How to Get Promoted into Customer Service Leadership

Getting your first shot at a leadership position can be tough.

A few Customer Service Tip of the Week subscribers have recently asked me for advice on getting promoted. There was a time when a big part of my job was helping people advance in their careers, so I was able to draw upon my own experience. I also reached out to other customer service leaders for some additional perspective.

The advice all comes down to three things that can help you earn that promotion.

 A boss shaking hands with a newly promoted employee.

Be a Role Model

You have to demonstrate the ability to deliver exceptional customer service if you want to become a customer service leader.

Not just good, really good. On-brand, front page of the company website good. 

Being a role model involves demonstrating the right way to do things while earning the respect of your peers. Customer service leaders tell me this is a big factor when considering someone for promotion.

Stephanie, a hotel general manager, asks aspiring leaders, "Are you well respected among your peers since you will become their leader?" This is an important consideration because getting a promotion frequently means your coworkers are now your subordinates.

Murphy, a support department supervisor, looks for "Someone who peers gravitate to naturally as a resource." This suggests that coworkers already view you as a leader.

Nate, a customer experience director, echoed this sentiment. Nate told me that he recently promoted a frontline employee. "The one quality that stood above all others was his ability to motivate and inspire his peers."

Do a Gap Analysis

This involves looking at the skills required for the job you want and comparing them to the skills you already have. The difference between the two is your skill gap.

This analysis will help you identify skills you'll need to develop to be a strong candidate for the new position. Be honest in your assessment. The standard should be, "Can I prove I have this skill to an interviewer?"

Michael Pace, a customer service consultant, shared this advice on his blog:

"Find out what are the technical skills your manager does today. Offer to help them next time they need to accomplish a like task. Create a personal development action plan. If you are promoted, you may need to use this skill on day 1."

Many customer service professionals have used training videos on LinkedIn Learning or Lynda.com to help develop their skills. For example, there's an entire series of courses devoted to becoming a customer service manager.

One word of caution here.

Any training you do should be used immediately. That's because training is a use it or lose it proposition. If you take a class, but don't put the content to work, you'll quickly forget what you've learned.

Add Value

Many employees make the mistake of asking for a promotion because they think they’ve put in their time.

People get promoted because the hiring manager thinks that employee can add value. A leadership position is not a prize to be won through years of service. It's something that's earned.

Sallie, a customer operations director, looks for people who are "Humble, hungry, and smart." These are people who demonstrate a passion for leadership, and can find ways to make things better.

Murphy described the ideal candidate as someone who "raises solutions to problems" as opposed to just identifying problems. 

From my own experience, people who get promoted have found a way to become indispensable to the hiring manager. Find out what the boss’s goals are and then figure out how to make the boss look good.

Conclusion

Please drop me a line if you follow any of this advice. I'm rooting for you to land that big promotion, but I also want to know what works for you.

And if you do get promoted, here's my advice for new customer service leaders.