I’ve worked in various customer support roles in multiple industries. I think the skills in customer support are transferable across industries, although that’s obviously not an excuse to not learn about the product you’re supporting. Here is that journey so far.
Firstly, I think it’s fair to say I started from a defeatist standpoint and didn’t really give a sh*t. For whatever reason I moved out at 16 and got my first job in support at a firm which makes historical giftware and jewellery, this was an apprenticeship which paid £350/$422 (time of writing) a month which is all I had to live on and I think that made me resent that job and eventually leave.
I did learn some things though. My experiences in the role helped me learn how to communicate and articulate myself in a more constructive and business-friendly way. I also sold £10k worth of stock at a trade show one weekend – that was a dope moment. I then got to look after the end to end supply through sale process for an entire product range (some gnarly statues of greek gods or something) which was insightful. In spite of that, I wouldn’t go back to manufacturing, it’s brutal.
From there I moved to a contact (call at the start) centre as a front-line advisor. I was in a motor claims department handling calls from people who had just had car accidents. As you can imagine, this can get depressing pretty fast, it surprises me there isn’t more research into the negative effects of employment in these types of roles on mental wellbeing.
However, there is no doubt in my mind that it was this job that made me the person I am today. It built up my resiliency for a start and helped refine my communication skills while dealing with customers in really difficult situations.
I had a customer once who had accidentally left their handbrake off. The car rolled into their grandchild – and he lost his life. It was pretty devastating, to be honest, I’d had other deaths but nothing like this. I quickly realised my inadequacy in dealing with the situation, but we were expected to and I did to the best of my ability to try and get that customer through that situation.
This was a pivotal moment for me in support, it made me appreciate the value of quality training and helped kick start the process to get that training.
On a lighter note – I also had a bond girl call once, she was extremely cool.
In the same business, I was successful in my application to the role of Resource Planner. In the contact centre, this is the person that predicts the call volumes and schedules all of the agent activity and working patterns. This role gave me my base in customer support knowledge. I learned a lot about employee experience relative to customer experience alongside the practical knowledge that the role required.
I was also monitoring what planning call ‘Real Time’ in this role. This is watching the flow of calls coming in and making sure they’re getting picked up in line with KPI’s. There’s some cool technology in this space that I’m sure I’ll write about sometime.
This organisation had many arms so I luckily got offered a move from claims into holidays. That was a completely different world and my first real experience of transferring knowledge across industries. Holidays was crazy and I will definitely write about it, the trends in contact volumes are so tricky to forecast.
I performed a similar role to previous and then eventually became the Efficiency Analyst. Here I created business cases, reporting suites for the entire support organisation, started my degree and it was my first experience of reporting into Director level leadership.
The degree is an interesting case. Customer Contact Planning and Management BSc. It’s literally a degree in support and I’ve found the lessons I’ve learned so far useful in practice. I’m in my final year as I write so expect to hear about it.
I loved this job but it was only a few months and then in the same organisation I became the Planning and Efficiency Manager. Responsible over the forecasting, schedules and real-time management for the entire contact centre (phone/chat/email) and balancing the needs of the business with the needs of our 150 advisors.
I also brought with me the efficiency brief. I managed in my time in the role to get a business case over the line for a new piece of technology which delivered a whole load of benefit to the business, and managed to see that through to implementation. I also had the delight of being managed by a true customer support professional who moulded me into what I am now, I guess.
I got to present at CEO level in this position. Updating them on the operational performance measures for the entire support organisation and providing data sets. I freakin’ love data.
Having probably seen some YouTube video about digital nomads or whatever I was browsing remote job boards and I came across a role that just looked perfect. It was for a Customer Support Manager at a software company and it’s where I’m at now.
It’s a completely different breed of support and I relish the challenge and the opportunity. I’m surrounded by diverse and impressive colleagues and I realise how much I can still learn about support, and about the world.