PR Lessons from Running a Customer Service OfficeBy Corina Manea

Five years ago I embarked on an adventure to manage a customer service office for a logistic company located on the Madrid fairgrounds.

Translation: You had to be on 24/7, be available to clients via mobile phone, email, and onsite.

On the fairgrounds, we had two or three events at the same time and, most of the time, fairs and shows were starting just after another ended.

Long story-short, it was a very demanding job, both physically and mentally. But, just as with everything, you get used to the rhythm and go with the flow.

However, I had the chance to meet and connect with people all around the world, to build relationships and step up my game with every event.

As PR pros, learning should be our mantra, but this applies to every walk of life. We should look for learning opportunities and take what we learned from every situation.

Today, I want to share with you five PR lessons I learned in those five years of heading a customer service office.

Five PR Lessons from a Customer Service Office

1. It’s all about your teamHaving the right team by your side is crucial for your success. No matter how good you are at your job, how much your clients love you, you can’t do everything by yourself. You need a team that understands company’s message and values, and strives to deliver its best at all times.

I learned that no matter how good a person is with customers, if they don’t know how to assess and identify potential issues on time, or how to respond to problems, they are not good for the team. When you work in a customer care office where a 24/7 high quality service is expected, every single team member and their actions matter, a lot. One wrong step affects the whole team, especially if that person is trying to prove herself to you and wants to stubbornly solve the problem alone.

There is a time and a place for that. And while I appreciate the willingness to do your best, you need that sixth sense that allows you to know when an issue can become a real problem and to immediately inform your superior.

2. Fire the people who don’t grow your team and business. Probably the hardest thing to do was to fire someone on my team. And because I don’t like to do it, it took me longer than it should. Firing someone is hard not only because you’re with them more hours per day than with your own family, you get to see them every day, talk, work, joke with them, but also because you leave someone without a job. You leave someone without an income.

However, when that person doesn’t perform the way he or she should, or the way agreed in the beginning, or if you constantly lose business because of that person, you have to take a stand. For me it was a hard thing to do. And for a while I was constantly beating myself up: Where did I fail? Why haven’t I seen it coming? What could I have done more?

In time I learned there are people who are passionate about what they do, no matter what it is, and people who are only looking for a job—a place to go to, earn a paycheck and then go home.

3. Learn to clearly communicate your goals. Whether it’s on a short or medium term, clearly communicate your goals with your team. Make sure everybody understands what’s at stake, what their role is in reaching the objective, and what they need to do to achieve it as individuals, and as a team.

It might be easier to say: You have to do this or that, but people need context. They need to understand the bigger picture, and how they can help achieve those goals you set. Plus it’s more exciting and motivating for everybody.

4. Project management. I am very passionate about project management and watching how a small piece influences a bigger one in a project. I said it before: Every PR pro should have project management skills. If you think about it, you can apply project management to every situation in your life. The best part of it, it keeps you focused on the job at hand, while allowing you to see the bigger picture.

5. Know when to move on. People are afraid of change, and most of the times we stay in a job too long because we don’t want disruption in our lives. Let’s be honest here, we like being comfortable. There is nothing wrong with being comfortable, but, and this is a big BUT, know the difference between being good, enjoying your job, and being stuck. Know when it’s time to move on.

I worked for this company for five years, running their customer service office, changing teams, coordinating events, and growing the business. All this while, on my free time, I was discovering this new world called social media. I was connecting with PR pros all over the world and was inspired by them.

Did I stay in the job too long? Considering there was something entirely different I wanted to do, probably. Should I have left earlier? Probably. Was I ready? Nope.

Surround Yourself with the Smartest People

You see, we need to be focused on what we want, and to constantly assess ourselves, and the place we are at one particular moment in our careers. Are we happy? Do we give our best every day? Are we learning something new every day? Do we regularly come up with new ideas and improvements for the job?

If the answer is no to the above, you need to have a talk with yourself and find out what do you want further and where you see your career going.

The only way to grow as professional, and as a human being is to never settle.

They say we are the average of the five people we surround ourselves with every day. So pay attention to whom you’re spending time with.

I listened to an interview with Taylor Swift (yes, Gini Dietrich gave me the bug) and she said her best friends are passionate and inspired by their own work, and in turn inspire her to do and be better. It’s true. When you’re excited to be in someone’s company you learn a ton while having fun.

That’s the best way to learn.

What lessons have you learned from your previous adventures?

image credit: Pixabay. We couldn’t find one of the Madrid Fairgrounds so chose Chicago’s Navy Pier, instead.

Corina Manea

Corina Manea is the chief community officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She works directly with Spin Sucks students and writes for the award-winning PR blog. She also is the founder of NutsPR. Join the Spin Sucks  community!

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