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Article 3 min read

8 support manager skills to develop

By Andrew Gori

Last updated January 9, 2018

Organisations and management structures are always changing. If your company is going to weather these shifts successfully, you need competent, flexible managers. Managers don’t just need to adapt personally to change, they also need to help their teams do so. If you can develop and attract exceptional managers, you’ll have an enormous advantage when the time comes for your teams to flex to new situations and realities. To make sure you’re ready, focus now on developing support manager skills will help your organisation successfully grow with the business.

Beyond setting the stage for successful growth, great managers also impact day-to-day department success. In any organisation, employee satisfaction hinges on many things, but how well they’re being managed is always right there at the top. A good manager makes all the difference, in job satisfaction, engagement and performance. This is true across all industries and for companies large or small. If you want engaged, happy agents (and you should) they need strong support and leadership from the top.

Unfortunately, some managers achieve their position based on longevity or politics, not based on their readiness to lead. A person isn’t ready to manage others just because she knows your business inside and out, or because he’s been in the department for years.

So, what makes a good manager? Managing the ticket queue, improving processes, achieving performance goals, and keeping customer satisfaction high is important, of course—but so is managing people. Your managers need to have or develop the essential soft skills to be effective at building relationships.

Skills to look for

Experts agree that exceptional managers across all industries share common traits and bring specific skills to the table. As we’ve built out Zendesk’s customer service department we’ve identified eight traits–core skills–of effective customer support team managers. To be successful as a team lead, and be considered for future advancement into management roles, employees must score high in these areas: communication, direction setting, motivating and recognising, conflict-resolution, hiring, onboarding and diversity, change management and removing roadblocks.

Each of the above core competencies require slightly different managerial and leadership skills. Communication and motivating/recognising, for example, require managers to forge strong interpersonal relationships and build trust within a team. Skills like direction-setting, change management and conflict management require that they be strategically-minded, closely aligned to business goals, tough but fair, and able to rally a team around a shared goal. For a manager to shine in hiring, onboarding and diversity, he or she must possess a keen eye for talent, a respect for all types of people and the ability to develop talent in others.

What next?

Having pinpointed where and how excellent managers rise above the average ones, we can now look for these qualities and develop them in existing employees.

In addition to managing well, managers also need to lead by example when it comes to adapting to growth and change. It’s critical that growing companies train and motivate managers who will lead their teams well in times of movement and change. You want managers who know how to inspire, who are good communicators and who motivate teams to do their best.

Bottom line: every agent in your customer service department deserves a terrific manager. This is especially true during times of transition and growth. To make this so, you need to:

  • Get regular feedback from agents regarding their satisfaction with their job, their team, and their manager;

  • Plan for growth by coaching and mentoring the people in your team who have management potential; and,

  • Hire managers based on established skills and core competencies so you only hire the best.