Time to meet our next Customer Support Leader! I got serious about support with Sara Gardinier.
Sara is a Customer Support Team Manager at Research Square, a for-benefit company aiming to make research publishing faster, fairer, and more useful by providing innovative solutions to help researchers successfully communicate their work.
Sara has been with Research Square for 4
months, but first transitioned to leadership in 2002.
Hello, Sara! We know each other from Support Driven, but it’s good to catch up with you here, too!
How did you get into Customer Support?
I’ve always worked in Customer Service, but this is my first role that is termed Customer Support. My background is in Retail and E-Commerce Customer Service. I’ve been in this line of work since 2002
And why did you choose this line of work?
It kind of chose me! I was planning on going to grad school to get a degree in Textile Science and then a job offer landed in my lap and I ran with it.
And how about that step into leadership?
I’ve been a leader since 2002. My first role was a managerial role (which was probably really stupid considering I had little experience and a brand-new college degree.) My prior role to this one though, I was mostly an IC for about five years.
The most recent transition back into a leadership role came about because I was laid off from my previous job. As I started job hunting I knew I wanted to get out of IC and back into leadership so I mostly hunted for roles where that would be the bulk of my job.
It’s been difficult getting back into Leader brain and out of “Clear My Queue!” brain. Remembering that I am there to serve my team and help them achieve their goals is something I have to reflect on often. The importance of setting (and meeting) expectations is something I am reminding myself of every week.
Do you think CS leadership is a different animal to other leadership roles out there?
The main difference for me is the need to be aware of how much emotional labor your reports are doing. Customer Service and Support roles are at the front lines of customer unhappiness. These folks can sometimes be (figurative) punching bags for customers. Keeping that top of mind and doing what you can to make sure their mental health is staying in tip-top shape is of utmost importance.
I think people who are strategic, empathetic, and visionary are the best at leading support and service teams.
Do you have metrics in place, and what’s your gut feeling about them?
What’s been the biggest thing you’ve had to do or learn?
That sometimes an employee doesn’t want for them what you want for them.
I also wish I’d known, early on,
Do you have any favourite resources?
The courses I’ve taken from Jen Dary of Plucky (https://www.beplucky.com/manager/) have been invaluable. I wholeheartedly recommend them to everyone looking to level-up their Leadership skills.
The question you said I *should* ask is… What’s your favourite way to recognise an employee?
I love to do a shout out in Slack for small wins. For larger
And, my signature, sign-off question… What’s your favourite way of signing off an email?
Outside of work? I don’t sign off.
“The front lines of customer unhappiness” is pretty profound, really. We spend so much time talking about customer happiness and satisfaction, it’s easy to forget that customers only really contact support because they already have a problem. It’s our job to turn that around