Customer service managers work across many industries, ensuring customer satisfaction, managing teams and meeting targets

As a customer service manager, you'll make sure that the needs of customers are being met or exceeded. Your aim is to provide and promote excellent customer service throughout the organisation you work for. You'll manage the customer service team, making sure that service standards are being met and problems are resolved.

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 customer service policies in an 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, you're expected to understand and satisfy your customers' requirements, exceeding expectations where possible.

Responsibilities

As a customer service manager, you'll need to:

  • provide help to customers using your organisation's products or services
  • communicate courteously with customers by telephone, email, letter and face-to-face
  • investigate and solve customers' problems, which may be complex or long-standing, that have been passed on by customer service assistants
  • handle customer complaints or any major incidents, such as a security issue or a customer being taken ill
  • issue refunds or compensation to customers
  • keep accurate records of discussions or correspondence with customers
  • analyse statistics or other data to determine the level of customer service your organisation is providing
  • produce written information for customers, often involving the use of computer packages and software
  • write reports and analyse the customer service that your organisation provides
  • develop feedback or complaints procedures for customers to use
  • improve customer service procedures, policies and standards for your organisation or department
  • meet with other managers to discuss possible improvements to customer service
  • manage staff recruitment and appraisals - depending on the size of the organisation these tasks may be carried out by human resources
  • train staff to deliver a high standard of customer service
  • lead or supervise a team of customer service staff
  • learn about your organisation's products or services and keep up to date with changes
  • keep 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 £20,500 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. Self-employment is not common.

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. 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.
  • Dealing with customers who are upset or angry may be stressful.
  • You'll probably work from a single location but may spend time visiting customers or travelling to other sites within the organisation. Usually, these will be local so within a day but occasionally long-distance travel may be necessary, which could 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'll 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 face-to-face with customers
  • a commitment to improve your customer service skills on an ongoing basis.

Work experience

Competition among graduates is high, 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.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.

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
  • utility 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:

Specialist recruitment agencies such as Hays and Douglas Jackson handle vacancies.

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.

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, suitable for those who meet ICS standards and are 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 ICS and ILM membership.

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

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

Career prospects

In some organisations, you may need to undertake training and gain some experience in an assistant role before securing a position as a customer service manager.

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'll 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.

Moving to a larger organisation or another branch of your existing one may be necessary if you want to gain more responsibility or seek opportunities for promotion.

Options for development include training other staff in customer service skills or becoming an assessor of staff working towards customer service qualifications. This may lead to assessor or developer levels of membership with the ICS. You could also move into a wider management career, transferring to another sector if you choose.

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.

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