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Customer support is an excellent stepping stone into Product Management. Some posit that people who work in customer support make great Product Managers because of all they picked up along the line. Read on to find out how you can successfully transition from a role in Customer support to Product Management.
The commonly held assumption that customer support staff make good product managers stems from the fact that both Customer Support and Product Management are customer-facing roles. Although the degree and nature of their involvement with the customer is quite varied, at the core of both roles is customer satisfaction.
While this similarity does not make them the same role, it does mean that it is possible and pretty common actually to transition from customer support to product management without feeling like you’re completely out of your depth. So for any customer support staff looking to transition and wondering what that could look like or what your first step should be, this one is for you.
In a customer support position, you’re dealing with concerns, complaints, questions and feedback received from customers with regard to a product or service offered by the company you represent. The greater portion of your job is spent speaking to clients - clearing up their doubts, providing solutions and sometimes reassuring them.
No doubt, this is not an easy job. Human beings can sometimes be a bit difficult, disgruntled ones even more so. That’s why, in order to be successful in any customer support role, it is non-negotiable to possess skills such as customer empathy, excellent communication skills, the ability to perform your responsibilities under pressure, problem-solving, and translate the needs of the client to stakeholders amongst other very valuable skills.
These are the things that make this role perfect to transition from. Because at the intersection of product, business and customers, you’ll find Product Management also demanding very similar skills to those mentioned above, like customer empathy, communication, interfacing with customers and identifying their needs, problem-solving, and quick critical thinking.
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As we mentioned in an earlier article, a great way to transition from customer service and pretty much any other role into product management is to transition internally.
Transitioning internally is a big, very important way to get a new role and it is a little less unnerving because you’re not exactly starting from square one. The knowledge that you have acquired from working in customer support and listening to the ways in which actual people react to the product allows you to contribute meaningfully to the Product team in a way others without your experience cannot.
As the customer support team is the first line of contact from the customer to the company, reports from their work are the kind of things that help make a product into something users can actually use and enjoy. Thus, working with customer support is a good way to gain proximity to Product Managers and watch them work.
So try to leverage this proximity and establish a relationship with the Product team so that you better understand the demands of the job, and then you can make sure that it’s the right move for you. Through this relationship, you might even find others who successfully transitioned and learn some tips and tricks.
The best advise on transitioning internally? Branch out, ask questions, show them all that you’ve learned from customer support and how that information is relevant to Product Managers. You really have to let them know why you deserve to have them take a chance on you.
If you’ve been doing a good job in your current role, then the company probably has a bias in your favour that could work to your advantage as they interview prospective employees. Although, being good in your customer support role could turn out to be a disadvantage because out of fear of losing you from that role, they might hesitate to support your transition. In this situation, be firm. Spell out why transitioning to Product Management is the next best option for you, and let them know what the company stands to gain from hiring you.
Also, don't blow the opportunity that comes with being in the system. You’d probably hear about the job opportunity before it gets out, and you have a little more time to make your application irresistible.
Perhaps at the time you’re ready to make the switch to Product Management, the company has no requirement for a Product Manager. If you’re convinced that that’s where you want to go next, then you should find gaps/opportunities where your current role or team in customer support could work with the product team. For example, that could look like taking charge of a product release that customers have admittedly struggled with and interacting with the product team to understand the feature so that you can explain it to customers.
If staying within the same company is not a viable option, it’s obviously time to look outside. Remember that you already have many qualities of a Product Manager and if you look at your previous role very carefully, you could even find some Product Management experience hiding in there too.
Experience is a word many employers want to hear, so go out to networking events or plug into the Product Management communities and talk about your skills. Acquire more skills and whatever type of Product Management experience that you can, then highlight these in your resume. Tailor your resume so that you appear to be exactly what the company is looking for or as close as possible.
You won't find assistance in your transition if you don’t let everyone and anyone know your goal. Closed mouths don’t get fed. This is not the time to be shy or to let your work talk for you. You have to talk the talk while also walking the walk. Don’t be afraid of judgment from your company or an unsupportive manager; that’s probably the kind of company you don’t want to continue at anyways.
Be tenacious, and seek out ways to be helpful without being too annoying. Honestly, even if some people find you a bit annoying, it’s a small sacrifice to make for your dream role. Don’t be worried about all the things that you don’t know, no one knows everything. As long as you’re willing to learn, this transition will happen for you.
If you’re transitioning from Customer support (or you aren’t), Co.Lab offers excellent opportunities to gain experience as a Product Manager. Sign up for any one of our Product Management courses and begin your Product Management journey today!