As a customer service manager, you can work in a number of industries, managing teams and delivering customer driven targets…

Customer service managers make sure that the needs of their customers are being satisfied. Your aim is to provide excellent customer service and to promote this idea throughout the organisation you work for.

You may work at various levels, from head office to the front-end of the business and in most cases will be:

  • helping to develop and implement a customer service policy for an entire organisation
  • finding ways to measure customer satisfaction and improve services
  • managing a team of customer service staff
  • handling face-to-face enquiries from customers.

Types of customer service manager

Roles vary widely and job titles in customer service management include:

  • corporate services manager
  • customer care manager
  • customer operations manager
  • customer relationship manager.

In each of these roles, customer service managers are expected to understand and satisfy their customers' requirements and exceed their expectations if possible.

Responsibilities

Although the work varies, depending on the type and size of the employing organisation, typical activities are likely to include some or all of the following:

  • providing help and advice to customers using your organisation's products or services
  • communicating courteously with customers by telephone, email, letter and face-to-face
  • investigating and solving customers' problems, which may be complex or long-standing problems that have been passed on by customer service assistants
  • handling customer complaints or any major incidents, such as a security issue or a customer being taken ill
  • issuing refunds or compensation to customers
  • keeping accurate records of discussions or correspondence with customers
  • analysing statistics or other data to determine the level of customer service your organisation is providing
  • producing written information for customers, often involving use of computer packages and software
  • writing reports analysing the customer service that your organisation provides
  • developing feedback or complaints procedures for customers to use
  • improving customer service procedures, policies and standards for your organisation or department
  • meeting with other managers to discuss possible improvements to customer service
  • involvement in staff recruitment and appraisals
  • training staff to deliver a high standard of customer service
  • leading or supervising a team of customer service staff
  • learning about your organisation's products or services and keeping up to date with changes
  • keeping ahead of developments in customer service by reading relevant journals, going to meetings and attending courses.

Salary

  • The range of typical starting salaries for trainee customer service managers falls between £18,000 and £25,000.
  • Salaries for experienced customer service managers can reach £30,000 to £45,000, and may exceed £60,000.

Some companies, especially in retail, sales and banking, offer generous bonuses or commission and usually provide an excellent benefits package.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Your working hours will vary according to the type of organisation. For example, managers at head offices may work 9am to 5pm, while those in call centres or retail stores may need to work shifts, including evenings and weekends.

Some organisations employ customer service managers on a part-time basis, where the nature of the organisation's work allows it.

What to expect

  • Work is usually carried out from an office or from a customer services desk in a public area, such as a shop or a train station. Self-employment is not common.
  • There are opportunities to work in all parts of the UK, particularly in large cities and towns.
  • Some organisations have relocated their call-centre provision overseas. There may be opportunities for UK customer service managers to work overseas in either permanent or temporary positions.
  • If you have face-to-face contact with customers, you must have a smart appearance and you may be required to wear a uniform.
  • Whatever the setting, you will need to behave in a calm, professional and responsible manner at all times.
  • The work may be stressful when you are dealing with customers who are upset or angry.
  • Customer service managers usually work from a single location, but some spend their time visiting customers or travelling to other sites within the organisation.
  • Visits are usually local, so that you can return to work or home the same day, but you may occasionally have to travel long distances throughout the UK and this might involve overnight stays.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to all graduates, the following degree or HND subjects may improve your chances:

  • business studies
  • consumer studies
  • management studies
  • marketing.

Some employers may prefer students from disciplines that are relevant to their particular sector, such as retail, hospitality or financial services.

Entry into customer service management is possible without a degree or HND.

Some managers work their way up from roles such as customer service assistant, gaining relevant qualifications and experience where possible. They may then find themselves being promoted to team leader and on into a management position.

A postgraduate qualification is not required.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • communication skills that allow you to inform, help and advise customers clearly and to liaise effectively with other professionals
  • listening skills, to understand exactly what customers require
  • problem-solving skills
  • confidence, patience, politeness, tact and diplomacy, when dealing with difficult situations
  • motivational skills and an ability to supervise and lead a team of customer service assistants
  • creative thinking, to be able to come up with new ideas to improve customer service standards
  • an ability to work well under pressure
  • organisational and planning skills to develop customer service policies
  • good personal presentation, especially when working with customers face-to-face
  • a commitment to improve your own customer service skills on an ongoing basis.

Work experience

Competition among graduates is high and so previous experience of working with customers, such as in a shop, call centre, office or bar, may give you an advantage when applying for work or training schemes.

Any other relevant experience of working with people, perhaps through membership of student clubs and societies, is also useful.

Try to arrange a period of work shadowing with customer service managers in different settings to find out which type of organisation might suit you best.

Employers

Customer service managers work in most industries, in a range of private and public employment sectors.

You could work for:

  • retail companies, such as supermarkets, department stores and online retailers
  • leisure and tourism organisations, such as tour operators and airlines
  • banks and building societies
  • insurance companies
  • utilities organisations, such as gas, electricity and water companies
  • telecommunications organisations
  • transport and logistics firms
  • local government
  • health service providers
  • educational institutions.

The work will vary depending on the sector and the employer. For example, if you work on a customer service desk in a supermarket, you will mainly work with customers face-to-face, but if you work in a call centre for an insurance company, most of your contact with customers will be by telephone.

Look for job vacancies at:

Some organisations, such as retail companies, advertise vacancies on their websites or in store, posting vacancies on notice boards or in shop windows. Speculative applications to employers of customer service staff may prove fruitful.

Recruitment agencies frequently handle vacancies.

Professional development

Some employers offer training and awards run by external providers, such as the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) . The ICS offers professional qualifications and customer service management and strategy qualifications.

To achieve these awards, you need to meet ICS standards in various areas of customer service. You must also be employed by an organisation that is a member of the ICS.

Relevant qualifications, such as certificates in team leading and diplomas in management, are offered by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM). These lead to various levels of membership of the ILM.

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) are also available in customer service at levels one, two, three and four. At levels two, three and four, qualifications can help you gain membership of the ICS and the ILM.

Employers often provide their own training relating to their particular sector and organisation. Some, mainly larger, organisations offer management-training schemes covering other areas of management as well as customer service.

The ICS accredits the in-house training schemes of some organisations, which means that successful completion can lead to membership of the ICS.

Your employer may send you on short courses and seminars provided by organisations such as the ICS and Customer Service Network (CSN).

The ICS holds an annual conference, which offers workshops on topics such as new initiatives and developments in customer service, and organises networking events.

Career prospects

In some organisations, in order to become a customer service manager, you may first need to undertake training and gain some experience in a role such as customer service assistant.

From here, you can progress to higher levels, such as team leader or supervisor, then to various levels of management. The length of time this takes varies, depending on the type and size of the organisation.

In other organisations, you may start as a trainee customer service manager on a graduate training scheme. After your initial training, you will become a customer service manager, perhaps responsible for a small team of customer service assistants. Your responsibilities are likely to increase as you gain more experience and qualifications.

You may need to move to a larger organisation if you want to gain more responsibility or opportunities for promotion. It may also be necessary to relocate in order to gain promotion in organisations that have a number of branches.

As your career develops, you can upgrade your membership of professional associations, such as the:

  • ICS
  • ILM

You could train other staff in customer service skills, or you might train to become an assessor of staff working towards customer service qualifications. This may lead to assessor or developer levels of membership with the ICS.

If you take opportunities to develop and expand your knowledge and experience, you could move into a wider management career. This is particularly true if you have a relevant degree or have participated in a general-management-training scheme that covers other areas of management.

To aid further progression, you should keep your knowledge and skills up to date by adding to your qualifications, completing short courses, attending conferences and reading relevant books, reports, newsletters and magazines.

Meeting fellow professionals and exchanging ideas is another useful way of developing your career and the ICS runs regional networking and training events.