Here’s what it takes to be a great customer service leader

Good customer service is quickly becoming a core value to companies and has never been more important. Customer service can make or break a company, especially when it comes to attracting and retaining customers. To have great customer service, it’s crucial to have a customer service leader who is able to both empower employees to provide the highest quality service possible and to represent the voice of the customer.

A customer service leader is responsible for providing quality experiences for both customers and support agents through their leadership skills in hiring, training, motivating, organization, problem-solving, and their ability to recognize, reward, and retain customers and employees. The job of a customer service leader can be stressful with the number of hats that must be worn, however, there are three leadership skills a customer service leader can focus on in order to go from good to outstanding.

1. Practice empathy: Understand your customer

A good customer service leader needs to understand their customers in order to deliver an excellent customer experience. When it comes to understanding the customer, leaders need to ask themselves: who is the customer, what is the value you’re providing to them, and how can you help your customers be successful? By creating customer personas and product value propositions, and by using customer data and insights, leaders can better understand and anticipate customers' needs—changing your customer support approach from reactive to proactive. Proactively reaching out to customers for help and general optimization can help maximize the value you’re providing to them and can create a consistently great experience.

2. Put the customer at the center

An excellent customer service leader will put the customer at the center of the business and make sure the customer's voice is heard and accounted for. To put customers at the center, customer services leaders can:

  • Unlock opportunities:

    Collect data insight and customer feedback to continuously challenge and grow the company. Customer service leaders can create customer programs in which the customer's voice is heard and collective feedback is brought into dialogue with product design teams in order to significantly influence the product roadmap. At Zendesk, the voice of the customer is involved and aligned on more than 55% of product roadmap activities.

  • Dissolve organizational boundaries:

    Anchor teams on customer service feedback and the voice of the customer. Bring customers in to speak about their experiences with your product or service, or start every meeting with a customer story. This can help ground meetings and remind everyone that the customer is at the center of the business.

  • Engage together:

    Interview customers more and create momentum and movement on improvement. Run experiments and trials with your customers so you can innovate, improve, and implement new practices.

3. Be fit to assist

Customer service leaders need to always be there for their customers. If agents can’t take on an issue, leaders need to be able to respond and resolve customer issues quickly in order to get them back up and running.

A good data foundation is crucial. Data and insights allow support leaders and their teams to better understand what customers will need in order to engage proactively. A customer lifecycle program can enable teams to understand the customer base and their needs at any given point in time, allowing teams to orchestrate engagement around that. For example, whether it’s a professional services team, the marketing team, the sales team, or the support team that needs to engage, with the right data and insights, you can engage the customer with the right team at the right time. And there’s a direct correlation between customer engagement and customer lifetime value.

Customer service leadership: where to start

It’s not really a question of whether you should be a great customer service leader or not. It’s a question of how to be a great customer service leader and provide great customer service. The best place to start is with empathy and a deep understanding of the customer lifecycle. Once you understand and can empathize with your customers, you can create an open company culture and instill on-going learning and openness for customer feedback.

The next best place to start is to place more value on your support teams. It’s no longer prudent to turn to your support team as though they are an emergency room surgeon. Leaders need to treat support teams as though they’re a proactive health provider. Support teams hold inherent value and should be worked into the core of the company—they should not be considered as backup life support.

Customer service leaders are also business leaders that need to be grounded in what it takes to run a business, and how to carry revenue and renewal numbers for the company. This means things like increasing the customer base by successfully onboarding customers, expanding their use case, and increasing their lifetime value. In the end, a good leader needs to create positive results for both the customer and the company.