of your manager and confirm that you have the right priorities. Then, when it comes to your first review, you’ll have a full list of what you’ve accomplished to review.

Read, a lot

Turns out there’s a lot of people who are really good at this management thing. They’ve shared their ideas in blog posts across the internet. Here’s 5 of our favorite:

On 1 on 1s – by Lighthouse
On being a young manager by Sarah Chambers
On managing a team when the sky is falling by Michael Lopp
On emotional fatigue by Simon Ouderkirk
On rethinking habits when you become a new manager by Lindsay Kosko

Keep your head up

Don’t underestimate the jump from agent to manager. Success won’t come from doing the same things you’ve been doing as an agent. To be a great manager, you’ll need to think bigger, adjust your focus and adapt to a new way of working. It’s a big change!

Be patient with yourself and always keep learning and asking questions. The internet is filled with helpful advice, and the Support Driven #leadership community is only a click away. Don’t go it alone! Congratulations again on the big promotion. We know you’ll rock it. 🙂

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