The job description of a customer service agent goes far beyond a single role. Here’s what you need to know.
Most jobs require you to fill more than one role.
That’s especially true in customer service, where you’re expected to know how to—and be good at—everything from dealing with angry customers to teaching them how to use your product to understanding what people are really saying when they ask you an unclear question.
Being able to understand each of these roles lets us get better at them by treating each one as an individual skill to be developed.
Below are the ten primary roles that you’ll fill in customer service, along with resources to help you get better at each one.
Often the first thing people think of when they think of customer support, being a helper is perhaps your most prominent role.
And it’s a very important one.
In a survey of more than 75,000 consumers, the number one most important factor in gaining a customer’s loyalty is reducing their effort (the work they must do to get their problem solved).
So by helping them overcome product hurdles and achieve what they want to do, you’re not just helping your customers; you’re helping to grow the business.
Become a better helper:
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
While your customer might need help this time, they probably don’t want to reach out to you every single time they stumble onto the same issue.
That’s why it’s so important to not just be a good helper, but a good teacher. The ability to take sometimes-complex concepts and distill them into simple, clear and easy-to-follow instructions that make your customer better at using your product is an extraordinarily valuable skill.
Become a better teacher:
3) Optimization Scout
No business is perfect (despite what some rabid Apple fans might say).
There are always places to improve your product, but unless you’re doing whole-team support, the people actually building the product typically don’t spend all that much time with the people using the product.
As someone on the front lines, you get a first-hand look at what customers struggle with and what could work better.
This insight makes you a crucial part of the process when it comes to helping the team spot bugs, find inefficiencies and unnecessarily complicated workflows, and figure out how to make your product better.
Become a better Optimization Scout:
As the front line in customer service, you are the voice of the customer in your company.
This goes well beyond being an Optimization Scout.
Aside from spotting bugs and issues, you also know the types of things that your company does that make your customers happy, frustrated or angry.
You know that because you’re always the first to hear about it.
Over time, you develop a keen ability to predict how your customers will be impacted by product changes, and you can help your company make better decisions in the best interest of your customers.
Become a better advocate:
Anyone who has worked in support for longer than a week has almost certainly dealt with an angry or upset customer.
We all have bad days, and as someone who knows the importance of empathy, patience and positivity—and practices those skills—you have the magical power of being able to help these customers turn their day around.
You know the right techniques to not only help someone feel better, but to build a better relationship with an otherwise-great customer in the process.
Become a better therapist:
Customer support is one of those jobs where you’re never “done.”
Customer emails will always keep coming in, people will always need help, and there will always be something for you to do.
As if the amount of stuff you need to do wasn’t enough, people typically expect you to do it fast.
One survey by Forrester found that 41% of customers expect a response to a customer support email within six hours, but that only 36% of businesses studied actually responded within that timeframe.
Being able to work productively and use your time wisely is a role all onto itself.
Become a better multitasker:
If your business offers multiple products, or multiple tiers of the same product, you can probably easily spot the customers that would get more value from either buying another product, or switching their plan to a higher (or lower) tier.
By being able to identify those customers, and target them with upsells, downsells or cross-sells in the right way at the right time is a mark of an effective support agent.
Chris Yeh, an investor and entrepreneur, shares a great example of a well-done support upsell when he called Geico for roadside assistance.
After providing GEICO with my location and arranging to wait for the tow truck, the GEICO dispatcher told me, “From looking at your account, it looks like you’re now eligible for a big discount on our comprehensive coverage. Since you’re going to be waiting for the tow truck anyways, would you like to hear more?”
15 minutes later, I had agreed to add $1 million in additional coverage for my car and home, at a cost of right around $100 per year.
I’ve been a GEICO customer for 16 years already, so it’s not much of a stretch to speculate that I might be a customer for another 20 years. That means that GEICO turned a costly customer service call into an incremental $2,000 in lifetime revenue.
Upselling, downselling and cross-selling aren’t just sales tactics; they’re customer happiness tactics that can help you build deeper relationships with customers by delivering more value.
Become a better salesperson:
Did you know that for every customer who complains, there are 26 customers who don’t say anything at all?
That means that every issue you hear about from one customer is silently nudging many more customers toward the door. Except they’ll never tell you that; if things get bad enough, they’ll simply leave without a word.
That’s where being a mindreader becomes a role that can save your business.
Learning to spot the customers who are having trouble—even if they don’t say anything to you—is one of the best ways to reduce churn.
Become a better mindreader:
Sometimes, customers don’t necessarily need help with a particular issue or feature, but they need a little nudge to get started or to get more value from your business.
That’s where your job as coach comes in.
Knowing not just how to help your customers, but how to motivate and move them to do the things they need to do to succeed is a key part of being great at customer support.
Become a better coach:
Helping, teaching, selling and the rest of the customer service roles are really important to keeping your customers happy and your business growing.
But then… there’s the magic.
In support, you’re in charge of customer wow: that little bit of extra that sets you apart in your customer’s eyes from the legions of businesses out there doing “just enough.”
Customer wow can take the form of small touches or grand gestures, but when you see your customer’s eyes light up or get that email responses full of smileys and exclamation points, you’ll know you’ve delivered it.
Become a better wizard:
Ten Roles, One Job
The number of roles that a customer service professional might have to fill on any given day is a big part of what makes the job so challenging.
But it’s also a big part of what makes the job so rewarding; there are so many ways to deliver value to your customers, make people happy and help your business grow.
Understanding each of the roles helps us get better at all of them, and turns us into stronger support pros.
Did I miss any roles? Let me know in the comments (along with how you suggest improving at that role), and I’ll update the post with any that should be added.